excerpts from the book
The American Police State
The Government Against the People
by David Wise
Random House, 1976, hardcover
Washington DC columnist Joseph Kraft in his testimony to the United
States Senate in 1974, about the secret wiretapping of him by
the Nixon Administration
To this day Io not understand why I was
made the subject of the wiretapping, the bugging, or the surveillance,
or whether the purpose was really to entrap me or perhaps someone
inside the government who might be speaking to me. I am only sure
that a monster has been allowed to grow up, and unless it is subject
to regular control by impartial persons I think all of us will
be the victims.
Washington DC columnist Joseph Kraft in an interview - about the
secret wiretapping of private citizens by the Nixon Administration,
We came a hell of a lot closer to a police
state than I thought possible.
President Richard M. Nixon, April 16, 1971
You talk about police state. Let me tell
you what happens when you go to what is really a police state.
You can't talk in your bedroom. You can't talk in your sitting
room. You don't talk on the telephone. You don't talk in the bathroom.
As a matter of fact... you can't even talk in front of a shrub.
The New York Times had published a page-one story by William Beecher,
the newspaper's Pentagon correspondent, disclosing that American
B-52 aircraft had recently bombed North Vietnamese base camps
in Cambodia for the first time.
The story caused surprisingly little reaction
in the country, but inside the White House it struck like a thunderbolt.
For the bombing of Cambodia was a dark secret, highly classified,
and known only to a handful of government officials.
The deliberate deception of the American people [about the secret
bombing of Cambodia in 1969] extended as well to the rest of the
American government; the Air Force used a system of false bookkeeping
to conceal the Cambodian raids. In 1973 General Creighton W. Abrams,
the top U.S. commander in Vietnam, told a Senate hearing that
at his headquarters in Vietnam there was "a whole special
furnace" to burn records of the Cambodia bombing targets.
"We burned probably twelve hours a day," Abrams said.
He also testified that the reporting system for the bombing raids
"had become too complicated. I could not keep these things
in my mind, so I had to have specialists. .
On April 30, 1970, Nixon launched his Cambodia gamble, sending
thousands of U.S. troops across the border into the "Fishhook."
The invasion triggered massive campus demonstrations across America,
and led to the tragedy at Kent State, where four students were
shot and killed by national guardsmen. Within the White House,
several of the younger members of Kissinger's staff were sick
at heart over what the President had informed the nation, with
characteristic duplicity, was "not an invasion of Cambodia."
The reaction, within and without the White
House, touched off the last paroxysm of wiretapping - as though
the Nixon men thought that by splicing into enough telephone wires
and ringing the White House with enough buses, to act as barriers
against antiwar demonstrators, they could somehow insulate themselves
against the rising tide of public anger.
It was to be last of the seventeen wiretaps. On February 10, 197
, Hoover abruptly sent a handwritten note to Clyde Tolson and
a memo listing the nine taps then in place.* "Inquire of
Col. Haig," Hoover wrote, "if any may be taken off."
Hoover had finally had enough. Haig, who was still Kissinger's
deputy, quickly got the message; he agreed, and the same day all
the taps were removed.
The reason for the sudden end became clear
two years later, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigated
the fitness of Henry Kissinger to serve as Secretary of State.
The committee delicately appointed a subcommittee of two senators
to review the FBI report on the wiretapping; the subcommittee,
consisting of John Sparkman of Alabama and Clifford P. Case of
New Jersey, inquired of William Ruckelshaus, the acting head of
the FBI, how it came to pass that the taps were all dismantled
on February 10, 1971. The report of the two senators explained:
"Mr. Ruckelshaus stated that this date was significant only
because it had been the practice of Mr. Hoover to discontinue
wiretaps just prior to his Congressional appearances so that he
could report minimum taps in effect if he were questioned.
[The Nixon Administration wiretapping of private citizens] was
over in February 1971, but in a sense it had just begun, because
the ugly secret of the wiretapping was there, just below the surface,
like a dark and dangerous reef that might be exposed at any moment
by the receding tide. The President knew it, Kissinger knew it,
Haig knew it, and J. Edgar Hoover knew it. So did several others
in the White House and the FBI... In time, the seventeen wiretaps
were incorporated into the impeachment articles that forced Nixon
from the White House.
... And it was all so futile; the seventeen
wiretaps were so unnecessary, so ultimately worthless. But their
political cost was enormous. In February 1973, the Watergate cover-up
was in full swing.
How to keep wiretaps hidden was the subject
of a considerable portion of the President's conversation on the
morning of February 28 with his counsel, John Dean. Nixon was
clearly frightened that the secret of the wiretapping was about
to surface. At the same time he was rueful, not over what had
been done, but that it had been of so little value.
