News Release

The FBI and Domestic Spying


Attorney General John Ashcroft is apparently planning to loosen safeguards that have restricted FBI surveillance of religious and political groups. The following critics of the move are available for interviews:

Nkechi Taifa is director of the Equal Justice Program at the Howard University School of Law. She said today: “Ashcroft would like us to trust the FBI with sweeping new powers. This is the FBI that tried to disrupt and destroy numerous nonviolent organizations ranging from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador to Students for a Democratic Society. This is the FBI that targeted Martin Luther King and framed Geronimo Pratt with murder. Although the claimed purpose of the Bureau’s COINTELPRO [Counterintelligence Program] action — which Ashcroft seems to want to revive and expand — was to ‘prevent violence,’ many of the FBI’s tactics were clearly intended to foster violence, and many others could reasonably have been expected to cause violence.”
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Glick is an associate professor of law at Fordham University and the author of War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists. Glick said today: “Ashcroft is not just proposing to drop the limits for spying on violent organizations — he wants to drop the limits, period. The FBI has a history of violating the legal limits; there is no telling what they might do without such limits. The document that launched the COINTELPRO operations against the black social movements directed FBI agents to ‘disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize’ dissident movements. It’s not just the surveillance part of Ashcroft’s proposal that is worrisome; it’s the psychological operations, the false rumors, the planted media stories, forged documents and the infiltration of dissident groups that the people running the country dislike or fear.”

Senior analyst at Political Research Associates, Berlet is an author and paralegal investigator who studies illicit government surveillance. He said today: “Surveillance of dissidents across the political spectrum is now conducted through a loose network of government agencies, corporate security and private right-wing researchers…. By re-establishing a dynamic where any dissident group can be secretly accused of being linked to terrorism, and subject to disruption, the government opens the door to domestic covert operations that in the past led to orchestrated confrontations and killings.”
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Jim Redden is author of Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State. He said today: “Even before September 11, the government was running COINTELPRO-style operations against a coalition of radical labor, environmental, and human rights organizations opposed to corporate control of the global economy. The truth is, there’s a long and sordid history of government operatives committing the very crimes they are supposed to prevent and setting up dissidents with phony charges.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167