Cointelpro National Security Vs. Civil Liberty Essay

1455 words - 6 pages

"The only conceivable purpose of the continuation of the COINTELPRO techniques is harassment and disruption of political activity"-The New York TimesThe counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) was established in 1956. The program founded by head of F.B.I J. Edgar Hoover originally had a sound purpose, one that was both reasonable and logical. The program was founded during a time when tensions with the Soviets were getting very heated. The program was established to counter some of the measures that the Soviets had already taken against the United States such as the sabotage and infiltration of American agencies. COINTELPRO allowed the United States to do the same to the Soviet's agencies, to find out secret information about the Soviets by using these same tactics. However along the way something went drastically wrong. The COINTELPRO program was no longer being used to infiltrate the Soviet Union it was being used to infiltrate and destroy certain groups and individuals on America's own soil. COINTELPRO targeted selective radical groups. Theses groups were viewed as powerful enough to make changes happen. These groups were by viewed by the F.B.I as threats to national security. Some of the groups attacked were socialist groups, a prominent one being the Socialist Worker Party (SWP). Also targeted were several African American groups fighting for equal civil rights. The Black Panther Party and group's lead by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were among those targeted. Also targeted were anti-war groups protesting the Vietnam War, such as hippies and the Students for a Democratic society.(SDS)If you asked Americans what they though of the Watergate burglary and of Nixon's involvement the most like response you would get is that Nixon's actions were deplorable and he deserved what he got. However if you ask Americans what they thought of the F.B.I waging it's own Watergate (except on a much grander scale) on the Socialist Workers Party the response you would mostly get would be "Huh?" Until March of 1976 almost all documents (except for a handful that had been released in 1973-1974) regarding COINTELPRO had been sealed. It took a lawsuit by the SWP to get the documents released. The documents released among other things showed that the F.B.I from 1960-1966 had burglarized the offices of the SWP 94 times. This is equivalent to once every week for six years. The F.B.I then used the stolen documents to launch more attacks on the SWP. Hoover was so set on eliminating the SWP that one of the branches of COINTELPRO was specifically designed to deal with the SWP. One of the strategies was to try to eliminate all candidates running for any elected office that were associated with the party. These tactics employed ranged from attacks on candidates running for positions on the Denver school board to presidential candidates running on the Socialist Workers Party ticket. Fred Halstead was a WW2 veteran. He ran for president (on the SWP ticket) in 1968....

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