Richard Nixon was not the first President to engage in secret
wiretapping in the name of national security. The tapping that
Nixon did surfaced because of the accident of Watergate and the
impeachment inquiry by the House. Examples of wiretapping by other
Presidents had been reported in the press prior to the Nixon years
and were documented by the Senate intelligence committee headed
by Senator Frank Church that began its inquiries early in 1976.
Somesuch as the surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during
the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations-are outrageous and shocking.
... The misuse of the police power of
the state, the danger to free thought and a free press, was not
something that disturbed anyone in the government during the period
of the Kissinger taps.
Within a year of its creation, the CIA was secretly given presidential
authority to conduct covert political operations. This was done
despite the lack of any clearly stated, specific basis in the
law. Thus, almost from the start, the CIA was in the business
not merely of reporting on events but of attempting to manipulate
events in favor of the United States.
... Through its secret political operations
the CIA became a powerful instrument of the Cold War. For two
decades, Americans were warned by their leaders of the perils
of a monolithic international Communism. To preserve the Free
World, we were told, it was necessary, as Allen Dulles put it,
to "fight fire with fire." Not many Americans appeared
to realize that the United States, by adopting the methods of
totalitarian systems, would change the nature of the very institutions
it was attempting to preserve. The implacable external enemy was
the justification for the establishment of a vast intelligence
apparatus, its size and budget secret by law, its operations subject
to none of the usual cheeks and balances that the system required
of more plebeian government agencies.
The Domestic Operations Division was created on February 11, 1963,
and given responsibility, in the words of the CIA order establishing
it, for "clandestine operational activities of the Clandestine
Services conducted within the United States against foreign targets."
In fact, the division was only one, although
the most secret, of a grid of half a dozen CIA divisions operating
domestically inside the United States and controlled from the
CIA's $46 million headquarters in Langley, Virginia. CIA Director
William E. Colby, testifying before the Senate Appropriations
Committee in January 1975, disclosed that the various domestic
CIA units had at least sixty-four offices in American cities.
Colby said the Domestic Operations Division recruited foreigners,
gathered intelligence inside the United States, and worked from
cover offices in eight cities.
Its agents operated clandestinely, just
as they would in a foreign country.
That the CIA was conducting domestic operations had been reported
for a decade, and was dramatically demonstrated again during Watergate
when the Agency lent equipment to Howard Hunt and prepared a personality
profile on Daniel Ellsberg. But the fact that the CIA directly
spied on American citizens in the United States and the existence
of Operation CHAOS, a supersecret unit to carry out that mission,
was not known. On December 22, 1974, correspondent Seymour M.
Hersh revealed, in the lead story on the front page of the New
York Times, that the CIA had conducted "a massive illegal
domestic intelligence operation" against political dissidents,
compiled files on at least 10,000 American citizens, conducted
break-ins, tapped wires, and opened mail.
... For three weeks Hersh was in a lonely
and difficult position; he had published spectacular charges against
a powerful secret agency and no substantive official comment was
Then, on January 15, Colby went before
the Senate Appropriations Committee and confirmed everything -
the infiltration of peace groups, the spying on antiwar activists,
and the dossiers on 10,000 Americans.
... If Hersh needed any further vindication,
it came in June when the Rockefeller Commission issued its 299-page
... The Rockefeller report detailed a
broad range of CIA abuses and law-breaking, and disclosed in some
detail the workings of the Agency's domestic spying program, Operation
CHAOS. Operating from a "vaulted basement area" at the
CIA under supersecret security, CHAOS had begun in 1967 during
the Johnson Administration and lasted seven years, through most
of the Nixon Administration, until March 1974.
... Demands that the CIA provide information
about the peace movement had first come from Lyndon Johnson, who
pressured Helms, then the CIA Director, to find foreign links
to domestic dissidents. Helms sent two reports to Johnson, but
to the President's disappointment, the CIA discovered little foreign
involvement and virtually no foreign money flowing in to support
the peace movement. A third study, entitled "Restless Youth,"
was begun under Johnson and delivered to Henry Kissinger in February
1969, after Nixon's inauguration. The paper concluded that student
protest arose from social and political alienation at home and
not from some foreign conspiracy.
By the middle of 1969 Operation CHAOS
was in full swing, its existence and activities kept secret from
much of the rest of the CIA. One of its major programs was called
"Project 2." Under it the CIA recruited students, trained
them in "New Left" jargon (a process known as "sheepdipping"),
and then sent them abroad on espionage missions in the guise of
student radicals. CHAOS also recruited agents and used them in
similar fashion to penetrate dissident groups at home. In addition,
CHAOS collected information from CIA's mailopening operation in
New York, from the Agency's overseas stations, and from the offices
of the Domestic Collection Division in cities across the United
States. Although the CIA claimed that these domestic offices only
gathered foreign intelligence, the Rockefeller report disclosed
that beginning in 1969, the division fed "purely domestic
information" about American citizens to the CHAOS operators.
