Thomas Robb Ministries
PO Box 354
Bergman, AR 72615
Frequently Asked Questions
Questions from Emails that We have answered
The Weathermen emerged
from the campus-based opposition
to the Vietnam War, as well as the Civil
Rights Movements of the late 1960s. During this time, United
States military action in Southeast
Asia, especially in Vietnam,
escalated. In the U.S., the anti-war sentiment was particularly pronounced
during the 1968
U.S. presidential election.
origins of the Weathermen can be traced to the collapse and fragmentation
of the Students
for a Democratic Society following a split between office holders of
SDS, or "National Office," and their supporters and the Progressive
Labor Party. During the factional struggle National Office leaders
such as Bernardine
Dohrn and Mike
Klonsky began announcing their emerging perspectives, and Klonksy
published a document entitled "Toward a Revolutionary
Youth Movement" (RYM). RYM promoted the philosophy that young
workers possessed the potential to be a revolutionary force to overthrow
capitalism, if not by themselves then by transmitting radical ideas to the
working class. Klonsky's document reflected the philosophy of the National
Office and was eventually adopted as official SDS doctrine. During the
summer of 1969, the National Office began to split. A group led by Klonsky
became known as RYM II, and the other side, RYM I, was led by Dohrn and
endorsed more aggressive tactics such as direct
action, as some members felt that years of non-violent
resistance had done little or nothing to stop the Vietnam War.
The Weathermen strongly sympathized with the radical Black
Panthers. The police killing of Panther Fred
Hampton prompted the Weatherman to issue a declaration of war upon the
United States government.
we sat in.
I was willing to get hit over the head, I did; I was willing to go to
prison, I did. To me, it was a question of what had to be done to stop the
much greater violence that was going on.
 SDS Convention, June 1969
an SDS convention in Chicago on June 18, 1969, the National Office
attempted to convince unaffiliated delegates not to endorse a takeover of
SDS by Progressive Labor who had packed the convention with their
At the beginning of the convention, two position papers were passed out by
the National Office leadership, one a revised statement of Klonksy's RYM
manifesto, the other called "You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know
Which Way the Wind Blows." The latter document outlined the position
of the group that would become the Weathermen. It had been signed by Karen
Jones, Gerry Long, Howie
Machtinger, Jim Mellen, Terry
Rudd, and Steve Tappis. The document called for creating a clandestine
most important task for us toward making the revolution, and the work our
collectives should engage in, is the creation of a mass revolutionary
movement, without which a clandestine revolutionary party will be
impossible . A revolutionary mass movement is different from the
traditional revisionist mass base of "sympathizers . " Rather it
is akin to the Red Guard in China, based on the full participation and
involvement of masses of people in the practice of making revolution; a
movement with a full willingness to participate in the violent and illegal
this convention the Weatherman faction of the Students
for a Democratic Society, planned for October 8–11, as a
"National Action" built around John
Jacobs' slogan, "bring the war home."
The National Action grew out of a resolution drafted by Jacobs and
introduced at the October 1968 SDS National Council meeting in Boulder,
Colorado. The resolution, titled "The Elections Don't Mean
Shit—Vote Where the Power Is—Our Power Is In The Street" and
adopted by the council, was prompted by the success of the Democratic
National Convention protests in August 1968 and reflected Jacobs'
strong advocacy of direct
would shove the war down their dumb, fascist throats and show them, while
we were at it, how much better we were than them, both tactically and
strategically, as a people. In an all-out civil war over Vietnam and other
fascist U.S. imperialism, we were going to bring the war home. 'Turn the
imperialists' war into a civil war', in Lenin's words. And we were going
to kick ass."
July, 1969 30 members of Weatherman leadership traveled to Cuba
and met with North Vietnamese representatives to gain from their
revolutionary experience. The North
Vietnamese requested armed political action in order to stop the US
Government's war in Vietnam. Subsequently, they accepted funding,
training, recommendations on tactics and slogans from Cuba,
and perhaps explosives as well.
 SDS Convention, December, 1969
of Rage riots the Weatherman held the last of its National Council
meetings from December 26 to December 31, 1969 in Flint,
Michigan. The meeting, dubbed the "War
Council" by the 300 people who attended, adopted Jacobs' call for
Dohrn opened the conference by telling the delegates they needed to stop
being afraid and begin the "armed struggle." Over the next five
days, the participants met in informal groups to discuss what "going
underground" meant, how best to organize collectives, and
justifications for violence. In the evening, the groups reconvened for a
mass "wargasm"—practicing karate,
engaging in physical exercise, singing songs, and listening to speeches.
The "War Council" ended with a major speech by John Jacobs.
Jacobs condemned the "pacifism" of white middle-class American
youth, a belief which he claimed they held because they were insulated
from the violence which afflicted blacks and the poor. He predicted a
successful revolution, and declared that youth were moving away from
passivity and apathy and toward a new high-energy culture of "repersonalization"
brought about by drugs, sex, and armed revolution.
"We're against everything that's 'good and decent' in honky
America," Jacobs said in his most commonly quoted statement. "We
will burn and loot and destroy. We are the incubation of your mother's
major decisions came out of the "War Council." The first was to
go underground, and to begin a violent, armed struggle against the state
without attempting to organize or mobilize a broad swath of the public.
The Weather Underground hoped to create underground collectives in major
cities throughout the country.
In fact, the Weathermen eventually created only three significant, active
collectives; one in California, one in the Midwest, and one in New York
City. The New York City collective was led by Jacobs and Terry Robbins,
and included Ted
Wilkerson (Robbins' girlfriend), and Diana
Jacobs was one of Robbins' biggest supporters, and pushed Weatherman to
let Robbins be as violent as he wanted to be. The Weatherman national
leadership agreed, as did the New York City collective.
The collective's first target was Judge John Murtagh, who was overseeing
the trial of the "Panther 21".
second major decision was the dissolution of Students for a Democratic
Society. After the summer of 1969 fragmentation of SDS, Weatherman's
adherents explicitly claimed themselves the real leaders of SDS and
retained control of the SDS National Office. Thereafter, any leaflet,
label, or logo bearing the name "Students for a Democratic
Society" or "SDS" was in fact the views and politics of
Weatherman, not of the slate elected by Progressive Labor. Weatherman
contained the vast majority of former SDS National Committee members,
including Mark Rudd, David
Gilbert and Bernardine Dohrn. The group, while small, was able to
commandeer the mantle of SDS and all of its membership lists, but with
Weatherman in charge there was little or no support from local branches or
members of the organization,
and local chapters soon disbanded. At the "War Council," the
Weathermen had decided to close the SDS National Office, ending the major
campus-based organization of the 1960s which at its peak was a mass
organization with 100,000 members.
thesis of Weatherman theory, as expounded in its founding document, You
Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, was that
"the main struggle going on in the world today is between U.S.
imperialism and the national liberation struggles against it",
based on Lenin's
theory of imperialism, first expounded in 1916 in Imperialism,
the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In Weatherman theory
"oppressed peoples" are the creators of the wealth of empire,
"and it is to them that it belongs." "The goal of
revolutionary struggle must be the control and use of this wealth in the
interest of the oppressed peoples of the world." "The goal is
the destruction of US imperialism and the achievement of a classless
world: world communism"
Vietnamese and other third world countries, as well as third world people
within the United States play a vanguard role. They "set the terms
for class struggle in America..."
The role of the "Revolutionary Youth Movement" is to build a
centralized organization of revolutionaries, a "Marxist-Leninist
Party" supported by a mass revolutionary movement to support
international liberation movements and "open another battlefield of
theoretical basis of the Revolutionary Youth Movement was an insight that
most of the American population, including both students and the supposed
"middle class," comprised, due to their relationship to the
instruments of production, the working
thus the organizational basis of the SDS, which had begun in the elite
colleges and had been extended to public institutions as the organization
grew could be extended to youth as a whole including students, those
serving in the military, and the unemployed. Students could be viewed as
workers gaining skills prior to employment. This contrasted to the
Progressive Labor view which viewed students and workers as being in
separate categories which could ally, but should not jointly organize.
Bureau of Investigation analysis of the travel history of the founders
and initial followers of the organization emphasized contacts with foreign
governments, particularly the Cuban
Vietnamese and their influence on the ideology of the organization.
Participation in the Venceremos
Brigade, a program which involved US students volunteering to work in
the sugar harvest in Cuba, is highlighted as a common factor in the
background of the founders of the Weather Underground, with China
a secondary influence.
This experience was cited by both Kathy Boudin and Bernardine Dohrn as a
major influence on their political development.
name Weatherman was derived from the Bob
Dylan song “Subterranean
Homesick Blues,” which featured the lyrics “You don’t need a
weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” The lyrics had been quoted
at the bottom of an influential essay in the SDS newspaper, New Left
Notes. Using this title the Weathermen meant, partially, to appeal to
the segment of US youth
inspired to action for social
justice by Dylan’s songs.
Weatherman group had long held that militancy
was becoming more important than nonviolent
forms of anti-war
action, and that university-campus-based demonstrations needed to be
punctuated with more dramatic actions, which had the potential to
interfere with the US military and internal
security apparatus. The belief was that these types of urban
guerrilla actions would act as a catalyst for the coming revolution.
Many international events indeed seemed to support the Weathermen’s
overall assertion that worldwide
revolution was imminent, such as the tumultuous Cultural
Revolution in China; the 1968 student revolts in France,
City and elsewhere; the Prague
Spring; the Northern
Ireland Civil Rights Association; the emergence of the Tupamaros
organization in Uruguay;
the emergence of the Guinea-Bissauan
Revolution and similar Marxist-led
independence movements throughout Africa;
and within the United States, the prominence of the Black
Panther Party together with a series of “ghetto
throughout poor black
neighborhoods across the country.
felt that doing nothing in a period of repressive violence is itself a
form of violence. That's really the part that I think is the hardest for
people to understand. If you sit in your house, live your white life and
go to your white job, and allow the country that you live in to murder
people and to commit genocide,
and you sit there and you don't do anything about it, that's violence.
