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Sunday, March 12, 2023

COINTELPRO: The Secret FBI Program That Targeted Dissent and Activism

COINTELPRO (short for Counterintelligence Program) was a secret program run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1956 to 1971. The program's goal was to disrupt and neutralize political organizations and activists deemed a threat to national security. In practice, this meant targeting individuals and groups engaged in dissent against the government, particularly those associated with the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party, and anti-Vietnam War activism.

The FBI employed a range of tactics to achieve its objectives. These included wiretapping, blackmail, false imprisonment, and even assassination. The agency also engaged in propaganda and disinformation campaigns designed to create internal divisions within targeted organizations and to discredit their leaders. For example, the FBI forged letters between different civil rights groups to create distrust and suspicion between them.

One of the most infamous examples of COINTELPRO was the FBI's targeting of the Black Panther Party. The FBI saw the Black Panther Party as a threat to national security and began a campaign to disrupt and neutralize the organization. This campaign included wiretapping, infiltration, and the use of informants. The FBI also spread false information about the Black Panthers to the media and created fake letters and documents to discredit their leadership.

COINTELPRO also targeted anti-war activists, particularly those associated with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The FBI infiltrated SDS and other anti-war groups and used informants to gather information and create dissent within the organizations. The FBI also used illegal tactics such as wiretapping and burglary to gather information on activists and disrupt their activities.

COINTELPRO was exposed in 1971, when a group of activists broke into an FBI office and stole documents detailing the program's activities. The documents were subsequently released to the media, causing a public outcry and leading to the program's eventual termination. However, the FBI's use of similar tactics continued in the years that followed, leading to ongoing concerns about government surveillance and the suppression of dissent.

In conclusion, COINTELPRO was a secret FBI program that targeted political organizations and activists engaged in dissent against the government. The program employed a range of tactics, including wiretapping, blackmail, and propaganda, to disrupt and neutralize these groups. While the program was eventually exposed and terminated, its legacy continues to raise concerns about government surveillance and the suppression of dissent.

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