The CIA men in U.S. cities spied on radical students, on the underground
press, and on groups supporting draft evaders and military deserters.
A tremendous volume of reports flowed into the CIA's vaulted basement.
Eventually 300,000 names were indexed on the CIA's computers.
... Within the CIA a number of officials
had begun to worry about the legality of CHAOS, so much so that
Helms felt it prudent to send a memo to his deputies in 1969 assuring
them that the operation was within the law. In 1974, with the
agency already in trouble over its Watergate links, Colby ended
Operation CHAOS. The Rockefeller Commission expressed concern
over the fact that CHAOS had become a "repository for large
quantities of information on the domestic activities of American
citizens." And it concluded that Operation CHAOS had broken
The Rockefeller report also reviewed the
CIA's mail-opening activities, and the physical surveillance,
wiretapping, bugging, and break-ins committed by the intelligence
agency. "The unauthorized entries into the homes and offices
of American citizens were illegal," \ the report said.
Some types of CIA domestic activities were not mentioned in the
Rockefeller report. For example, in a number of cases the CIA
has approached major New York publishing houses in an effort to
suppress or alter books about the Agency.
... The CIA's contacts with the publishing
world were not confined to attempts to suppress books. Through
the U.S. Information Agency as a "cut-out," the CIA
subsidized major publishers to produce books, some of which were
then sold in the United States bearing no government imprint to
warn the unsuspecting purchaser. In 1967 publisher Frederick A.
Praeger conceded he had published "fifteen or sixteen"
books for the CIA. By the mid-sixties, more than $1 million had
been spent by the government on its "book development"
program. The Senate intelligence committee estimated that by 1967,
the CIA had produced, sponsored, or subsidized "well over
1,000 books" here and abroad.
... The CIA also planted stories in the
foreign press, some of which were played back to American audiences.
Colby assured the House intelligence committee that the CIA would
never manipulate AP, since it was an American wire service, but
felt free to plant stories with Reuters, the British wire service.
In addition, the CIA operated two news services of its own in
Europe. These "proprietaries," or CIA cover companies,
serviced American newspapers; one had more than thirty U.S. subscribers.
The Agency's penetration of the news media was, of course, an
insidious and very possibly unconstitutional practice, since it
ran counter to the First Amendment. It could only increase public
distrust of the press and cause American reporters overseas to
be suspected as spies. The CIA had polluted the public's major
source of information about its government, the foundation upon
which democracy rests.
And it was not only the press and publishing
world that the CIA infiltrated. As of 1976, the Senate intelligence
committee reported, the CIA maintained contact or operational
relationships with "many thousands of United States academics
at hundreds of U.S. academic institutions." Of these, "several
hundred" in more than a hundred institutions actively work
for the CIA, often without the knowledge of the college or university
... In addition, the CIA has sometimes
used American clergy or missionaries for intelligence purposes.
At least twenty-one members of the clergy had secret agreements
with the CIA, according to figures the Agency provided to the
Senate committee. In February 1976 the CIA said it would no longer
have "secret" relationships with the clergy.
Besides infiltrating existing institutions,
the CIA operates a complex network of its own business proprietaries.
Through Air America, Southern Air Transport, and other airlines,
it has been heavily involved in the aviation business over the
years. It also runs a secret insurance complex, a security firm
in Virginia with three subsidiaries, and a travel service. The
private security firm performs commercial investigative work in
the Washington area, but of course its clients do t know that
they have hired the CIA.
On January 27  the Senate voted to create the eleven-member
Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect
to Intelligence Activities, and the Senate Majority Leader, Mike
Mansfield named Senator Frank Church of Idaho as chairman.
... For all of the Church committee's
substantive disclosures, its most important contribution may have
been its exposure to the public of the mind of the CIA. In the
end, the committee's most valuable service was simply to put officials
of the CIA, the FBI, and other intelligence agencies at the witness
table and let them talk.
former CIA Director Richard Helms told the Church committee at
a closed session on June 13, 1975
Nobody wants to embarrass a President
of the United States by discussing the assassination of foreign
leaders in his presence. I just think we all had the feeling that
we were hired... to keep those things out of the Oval Office.
The Church committee report made it clear that the CIA had, directly
or indirectly, been involved in assassination plots, coups, or
attempted coups against eight foreign leaders: Premier Fidel Castro
of Cuba, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the
Dominican Republic, President Salvador Allende and General René
Schneider of Chile, President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam,
President François Duvalier of Haiti, and President Sukarno
The Church committee's assassination report was one of the most
chilling and important documents ever made public by a committee
of Congress. In addition to detailing specific assassination plots,
it disclosed that the CIA had developed an "Executive Action"
unit capable of carrying out the assassination of foreign officials.