Weathermen were outspoken advocates of the critical concepts that later
came to be known as “white
privilege” and identity
As the unrest
in poor black neighborhoods intensified in the early 1970s, Bernardine
Dohrn said, “White youth must choose sides now. They must either
fight on the side of the oppressed, or be on the side of the oppressor.”
rhetorical style of the Weathermen was described by one early observer,
referring to Bill Ayers's speech, "A Strategy to Win" delivered
in Cleveland, as "outrageously arrogant:"
typifies the aggressive tone Weatherman began to adopt towards those in
and out of SDS who questioned Weatherman politics or plans for the
National Action (Days of Rage). It best captures the rhetorical flavor of
Weatherman on the attack—combative, uncompromising, confident, and
style, expressed as open advocacy of resistance, resonated with the SDS's
after its formation as an independent group, Weatherman created a central
committee, the Weather Bureau, which assigned its cadres
to a series of collectives in major cities. These cities included New
York, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Chicago, the
home of the SDS' head office. The collectives set up under the Weather
Bureau drew their design from Che
theory, which focused on the building of small, semi-autonomous cells
guided by a central leadership.
Members of collectives engaged in intensive criticism sessions which
attempted to reconcile their prior and current activities and political
positions to Weatherman doctrine. Monogamy and other exclusive sexual
relationships came under attack, bisexuality was encouraged. Martial arts
were practiced and occasional direct actions were engaged in.
This formation continued during 1969 and 1970 until the group went
underground and a more relaxed lifestyle was adopted as the group blended
into the counterculture.
used various means by which to recruit new members and send into motion a
nation-wide revolt against the government. Weather members aimed to
mobilize people into action against the established leaders of the nation
and the patterns of injustice which existed in America and abroad due to
America's presence overseas. They also aimed to convince people to resist
reliance upon their given privilege and to rebel and take arms if
necessary. According to Weatherman, if people tolerated the unjust actions
of the state, they became complicit in those actions. In the manifesto
compiled by Bill
Jones, and Celia Sojourn, entitled "Prairie Fire: The Politics of
Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism", Weatherman explained that their
intention was to encourage the people and provoke leaps in confidence and
consciousness in an attempt to stir the imagination, organize the masses,
and join in the people's day-to-day struggles in every way possible.
the year 1960, almost 50 percent of America’s population was under 18
years of age. The number of young citizens set the stage for a widespread
revolt against previously upheld structures of racism, sexism, and
classism, the violence of the Vietnam War and America’s interventions
abroad. At college campuses throughout the country, anger against “the
Establishment’s” practices prompted both peaceful and violent protest.
The members of Weatherman targeted high school and college students,
assuming they would be willing to rebel against the authoritative figures
who had oppressed them, including cops, principals, and bosses.
Weather aimed to develop roots within the class struggle, targeting white
working-class youths. The younger members of the working class became the
focus of the organizing effort because they felt the oppression strongly
in regards to the military draft, low-wage jobs, and schooling.
Schools became a common place of recruitment for the movement. In direct
actions, dubbed Jailbreaks,
Weather members invaded educational institutions as a means by which to
recruit high school and college students. The motivation of these
jailbreaks was the organization's belief that school was where the youth
were oppressed by the system and where they learned to tolerate
society’s faults instead of rise against them. According to “Prairie
Fire”, young people are channeled, coerced, misled, miseducated, misused
in the school setting. It is in schools that the youth of the nation
become alienated from the authentic processes of learning about the world 
of the Weatherman organization began recruiting members by applying their
own strategies. Women's groups such as The Motor City Nine and Cell 16
took the lead in various recruitment efforts. Roxanne
Dunbar-Ortiz, a member of the radical women's liberation group, Cell
16, spoke about her personal recruitment agenda saying that she wanted
their group to go out in every corner of the country and tell women the
truth, recruit the local people, poor and working-class people, in order
to build a new society 
explains the controversy surrounding recruitment strategies saying, “As
an organizing strategy it was less than successful: white working class
youths were more alienated than organized by Weather's spectacles, and
even some of those interested in the group were turned off by its early
The methods of recruitment applied by the Weathermen met controversy as
their call to arms became intensely radical and their organization's
leadership increasingly exclusive.
2006 Dan Berger (writer, activist, and longtime anti-racism organizer)
states that following their initial set of bombings, which resulted in the
Village townhouse explosion the organization adopted a new paradigm of
direct action set forth in the communiqué New
Morning, Changing Weather, which abjured attacks on people.
The shift in the organization's outlook was in good part due to the 1970
death of Weatherman Terry
Robbins in Greenwich
Village townhouse explosion. Terry
Robbins was renowned among the organization members for his radicalism
and belief in violence as effective action.
According to Dan Berger a relatively sophisticated program of armed
propaganda was adopted. This consisted of a series of bombings of
government and corporate targets in retaliation for specific imperialist
and oppressive acts. Small, well-constructed time
bombs were used, generally in vents in restrooms, which exploded at
times the spaces were empty. Timely warnings were made and communiqués
issued explaining the reason for the actions.
 Major Activities and Suspected activities
Main article: List
of Weatherman actions
 Haymarket Police Memorial bombing October 7, 1969
before the Days
of Rage demonstrations on October 7, 1969, the Weatherman planted a
bomb that blew up a statue in Chicago built to commemorate police
casualties incurred in the 1886 Haymarket
The blast broke nearly 100 windows and scattered pieces of the statue onto
the Kennedy Expressway below.
The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4, 1970 (coincidentally, the
same day as the Kent
State massacre), only to be blown up by the Weathermen a second time
on October 6, 1970.
The statue was rebuilt once again and Mayor Richard
J. Daley posted a 24-hour police guard to protect it.
 "Days of Rage" October 9, 1969
Square police memorial (1889 photo)
of the first acts of the Weathermen after splitting from SDS was to
announce they would hold the "Days of Rage" that autumn. This
was advertised to "Bring the war home!" Hoping to cause
sufficient chaos to "wake" the American public out of what they
saw as complacency toward the role
of the US in the Vietnam War, the Weathermen meant it to be the
largest protest of the decade. They had been told by their regional cadre
to expect thousands to attend; however, when they arrived they found only
a few hundred people. According to Bill Ayers in 2003, "The Days of
Rage was an attempt to break from the norms of kind of acceptable theatre
of 'here are the anti-war people: containable, marginal, predictable, and
here's the little path they're going to march down, and here's where they
can make their little statement.' We wanted to say, "No, what we're
going to do is whatever we had to do to stop the violence in
protests did violate Bill
Ayers stated expectations:
Women Fight Cops
comment in the press:
we see a new breed of pro-black, pro-Viet Cong hooligan revolutionaries
who not demanding this or that change, but are out to totally disrupt the
very fabric of this society, out the smash this social order.
the October 8, 1969 rally in Chicago
had failed to draw as many as the Weathermen had anticipated, the two or
three hundred who did attend shocked police by rioting
through the affluent Gold
Coast neighborhood. They smashed the windows of a bank and those of
many cars. The crowd ran four blocks before encountering police
barricades. They charged the police but broke into small groups; more than
1,000 police counter-attacked. Many protesters were wearing motorcycle or
football helmets, but the police were well trained and armed. Large
amounts of tear
gas were used, and at least twice police ran squad cars into the mob.
The rioting lasted approximately half an hour, during which 28 policemen
were injured. Six Weathermen were shot by the police and an unknown number
injured; 68 rioters were arrested.
the next two days, the Weathermen held no rallies or protests. Supporters
of the RYM II movement, led by Klonsky and Noel Ignatin, held peaceful
rallies in front of the federal courthouse, an International Harvester
factory, and Cook County Hospital. The largest event of the Days of Rage
took place on Friday, October 9, when RYM II led an interracial march of
2,000 people through a Spanish-speaking part of Chicago.
October 10, the Weatherman attempted to regroup and resume their
demonstrations. About 300 protesters marched through The
Loop, Chicago's main business district, watched by a double-line of
heavily armed police. The protesters suddenly broke through the police
lines and rampaged through the Loop, smashing the windows of cars and
stores. The police were prepared, and quickly isolated the rioters. Within
15 minutes, more than half the crowd had been arrested.
Days of Rage cost Chicago and the state of Illinois approximately $183,000
($100,000 for National Guard expenses, $35,000 in damages, and $20,000 for
one injured citizen's medical expenses). Most of the Weathermen and SDS
leaders were now in jail, and the Weathermen would have to pay over
$243,000 for their bail.
 Flint War Council, December 27–31, 1969
"Flint War Council," was a series of meetings of the Weather
Underground Organization and associates in Flint,
Michigan, that took place from 27–31 December 1969.
During these meetings, the decisions were made for the Weather Underground
Organization to go underground 
and to "engage in guerilla warfare against the U.S. government."
This decision was made in response to increased pressure from law
and a belief that underground guerilla warfare was the best way to combat
the U.S. government.
a closed-door meeting of the Weather Underground's leadership, the
decision was also taken to abolish Students for a Democratic Society.
This decision reflected the splintering of SDS into hostile rival
 Park Place Police Station bombing, February 1970
Francisco Police Department Park Station bombing
February 16, 1970 a nail bomb placed on a window ledge of the Park Police
substation in the Upper Haight neighborhood of San Francisco exploded at
10:45 p.m. The blast killed police Sergeant Brian McDonnell. Law
enforcement suspected the Weather Underground but was unable to prove
conclusively that the organization was involved.
A second officer, Robert Fogarty was partially blinded by the bomb’s
 New York City, Judge Murtagh arson attacks,
February 21, 1970, gasoline-filled Molotov
cocktails were thrown at the home of New York State Supreme Court
Justice Murtagh, who was presiding over the trial of the so-called
"Panther 21," members of the Black
Panther Party over a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department
stores. One bottle full of gasoline had broken against the front steps,
and flames scorched the overhanging wooden frame until its contents burnt
out. In addition windows were broken, and another molotov cocktail caused
paint charring on a car. Painted in red on the sidewalk in front of his
house was "FREE THE PANTHER 21", "THE VIET
CONG HAVE WON", and "KILL THE PIGS".
