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January 2003 • Vol 3, No. 1 •


By Mumia Abu Jamal

“[T]he Bureau of Investigation is not concerned with political or other opinions of individuals. It is concerned only with their conduct and then only with such conduct as is forbidden by the laws of the United States. When a police system passes beyond these limits, it is dangerous to the proper administration of justice and human liberty, which it should be our first concern to cherish...”
—Harlan Fiske Stone (U.S. Attorney General—1924)

It is often utterly amazing to read the high and lofty prose of Stone, speaking of the forerunner organization that would later be known as the FBI—the Federal Bureau of Investigation. One almost wonders, what nation did he live in? And further, when he became a Supreme Court Justice, did his later prose suffer from a similar kind of myopia?

The FBI would emerge as the nation’s premier snoop, who never let such a thing as the Constitution get in its way, and became a virtual prototype of the secret political and (indeed!) sexual police, who fought viciously to preserve a racist, class-bound, and gender-unequal status quo, and treated those who were allegedly “American,” as if they were the feared foe, and the dreaded foreigner, for decades. Contrary to Justice Stone’s sweet words, it was indeed the “politics” and “opinions” of average folks that sparked the attention and the official enmity of the FBI.

When the COINTELPRO scandal broke in the 1970s, then-U.S. Senator, Walter Mondale, and Senate Chairman Frank Church, spoke in harsh terms of the actions of the FBI:

Senator Mondale: “Would it be fair to say that the tactics used against Dr. [Martin Luther] King had been borrowed from tactics used against foreign risks, spies, agents, and the rest, who could and did pose a threat?æ

Mr. [F.A.O.] Schwartz (Counsel to Senate Committee): “Mr. Mondale, your own examination of Mr. [William] Sullivan [Assistant Director, FBI] seems to me brought home that point as clear as it could be.”

Senator Mondale: “So that the techniques which were used were techniques that we knew about through experience against foreign enemies. So that for all practical purposes, Dr. King was treated as though he was one of them?”

Mr. Schwartz: “I do not think he was the only person, but that is certainly accurate.”

Senator Mondale: ”When did counterintelligence programs stop?”

Mr. Schwartz: “Well, that is in question....”

Senator Mondale: “So are you saying we cannot be sure that COINTELPRO, in all of its elements, has been terminated?” [Senate Hearings, Nov. 1975]

Terminated? Hardly.

Even during those now-infamous hearings, FBI agents refused to say that what they did was wrong. Hoover never said so. Indeed, the activities of the FBI continued, just under another name.

The FBI tried to talk (or rather scare) Dr. King into committing suicide, and fought tooth and nail to prevent him from achieving many of his quite legal political goals. They were political police, sex police, and even race police.

And these factors did not end with the passing of Hoover, nor did it vanish with the appointment of any of his successors in office.

The acts that earned senatorial scorn in the 1970s have emerged now, in this “new age,” this new century, as a kind of necessity of war; political snooping, concentration camps of dark minorities (a dream of Hoover from the ‘30s), the aura of electronic surveillance of every discernible communication, the fear, the rampant paranoia, all of these things that stem from the supposedly bygone era, and had the benefit of, at least, being illegal, have been magically made legal in this new era.

Welcome to the 21st Century. This is “progress.” This is the Future. As the childhood of the ‘60s generation were marred by the pall of the Cold War, so this newest generation will too breakfast under the arches of fear. But this War to come will be far from Cold.

This is an Imperial War, waged by men who claim dibs on the whole planet. Pax Americana! Perpetual war for perpetual promises of peace.

When King and Cesar Chavez were vilified by the FBI, it wasn’t because they threatened public order, but because they threatened the private accumulation of capital. They were thus enemies of Empire. For this, they were harassed, harried, humiliated, and run aground.

Has COINTELPRO ended? That past is still with us!

Copyright 2002, Mumia Abu-Jamal, December 11, 2002





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