The Church committee report disclosed that there were eight CIA
plots against Castro, including poison pills, a poison pen, a
diving suit contaminated with disease-bearing fungus, and "an
exotic seashell, rigged to explode... in an area where Castro
commonly went skin diving." In addition, the CIA planned
to destroy Castro's bearded image by dusting his shoes with thallium
salts so that eventually his beard would fall out.*
According to the report, the main CIA
plot began during the Eisenhower Administration in August 1960,
when Richard Bissell, the deputy director for plans (later renamed
operations), asked Colonel Sheffield Edwards, the CIA director
of security, to find someone to murder Castro. Edwards and another
CIA official (identified in news accounts as James O'Connell)
contacted Robert A. Maheu, a former FBI agent and lieutenant of
Howard Hughes, and asked him to recruit John Rosselli, a mobster
whose real name was Filippo Saco, for the hit. The CIA offered
$150,000 for Castro's assassination.
Rosselli in turn brought in Momo Salvatore
(Sam) Giancana, a Chicago gangster, and Santos Trafficante, who
had been the top Mafia don in Cuba. The mob's interest in killing
Castro was obvious: the Cuban Premier had thrown the syndicate
out of the lucrative gambling casinos of Havana. With Castro removed,
the syndicate might be able to move back in.
The poison pills, actually six gelatin
capsules filled with a liquid botulinum toxin, were prepared by
the CIA. The poison had first been tested on monkeys. The monkeys
died. Rosselli arranged for the pills to be delivered to Cuba,
where the plan was for someone close to Castro to slip the poison
into the Cuban leader's drink or food. In two or three days Castro
would be dead and an autopsy would reveal no trace of the poison.
Rosselli remembered Maheu explaining that the capsules could not
be used in "boiling soups," b t would work in water
or other liquids. The plan failed, however.
The CIA plot against [Congo President Patrice] Lumumba also read
like some fictional invention of Ian Fleming. In 1960 [Richard]
Bissell, one of the fathers of the U-2 spy plane and later an
architect of the Bay of Pigs invasion, asked the head of CIA's
Africa Division, Bronson Tweedy, to explore the feasibility of
killing the Congolese leader.
... [Dr. Sidney] Gottlieb, who had a degree
in chemistry, reviewed the list of CIA biological materials, which
included germs to se diseases ranging from smallpox to sleeping
sickness. He selected disease that could be fatal and was indigenous
to Africa, bottled the lethal biological material, personally
delivered it to the CIA station officer in Leopoldville, "and
instructed him to assassinate Patrice Lumumba." Gottlieb
explained to the CIA agent that the toxic material should be put
on Lumumba's "food or a toothbrush," anything that would
"get to his mouth."
The poison was never administered to Lumumba.
He was captured by the troops of Joseph Mobutu in December, imprisoned
in Katanga province, and killed there on January 17, 1961, three
days [fore President Eisenhower left office.
Guns, not poison, were the CIA's weapons of choice against Generalissimo
Rafael Trujillo, the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic.
In August of 1960 the United States broke off relations with the
Dominican Republic and pulled out most of its diplomatic personnel,
leaving Henry Dearborn, a career foreign service officer, as the
senior American diplomat and de facto CIA chief of station. Dearborn
was in close touch with Dominican dissidents who, he advised Washington,
were ready to assassinate Trujillo. The mild-mannered and soft-spoken
Dearborn wrote to the State Department that if he were a Dominican,
he would favor the destruction of Trujillo "as my Christian
duty." He added: "If you recall Dracula, you will remember
it was necessary to drive a stake through his heart to prevent
a continuation of his crimes."
In March of 1961 Dearborn asked Washington
for three pistols; they were sent in the diplomatic pouch and
passed to the dissidents, as were three carbines already in the
U.S. consulate. After the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion
in April, Washington tried to apply the brakes to the dissidents
plotting against Trujillo. But Dearborn warned the State Department
that it was "too late" to stop things now. On May 29
President Kennedy sent Dearborn a cable warning that the United
States could not be associated with political assassination. The
next day Trujillo's car was ambushed and the dictator was shot
to death. Handguns were used; whether these were the same pistols
sent to Dearborn and passed to the plotters could not be pinned
down by the Church committee.
The committee was very cautious in its
conclusions about U.S. responsibility for the deaths of President
Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu. But
the report noted that Lucien Conein, the CIA agent working with
the generals plotting against Diem, had been assured by General
Tran Van Don that the general "would make the plans for the
coup available to the Ambassador [Henry Cabot Lodge] four hours
before it took place." The coup began on November 1, and
Diem and his brother were murdered the next day. General Duong
Van (Big) Minh offered to show Conein the bodies, but he declined.
He did not want to involve the United States.