The same night, molotov cocktails were thrown at a police car in Manhattan
and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn.
The son of Justice Murtagh claims that the Weatherman were responsible for
the attempted arson,
based on a letter promising more bombings sent by Bernardine Dohrn to the Associated
Press in late November, 1970,
Some authors assume that letter is generally assumed to refer to an
October bombing of a Queens courthouse.
NYPD Chief Detective Seedman quoted Dohrn's December, letter as stating
‘two weeks before the townhouse explosion, four members of this (WUO)
group had firebombed Judge Murtaugh’s house in New York as an action of
support for the Panther 21." 
No one was caught or tried, for the arson attempt,
state that the arson attempt was enacted by the Weathermen but was
considered a failure.
 Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, March 1970
Village townhouse explosion
March 6, 1970, during preparations for the bombing of a Non-Commissioned
Officers’ (NCO) dance at the Fort
Dix U.S. Army base and for Butler Library at Columbia University,
there was an explosion in a Greenwich
house when the nail
bomb being constructed prematurely detonated for unknown reasons. WUO
Gold, and Terry
Robbins died in the explosion. Cathy
Wilkerson and Kathy
Boudin escaped unharmed. It was an accident of history that the site
of the Village explosion was the former residence of Merrill
Lynch brokerage firm founder Charles
Merrill and his son, the poet James
Merrill. The younger Merrill subsequently recorded the event in his
poem 18 West 11th Street, the title being the address of the house.
An FBI report later stated that the group had possessed enough explosive
to "level ... both sides of the street".
bomb preparations have been pointed out by critics of the claim that the
Weatherman group did not try to take lives with its bombings. Harvey Klehr,
the Andrew W. Mellon professor of politics and history at Emory
University in Atlanta, said in 2003, "The only reason they were
not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence. I don't know what sort of
defense that is."
 Underground Strategy Change
Village incident, per the December, 1969 "Flint
War Council" decisions the group was now well underground, and
began to refer to themselves as the Weather Underground Organization. At
this juncture, WUO shrank considerably, becoming even fewer than they had
been when first formed. The group was devastated by the loss of their
friends, and in late April 1970, members of the Weathermen met in
California to discuss what had happened in New York and the future of the
organization. The group decided to reevaluate their strategy, particularly
in regard to their initial belief in the acceptability of human
casualties, rejecting such tactics as kidnapping and assassinations.[citation
2003 interviews with Weather Underground members stated that they wanted
to convince the American public that the United States was truly
responsible for the calamity in Vietnam.
The group began striking at night, bombing empty offices, with warnings
always issued in advance to ensure a safe evacuation. According to David
Gilbert, who took part in the 1981 Brinks
Robbery that killed three officers and was jailed for murder
"[their] goal was to not hurt any people, and a lot of work went into
that. But we wanted to pick targets that showed to the public who was
responsible for what was really going on."
After the Greenwich Village explosion, in a review of the film The
Weather Underground a Guardian
journalist restated the film's contention that no one was killed by WUO
were very careful from the moment of the townhouse on to be sure we
weren't going to hurt anybody, and we never did hurt anybody. Whenever we
put a bomb in a public space, we had figured out all kinds of ways to put
checks and balances on the thing and also to get people away from it, and
we were remarkably successful.
 Declaration of a State of War, May 1970
response to the death of Black Panther member Fred
Hampton in December, 1969 during a police raid, on May 21, 1970 the
Weather Underground issued a "Declaration
of War against the United States government, using for the first time
its new name, the "Weather Underground Organization" (WUO),
adopting fake identities, and pursuing covert
activities only. These initially included preparations for a bombing of a
U.S. military non-commissioned officers' dance at Fort
Dix, New Jersey in what Brian
Flanagan said had been intended to be "the most horrific hit the
United States government had ever suffered on its territory".
known that our job is to lead white kids into armed revolution. We never
intended to spend the next five to twenty-five years of our lives in jail.
Ever since SDS became revolutionary, we've been trying to show how it is
possible to overcome frustration and impotence that comes from trying to
reform this system. Kids know the lines are drawn: revolution is touching
all of our lives. Tens of thousands have learned that protest and marches
don't do it. Revolutionary violence is the only way.
felt that the murder of Fred required us to be more grave, more serious,
more determined to raise the stakes and not just be the white people who
wrung their hands when black people were being murdered.
December 1969, the Chicago Police Department, in conjunction with the FBI,
conducted a raid on the home of Black
Hampton, in which he and Mark
Clark were killed, with four of the seven other people in the
apartment wounded. The survivors of the raid were all charged with assault
and attempted murder. The police claimed they shot in self-defense,
although a controversy arose when the Panthers and other activists
presented what was alleged to be evidence suggesting that the sleeping
Panthers were not resisting
arrest. The charges were later dropped, and the families of the dead
won a $1.8 million settlement from the government. It was discovered in
1971 that Hampton had been targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO.
search for clues after the May 19, 1972 Weatherman bombing of the
May 21, 1970, a communiqué from the Weather Underground was issued
promising to attack a "symbol or institution of American
injustice" within two weeks.
The communiqué included taunts towards the FBI, daring them to try and
find the group, whose members were spread throughout the United States.
Many leftist organizations showed curiosity in the communiqué, and waited
to see if the act would in fact occur. However, two weeks would pass
without any occurrence.
Then on June 9, 1970, their first publicly acknowledged bombing occurred
at a New
York City police station,
saying it was "in outraged response to the assassination of the Soledad
who had recently been killed by prison guards in an escape attempt. The
FBI placed the Weather Underground organization on the ten most-wanted
list by the end of 1970.
 June 1970 NYC Police Bombing
June 9, 1970, a bomb made with ten sticks of dynamite exploded in the NYC
Police Headquarters. The explosion was preceded by a warning about six
minutes prior to the detonation and subsequently by a WUO claim of
 Federal Grand Jury Indicts 13 Weathermen Leaders
July 23, 1970, a Detroit grand jury indicted 13 Weathermen members on
conspiracy to bomb and kill. Ten of the thirteen already had outstanding
 Timothy Leary prison break, September 1970
September 1970, the group took a $20,000 payment from a psychedelics
distribution organization called The
Brotherhood of Eternal Love to break LSD
Leary out of prison,
transporting him and his wife to Algeria.
Leary joined Eldridge
Cleaver in Algeria.
 FBI's Most Wanted List, October 1970
 Pentagon Bombing, 1972
May 19, 1972, Ho
Chi Minh’s birthday, The Weather Underground placed a bomb in the
women’s bathroom in the Air Force wing of The
Pentagon. The damage caused flooding that destroyed computer tapes
holding classified information. Other radical groups worldwide applauded
the bombing, illustrated by German youths protesting against American
military systems in Frankfurt.
This was "in retaliation for the U.S. bombing raid in Hanoi."
 Charges Dropped, 1973
1973 the government requested dropping charges against most of the WUO
members. The requests cited a recent decision by the Supreme
Court that barred electronic surveillance without a court order. This Supreme
Court decision would hamper any prosecution of the WUO cases. In
addition, the government did not want to reveal foreign intelligence
secrets that a trial would require.
Dohrn was removed from the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List.
Prairie Fire 1974
the help from Clayton
Van Lydegraf, the Weather Underground sought a more Marxist-Leninist
ideological approach to the post-Vietnam reality.
The leading members of the Weather Underground (Bill Ayers, Bernardine
Dohrn, Jeff Jones, and Celia Sojourn) collaborated on ideas and published
their manifesto: "Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary
The name came from a quote by Mao
Zedong, "a single spark can set a prairie fire." By the
summer of 1974, five thousand copies had surfaced in coffee houses and
bookstores across America. Leftist newspapers praised the manifesto.
Hoffman publicly praised Prairie Fire and believed every
American should be given a copy.
The manifesto’s influence initiated the formation of the Prairie
Fire Organizing Committee in several American cities. Hundreds of
above-ground activists helped further the new political vision of the
Among other things, the manifesto called for the violent overthrow of the
U.S. government and the establishment of a Dictatorship
of the Proletariat as a means to achieving its social goals:
only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism
is revolutionary war."... "Socialism is the violent overthrow of
the bourgeoisie, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat,
and the eradication of the social system based on profit."...
Revolutionary war will be complicated and protracted.... It includes mass
struggle and clandestine struggle, peaceful and violent, political and
economic, cultural and military, where all forms are developed in harmony
with the armed struggle. Without mass struggle there can be no revolution.
Without armed struggle there can be no victory."
after the 1969 failure of the Days
of Rage to involve thousands of youth in massive street fighting.
Weather renounced most of the Left and decided to operate as an isolated
underground group. Prairie Fire urged people to never "dissociate
mass struggle from revolutionary violence." To do so, claimed
Weather, was to do the state's work. Just as in 1969-70, Weather still
refused to renounce revolutionary violence for "to leave people
unprepared to fight the state is to seriously mislead them about the
inevitable nature of what lies ahead." However, the decision to build
only an underground group caused the Weather Underground to lose sight of
its commitment to mass struggle and made future alliances with the mass
movement difficult and tenuous. By 1974, Weather had recognized this
shortcoming and in Prairie Fire detailed a different strategy for the
1970s which demanded both mass and clandestine organizations. The role of
the clandestine organization would be to build the "consciousness of
action" and prepare the way for the development of a people's
militia. Concurrently, the role of the mass movement (i.e., above ground
Prairie Fire collective) would include support for, and encouragement of,
armed action. Such an alliance would, according to Weather, "help
create the 'sea' for the guerrillas to swim in." 
to Bill Ayers in the late 1970s, the Weatherman group further split into
two factions — the May
19th Communist Organization and the "Prairie Fire
Collective" — with Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers in the latter.
