The mentality and operational priorities of the FBI have remained constant despite the supposed "reforms" it underwent during the late 1970s. In light of the Homeland Security Act, a measure which formally sanctions many of the worst abuses in which the Bureau engaged a generation ago, every activist in the country should become intimately acquainted with the experiences of the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement.
Readers anxious about the loss of civil liberties under George W. Bush will find ground for their fears—and suggestions for activism—in The COINTELPRO Papers. Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall's exposé of America's political police force, the FBI, reveals the iron fist hiding beneath the velvet glove of "compassionate conservatism."
In some respects, the reception accorded Agents of Repression in the monthsfollowing its release was quite unexpected. The general approbation with which it was greeted in AIM/LPDC circles was hardly unanticipated, of course, and the same applied to the raft of favorable reviews appearing in mostly progressive periodicals. That Agents would be a recipient of the prestigious Gustavus Myers Award, on the other hand, was entirely unpredicted. What we'd really not foreseen, however, was the degree of excitement the book generated among former Panthers. As Kathleen Cleaver later told me, long before Jim and I could manage to finish The COINTELPRO Papers, it had already become common in that milieu to refer to Agents as "The Book." The reason, as was explained to me later still by one-time New York Panther BJ Johnson, was that the effect of reading the opening chapters was at once revelatory and deeply personal: "Oh, so that's what happened to me," as he put it. Variations on the theme have been offered by any number of others, from both coasts and the midwest as well.
It's clear that we'd seriously underestimated the emotional impact upon many Party veterans of encountering the details of the Hampton/Clark assassinations and the frame-up of Geronimo Pratt for the first time. Our deployment of these two cases in conjunction with that of the assassination of Panther field marshal George Jackson in San Quentin to emblematize the FBI's brutal drive to "destroy the BPP and all it stands for" seems to have afforded much-needed relief and validation to people who, like most others who've undergone combat, had accrued varying degrees of PTSD from their experiences as members of the target group. More often than not, they were gratified by our debunking of the "official truth," e.g., the systematic minimization and denial marking the Senate Select Committee's 1976 "exposé" of the Bureau's COINTELPRO illegalities, wherein a range of "dirty tricks" were acknowledged while far more egregious crimes such as false imprisonment and assassination were carefully elided.
To quote a former LA Panther, the late Ron Freeman, "It was really important to finally have proof for all to see that we weren't just peddling paranoid fantasies about what the FBI had done." That the mechanics of how COINTELPRO operations were carried out were described in veritable textbook fashion lent Agents a further layer of utility, as witnessed by its being quickly put to use by mature radicals cum street-level organizers intent upon furthering the political education of younger activists while enhancing their survival skills.
Praise for the Original South End editions of
AGENTS OF REPRESSION and THE COINTELPRO PAPERS
When Agents of Repression first came out, it was like a bombshell, proving that our worst suspicions about the FBI had been correct all along. We started calling it "The Book."
Former Communications Secretary
Black Panther Party
If you want to know what the FBI was doing to Indians on Pine Ridge during the so-called "reign of terror" after Wounded Knee, read Ward Churchill's [and Jim Vander Wall's] Agents of Repression. It's a book that pulls no punches at all.
American Indian Movement
There's no better book on the case of Leonard Peltier than Ward and Jim's Agents of Repression, unless it's their COINTELPRO Papers. I always recommend that people read them both.
Peltier codefendant and Director,
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
The COINTELPRO Papers is a godsend for all of us that write, litigate, or otherwise delve into the arcane mysteries of a government gone mad.
The COINTELPRO Papers is key reading not only for those who are interested in exploring or exposing the unlawful activities of the FBI, but also (and maybe particularly so) for those who resist unjust racist and genocidal policies and support national liberation and self-determination for those within and without U.S. borders.
—Mary K. O'Melveny
In this detailed review of the subversive activities of the national political police over many years, the authors show that the commitment to undermine free association and independent thought is deeply rooted in national policy and subject to only superficial challenge. Their harrowing and extensively documented study lends much credibility to their supposition that "COINTELPRO lives on," and efforts to organize poor and oppressed people and dissident movements will be targeted for destruction by state power.