As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day against the backdrop of a war openly assailed by members of both parties of Congress, and a scandal involving wiretaps of U.S. citizens suspected of being in league with enemies of the state, it behooves us to recognize how cyclical is the nature of American politics and policy, for Dr. King was facing those very same issues in the 1960s.

Not only was Dr. King the object of a massive, illegal eavesdropping program aimed at painting him as a sexual deviant and a Communist fifth columnist, but he was also demonized for his opposition to the Vietnam War by the same media organizations that had practically canonized him a few years before.

Truthdig has assembled a selection of resources highlighting various aspects of Dr. King’s life that seem particularly pertinent to current-day discussions of liberties at home and sovereignty abroad.

Update: Download an audio Mp3 version of Dr. King’s controversial “Beyond Vietnam” speech, in which he called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Right-click on this link and select “save link/target as” (file is 24 megs and runs about an hour).

MLK and Spying

  • Spying on Martin Luther King Good, brief primer on the FBI’s surveillance of Dr. King, with tie-ins to the current wiretapping scandal, written by constitutional lawyer John Rutherford.
  • King and the FBI
  • Scroll down to the section that reads “King and the FBI” in this Wikipedia article for another brief overview of the King-FBI surveillance saga.

  • The FBI’s Vendetta Against Martin Luther King Jr.
  • A factually rich but poorly formatted treatment of the FBI’s wiretapping activities of Dr. King, excerpted from the book “The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies,” by Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, Robert Borosage, Christine Marwick.

  • The FBI’s Covert Action Programs Against American Citizens: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Case Study An extremely detailed report produced by the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, the so-called Church Committee, which the Senate convened in the mid-1970 to document a variety of abuses by American intelligence agencies. (Increase your font size to read the document.)
  • Presidential Power in Wartime NPR program “On Point,” from Dec. 22, 2005, in which Nixon press aide and veteran presidential advisor David Gergen talks about the FBI’s illegal surveillance of Dr. King.
  • “Suicide” Letter See the actual letter that the FBI sent to Dr. King in 1964, urging him to commit suicide or face the disclosure of surveillance tapes of his alleged extramarital affairs.
  • FOIA Documents Hundreds of pages of FBI documents relating to Dr. King released under the Freedom of Information Act.

King the “Radical”

Exactly one year before he was assassinated in 1968, Dr. King delivered a speech at the Riverside Church in New York City entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” in which he called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Time magazine, which had declared King “Man of the Year” in 1964, now accused him of providing succor to Hanoi. The Washington Post said that King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”

Text of speech Audio download (Right-click on the link and select “save link/target as”–file is 24 megs and runs about an hour.)

To better understand this seeming about-face, and to get a bead on why many history books leave out or paper over the last three years of Dr. King’s life, check out this article from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

Biographical Resources

Multimedia, Speeches, Misc.

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