The Prairie Fire Collective favored coming out of hiding and establishing
an above ground revolutionary mass movement. With most WUO members facing
the limited criminal charges (most charges had been dropped by the
government in 1973) against them creating an above ground organization was
more feasible. The May
19 Communist Organization continued in hiding as the clandestine
organization. A decisive factor in Dohrn's coming out of hiding were her
concerns about her children (Bill Ayers, "Fugitive Days: Memoirs of
An Antiwar Activist", Beacon Press, 2001, 978-0-8070-3277-0). The
Prairie Fire Collective faction started to surrender to the authorities
from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The remaining Weather Underground
members continued to attack US institutions.
April 1971, The "Citizens'
Commission to Investigate the FBI" broke into an FBI
office in Media,
The group stole files with several hundred pages. A majority of the files
targeted radical left wing groups, and some individuals, for criminal or
subversive activities. By the end of April, the FBI offices were to
terminate all files dealing with leftist groups.
The files were a part of an FBI program called COINTELPRO.
However, after COINTELPRO
was dissolved in 1971 by J. Edgar Hoover,
the FBI continued its counterintelligence on groups like the Weather
Underground. In 1973, the FBI established the "Special Target
Information Development" program, where agents were sent undercover
to penetrate the Weather Underground. Due to the illegal tactics of FBI
agents involved with the program, government attorneys
requested all weapons- and bomb-related charges be dropped against the
Weather Underground. The most well-publicized of these tactics were the
"black-bag jobs," referring to searches conducted in the homes
of relatives and acquaintances of Weatherman.
The Weather Underground was no longer a fugitive organization and could
turn themselves in with minimal charges against them.
Additionally, the illegal domestic spying conducted by the C.I.A. in
collaboration with the F.B.I. also lessened the legal repercussions for
Weatherman turning themselves in.
Committee revealed the FBI's illegal activities, many agents were
investigated. In 1976, former FBI Associate Director W.
Mark Felt publicly stated he had ordered break-ins and that individual
agents were merely obeying orders and should not be punished for it. Felt
also stated that acting Director L.
Patrick Gray had also authorized the break-ins, but Gray denied this.
Felt said on the CBS television program Face the Nation that he
would probably be a "scapegoat"
for the Bureau's work.
"I think this is justified and I'd do it again tomorrow," he
said on the program. While admitting the break-ins were
"extralegal," he justified it as protecting the "greater
good." Felt said:
not take action against these people and know of a bombing in advance
would simply be to stick your fingers in your ears and protect your
eardrums when the explosion went off and then start the investigation.
Attorney General in the new Carter
B. Bell, investigated, and on April 10, 1978, a federal grand jury
charged Felt, Edward
S. Miller, and Gray with conspiracy to violate the constitutional
rights of American citizens by searching their homes without warrants. The
case did not go to trial and was dropped by the government for lack of
evidence on December 11, 1980.[citation
indictment charged violations of Title 18, Section 241 of the United
States Code. The indictment charged Felt and the others
unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and
agree together and with each other to injure and oppress citizens of the
United States who were relatives and acquaintances of the Weatherman
fugitives, in the free exercise and enjoyments of certain rights and
privileges secured to them by the Constitution and the laws of the United
States of America.
and Miller attempted to plea bargain with the government, willing to agree
to a misdemeanor guilty plea to conducting searches without warrants—a
violation of 18 U.S.C. sec. 2236—but the government rejected the offer
in 1979. After eight postponements, the case against Felt and Miller went
to trial in the United
States District Court for the District of Columbia on September 18,
On October 29, former President Richard
M. Nixon appeared as a rebuttal witness for the defense, and testified
that presidents since Franklin
D. Roosevelt had authorized the bureau to engage in break-ins while
conducting foreign intelligence and counterespionage investigations.
It was Nixon's first courtroom appearance since his resignation in 1974.
Nixon also contributed money to Felt's legal defense fund, with Felt's
legal expenses running over $600,000. Also testifying were former
Attorneys General Herbert
Brownell, Jr., Nicholas
deB. Katzenbach, Ramsey
N. Mitchell, and Richard
G. Kleindienst, all of whom said warrantless searches in national
security matters were commonplace and not understood to be illegal, but
Mitchell and Kleindienst denied they had authorized any of the break-ins
at issue in the trial.
jury returned guilty verdicts on November 6, 1980. Although the charge
carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, Felt was fined $5,000.
(Miller was fined $3,500).
Writing in The
New York Times a week after the conviction, Roy
Cohn claimed that Felt and Miller were being used as scapegoats by the
Carter administration and that it was an unfair prosecution. Cohn wrote it
was the "final dirty trick" and that there had been no
"personal motive" to their actions.
The Times saluted the convictions, saying that it showed "the
case has established that zeal is no excuse for violating the
Felt and Miller appealed the verdict, and they were later pardoned by Ronald
The Weather Underground never had more than 30 active members,[citation
needed] an order of magnitude fewer than the number of
federal agents assigned to investigate them.[citation
needed] By targeting their bombs to attract media attention
they gained more public awareness than much larger radical organizations.
 Dissolution 1977 - 1981
the change in their legal status (1973 dropped charges), the Weather
Underground remained underground for a few more years. However, by 1976
the organization was disintegrating. The Weather Underground held a
conference in Chicago
called Hard Times. The idea was to create an umbrella organization for all
radical groups. However, the event turned sour when Hispanic and Black
groups accused the Weather Underground and the Prairie Fire Committee of
limiting their roles in racial issues.
The Weather Underground faced accusations of abandonment of the revolution
by reversing their original ideology.
conference increased divisions within the Weather Underground. East coast
members favored a commitment to violence and challenged commitments of old
Ayers and Jeff
Jones. These older members found they were no longer liable for
federal prosecution because of illegal wire taps and the government's
unwillingness to reveal sources and methods favored a strategy of
inversion where they would be above ground "revolutionary
leaders". Jeremy Varon argues that by 1977 the WUO had disbanded.
The federal government estimated that only 38 Weathermen had gone
underground in 1970.
An FBI estimate in 1976, or slightly later, of then current membership was
of down to 30 or fewer.
 Plot to Bomb Office of California State Senator
John Briggs (1977)
November 1977 five WUO members were arrested on conspiracy to bomb the
office of California State Senator John
Briggs. It was later revealed that the Revolutionary Committee and
PFOC had been infiltrated by the FBI
for almost six years. FBI Agents Richard J. Gianotti and William D. Reagan
lost their cover in November when federal judges needed their testimony to
issue warrants for the arrest of Clayton
Van Lydegraf and four Weather people. The arrests were the results of
WUO members Judith Bissell, Thomas Justesen, Leslie Mullin, and Marc
Curtis plead guilty while Clayton
Van Lydegraf, who helped write the 1974 Prairie Fire Manifesto went to
two years, many members turned themselves in after taking advantage of
Carter's amnesty for draft dodgers.
Mark Rudd turned himself in to authorities on January 20, 1978. Rudd was
fined $4,000 and received two years probation.
Dohrn and Bill
Ayers turned themselves in on December 3, 1980, in New York, with
substantial media coverage. Charges were dropped for Ayers. Dohrn received
three years probation and a $15,000 fine.
 Brinks robbery (1981)
members remained underground, joined splinter radical groups, and formed
alliances with other radical groups. Some authors argue that years after
the dissolution of the WUO, former members Kathy
Alice Clark, and David
Gilbert formed the May
19 Communist Organization. Other authors and the US government state
that WUO formed an alliance with the Black
Liberation Army and called this alliance the May
19 Communist Organization. On October 20, 1981 in Nanuet,
New York, the group robbed
a Brinks armored truck containing $1.6 million. The robbery was
violent, resulting in the murders of two police officers and a security
Boudin, Clark, and Gilbert were found guilty and sentenced to lengthy
terms in prison. A number of media reports listed them as active
Weatherman Underground members
considered the “last gasps” of the Weather Underground.
The documentary The Weather Underground described the Brinks
Robbery as the "unofficial end" of the Weather Underground.
 May 19th Communist Organization 1978 - 1985
Weather Underground members involved in the May
19th Communist Organization alliance with the Black
Liberation Army continued in a series of jail breaks, armed robberies
and bombings until most members were finally arrested in 1985 and
sentenced as part of the Brinks
Robbery and the Resistance
 Coalitions with non-WUO members
Right and the WUO
the underground years, the Weather Underground members worked closely with
their counterparts in other organizations, including Jane
Alpert, to bring attention their further actions to the press. She
helped Weatherman achieve their main goals of overthrowing the U.S.
government through her writings.
However, there were inner tensions within the organization, brought about
by her famous manifesto, "Mother Right" that specifically
addressed the Weatherwomen to focus on their own cause other than
Weather members then wrote in response to her manifesto.
Stern, a member of Weatherman and Seattle
Liberation Front links the two political activist organizations
together. While the groups share many of the same political points of
view, they had different opinions when it came to personal relationships
and the use of violence in protesting.
members of the Weather Underground include Kathy
Stern, Bob Tomashevsky, Sam Karp, Russell Neufeld, Joe Kelly, Laura
Whitehorn and the still-married couple Bernardine
Dohrn and Bill
Ayers. Most former Weathermen have successfully re-integrated into
mainstream society, without necessarily repudiating their original intent.
was referred to in its own time and afterwards as "terrorist."
The group fell under the auspices of FBI-New York City Police Anti
Terrorist Task Force, a forerunner of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task
Forces. The FBI, on its website, describes the organization as having been
a "domestic terrorist group," but no longer an active concern.
Others either dispute or clarify the categorization, or justify the
group's violence as an appropriate response to the Vietnam war. In his
2001 book about his Weatherman experiences, Bill
Ayers stated his objection to describing the WUO (Weather Underground
Organization) as "terrorist." Ayers wrote: "Terrorists
terrorize, they kill innocent civilians, while we organized and agitated.
Terrorists destroy randomly, while our actions bore, we hoped, the precise
stamp of a cut diamond. Terrorists intimidate, while we aimed only to
educate. No, we're not terrorists."