General René Schneider, the commander
in chief of the Chilean army, was shot and killed during a kidnap
attempt on October 22, 1970. President Nixon had ordered that
Salvador Allende be blocked from taking office as President of
Chile, and Schneider was a definite obstacle; he believed strongly
in his country's constitution, which provided for free elections.
Early on the morning of October 22 the CIA provided machine guns
and ammunition to a group of Chilean military officers. The CIA
knew the arms were to be used by the officers in an attempt to
kidnap Schneider. The CIA also authorized a payment of $50,000
to the military plotters. But, the Senate report said, as it turned
out, Schneider was killed by a different group of conspirators.
The murder failed to stop Allende from taking office. But the
CIA continued to work against Allende, and he died in a military
coup three years later.
Congress, in passing the National Security Act of 1947, establishing
the CIA, did not authorize covert political operations. Indeed,
CIA's general counsel, Lawrence Houston, wrote a memo that year
stating "we do not believe that there was any thought in
the minds of Congress that the CIA under the act would take positive
action for subversion and sabotage." Truman's order was based
on the clause in the 1947 act which said the Agency shall perform
such "other functions and duties" as the NSC might from
time to time direct.
The "other functions" loophole
became the eye of the needle through which, over the years, CIA
covert operations were threaded around the globe. The CIA helped
to overthrow the government of Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954;
it secretly trained Tibetans in Colorado in the late fifties to
infiltrate their homeland and fight the Chinese Communists. It
supported the rebels fighting Sukarno in 1958. It invaded Cuba
at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. It operated a 30,000 man army in Laos
in the sixties. It poured millions of dollars into Italy and other
Western European countries to support moderate political parties.
And it encouraged the military coups in Vietnam and Chile in which
the leaders of those countries were killed.
The American public was assured that these
activities were tightly controlled by the President through the
Forty Committee and its predecessors. But the Church committee
was unable to pin down clear authority for any of the CIA's murder
The Forty Committee was mere window dressing, a mechanism designed
to give the appearance of presidential control over covert operations
without the reality. It was equally clear that the well-bred old
boys of the CIA, the adenoidal gentlemen at the top, with their
reversible names and consciences to match, did not stop at murder.
Living in their own clandestine world,
safe in the dark, weird cocoon of Langley, accountable only to
themselves, they had been schooled at St. Grottlesex but learned
their political morality from Eichmann. In their ignorance of
the very system of government they professed to serve, they confused
their arrogance with patriotism.
CIA Director Richard Helms before the Church committee in an executive
session - 1975
I believe it was the policy at the time
to get rid of [Cuban President Fidel] Castro, and if killing him
was one of the things that was to be done in this connection,
that was within what was expected.
[J. Edgar] Hoover's power rested on the information he had squirreled
away in his secret files. Put simply, the famous Director of the
FBI, the cereal-boxtop, G-man hero of generations of American
youth, was a blackmailer. Hoover collected and filed away facts,
tidbits, gossip, scandal, and dark secrets that gave him leverage
over members of Congress, the Cabinet, even Presidents. He knew
it and they knew it. He counted his secrets the way old men count
their gold. If information was power, Hoover was J. P. Morgan;
to vulnerable political leaders, the midget of their fear sat
permanently upon his knee. At any moment it might become a giant,
destroying their reputations, their careers, their families. The
night with the hooker in Baltimore, the financial indiscretion,
the motel dalliance, the long-forgotten arrest record, these were
the coin of Hoover's political riches.
Richard Nixon to John Dean
He [J. Edgar Hoover] has a file on everybody.
William Sullivan, number-three in the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover
told Jack Nelson of the Los Angeles Times, 1973
That fellow [FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover]
was a master blackmailer. The moment he would get something on
a senator he'd send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator
that we're in the course of an investigation and by chance happened
to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you
to know this-we realize you'd want to know it. But don't have
any concern, no one will ever learn about it. Well, Jesus, what
does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator's right
in his pocket.
It was not until 1971, when FBI files were stolen from a Bureau
office in Media, Pennsylvania, and later released to the press,
that the full scope of the FBI's secret-police activities began
to emerge. As the documents made clear, the FBI was snooping on
college campuses, gathering intelligence in black neighborhoods,
and harassing the New Left and other dissident groups through
its COINTELPRO operations. Watergate and the Church committee
investigations completed the process of de-mythification of the
FBI. The mask had finally been pulled off Hoover and Bureau. And
it all came tumbling out almost too fast to absorb-the bugs, the
bag jobs, the wiretaps, the harassment of citizens and groups,
Hoover's outrageous attempt to destroy Martin Luther King, Jr.,
the greatest civil rights leader in America's history. Suddenly
the FBI was revealed as potentially more dangerous than its adversaries.
It had become a lawless political police, led by an aging, tyrannical
Director who was feared even by the Presidents he supposedly served.
