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   Vol. 69/No. 8           February 28, 2005  
FBI plot against the Black movement
(Black History Month 2005)
On the occasion of Black History Month, we reprint below an excerpt from The Assassination of Malcolm X. Using first-hand coverage of the trial of those charged with Malcolm’s assassination, the book shows how the government ignored and twisted vital evidence in order to prevent the truth from coming out. The excerpt below is from an article entitled ‘FBI plot against the Black movement.’ It precedes the appendix, which contains facsimiles of previously secret FBI documents that shed light on the government’s hostility to Malcolm X and point toward its complicity in his murder. The article first appeared in the April 1974 issue of The Black Scholar. Copyright © 1976 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

Proof of a vast government conspiracy to physically and politically destroy the Black movement in the U.S. has been uncovered in the most recent Watergate-related disclosures about the FBI. These disclosures reveal the hatred and fear of the rulers of this country for the Black liberation struggle as well as the ruthlessness with which they have tried to crush it.

The new facts now coming to light—including information linking the government to the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fred Hampton—are prompting demands for a full public inquiry into the secret-police operations of the FBI against the Black movement. Operation PUSH leader Jesse Jackson and Congressman Ralph Metcalfe (Democrat from Illinois) have both recently urged an investigation into the government surveillance program against Blacks, which Jackson has termed “a mandate to commit murder.”

The extent of this surveillance first became clear last December, when NBC newsman Carl Stern gained access to the FBI’s COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program) documents. Stern won access to the files through a suit based on the Freedom of Information Act. The Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance have also received and publicized some of the secret COINTELPRO documents through a suit they have filed against government harassment.

These documents reveal that the FBI has implemented COINTELPRO against Black groups, antiwar activists, the Socialist Workers Party, the Communist Party, and others.

Documents released March 7, 1974, present a clear picture of how COINTELPRO was set into motion against the Black movement. One memo, signed by J. Edgar Hoover and sent to FBI agents across the country, said, “The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters….”

Dating from the period 1967 to 1970, these documents debunk the notion that illegal government surveillance and disruption began with the Nixon administration.

Never meant to be read by the American people, they reveal a coordinated, national program of repression organized in response to the Black ghetto rebellions, the Black student upsurge, and the attraction of young militants to the Black Panther Party.

One memo, dated August 25, 1967, for example, tells FBI agents to prevent Black nationalist groups from being able to “consolidate their forces or recruit new or youthful adherents….” It also says that “no opportunity should be missed to exploit through counterintelligence techniques the organizational and personal conflicts of the leadership of the groups and where possible an effort should be made to capitalize upon existing conflicts between competing black nationalist organizations.”

A March 4, 1968, document warns: “Prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups. In unity there is strength….” The memo also urges agents to “prevent militant nationalist groups and leaders from gaining respectability, by discrediting them….”

One document lists as a key goal: “Prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.”

Before it turned over the documents, the FBI blotted out the names of individuals and groups listed as “targets.” But it is not difficult to guess what belongs in the censored spaces. In the document on “messiahs,” for example, the name of Malcolm X fits into one blanked-out area. That sentence would then read: “[Malcolm X] might have been such a ‘messiah’: he is the martyr of the movement today.”

A following sentence might read: “[King could] be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed ‘obedience’ to ‘white, liberal doctrines’ (nonviolence) and embrace black nationalism.” This memo was written one month before King’s murder.

Thus, as Jesse Jackson recently pointed out, these documents amount to a “search and destroy mission” against the Black movement. The killings of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fred Hampton, he explained, “were consistent with the stated purpose of the memo to prevent the rise of a messiah.” And there are plenty of other indications that the government had a hand in these assassinations.

Malcolm X was the most capable Black leader of our time and greatly feared by the rulers of this country. Many questions about his murder remain unanswered.

When he was shot at a New York rally in 1965, the crowd seized two of his assailants before they could escape. The police arrested the two men and took them away, as the first newspaper reports explained. But only one of the men was ever seen again. All mention of the second man was dropped from the press without explanation, and the issue was never brought up in the trial by the court-appointed defense lawyers.

Talmadge Hayer—the man arrested at the rally and convicted—admitted his role in the assassination but refused to name his accomplices. Furthermore, he insisted that the two men convicted with him had nothing to do with the killing. This assertion gains credibility because the others convicted of the murder were known Black Muslims, and no explanation of how they could have slipped into the rally past Malcolm’s security guards has ever been presented.

Although uniformed police were usually highly visible at meetings addressed by Malcolm, they were hardly in evidence the day he was shot. Malcolm himself had indicated that he considered the harassment directed against him in the last weeks of his life to be beyond the ability of any Black group to organize.

It is now known that Martin Luther King, Jr., was under intense government surveillance prior to his murder. In the spring of 1973 Arthur Murtaugh, a former FBI agent from Atlanta, revealed to the New York Times that J. Edgar Hoover had ordered a campaign to “get King.” Wiretapping and other surveillance of the civil rights leader was so thorough that King “couldn’t wiggle. They had him.”

This information is all the more revealing now that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing King, has stated that he did not act alone. Ray says he was part of a conspiracy of white southerners. He recently filed a $500,000 damage suit against the state of Tennessee and is demanding a new trial. He says he was improperly represented by his attorney during the original trial.

The state of Tennessee, in the meantime, is trying to transfer Ray to a federal prison, where he will be isolated from the public. George McMillan, who is writing a biography of Ray, explained in the March 25, 1974, New York Times that under present prison regulations, “If James Earl Ray is moved into a Federal prison he will never again be able to talk face-to-face to the press, to television interviewers, or to authors of magazine articles or books.”  
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