Dan Berger, in his book about the Weatherman, "Outlaws in
America," comments that the group "purposefully and successfully
avoided injuring anyone... Its war against property by definition means
that the WUO was not a terrorist organization."
Ayers, now a professor of education at the University
of Illinois at Chicago, was quoted in an interview to say "I
don't regret setting bombs"
but has since claimed he was misquoted.
During the presidential
election campaign of 2008, several candidates questioned Barack
with Ayers, including Hillary
McCain and Sarah
Ayers responded in December 2008, after Obama's election victory, in an op-ed
piece in The
New York Times:
did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to
war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant
to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the
Vietnam war. ... The responsibility for the risks we posed to others in
some of our most extreme actions in those underground years never leaves
my thoughts for long. The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its
sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against
Vietnam. And therein lies cause for real regret.
Flanagan has expressed regret for his actions during the Weatherman
years, and compared the group's activities to terrorism. Flanagan said:
"When you feel that you have right on your side, you can do some
pretty horrific things."
Mark Rudd, now a teacher of mathematics
New Mexico Community College, has said he has "mixed
feelings" and feelings of "guilt and shame."
are things I am not proud of, and I find it hard to speak publicly about
them and to tease out what was right from what was wrong. I think that
part of the Weatherman phenomenon that was right was our understanding of
what the position of the United States is in the world. It was this
knowledge that we just couldn't handle; it was too big. We didn't know
what to do. In a way I still don't know what to do with this knowledge. I
don't know what needs to be done now, and it's still eating away at me
just as it did 30 years ago.
faction of the Weather Underground continues today as the Prairie Fire
Organizing Committee. Their official site reads:
We oppose oppression in all its forms including racism,
We demand liberation and justice for all peoples. We recognize that we
live in a capitalist system that favors a select few and oppresses the
majority. This system cannot be reformed or voted out of office because
reforms and elections do not challenge the fundamental causes of
site further supports armed struggle:
We also respect the right of people to take up armed
struggle against colonialism for the liberation of oppressed peoples
ACTIVITIES AND THE
D. USING COVERT ACTION TO DISRUPT
DISCREDIT DOMESTIC GROUPS
Committee finds that covert action programs have been used to disrupt the
lawful political activities of individual Americans and groups and to
discredit them, using dangerous and degrading tactics which are abhorrent
in a free and decent society.
Although the claimed purposes of these action programs were to protect the
national security and to prevent violence, many of the victims were
concededly nonviolent, were not controlled by a foreign power, and posed
no threat to the national security.
The acts taken interfered with the First Amendment rights of citizens.
They were explicitly intended to deter citizens from joining groups,
"neutralize" those who were already members, and prevent or
inhibit the expression of ideas.
The tactics used against Americans often risked and sometimes caused
serious emotional, economic, or physical damage. Actions were taken which
were designed to break up marriages, terminate funding or employment, and
encourage gang warfare between violent rival groups. Due process of law
forbids the use of such covert tactics, whether the victims are innocent
law-abiding citizens or members of groups suspected of involvement in
The sustained use of such tactics by the FBI in an attempt to destroy Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., violated the law and fundamental human decency.
of the Findings
fifteen years from 1956 until 1971, the FBI carried out a series of covert
action programs directed against American citizens. 1 These
"counterintelligence programs" (shortened to the acronym
COINTELPRO) resulted in part from frustration with Supreme Court rulings
limiting the Government's power to proceed overtly against dissident
ended formally in 1971 with the threat of public exposure. 3 Some of the
findings discussed herein are related to the findings on lawlessness,
overbreadth, and intrusive techniques previously set forth. Some of the
most offensive actions in the FBI's COINTELPRO programs (anonymous letters
intended to break up marriages, or efforts to deprive people of their
jobs, for example) were based upon the covert use of information obtained
through overly-broad investigations and intrusive techniques. 4 Similarly,
as noted above, COINTELPRO involved specific violations of law, and the
law and the Constitution were "not [given] a thought" under the
FBI's policies. 5
COINTELPRO was more than simply violating the law or the Constitution. In
COINTELPRO the Bureau secretly 6 took the law into its own hands, going
beyond the collection of intelligence and beyond its law enforcement
function to act outside the legal process altogether and to covertly
disrupt, discredit and harass groups and individuals. A law enforcement
agency must not secretly usurp the functions of judge and jury, even when
the investigation reveals criminal activity. But in COINTELPRO, the Bureau
imposed summary punishment, not only on the allegedly violent, but also on
the nonviolent advocates of change. Such action is the hallmark of the
vigilante and has no place in a democratic society.
COINTELPRO, certain techniques the Bureau had used against hostile foreign
agents were adoped for use against perceived domestic threats to the
established political and social order. 7
of the targets of COINTELPRO were law-abiding citizens merely advocating
change in our society. Other targets were members of groups that had been
involved in violence, such as the Ku Klux Klan or the Black Panther Party.
Some victims did nothing more than associate with targets. 8
Committee does not condone acts of violence, but the response of
Government to allegations of illegal conduct must comply with the due
process of law demanded by the Constitution. Lawlessness by citizens does
not justify lawlessness by Government.
tactics which were employed by the Bureau are therefore unacceptable, even
against the alleged criminal. The imprecision of the targeting compounded
the abuse. Once the Government decided to take the law into its own hands,
those unacceptable tactics came almost inevitably to be used not only
against the "kid with the bomb" but also against the "kid
with the bumper sticker."
the claimed purposes of these action programs were to protect the
"national security" and to prevent violence, many of the victims
were concededly nonviolent, were not controlled by a foreign power, and
posed no threat to the "national security."
Bureau conducted five "counterintelligence programs" aimed
against domestic groups: the "Communist Party, USA" program
(1956-71); the "Socialist Workers Party" program (1961-69); the
"White Hate" program (1964-1971); the "Black
Nationalist-Hate Group" program (1967-71) ; and the "New
Left" program (1968-71).
the declared purposes of these programs were to protect the "national
security" or prevent violence, Bureau witnesses admit that many of
the targets were nonviolent and most had no connections with a foreign
power. Indeed, nonviolent organizations and individuals were targeted
because the Bureau believed they represented a "potential" for
violence -- and nonviolent citizens who were against the war in Vietnam
were targeted because they gave "aid and comfort" to violent
demonstrators by lending respectability to their cause. 11
imprecision of the targeting is demonstrated by the inability of the
Bureau to define the subjects of the programs. The Black Nationalist
program, according to its supervisor, included "a great number of
organizations that you might not today characterize as black nationalist
but which were in fact primarily black." 12 Thus, the nonviolent
Southern Christian Leadership Conference was labeled as a Black
the actual targets were chosen from a far broader group than the titles of
the programs would imply. The CPUSA program targeted not only Communist
Party members but also sponsors of the National Committee to Abolish the
House Un-American Activities Committee 14 and civil rights leaders
allegedly under Communist influence or not deemed to be
"anti-Communist". 15 The Socialist Workers Party program
included non-SWP sponsors of antiwar demonstrations which were cosponsored
by the SWP or the Young Socialist Alliance, its youth group. 16 The Black
Nationalist program targeted a range of organizations from the Panthers to
SNCC to the peaceful Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and
included every Black Student Union and many other black student groups. 17
New Left targets ranged from the SDS 18 to the InterUniversity Committee
for Debate on Foreign Policy, 19 from Antioch College ("vanguard of
the New Left") 20 to the New Mexico Free University and other
"alternate" schools, 21 and from underground newspapers 22 to
students protesting university censorship of a student publication by
carrying signs with four-letter words on them. 23
acts taken interfered with the First Amendment rights of citizens. They
were explicitly intended to deter citizens from joining groups,
"neutralize" those who were already members, and prevent or
inhibit the expression of ideas.
achieving its purported goals Of protecting the national security and
preventing violence, the Bureau attempted to deter membership in the
target groups. As the supervisor of the "Black Nationalist"
COINTELPRO stated, "Obviously, you are going to prevent violence or a
greater amount of violence if you have smaller groups. 4 The chief of the
COINTELPRO unit agreed: "We also made an effort . . . to deter
recruitment where we could. This was done with the view that if we could
curb the organization, we could curb the action or the violence within the
organization." 25 As noted above, many of the organizations
"curbed" were not violent, and covert attacks on group
membership contravened the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom to
was this the only First Amendment right violated by the Bureau. In
addition to attempting to prevent people from joining or continuing to be
members in target organizations, the Bureau tried to "deter or
counteract" what it called "propaganda" 26 -- the
expression of ideas which it considered dangerous. Thus, the originating
document for the "Black Nationalist" COINTELPRO noted that
"consideration should be given to techniques to preclude"
leaders of the target organizations "from spreading their philosophy
publicly or through various mass communication media." 27
to "preclude" free speech were not limited to "black
nationalists;" they occurred in every program. In the New Left
program, for instance, approximately thirty-nine percent of all actions
attempted to keep targets from speaking, teaching, writing, or publishing.
cases included attempts (sometimes successful) to prompt the firing of
university and high school teachers; 29 to prevent targets from speaking
on campus; 30 to stop chapters of target groups from being formed; 31 to
prevent the distribution of books, newspapers, or periodicals; 32 to
disrupt or cancel news conferences; 33 to interfere with peaceful
demonstrations, including the SCLC's Poor People's Campaign and Washington
Spring Project and most of the large anti-war marches; 34 and to deny
facilities for meetings or conferences. 35
the above cases demonstrate, the FBI was not just "chilling"
free speech, but squarely attacking it.
tactics used against Americans often risked and sometimes caused serious
emotional, economic, or physical damage. Actions were taken which were
designed to break up marriages, terminate funding or employment, and
encourage gang warfare between violent rival groups. Due process of law
forbids the use of such covert tactics whether the victims are innocent
law-abiding citizens or members of groups suspected of involvement in
violence. The former head of the Domestic Intelligence Division described
counterintelligence as a "rough, tough, dirty, and dangerous"
business. 36 His description was accurate.
