Late Night Movie: Hoover’s FBI ‘Enhancing the Paranoia’

Very interesting thirteen-minute ‘Retro Report’ video over at the NYTimes. From the appended article:

[O]n a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups…

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

Mr. Forsyth, now 63, and other members of the group can no longer be prosecuted for what happened that night, and they agreed to be interviewed before the release this week of a book written by one of the first journalists to receive the stolen documents. The author, Betty Medsger, a former reporter for The Washington Post, spent years sifting through the F.B.I.’s voluminous case file on the episode and persuaded five of the eight men and women who participated in the break-in to end their silence…

Ms. Medsger’s [original 1971] article cited what was perhaps the most damning document from the cache, a 1970 memorandum that offered a glimpse into Hoover’s obsession with snuffing out dissent. The document urged agents to step up their interviews of antiwar activists and members of dissident student groups.

“It will enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across there is an F.B.I. agent behind every mailbox,” the message from F.B.I. headquarters said. Another document, signed by Hoover himself, revealed widespread F.B.I. surveillance of black student groups on college campuses.

But the document that would have the biggest impact on reining in the F.B.I.’s domestic spying activities was an internal routing slip, dated 1968, bearing a mysterious word: Cointelpro…

Since 1956, the F.B.I. had carried out an expansive campaign to spy on civil rights leaders, political organizers and suspected Communists, and had tried to sow distrust among protest groups. Among the grim litany of revelations was a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide.

“It wasn’t just spying on Americans,” said Loch K. Johnson, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Georgia who was an aide to Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho. “The intent of Cointelpro was to destroy lives and ruin reputations.” …

33 replies
  1. 1
    Peter says:

    Hoover accusing anyone else of paranoia is a bit of a laugh in itself.

  2. 2
    srv says:

    Just finished reading this.

    These liberals conspired over months to steal government secrets and then leak them to the media, with no intent to heroicly stand for their crimes.

    But it’s clear that technology has made the breadth and scope of capabilities far more frightening and many of today’s liberals are quite comfortable trusting their loving government to not misuse the petabytes of mined data.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that another J. Edgar with a 10 year appointment could come around, but I’m sure he’ll be a democrat, so I can sleep well tonite.

  3. 3
    scav says:

    @srv: aahhhhhhhh, The sweet sleep of the smug on a cold night, ignoring beams that should in all honesty prop open his own eyes.

  4. 4
    MTmofo says:

    And 40-50 years later, the band plays on.

  5. 5
    MTmofo says:

    For any who might not understand the reference, it refers to the actions of the band on the Titanic and subsequent reporting and books based thereupon.

  6. 6
    gene108 says:

    @srv:

    Gathering metadata to figure out if terrorists are going to attack the U.S. is just so much worse than trying to blackmail MLK, Jr.

    I look forward to Snowden revealing how the NSA and FBI have operatives trying disrupt Rev. Barber and the Moral Monday protests in North Carolina.

  7. 7
    Alien Radio says:

    @gene108:

    I look forward to Snowden revealing how the NSA and FBI have operatives trying disrupt Rev. Barber and the Moral Monday protests in North Carolina.

    You joke, but I bet you they do. In the UK we’ve had a number of scandals involving police infiltration of environmentalist groups, that’s long before we work our way up the chain to the proper spooks. And then there’s the Private sector spooks, They’re REALLY REALLY scared or they wouldn’t be wasting so much time and effort.
    .

  8. 8
    Alien Radio says:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/.....-All-Along

    Relevent. why Open souce insurgency is the way forward. I saw it in action against Scientology, and Authoritarians really have no defence against it.

  9. 9
    bin Lurkin' says:

    Well, one thing we know for sure, a Democratic government would never ever go after left wingers so there’s absolutely nothing to worry about if you are a leftist.

    Tea Party type groups on the other hand are certainly chock full of FBI agents reporting on all their nefarious activities, the Brothers Koch are running scared.

    Warms the cockles of me ‘eart, it does.

  10. 10
    JPL says:

    The video is worth watching. It took a tremendous amount of courage to come forward because there’s still twenty-seven percent of the society that think Hoover was right. During that time commies were hiding everywhere. We had to check under our beds at night. lol It wouldn’t surprise me if Fox news had reporters camped outside their homes.

  11. 11
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @MTmofo:

    And 40-50 years later, the band plays on.

    For any who might not understand the reference, it refers to the actions of the band on the Titanic and subsequent reporting and books based thereupon.

    You are right about the Titanic reference. But the authors of the books, articles, and so on got the phrase from a popular song first published in 1895.

  12. 12
    c u n d gulag says:

    Ah, some pre-Snowden hero’s – beside Daniel Ellsberg!

  13. 13
    tybee says:

    fare the well, titanic, fare thee well

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XFYMjkFYPg

    (and they wouldn’t let jack johnson on board, they said this ship don’t haul no coal…)

  14. 14
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    One can almost see the parallel with this and Snowden, accept of course Snowden wanted his fifteen minutes of fame and quite deliberately put himself in the way.

  15. 15
    Keith G says:

    Among the grim litany of revelations was a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide.

    Okay now…Wait for it….

    Gathering metadata to figure out if terrorists are going to attack the U.S. is just so much worse than trying to blackmail MLK, Jr.

    I look forward to Snowden revealing how the NSA and FBI have operatives trying disrupt Rev. Barber and the Moral Monday protests in North Carolina.

    Yes, the sweet song of the apologist.

    Because in the future there will never be the need for those whom the White capitalist oligarchy (and their operatives) oppress to organize and to protest their disenfranchisement.

    Yup, those in power will never again intimidate, blackmail, or extort those who oppose their hold on power.

