Thursday, 4 November 2010
CASE 147 - Cointelpro & Operation Mockingbird
COINTELPRO is an acronym for a series of FBI counterintelligence programs designed to neutralize political dissidents.
Although covert operations have been employed throughout FBI history, the formal COINTELPRO's of 1956-1971 were broadly targeted against radical political organizations.
In the early 1950s, the Communist Party was illegal in the United States.
The Senate and House of Representatives each set up investigating committees to prosecute communists and publicly expose them. (The House Committee on Un-American Activities and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy). When a series of Supreme Court rulings in 1956 and 1957 challenged these committees and questioned the constitutionality of Smith Act prosecutions and Subversive Activities Control Board hearings, the FBI's response was COINTELPRO, a program designed to "neutralize" those who could no longer be prosecuted.
Over the years, similar programs were created to neutralize civil rights, anti-war, and many other groups, many of which were said to be "communist front organizations." As J. Edgar Hoover, longtime Director of the FBI, put it The forces which are most anxious to weaken our internal security are not always easy to identify. Communists have been trained in deceit and secretly work toward the day when they hope to replace our American way of life with a Communist dictatorship.
They utilize cleverly camouflaged movements, such as peace groups and civil rights groups to achieve their sinister purposes. While they as individuals are difficult to identify, the Communist party line is clear. Its first concern is the advancement of Soviet Russia and the godless Communist cause. It is important to learn to know the enemies of the American way of life.
The FBI conducted more than 2000 COINTELPRO operations before the programs were officially discontinued in April of 1971, after public exposure, in order to "afford additional security to [their] sensitive techniques and operations." So they say, wether it went underground or completly changed to a new operational program, its unknown.
The idea behind COINTELPRO was to infiltrate and disrupt groups deemed subversive to the United States government. Specifically, they were interested in womens' and blacks' rights groups, which doesn't seem very cool nowadays, and white power groups like the KKK, who are totally okay to fuck with by most people's standards. Essentially, they were interested in any group that they deemed pro-communist, nationalist, or just plain having the potential to disrupt or overthrow the government in some way, shape, or form. (Or, sometimes, just because the president asked them to look into somebody.)
After the Church Committee brought COINTELPRO into the light, the FBI had no choice but to shut it down… except they never actually stopped doing the shit they were doing, they just quit calling it COINTELPRO. Stay classy, FBI. But the FBI weren't the only ones up to crazy shit. The CIA had their own set of trolling tactics. One of these was known by a couple of names, but the most common is Operation Mockingbird. Now, why would you name some cool intelligence campaign after the state bird of Tennessee? When you hear what the program was meant to do, you might see why: Operation Mockingbird was a propaganda program targeted at journalists, both domestic and overseas, from the 1950s to the 1970s. Specifically, both newspaper and television reporters were paid, blackmailed, and otherwise coerced into reporting the news the CIA wanted you to hear.
The operation was started to cause unrest in foreign, communist-controlled areas of the world, but the CIA figured if they had the resources, better use them. And the names of some of the reporters they were alleged to have dragged into it are some you might recognize. Names like Walter Pincus, Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Walter Lippmann… you don't know any of those people? Okay, how about Ed Murrow? George Clooney made that movie about him.
So what happened to Operation Mockingbird? The Church Committee found out about it, too, and brought it down around the same time as COINTELPRO… just kidding! The CIA agreed to stop "Operation Mockingbird", but the new head of the CIA at the time didn't really say they'd quit using the media for propaganda. What he actually said was "Effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contract relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station." Notice how he didn't say anything about unpaid? That's because he immediately followed it up by saying that the CIA would welcome any "voluntary", unpaid cooperation from journalists. That new head of the CIA? I bet you've heard his name: George H.W. Bush.