technique used in COINTELPRO involved sending anonymous letters to spouses
intended, in the words of one proposal, to "produce ill-feeling and
possibly a lasting distrust" between husband and wife, so that
"concern over what to do about it" would distract the target
from "time spent in the plots and plans" of the organization. 87
The image of an agent of the United States Government scrawling a
poison-pen letter to someone's wife in language usually reserved for
bathroom walls is not a happy one. Nevertheless, anonymous letters were
sent to, among others, a Klansman's wife, informing her that her husband
had "taken the flesh of another unto himself," the other person
being a woman named Ruby, with her "lust filled eyes and smart aleck
figure;" 38 and to a "Black Nationalist's" wife saying that
her husband "been maken it here" with other women in his
organization "and than he gives us this jive bout their better in bed
then you." 39 A husband who was concerned about his wife's activities
in a biracial group received a letter which started, "Look man I
guess your old lady doesn't get enough at home or she wouldn't be shucking
and jiving with our Black Men" in the group. 40 The Field Office
reported as a "tangible result" of this letter that the target
and her husband separated. 41
Bureau also contacted employers and funding organizations in order to
cause the firing of the targets or the termination of their support. 42
For example, priests who allowed their churches to be used for the Black
Panther breakfast programs were targeted, and anonymous letters were sent
to their bishops; 43 a television commentator who expressed admiration for
a Black Nationalist leader and criticized heavy defense spending was
transferred after the Bureau contacted his employer; 44 and an employee of
the Urban League was fired after the FBI approached a "confidential
source" in a foundation which funded the League. 45
Bureau also encouraged "gang warfare" between violent groups. An
FBI memorandum dated November 25,1968 to certain Field Offices conducting
investigations of the Black Panther Party ordered recipient offices to
submit "imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures
aimed at crippling the BPP." Proposals were to be received every two
weeks. Particular attention was to be given to capitalizing upon
differences between the Panthers and US, Inc. (an other "Black
Nationalist" group), which had reached such proportions that "it
is taking on the aura of gang warfare with attendant threats of murder and
reprisals." 45a On May 26,1970, after U.S. organization members had
killed four BPP members and members of each organization had been shot and
beaten by members of the other, the Field Office reported:
received from local sources indicate[s] that, in general, the membership
of the Los Angeles BPP is physically afraid of US members and take
premeditated precautions to avoid confrontations.
view of their anxieties, it is not presently felt that the Los Angeles BPP
can be prompted into what could result in an internecine struggle between
the two organizations. . . .
Los Angeles Division is aware of the mutually hostile feelings harbored
between the organizations and the first opportunity to capitalize on the
situation will be maximized. It is intended that US Inc. will be
appropriately and discreetly advised of the time and location of BPP
activities in order that the two organizations might be brought
together and thus grant nature the opportunity to take'her due course.
46 [Emphasis added.]
second Field Office noted:
beatings and a high degree of unrest continues to prevail in the ghetto
area of Southeast San Diego. Although no specific counterintelligence
action can be credited with contributing to this overall situation, it is
felt that a substantial amount of the unrest is directly attributable to
this program. 47
another case, an anonymous letter was sent to the leader of the Blackstone
Rangers (a group, according to the Field Offices' proposal, "to whom
violent-type activity, shooting, and the like are second nature")
advising him that "the brothers that run the Panthers blame you for
blocking their thing and there's supposed to be a hit out for you."
The letter was intended to "intensify the degree of animosity between
the two groups" and cause "retaliatory action which could
disrupt the BPP or lead to reprisals against its leadership." 48
technique which risked serious harm to the target was falsely labeling a
target an informant. This technique was used in all five domestic
COINTELPROs. When a member of a nonviolent group was successfully
mislabeled as an informant, the result was alienation from the group. 49
When the target belonged to a group known to have killed suspected
informants, the risk was substantially more serious. On several occasions,
the Bureau used this technique against members of the Black Panther Party;
it was used at least twice after FBI documents expressed concern over the
possible consequences because two members of the BPP had been murdered as
suspected informants. 50
Bureau recognized that some techniques used in COINTELPRO were more likely
than others to cause serious physical, emotional, or economic damage to
the targets. 51 Any proposed use of such techniques -- for example,
encouraging enmity between violent rival groups, falsely labeling group
members as informants, and mailing anonymous letters to targets' spouses
accusing the target of infidelity -- was scrutinized carefully by
headquarters supervisory personnel, in an attempt to balance the
"greater good" to be achieved by the proposal against the known
or risked harm to the target. If the "good" was sufficient, the
proposal was approved. For instance, in discussing anonymous letters to
spouses, the agent who supervised the New Left COINTELPRO stated:
recommending approval] I would want to know what you want to get out of
this, who are these people. If it's somebody, and say they did split up,
what would accrue from it as far as disrupting the New Left is concerned?
Say they broke up, what then. . . .
question would be] is it worth it? 52
with regard to causing false suspicions that an individual was an
informant, the chief of the Racial Intelligence Section stated:
have to be able to make decisions and I am sure that labeling somebody as
an informant, that you'd want to make certain that it served a good
purpose before you did it and not do it haphazardly.... It is a serious
thing ... As far as I am aware, in the black extremist area, by using that
technique, no one was killed. I am sure of that. 52a
official was asked whether the fact that no one was killed was the, result
of "luck or planning." He answered: "Oh, it just happened
that way, I am sure." 52b
is intolerable in a free society that an agency of the Government should
adopt such tactics, whether or not the targets are involved in criminal
activity. The "greater good" of the country is in fact served by
adherence to the rule of law mandated by the Constitution.
sustained use of such tactics by the FBI in an attempt to destroy Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., violated the law and fundamental human decency.
Committee devoted substantial attention to the FBI's covert action
campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King because it demonstrates just how
far the Government could go in a secret war against one citizen. In
focusing upon Dr. King, however, it should not be forgotten that the
Bureau carried out disruptive activities against hundreds of lesser known
American citizens. It should also be borne in mind that positive action on
the part of high Government officials outside the FBI might have prevented
what occurred in this case. 53
FBI's claimed justification for targeting Dr. King -- alleged Communist
influence on him and the civil rights movement -- is examined elsewhere in
this report. 54
FBI's campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began in December 1963,
four months after the famous civil rights March on Washington, 55 when a
nine-hour meeting was convened at FBI Headquarters to discuss various
"avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro
leader." 56 Following the meeting, agents in the field were
instructed to "continue to gather information concerning King's
personal activities ... in order that we may consider using this
information at an opportune time in a counterintelligence move to
discredit him." 57
two weeks after that conference, FBI agents planted a microphone in Dr.
King's bedroom at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. 58 During the next
two years, the FBI installed at least fourteen more "bugs" in
Dr. King's hotel rooms across the country. 59 Physical and photographic
surveillances accompanied some of the microphone, coverage. 60
FBI also scrutinized Dr. King's tax returns, monitored his financial
affairs, and even tried to determine whether he had a secret foreign bank
late 1964, a "sterilized" tape was prepared in a manner that
would prevent attribution to the FBI and was "anonymously"
mailed to Dr. King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize. 62
Enclosed in the package with the tape was an unsigned letter which warned
Dr. King, "your end is approaching . . . you are finished." The
letter intimated that the tape might be publicly released, and closed with
the following message:
there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have
just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a
specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done.
There is but one way out for you . . . 63
King's associates have said he interpreted the message as an effort to
induce him to commit suicide. 64
about the same time that it mailed the "sanitized" tape, the FBI
was also apparently offering tapes and transcripts to newsmen. 65 Later
when civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and James Farmer went to Washington
to persuade Bureau officials to halt the FBI's discrediting efforts, 66
they were told that "if King want[s] war we [are] prepared to give it
to him." 67
thereafter, Dr. King went to Europe to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The
Bureau tried to undermine ambassadorial receptions in several of the
countries he visited '68 and when he returned to the United States, took
steps to diminish support for a banquet and a special "day"
being planned in his honor. 69
Bureau's actions against Dr. King included attempts to prevent him from
meeting with world leaders, receiving honors or favorable publicity, and
gaining financial support. When the Bureau learned of a possible meeting
between Dr. King and the Pope in August 1964, the FBI asked Cardinal
Spellman to try to arrange a cancellation of the audience. 70 Discovering
that two schools (Springfield College and Marquette University) were going
to honor Dr. King with special degrees in the spring of 1964, Bureau
agents tried to convince officials at the schools to rescind their plans.
71 And when the Bureau learned in October 1966 that the Ford Foundation
might grant three million dollars to Dr. King's Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, they asked a former FBI agent who was a high
official at the Ford Motor Company to try to block the award. 72
magazine was asked not to publish favorable articles about him. 73
Religious leaders and institutions were contacted to undermine their
support of him. 74 Press conference questions were prepared and
distributed to "friendly" journalists. 75 And plans were even
discussed for sabotaging his political campaign in the event he decided to
run for national office. 76 An SCLC employee was "anonymously"
informed that the SCLC was trying to get rid of her "so that the
Bureau [would be] in a position to capitalize on [her] bitterness."
78 Bureau officials contacted members of Congress, 79 and special
"off the record" testimony was prepared for the Director's use
before the House Appropriations Committee. 80
"neutralization" program continued until Dr. King's death. As
late as March 1968, FBI agents were being instructed to neutralize Dr.
King because he might become a "messiah" who could "unify,
and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement" if he were to
"abandon his supposed 'obedience' to 'white liberal doctrines'
(nonviolence) and embrace black nationalism." 81 Steps were taken to
subvert the "Poor People's Campaign" which Dr. King was planning
to lead in the spring of 1968. 82 Even after Dr. King's death, agents in
the field were proposing methods for harassing his widow 83 and Bureau
officials were trying to prevent his birthday from becoming a national
actions taken against Dr. King are indefensible. They represent a sad
episode in the dark history of covert actions directed against law abiding
citizens by a law enforcement agency.
Before 1956 the FBI engaged in activities to disrupt and discredit
Communists and (before World War II) Fascists, but not as part of a formal
program. The Bureau is the only agency which carried on a sustained effort
to "neutralize" domestic groups, although other agencies made
sporadic attempts to disrupt dissident groups. (See Military Surveillance
Report; IRS Report.)
