Glick, Brian. War at Home: Covert Action against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1989. Print.
A total of 2,370 officially approved COINTELPRO actions
were admitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and thousands
more have since been uncovered.
Four main methods have been revealed:
1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on
political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their
very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential sup-
porters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists
2. Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and
police used myriad other "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive move-
ments. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and
other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged cor-
respondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone
calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up
pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated
or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and
others to cause trouble for activists.
3. Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police
abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to
be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented
fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprison-
ment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government
regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, "investigative" inter-
views, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and
silence their supporters.
4. Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police
threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism,
assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt
their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists
(and later Native Americans), these attacks — including political assas-
sinations — were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can
accurately be termed a form of official "terrorism."(10)
The most intense COINTELPRO operations were directed against
the Black movement, particularly the Black Panther Party. This was to
some extent a function of the racism of the FBI and police…
COINTELPRO's targets were not, however, limited to Black
militants. Many other activists who wanted to end U.S. intervention
abroad or institute racial, gender, and class justice at home also came
under attack. Cesar Chavez, Fathers Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, Rev.
Jesse Jackson, David Dellinger, officials of the American Friends Service
Committee and the National Council of Churches, and other leading
pacifists were high on the list, as were projects directly protected by the
First Amendment, such as anti-war teach-ins, progressive bookstores,
independent filmmakers, and alternative newspapers and news ser-
vices. Martin Luther King, Jr., world-renowned prophet of non-
violence, was the object of sustained FBI assault. King was marked,
barely a month before his murder, for elimination as a potential "mes-
siah" who could "unify and electrify" the Black movement (11).
Government Burglaries and Vandalism: Former agents confessed to
thousands of “black bag jobs” in which the FBI broke into dissidents' offices,
homes, and cars. Some of these burglaries were carried out stealthily,
to copy records, steal papers, sabotage machinery, or plant bugs, drugs, or guns,
without the targets' knowledge. In one operation, FBI agents broke in
to steal the personal diary of a member of the Progressive Labor Party,
forged entries to set up a snitch jacket, and then broke in again
to plant the incriminating evidence.
Many other bag jobs were blatantly crude, designed to intimidate
activists and their supporters. Government infiltrators later admitted numerous
other acts of vandalism, ranging from broken windows to fire-bombings (61).
Guidelines for Coping with Extralegal Force and Violence:
…4. Make a public issue of any form of crude harassment. Contact
your congressperson. Call the media. Demonstrate at your local FBI,
police, or right-wing organization's office. Turn the attack into an oppor-
tunity for explaining how domestic covert action threatens fundamental
5. Keep careful records of break-ins, thefts, bomb threats, raids,
brutality, conspicuous surveillance, and other harassment. They will
help you to discern patterns and to prepare reports and testimony.
6. Share this information and your experiences combatting such
attacks with the Movement Support Network and other groups which
document and analyze repression and resistance countrywide. (See
resource groups listing in back of book.)
7. If you experience or anticipate intense harassment, develop
contingency plans and an emergency telephone network so you can
rapidly mobilize community support and media attention. Consider
better locks, window bars, alarm systems, fireproof locked cabinets, etc(64).
While freely applying its own massive armed force to crush oppo-
sition movements at home and abroad, the U.S. government has maneu-
vered to discredit the legitimate use of force by those who have no other
way to resist genocide and fight for freedom. It has colluded with the
major media and the academic establishment to cover up official vio-
lence and provocation while promoting exaggerated and fabricated
accounts which smear movement militancy as "terrorism.'' This propa-
ganda sets up dissidents for blatant repression and isolates them from
the support they need to withstand it.
…Taking into account the political beatings, shootings, and vandalism
by the FBI and police, their aid to right-wing vigilantes, their provocation
and incite- ment of brutal assaults on activists, and their outright ssassination
of movement leaders, these government agencies are far and away
the primary source of political violence in the United States. It is they who
systematically and aggressively initiate the use of force and intimidation
for political ends. Under the guise of combatting terrorism, the FBI and
police are — in this fundamental sense — the real terrorists.
The government's secret use of force and fraud to crush political
opposition is antithetical to any accepted concept of democracy. In the
name of protecting our fundamental freedoms, the FBI and police have
in fact subverted them.
WAR AT HOME
Most people in the United States rightly condemn the secret police
(often trained and financed by our government) who terrorize dissident
movements in many other countries. Applying the same standards to the
FBI and its allies in and out of government, it is hard to escape the
conclusion that the situation is not all that different here at home,
especially for people of color. The FBI and its associates together
perform all the classic functions of a secret police… They interro-
gated, detained, slandered, lied, vandalized, tortured, maimed, and
killed. What would they do if millions of people demanded basic change?
In the United States today, it is the political police, not the radical activists,
who pose the threat to democracy and the danger to law and order (69).
FBI records reveal repeated maneuvers to generate pressure on dissidents from their parents, children, spouses, landlords, employers, college administrators, church superiors, welfare agencies, credit bureaus, and the like... They may try to threaten or intimidate you by pretending to have information about you: We know what you have been doing, but if you cooperate it will be all right.