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Infiltration of Political Movements Is the Norm in America
Posted on Mar 16, 2012
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
Earlier this month, several members of LulzSec, an offshoot of Anonymous, were charged with hacking, reportedly on the basis of reports from an FBI informer described in the media as a leader of LulzSec, notorious for its exploits against Sony, the CIA, the U.S. Senate, the FBI, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal.
One year ago, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article headlined “One in four US hackers ‘is an FBI informer.’ ” It told of how the FBI had used the threat of long prison sentences to turn some members of Anonymous and similar groups into informers. It also told why Anonymous was open to infiltration. On “Democracy Now!,” Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who is an expert on digital media, hackers and the law, said: “There had been rumors of infiltration or informants. At some level, Anonymous is quite easy to infiltrate, because anyone can sort of join and participate. And so, there had been rumors of this sort of activity happening for quite a long time.”
In an earlier Truthdig article, we described reports of widespread infiltration of the Occupy movement. In this article we will deal with the history of infiltration of political movements in the United States and the goals of infiltration.
FBI’s COINTELPRO Spread a Wide Net
Square, Site wide
The most famous surveillance program was the FBI’s COINTELPRO, which according to COINTELPRO documents targeted the women’s rights, civil rights, anti-war and peace movements, the New Left, socialists, communists and the independence for Puerto Rico movement, among others. Among the groups infiltrated were the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, the Congress for Racial Equality, the American Indian movement, Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground. Leaders including Albert Einstein and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were monitored.
The Church Committee of the U.S. Senate documented a history of use of the FBI for political repression. It described infiltration going back to World War I. In the 1920s, federal agents were ordered to round up “anarchists and revolutionaries” for deportation. The Church Committee found that infiltration efforts grew from 1936 through 1976, with COINTELPRO becoming the major program.
Although these domestic political spying and disruption programs were supposed to have stopped in 1976, in fact they continued. As reported in “The Price of Dissent,” Federal Magistrate Joan Lefkow found in 1991 that the record “shows that despite regulations, orders and consent decrees prohibiting such activities, the FBI had continued to collect information concerning only the exercise of free speech.”
How many agents or infiltrators can we expect to see inside a movement? One of the most notorious “police riots” was at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Independent journalist Yasha Levine writes: “During the 1968 protests of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which drew about 10,000 protesters and was brutally crushed by the police, 1 out of 6 protesters was a federal undercover agent. That’s right, 1/6th of the total protesting population was made up of spooks drawn from various federal agencies. That’s roughly 1,600 people! The stat came from an Army document obtained by CBS News in 1978, a full decade after the protest took place. According to CBS, the infiltrators were not passive observers, monitoring and relaying information to central command, but were involved in violent confrontations with the police.” [Emphasis in original.]
Peter Camejo, who ran as a Socialist Workers Party candidate for president in 1976, as a Green Party candidate for governor of California in 2003 and as Ralph Nader’s vice presidential running mate in 2004, often told of infiltration in his mid-’70s presidential campaign. After campaign offices were burglarized, Camejo was able to get the FBI into court by suing it over COINTELPRO activities. The judge asked the FBI special agent in charge how many FBI agents had worked in Camejo’s presidential campaign; the answer was 66. Camejo estimated he had a campaign staff of 400 across the country. Once again that would be an infiltration rate of about one in six. Camejo discovered that among the agents was his campaign co-chair. He also discovered eavesdropping equipment in a campaign office and documents showing the FBI had followed him since he was an 18-year-old student activist.
Federal infiltration is buttressed by local and state police. Local police infiltrators have a tradition dating back to the Haymarket riots of 1886 and the 1904 Italian Squad in New York City. In addition to their political activity they have been involved in infiltration of unions, especially in regard to strikes. Common throughout the United States were the so-called Red Squads. A 1963 report estimated that 300,000 officers were involved in surveillance of political activities.
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