The Bureau personnel involved in COINTELPRO link the first formal
counterintelligence program, against the Communist Party, USA, to the
Supreme Court reversal of the Smith Act convictions, which "made it
impossible to prosecute Communist Party members at the time". (COINTELPRO
unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 14.) It should be noted, however, that the
Court's reversal occurred In 1957, the year after the program was
instituted. This belief in the deficiencies of the law was a major factor
in the four subsequent programs as well: "The other COINTELPRO
programs were opened as the threat arose in areas of extremism and
subversion and there were not adequate statutes to proceed against the
organization or to prevent their activities." (COINTELPRO Unit Chief,
10/16/75, p. 15.)
For further information on the termination of each of the programs, see
The Accountability and Control Findings, p. 265 and the detailed reports
on the Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO.
the programs have been formally terminated, Bureau witnesses agree that
there is a "grey area" between "counter-intelligence"
and investigative activities which are inherently disruptive. These
investigative activities, continue. (See COINTELPRO Report: "Command
and Control -- The Problems of Oversight.")
Information gained from electronic surveillance, informant coverage,
burglaries, and confidential financial records was used in COINTELPRO. p.
Moore, 11/3/75, p. 83.
Field offices were instructed that no one outside the Bureau was to know
that COINTELPRO existed, although certain persons in the executive branch
and in Congress were told about -- and did not object to -- efforts to
disrupt the CPUSA and the Klan. However, no one was told about the other
COINTELPRO programs, or about the more dangerous and degrading techniques
employed. (See p. 275.)
As the Chief of the Racial Intelligence Section put it:
can trace [the origins of COINTELPRO] up and back to foreign intelligence,
particularly penetration of the group by the individual informant. Before
you can engage in counterintelligence you must have intelligence. . . . If
you have good intelligence and know what it's going to do, you can seed
distrust, sow misinformation. The same technique is used, misinformation,
disruption, is used in the domestic groups, although in the domestic
groups you are dealing in '67 and '68 with many, many more across the
country ... than you had ever dealt with as far as your foreign
groups." (Moore, 11/3/75, pp. 32-33.)
Assistant Director William C. Sullivan also testified that the
"rough, tough, dirty business" of foreign counterintelligence
was "brought home against any organization against which we were
targeted. We did not differentiate." (Sullivan, 11/1/75, pp. 97-98.)
For example, parents and spouse, of targets received letters containing
accusations of immoral conduct by the target. (Memorandum from St. Louis
Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/30/70; memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 11/4/68.)
Huston, 9/23/75, Hearings, Vol. 2, p. 45.
Moore, 11/8/75, p. 37.
New Left supervisor, 10/28/75, p. 69.
Black Nationalist Supervisor, 10/17/75, p. 12.
omitted in original.
For example, the entire Unitarian Society of Cleveland was targeted
because the minister and some members circulated a petition calling for
the abolition of HUAC, and because the Church gave office space to the
"Citizens for Constitutional Rights". (Memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/6/64.)
See Finding on "Overbreadth" p. 181.
For instance, the Bureau targeted two non-member students who participated
in an anti-war "hunger strike" at Oberlin, which was
"guided and directed" by the Young Socialists Alliance. The
students' parents received anonymous letters, purportedly from a friend of
their sons. One letter expressed concern that a group of "left wing
students" were "cynically using" the boy, which would lead
to "injury" to his health and "damage to his academic
standing". The other letter also stated that it was motivated by
concern for "damage" to the student's "health and personal
future" and "the belief that you may not be aware of John's
current involvement in left-wing activities." (Memorandum from FBI
headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/29/68.)
One proposal sought to expose Black Student Union Chapters as
"breeding grounds for racial militancy" by an anonymous mailing
to "all institutions where there are BSU chapters or incipient
chapters". (Memorandum from Portland Field Office to FBI
For example Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field Office,
An anonymous letter was sent to "influential" Michigan political
figures, the mass media, University of Michigan administrators, and the
Board of Regents, in an attempt to "discredit and neutralize"
the "communist activities" of the IUCDFP. The letter decried the
"undue publicity" given anti-war protest activities which
"undoubtedly give 'aid and comfort' to the enemy" and encourage
the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese in "refusing to come to the
bargaining table". The letter continued, "I wonder if the
strategy is to bleed the United States white by prolonging the war in
Vietnam and pave the way for a takeover by Russia?" (Memorandum from
Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 10/11/66; Memorandum from FBI
Headquarters, to Detroit Field Office 10/26/66.)
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cincinnati Field Office, 6/18/68.
The New Mexico Free University was targeted because it taught such courses
as "confrontation politics" and "draft counselling".
(Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Albuquerque Field Office, 3/19/69.)
In another case, an "alternate" school for students "aged
five and beyond", which was co-sponsored by the ACLU, was targeted
because "from the staff being assembled, it appears that the school
will be a New Left venture and of a radical revolutionary nature".
The Bureau contacted a confidential source in the bank financing the
school so that he could "take steps to discourage its
developments". (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field
See e.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office,
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 11/4/68.
Black Nationalist supervisor, 10/17/75, p. 24.
COINTELPRO unit chief, 10/12/75, p. 54.
COINTELPRO unit chief, 10/12/75, P. 54.
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 8/25/67.
The FBI was not the only intelligence agency to attempt to prevent the
propagation of ideas with which it disagreed, but it was the only one to
do so in any organized way. The IRS responded to Congressional and
Administration pressure by targeting political organizations and
dissidents for audit. The CIA Improperly obtained the tax returns of
Ramparts magazine after it learned that the magazine intended to publish
an article revealing Agency support of the National Student Association.
The CIA saw the article as "an attack on CIA in particular and the
Administration in general." (CIA memorandum re: "IRS Briefing on
For instance, a high school English teacher was targeted for inviting two
poets to attend a class at his school. The poets were noted for their
efforts in the draft resistance movement. The Bureau sent anonymous
letters to two local newspapers, the Board of Education, and the school
board. (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office,
In one case, the Bureau attempted to stop a "Communist" speaker
from appearing on campus. The sponsoring organization went to court and
won an order permitting the lecture to proceed as scheduled; the Bureau
then investigated the judge who issued the order. (Memorandum from Detroit
Field Office to FBI Headquarters. 10/26/60; Memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 10/27/60, 10/28/, 10/31/60;
Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to A. H. Belmont, 10/26/60.)
The Bureau tried on several occasions to prevent the formation of campus
chapters of SDS and the Young Socialist Alliance. (See, e.g., Memorandum
from San Antonio Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 5/1/69; Memorandum from
FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field Office, 5/1/69.)
For example, an anonymous letter to a state legislator protested the
distribution on campus of an underground newspaper's
"depravity", (Memorandum from Newark Meld Office to FBI
Headquarters, 5/23/69; Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Newark Field
Office, 6/4/69) and the Bureau anonymously contacted the landlady of
premises rented by two "New Left" newspapers in an attempt to
have them evicted. (Memorandum from Los Angeles Field Office to FBI
Headquarters, 9/9/68; Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Los Angeles
Field Office, 9/23/68.)
For example, a confidential source in a radio station was contacted In two
successful attempts to cancel news conferences. (Memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 10/1/65; Memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office 10/4/65; Memorandum from Boston
Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/5/64; Memorandum from F. J.
Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 6/25/64.)
For instance, the Bureau used the standard counterespionage technique of
"disinformation" against demonstrators. In one case, the Chicago
Field Office duplicated blank forms soliciting housing for demonstrators
coming to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention, filled them out
with fictitious names and addresses and sent them to the organizers.
Demonstrators reportedly made "long and useless journeys to locate
these addresses." (Memorandum from Chicago Field Office to FBI
Headquarters. 9/9/68.) The same program was carried out by the Washington
Field Office when housing forms were distributed for demonstrators coming
to the 1969 Presidential inaugural ceremonies. (Memorandum from ]FBI
Headquarters to Washington Field Office. 1/10/69.) Army Intelligence
agents occasionally took similar, but wholly unauthorized action, see
Military Surveillance Report: Section Ill: "Domestic Radio Monitoring
by ASA: 1967-1970."
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego field office, 9/11/69.
Sullivan, 11/1/75, pp. 97-98.
Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/14/69.
Memorandum from Richmond Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 8/26/66.
The wife who received this letter was described in the Field Office
proposal as "faithful . . . an intelligent respectable young mother
who is active in the AME Methodist Church." (Memorandum from St.
Louis Meld Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/14/69.)
Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/30/70.
Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/19/70.
When the targets were teachers, the intent was to prevent the propagation
of ideas. In the case of other employer contacts, the purpose was to stop
a source of funds.
Memorandum from New Haven Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/12/69;
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego Field Office, 9/9/69.
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cincinnati Field Office, 3/28/69.
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office, 3/3/69.
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Baltimore Field Office, 11/25/68.
Memorandum from Los Angeles Field Office to FBI headquarters, 5/26/70, pp.
Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI headquarters, 9/15/69.
Memorandum from Chicago Field Office to FBI headquarters, 1/12/69;
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Chicago Field Office, 1/30/69.
See, e.g., Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters,
One proposal to label a BPP member a "pig informer" was rejected
because the Panthers had recently murdered two suspected informers. The
victims had not been targets of a Bureau effort to label them informants.
(Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cincinnati Field Office, 2/18/71.)
Nevertheless, two similar proposals were implemented a month later,
(Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Washington Field Office, 3/19/71;
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Charlotte Field Office, 3/31/71.)
At least four assaults -- two of them on women -- were reported as
"results" of Bureau actions, (See COINTELPRO Report, Section IV:
Wartimes Technique Brought Home.)
New Left supervisor 10/28/75, pp. 72, 74.
Moore, 11/3/75, p. 62.
Moore, 11/3/75, p. 64.
See pp. 275-277 and 205-206 of this Report for a detailed discussion of
which officials were aware or should have been aware of what the Bureau
was doing to Dr. King and how their action or inaction might have
contributed to what went on.