[The FBI was] capable of abusing the power entrusted to it by
the people and the law. Perhaps the most shocking example of FBI
abuse of power was its campaign of unrelenting surveillance and
harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hoover set out to destroy King by using
the full powers of the FBI against him. There have been various
theories offered for Hoover's motive, and there may have been
a combination of factors involved. Hoover was enraged when King
criticized the FBI. The FBI's stated rationale for bugging and
tapping King was to uncover ostensible "Communist" influence
on the civil rights leader. Nor was Hoover pleased with King's
growing success in the use of nonviolent confrontation. The police
dogs of Birmingham snarling and ripping at black men and women
in the summer of 1963 made for a bad image for law enforcement
generally. The strains of "We Shall Overcome" fell harshly
on Hoover's ears.
William Sullivan said that Hoover's view
of blacks was the root cause of the campaign against King. "The
real reason was that Hoover disliked blacks," Sullivan said
in an interview. "He disliked Negroes. All you have to do
is see how many he hired before Bobby came in. None. He told me
himself he would never have one so long as he was FBI Director.*
He disliked the civil rights movement. You had a black of national
prominence heading the movement. He gave Hoover a peg by criticizing
the FBI. And King upset Hoover's nice cozy relationship with Southern
sheriffs and police. They helped us on bank robberies and such
and they kept the black man in his place. Hoover didn't want anything
to upset that relationship with law-enforcement authorities in
In the end, one is forced to the conclusion
that the FBI sought to discredit King because J. Edgar Hoover
was a racist. Ultimately, Hoover battled King because King was
black, and powerful, and his power was growing. He had the gift
of poetry in his speech, he could mesmerize a nation with the
lyricism of his dream. Who could foretell what might happen if
the black people of America mobilized behind such a leader? To
Hoover, Martin Luther King was uppity and biggity and he had to
... By the fall of 1964 the FBI's campaign
against King had become full-scale war.
... On November 18  Hoover met with
a group of women reporters in Washington and pronounced King "the
most notorious liar in the country."* Specifically, Hoover
criticized King for telling his followers not to bother to report
acts of violence to the FBI office in Albany, Georgia, because
the agents were Southerners who would take no action on civil
rights violations. Hoover claimed that "70 per cent"
of agents assigned to the South were born in the North.
Hoover's astonishing attack on King received
extensive coverage in the news media. In contrast, the prurient
stories that the FBI had whispered to the press about King's sex
life were not achieving their purpose, for nobody would print
them. Hoover apparently decided to take a more direct approach.
On November 21, three days after Hoover's remarks to the women
journalists, the FBI mailed an anonymous letter and a tape of
the King hotel-room bugs to King and his wife, Coretta.
"King, there is only one thing left
for you to do," the letter said. "You know what it is.
You have just 34 days in which to do it. This exact number has
been selected for a specific reason. It has definite
political significance. You are done."
For more than forty years, the FBI has engaged in the collection
of domestic intelligence about individual Americans and groups.
Most I citizens, Congress, and the press assumed that somehow,
somewhere, there existed a law that gave the FBI the right to
do so. Not until the seventies, when the Bureau came under serious
scrutiny for the first time, was it realized that the FBI had
no clear legal authority to gather intelligence at home; the entire
FBI effort against "subversives" and "extremists"
was legally a house of cards.
The FBI, by infiltrating and spying on selected groups in American
society, arrogated to itself the role of a thought police. It
decided which groups were legitimate, and which were a danger-by
FBI standards-to the Republic. It took sides in the social and
political conflicts of the fifties and sixties, deciding, for
example, that those who opposed the war in Vietnam, or whose skin
was black, should be targets of FBI attention. Since the FBI acted
secretly, it distorted the normal political process by covertly
acting against certain groups and individuals. In short, the FBI
filled the classic role of a secret political police.
Yale law professor Thomas Emerson said at a 1971 conference on
The FBI jeopardizes the whole system of
freedom of expression which is the cornerstone of an open society...
At worst it raises the specter of a police state. . in essence
the FBI conceives of itself as an instrument to prevent radical
social change in America... throughout most of its history the
FBI has taken on the task not only of investigating specific violations
of federal laws, but gathering general intelligence in the national
security field... the Bureau's view of its function leads it beyond
data collection and into political warfare.
The FBI did not confine itself to spying on domestic groups and
individuals whom it considered to be suspect, but engaged in active
disruption of such groups through COINTELPRO. A secret and powerful
government hand moved behind the scenes to harass and destroy
organizations and individuals, in some cases to break up marriages,
to cause people to be fired from their jobs, and even to foment
a message from FBI headquarters to field offices on January 30,1967
Each office must remain constantly alert
to the existence of organizations which have aims and objectives
coinciding with those of the Communist Party and are likely to
be susceptible to communist influence. This necessarily includes
antiwar and pacifist groups, civil rights groups, and other radical
groups which advocate civil disobedience and oppose the exercise
of authority by duly constituted Government officials.
