The Tactics of Intimidation
from No Compromise Issue 5
 

In the book Agents of Repression, Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall successfully argue that the Federal Bureau of Investigation's crime-fighting activities serve as a calculated ruse to cover-up and divert public attention from their true purpose which is maintaining the status quo by disrupting and crushing grassroots movements for social justice. They base this conclusion on the thousands of pages of classified files that a group calling itself the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI liberated from the FBI's Media, Pennsylvania office in March 8, 1971.

These documents included internal memos about Counter Intelligence Operations -- or COINTELPROs -- designed to "disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize" the leaders and groups of social justice causes. From these files, activists have gained insight on what types of activities the Feds -- in conjunction with local police units and reactionary "private" groups -- carry out against those of us trying to change society for the better.

Below is a list of their tactics so you can prepare for, identify, and lessen their impact when they are being used against you or other activists. This information is excerpted from the book Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret War Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall. Published by South End Press, 116 Saint Botolph St, Boston, MA 02115. No Compromise strongly encourages all activists to read this book so that we are all better prepared to counter the government's actions against us.


Eavesdropping - A massive program of surveillance was carried out against organizations and individuals via wiretaps, surreptitious entries and burglaries, electronic devices, live "tails" and mail tampering. The purpose of such activities was never intelligence gathering per se, but rather the inducement of "paranoia" among those targeted by making them aware they'd been selected for special treatment and that there was "an FBI agent behind every mailbox."

Bogus Mail Fabrication - of correspondence between members of targeted groups, or between groups, was designed to foster "splits" within or between organizations; these efforts were continued -- and in many cases intensified -- when it became apparent that the resulting tension was sufficient to cause physical violence among group members.

"Black Propaganda" Operations - "Black Propaganda" refers to the fabrication and distribution of publications "in behalf of" targeted organizations/individuals designed to misrepresent their positions, goals or objectives in such a way as to publicly discredit them and foster intra/inter-group tensions.

Disinformation or "Gray Propaganda" - The FBI systematically releases disinformation to the press and electronic media concerning groups and individuals, designed to discredit them and foster tensions. This was also seen as an expedient means of conditioning public sentiment to accept Bureau/police/vigilante "excesses" aimed at targeting organizations/individuals and to facilitate the conviction of those brought to trial, even on conspicuously flimsy evidence.

Harassment Arrests - The repeated arrests of targeted individuals and organization members on spurious charges was carried out, not with any real hope of obtaining convictions (although there was always that possibility, assuming public sentiment had been sufficiently inflamed), but to simply harass, increase paranoia, tie up activists in a series of pre-arraignment incarcerations and preliminary courtroom procedures, and deplete their resources through the posting of numerous bail bonds (as well as the retention of attorneys). Again this was so pervasive a tactic that it is impossible to give a comprehensive summary of its use during the 1960s.

Infiltrators and Agents Provocateurs - This widely used tactic involved the infiltration of targeted organizations with informers and agents provocateurs, the latter expressly for the purpose of fomenting or engaging in illegal activities which could then be attributed to key organizational members and/or the organization as a whole. Agents provocateurs were also routinely assigned to disrupt the internal functioning of targeted groups and to assist in the spread of disinformation.

"Pseudo-Gangs" - There is some indication that the Bureau had begun to spawn "pseudo-gangs", phony organizations designed to "confuse, divide and undermine" as well as do outright battle with authentic dissident groups by the end of the COINTELPRO era.

Bad-Jacketing - "Snitch-jacketing" or "bad-jacketing" refers to the practice of creating suspicion -- through the spread of rumors, manufacture of evidence, etc. -- that bona fide organizational members, usually in key positions, are FBI/police informers, guilty of such offenses as skimming organizational funds and the like. The purpose of this tactic was to "isolate and eliminate" organizational leadership; such efforts were continued -- and in some instances accelerated -- when it became known that the likely outcome would be extreme physical violence visited upon the "jacketed" individual(s).

Fabrication of Evidence - A widely used FBI tactic has been the fabrication of evidence for criminal prosecution of key individuals and the withholding of exculpatory evidence which might serve to block conviction of these individuals. This includes the intimidation of witnesses and use of coercion to obtain false testimony.

Assassinations - The bureau has been implicated as cooperating in the outright physical elimination -- assassination -- of selected political leaders, either for "exemplary" reasons or after other attempts at destroying their effectiveness had failed. The Bureau almost always used surrogates to perform such functions but can repeatedly be demonstrated as having provided the basic intelligence, logistics or other ingredients requisite to "successful" operations in this regard.