See Martin Luther King Report, Section III, "Concern in the FBI and
the Kennedy Administration Over Allegations of Communist Influence in the
Civil Rights Movement Increases, and the FBI Intensifies the
Investigation: October 1962-October 1963." See generally, Finding on
Overbreadth, p. 175.
The August 1963 march on Washington was the occasion of Dr. Kings "I
Have a Dream" speech, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (See
memorandum from William C. Sullivan to Alan Belmont, 8/30/63,
characterizing the speech as "demagogic".)
Memorandum from William C. Sullivan to Alan Belmont, 12/24/63. Although
FBI officials were making derogatory references to Dr. King and passing
personal information about Dr. King to their superiors. (Memorandum from
Hoover to Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach, 8/13/63.) Prior to December
1963, the Committee had discovered no document reflecting a strategy to
deliberately discredit him prior to the memorandum relating to the
December 1963 meeting.
Memorandum from William C. Sullivan to Alan Belmont, 12/24/63.
The microphone was installed on January 5, 1964 (Memorandum from William
C. Sullivan to Alan Belmont, 1/6/64.), just days after Dr. King's picture
appeared on the cover of Time magazine as "Man of the Year."
(Time Magazine, January 3, 1964.) Reading of the Time magazine award, the
Director had written, "They had to dig deep in the garbage to come up
with this one." (Note on UP release, 12/29/63.)
FBI memoranda make clear that microphones were one of the techniques being
used in the effort to obtain Information about Dr. King's private life.
(Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan 1/28/64.) The
microphones were installed at the following places: Washington: Willard
Hotel (Jan. 1964) ; Milwaukee: Shroeder Hotel (Jan. 1964) ; Honolulu:
Hilton Hawaiian Village (Feb. 1964) ; Detroit: Statler Hotel (March 1964)
; Sacramento: Senator Motel (Apr. 1964) ; New York City: Park Sheraton
Hotel (Jan. 1965), Americana Hotel (Jan. and Nov. 1965), Sheraton Atlantic
Hotel (May 1965), Astor Hotel (Oct. 1965), New York Hilton Hotel (Oct.
FBI summary memorandum, 10/3/75; memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to
William C. Sullivan, 3/26/64; memorandum from William C. Sullivan to Alan
Belmont, 2/22/64; and unsigned memorandum, 2/28/64.
Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 3/27/64;
memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/2/64;
memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William Sullivan, 7/14/65.
Sullivan 11/1/75, pp. 104-105, staff summary of a special agent interview,
7/25/75. Three days before the tape was mailed, Director Hoover had
publicly branded Dr. King "the most notorious liar in the
country" and Dr. King had responded with a criticism of the Bureau.
(Memorandum from Cartha DeLoach to John Mohr, 11/18/64; telegram from
Martin Luther King to J. Edgar Hoover 11/19/64.)
This paragraph appears in a document in the form of a letter which the FBI
has supplied to the Committee and which the Bureau maintains was
discovered in the files of former Assistant Director Sullivan. (FBI
memorandum to the Select Committee, 9/18/75.) Sullivan stated that he did
not recall the letter and suggested that it may have been
"planted" in his files by his former colleagues. (Sullivan
11/1/75, p. 104.) Congressman Andrew Young has informed the Committee that
an identical paragraph was contained in the letter which was actually
received by Dr. King with the tape, and that the letter the committee had,
supplied by the Bureau, appears to be an "early draft." (Young,
2/19/76, P. 36.)
said that the purpose of sending the tape was "to blackmail King into
silence . . . to stop him from criticising Hoover; . . . to diminish his
stature. In other words, if it caused a break between Coretta and Martin
Luther King, that would diminish his stature. It would weaken him as a
leader." (Sullivan, 11/1/75, 11/26/75, p. 152.)
Young, 2/19/76, p. 37, Time magazine had reported earlier in the year that
Dr. King had attempted suicide twice as a child. [Time magazine, Jan. 4,
Several newsmen have informed the Committee that they were offered this
kind of material or that they were aware that such material was available.
Some have refused to Identify the individuals who made the offers and
others have said they could not recall their identities. Former FBI
officials have denied that tapes or transcripts were offered to the press
(e.g., DeLoach testimony, 11/26/75, p. 152) and the Bureau maintains that
their files contain no documents reflecting that this occurred.
Staff interviews of Roy Wilkins, 11/23/75, and James Farmer, 11/13/75.
Memorandum from Cartha DeLoach to John Mohr, 11/27/64; staff interview of
James Farmer, 11/13/75. Three days after Wilkins' meeting with DeLoach,
Dr. King asked to see the Director, telling the press "the time has
come to bring this controversy to an end." (UPI release, 12/1/64) Dr.
King and Hoover met the following day; the meeting was described as
"amicable." (Memoranda from Cartha DeLoach to John Mohr, 12/1/64
and 12/2/64.) Despite the "amicable" meeting, the Bureau's
campaign against Dr. King continued.
Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 11/30/64;
memorandum from Legat to FBI Headquarters, 12/10/64. Steps were also taken
to thwart a meeting which Dr. King was planning to have with a foreign
leader during this same trip (Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William
C. Sullivan, 11/10/64; memorandum, from FBI Headquarters to Legat,
11/10/64), and to influence a pending USIA decision to send Dr. King on a
ten-day lecture trip in Africa after receiving the Nobel Prize.
(Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 11/12/64.)
The Bureau was in touch with Atlanta Constitution publisher Ralph McGill,
and tried to obtain the assistance of the Constitution's editor, Eugene
Patterson, to undermine the banquet. (Memorandum from William C. Sullivan
to Alan Belmont, 12/21/64; staff summary of Eugene Patterson interview,
4/30/75.) A governor's assistance was sought in the effort to "water
down" the "King day." (Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to
William C. Sullivan, 3/2/65.)
The Bureau had decided it would be "astounding" for Dr. King to
have an audience with the Pope and that plans for any such meeting should
be "nipped In the bud." (Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to
William C. Sullivan, 8/31/64.) When the Bureau failed to block the meeting
and the press reported that the audience was about to occur, the Director
noted that this was "astounding." (FBI Director's notation on
UPI release, 9/18/64). FBI officials took immediate steps to determine
"if there could possibly have been a slip-up'' (Memorandum from F. J.
Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 9/17/64.)
The Bureau had decided that it would be "shocking indeed that the
possibility exists that King may receive an Honorary Degree from the same
Institution (Marquette) which honored the Director with such a Degree in
1950." With respect to Springfield College, where the Director had
also been offered an honorary degree, the Bureau's decision about whom to
contact included the observation that "it would not appear to be
prudent to attempt to deal with" the President of the college because
he "is very close to Sargent Shriver." (Memorandum from F. J.
Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 3/4/64; and 4/2/64; memorandum from
Cartha DeLoach to John Mohr, 4/8/64.)
Memorandum from Cartha DeLoach to Clyde Tolson, 10/25/66 and 10/26/66. At
about the same time, the Bureau leaked a story to the press about Dr.
King's intention to seek financial assistance from Teamsters Union
President James R. Hoffa because "[d]isclosure would be mutually
embarrassing to both men and probably cause King's quest for badly needed
funds to fail in this instance'' (Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to
William C. Sullivan, 10/28/66.)
Bureau also tried to block the National Science Foundation (NSF) from
dealing with the SCLC. "It is incredible that an outfit such as the
SCLC should be utilized for the purpose of recruiting Negroes to take part
In the NSF program, particularly where funds of the U.S. Government are
involved." (Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan,
Memorandum from Special Agent to Cartha DeLoach, 11/3/64.
"It is shocking Indeed that King continues to be honored by religious
groups." (Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan,
2/1/65.) Contacts were made with representatives of the National Council
of Churches of Christ, the Baptist World Alliance, the American Church in
Paris, and Catholic Church, (Memoranda from William C. Sullivan to Alan
Belmont, 6/12/64, 12/15/64 and 2/16/64; memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner
to William C. Sullivan, 2/18/66; memorandum from Chicago Meld Office to
FBI Headquarters, 2/24/66, and memorandum from Legat, Paris, to FBI
Headquarters, 4/14/66 and 5/9/66.) The Director did disapprove a
suggestion that religious leaders be permitted "to listen to sources
we have" (FBI Director's note on memorandum from Jones to Thomas
Memorandum from Charles Brennan to William C. Sullivan, 3/8/67. The Bureau
also disseminated to "friendly media sources" a newspaper
article which was critical of Dr. King's position on the Vietnam war. The
stated purposes were to "publicize King as a traitor to his country
and his race," and to "reduce his income," (memorandum from
George C. Moore to William C. Sullivan, 10/18/67.) "Background
information" was also given to at least one wire service (memorandum
from Sizoo to William C. Sullivan, 5/24/65).
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office 5/18/67. There
had been rumors about a "peace ticket" headed by Dr. King and
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 4/13/64;
memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 4/2/64.
Memorandum from Cartha DeLoach to John Mohr, 8/14/65; memorandum from F.
J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 1/10/67.
from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 1/22/64; memorandum from
Nicholas Callahan to John Mohr, 1/31/64. On one occasion the testimony
leaked to other members of Congress, prompting the Director to note,
"Someone on Rooney's Committee certainly betrayed the secrecy of the
'off the record' testimony I gave re: King." (Director's note on
memorandum from Cartha DeLoach to John Mohr, 3/16/64.)
Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SACs, 3/4/68.
Memorandum from George C. Moore to William C. Sullivan, 3/26/68.
Memorandum from Atlanta Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 3/18/69.
Memoranda: From George C. Moore to William C. Sullivan, 1/17/69; and from
Jones to Thomas Bishop, 3/18/69. Steps were even taken to prevent the
issuance of "commemorative medals." (Memorandum from Jones to
Thomas Bishop, 5/22/68.)
"...and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.." Joel 2:28
My white brothers and sisters - help spread the good news of White Christian Revival!
Thomas Robb Ministries / PO Box 354 Bergman, AR 72615