One purpose of the FBI intelligence program was to determine j
which of us to lock up in the event of war or a presidentially
decreed "emergency." In 1939 the FBI established a Security
Index, a list of names of persons "on whom there is information
available to indicate that their presence at liberty in this country
in time of war or national emergency would be dangerous to the
public peace and safety of the United States government."
Then, in 1950, Congress passed the Internal Security Act, which
provided for the confinement of suspected citizens in detention
camps in time of emergency or insurrection. Six camps were actually
established but never used. The FBI complained to the Justice
Department that the act provided for individual arrest warrants
in time of emergency, "a time-consuming procedure compared
to the use of one master arrest warrant for all subjects apprehended,"
as planned under the Security Index. Since the act in other ways
set stricter standards for rounding people up, the FBI with the
approval of the Attorney General simply ignored the law and continued
to keep its own list. But the FBI in 1951 urged that the Justice
Department review the names on the Security Index so that, in
the words of one memo, "the Bureau would not be open to an
allegation of using Police State tactics."
Finally, in 1968, the Justice Department
issued revised criteria for listing people on the index; it included
any person who, although not a member of a suspect organization,
had "revolutionary beliefs," and might, in time of trouble,
attempt to interfere with the operations of the government. Even
if a person did not meet the specific criteria, he could be listed
if the FBI had information that he was a "dangerous individual."
Because of a public outcry over the existence
of concentration camps in America, unused or not, the emergency
detention provision of the 1950 law was repealed in 1971. At one
time, however, the FBI Security Index listed 26,174 Americans
who might be locked up in time of war or emergency. Thousands
were especially targeted for "priority apprehension."
Although Clarence Kelley assured Congress that the Security Index
had been discontinued in 1971, it was revealed in 1975 that the
FBI still maintained an Administrative Index (ADEX), a list of
1,200 Americans "who would merit close investigative attention"
if the balloon went up; moreover, the FBI reportedly never destroyed
some 15,000 cards that comprised its Security Index.*
In addition to the various security indices,
the FBI maintains intelligence dossiers on hundreds of thousands
of American citizens, and the files keep growing. Since 1939 the
FBI has compiled more than 500,000 dossiers on Americans.
The most outrageous of the FBI's activities was its COINTELPRO
operation, which the Bureau admitted it had conducted for fifteen
years, between 1956 and 1971. Under this program, a secret arm
of the United States government, using taxpayers' funds, harassed
American citizens and disrupted their organizations, using a wide
variety of covert techniques. As the House intelligence committee
concluded in its own study of COINTELPRO, "Careers were ruined,
friendships severed, reputations sullied, businesses bankrupted
and, in some cases, lives endangered.
Senator Philip Hart of Michigan testifying before the Church Committee,
Over the years we have been warned about
the danger of subversive organizations, organizations that would
threaten our liberties, subvert our system, would encourage its
members to take further illegal action to advance their views,
organizations that would incite and promote violence, putting
one American group against another... there is an organization
that does fit those descriptions, and it is the organisation,
the leadership of which has been most constant in its warning
to us to be on guard against such harm. The Bureau [FBI] did all
of those things.
Supreme Court justice Robert H. Jackson 'The Supreme Court in
the American System of Government' (1955)
I cannot say that our country could have
no central police without becoming totalitarian, but I can say
with great / conviction that it cannot become totalitarian without
a centralized national police ... a national police... will have
enough on enough people, even if it does not elect to prosecute
them, so that it will find no opposition to its policies.
An American police state has evolved, operating in the shadows
side by side with the legitimate system of government. It has
emerged in spite of the Bill of Rights and the protections of
the law and the Constitution. We have created a uniquely American
police state, one that has managed to grow and operate within,
or at least alongside, the democratic system... by Nazi or Soviet
standards, America is not a police state. But the dictionary definition
does not require the extremes of a Gestapo, or a KGB; it defines
a police state as "a government that seeks to intimidate
and suppress political opposition by means of police, especially
a secret national police organization." The FBI and the CIA
have done precisely that.
John Ehrlichman, ordered the IRS to audit Larry O'Brien, the chief
of the Democratic party
I wanted them to turn up something and
send him to jail before the election.
According to the Senate intelligence committee the CIA, which
opened first-class mail for twenty years, screened 2 million letters,
photographed the outside of 2.7 million, and opened almost 215,000.
For more than two decades, with the collusion of the communications
companies, the NSA in Operation Shamrock received copies of literally
millions of cables sent from, to, or through the United States.