    The governmental abuses (and those things that aren’t illegal but just creepy) are not just White people problems as some here like to exhort. I am sure that most white folks have very little concern about the procedures and programs Snowden has revealed.

    As a group, we are comforted and defended by the status quo, and as history has shown, fairly adverse to change until the issue has been forced by factors outside our comfort bubble.

    Of course it is possible that things have changed while I was asleep. Maybe the powerful have truthfully fore sworn profiling the “different” folks who in the past have made them feel uncomfortable. Maybe they have given up the compulsion to gather and examine deeply personal data on political opponents in order to create an issue that derails an attempt at leadership.

    And maybe J Edgar Hoover, Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Scooter Libby, (or Sheriff Joe Arpaio for that matter) and others of their like will never show up again in positions of power and influence.

  16. 16
    scav says:

    what caught my attention was the smug sleepers assumption that the errent element “was sure to be a Democrat” rather than a cross-party trans-administration on-going multi-national issue. Rather a tell as to intention.

  17. 17
    JoyfulA says:

    There were rumors of FBI crimes in Philadelphia before this. Agents were said to be photographing and identifying antiwar protest participants; anyone who worked for the federal government who was related to a protester lost his or her security clearance and was demoted or fired.

    Of course, Philly was headquarters of the American Friends Service Committee (Quaker group), which prepared and handed out booklets on how to evade the draft and provided draft resister counseling services.

    Ah, the good old days.

  18. 18
    gratuitous says:

    Here’s the money quote: “When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth.

    And the same is true today. I *just* watched a report about this very story on the Today Show. The exact same things were said by the burglars as folks say today about Snowden. NBC also interviewed the FBI agent who investigated the break-in, who grimly observed that “nobody has the right” to take upon themselves the responsibility to expose the intelligence community’s crimes. Does that sound at all familiar to anyone observing the scene today?

    “Nobody wanted to believe it.”

  19. 19
    Librarian says:

    We already know that the DHS spied on and helped to crush the Occupy movement, and that they’re doing the same to environmentalist and anti-fracking groups. So it’s not farfetched at all that they will also have Moral Mondays, or the fast food and retail worker strikes, under surveillance. I bet you that they do.

  20. 20
    Chris says:

    @gratuitous:

    This is one of the reasons conspiracy theories endure – because there are enough cases, in real life, of something that conventional wisdom said “nah, that’s too crazy” turning out to be perfectly true.

    (Also why various pieces of pop culture, from Leverage to Schindler’s List, have had to “tone down” their villains because they thought no one would believe it if they portrayed them as in real life).

  21. 21
    different-church-lady says:

    And they had the good ‘effen sense to remain anonymous for decades.

  22. 22
    different-church-lady says:

    @Chris: But that’s also one of the reasons Schindler’s List was so powerful — the villains were human, yet still monsters. If they had gone around chewing the scenery it wouldn’t have been nearly as chilling.

  23. 23
    Cervantes says:

    @scav: What do you mean?

  24. 24
    Cervantes says:

    @gene108:

    Gathering metadata to figure out if terrorists are going to attack the U.S. is just so much worse than trying to blackmail MLK, Jr.

    Care to guess how the FBI justified Cointelpro?

    I look forward to Snowden revealing how the NSA and FBI have operatives trying disrupt Rev. Barber and the Moral Monday protests in North Carolina.

    If it’s happening, it ought to be revealed and I couldn’t care less who reveals it.

  25. 25
    Cervantes says:

    @JPL:

    It took a tremendous amount of courage to come forward

    A fact not appreciated by everyone, it would appear.

  26. 26
    C.V. Danes says:

    “It will enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across there is an F.B.I. agent behind every mailbox,” the message from F.B.I. headquarters said.

    And now there’s a NSA daemon behind every email box.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same…

  27. 27
    Corner Stone says:

    @scav: I want some of whatever it is you’re taking.

  28. 28
    Corner Stone says:

    @gene108: I’m not sure I’ve seen a more pathetic attempt at blanket apologia.

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    @srv:

    These liberals conspired over months to steal government secrets and then leak them to the media, with no intent to heroicly stand for their crimes.

    One of my favorite pieces of American writing is Book Written Years Later.
    What would MLK think of these cowards, one wonders?

  30. 30
    Corner Stone says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    One can almost see the parallel with this and Snowden, accept of course Snowden wanted his fifteen minutes of fame and quite deliberately put himself in the way.

    This is one of the strangest perspectives I’ve seen on this.
    He wanted his own reality TV show, or something?

  31. 31
    gratuitous says:

    @Corner Stone: The giveaway is gene108 accepting the rationale that the metadata is being hoovered up to protect us from terrorist attacks. It’s always interesting to me to see what the unrepetant perp has to say when caught red-handed, whether it’s “I just have a wide stance in the bathroom” to “I was conducting my own investigation and sting when you think you caught me taking bribes.”

    The all-time champ is still – in my opinion – when Michael Deaver got busted for influence peddling, and his attorneys wanted to say it was because poor Mikey was a black-out drunk, and didn’t remember who he was calling or what access he was selling to them. I thought at the time that millions of inmates across the country would watch how that defense worked for a member of the elite, when it failed so miserably for them. No, it didn’t work for Deaver, but as a Member of the Club, he didn’t have to go to jail, either.

  32. 32
    Joey Giraud says:

    So where are all the regular Balloon Juice Snowden-Botherers? Why aren’t they here flinging feces at these aging hippie traitors?

    Cassidy?

  33. 33
    Corner Stone says:

    @Joey Giraud: To be fair, it’s probably at least even money that he’s in jail on a domestic violence charge as it is that this thread doesn’t interest him.

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