From 1955 to 1975, the FBI investigated 740,000 "subversive"
targets. The CIA indexed 300,000 names in its "Hydra"
computer during Operation CHAOS and compiled separate files on
7,200 Americans. The Army kept files on some 100,000 Americans,
including members of Congress and other civilians. The FBI as
late as 1972 had 7,482 "ghetto informants" on its payroll;
it still maintains a network of 1,500 "domestic intelligence"
informants whom it pays $7.4 million a year. The IRS had more
than 465,000 Americans and organizations in its IGRS intelligence
files, and another 11,500 in the basement files the Special Service
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Honolulu in 1964, an
entire squad of FBI wiretappers and electronic-bugging experts
was flown in from San Francisco. Forty reels of tape were obtained
from that trip and the bug in Washington's Willard Hotel alone.
J. Edgar Hoover personally ordered that a transcript be prepared
of the King hotel room bugs. "I think it should be done now
while it is fresh in the minds of the specially trained agents,"
he instructed his subordinates. The transcript came to 321 pages.
James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in May 1798
Perhaps it is a universal truth that the
loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against
danger real or pretended from abroad.
a 1954 report of the Hoover commission on government reorganization
It is now clear that we are facing an
implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by
whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such
a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply.
If the U.S. is to survive, long-standing American concepts of
'fair play' must be reconsidered.
William Sullivan [number three at the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover]
told the Senate Intelligence Committee
Never once did I hear anybody, including
myself, raise the question: 'Is this course of action which we
have agreed upon lawful, is it legal, is it ethical or moral?
... We never gave any thought to this line of reasoning, because
we were just naturally pragmatists. The one thing we were concerned
about was this: Will this course of action work, will it get us
what we want ...? As far as legality is concerned, morals or
ethics, [it] was never raised... I think this suggests really
in government that we are amoral. In government-I am not speaking
for everybody-the general atmosphere is one of amorality.
The growth of presidential power in the past four decades has
been a significant factor in unleashing the intelligence apparatus
against the electorate. The increase in the size, budget, and
sheer power of the intelligence establishment has paralleled the
growth of the executive branch as a whole.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of how the abuses feed our darkest
instincts was provided by the actions of the intelligence agencies
before and after the assassination of President Kennedy. As the
Senate intelligence committee documented, both the CIA and the
FBI withheld vital information from the Warren Commission. The
CIA, whose Director, Allen Dulles, was a member of the commission,
did not disclose that it had plotted to poison Fidel Castro-who
might thus have had a motive to retaliate against Kennedy. The
CIA did not tell the commission that at the very moment when the
President [Kennedy] was shot in Dallas, a CIA case officer in
Paris was handing a high Cuban official a ball-point pen, especially
equipped with a poison needle, for use against [Fidel] Castro.
Nor did the commission know that the Cuban, Rolando Cubela, code-named
AMLASH, may have been a double agent, reporting the entire plot
back to Castro. Similarly, the FBI did not confide to the Warren
Commission that a few weeks before November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey
Oswald had visited the FBI office in Dallas and left a note-apparently
threatening the FBI-that was destroyed after Kennedy's murder.
The fact that the CIA and the FBI covered
up relevant information after the assassination of the President
of the United States did not prove that Kennedy's death was the
result of a conspiracy. Nor did it necessarily follow that because
the CIA tried to kill Castro, the Cuban leader retaliated by having
Kennedy assassinated. But if the intelligence agencies could not
be trusted in their investigation of the single most traumatic
political event of recent years, can they justifiably ever expect
the confidence of the people?
The CIA did not confine its tests of LSD to government officials
such as Frank Olson, who committed suicide after being drugged.
Even after Olson's death, the CIA continued its tests on unwitting
subjects. A favorite technique used by the CIA was to pick up
people in bars at random, invite them back to a CIA safehouse
for a friendly drink, and then drug them while agents in an adjoining
room switched on tape recorders and observed their reactions through
two-way mirrors. The victims, of course, never knew that their
host was the Central Intelligence Agency.
The law says it is illegal to open first-class mail. The CIA and
the FBI both opened first class mail. The law says burglary is
illegal; the Fourth Amendment says it is also unconstitutional.
The FBI and other agencies, including the White House, the CIA,
the NSA, and the IRS (through hirelings) nevertheless committed
burglaries. The law says murder is illegal; the CIA plotted murders.
Our government is the potent, the omnipresent,
teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its
example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker,
it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law
unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration
of the criminal law the end justifies the means-to declare that
the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction
of a private criminal-would bring terrible retribution.
By adopting the methods of the enemy, we change the very nature
of the system we are trying to preserve. We lose by winning. For,
in time, if we accept the values of the enemy as our own, we will
become the enemy.
We cannot uphold the law by breaking it, we cannot defend the
Constitution by violating it, and we cannot survive as a democracy
by adopting the police-state methods of totalitarianism.
an unidentified United States Army major - in Vietnam during the
Tet offensive - about the town of Bentre
It became necessary to destroy the town
to save it.
David Wise page