[News] Not in America: Review of the Documentary Cointelpro 101

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Thu Oct 21 00:24:28 EDT 2010


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Not in America:
Review of the Documentary Cointelpro 101

Dr. Lenore J. Daniels – Black Commentator – 10/21/2010

There will be no swastikas this time but seas of 
red, white and blue flags and Christian 
crosses.  There will be no stiff-armed salutes, 
but recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. 
There will be no brown shirts but nocturnal visits from Homeland Security.
Chris Hedges, “How Democracy Dies: Lessons from a Master”

A few weeks ago, I came across an ad inviting 
college graduates to consider working for 
Homeland Security.  For the college graduate, 
strapped with negotiating the repayment of 
student loans while struggling with minimum wages 
as servers at McDonalds, the starting salary of 
35,000 is appealing and even more so for those 
with specialized skills in technology.

These college graduates are often not war bound 
as are their less fortunate “undereducated” and 
“unskilled” contemporaries. It is not hard to 
envision an entry level or managerial position with Homeland Security.

A lack of history is the unstated 
requirement.  No Daniel Ellsberg (after or before 
the Pentagon Papers) need apply. And Homeland 
Security does not have to worry.  No Daniel 
Ellsberg of any kind will apply­and they know it!

Orwellian grown-up-children only!
***
Fairly familiar with the story of how this 
government targeted activists for justice for the 
purposes of neutralizing social change, I 
realized after viewing the documentary Cointelpro 
101 that the Left rarely has presented the Puerto 
Rican, the Chicano/Mexicano, Indigenous, and 
Black as efforts on the part of the government to 
destabilize and silence people of color. The 
government’s COINTELPRO program was nothing short 
of an assault and that assault, Cointelpro 101 
makes clear, was direct, brutal, and criminal.  And why not?

The collection of campaigns to neutralize the 
democratic progress in the U.S., COINTELPRO, is 
an extension of this nation’s involvement in the 
practice of genocide, conquest, colonization, and 
enslavement. The continued incarcerations of 
freedom fighters after 20 or 30 years as well as 
the incarceration of millions of Indigenous, 
Black, and Chicano/Mexicano and even the recent 
FBI raids in Chicago and Minneapolis targeting 
predominantly white activists are examples of the 
continuation of COINTEPRO today.

The goal of COINTELPRO was to “sow division and 
distrust” among citizens in a nation claiming for 
itself a model nation of democracy.  COINTELPRO, 
as this film shows­was/is not only the criminal 
activities of a paranoid president or an even more bizarre FBI chief.

The producers of Cointelpro 101 (Freedom 
Archives, 2010) have assembled documentary 
footage, photos, and commentaries from Jose 
Lopez, Priscilla Falcon, Ward Churchill, Kathleen 
Cleaver, Geronimo Pratt, and others to present 
the historical and often simultaneous 
implementation of U.S. war strategies beginning 
in the 1950s to conquer the hearts and minds of 
the core Left in this nation. Cointelpro 101 does not preach­but it teaches.

Beginning (as the film admits) with the “lesser 
known” story of the Puerto Rican movement for 
independence, the U.S. government since its 
conquest of Puerto Rico in 1898, sought to 
eliminate the peoples’ struggle against 
colonization and imperialism. The film’s 
unflinching representation of the tactics used by 
the government leaves no doubt that U.S. citizens 
were under attack from within the Empire. 
Originally, the FBI targeted the Puerto Rican 
National Liberation Movement.  But, as Cointelpro 
101 shows, what began in Puerto Rico in the 1950s 
expanded to include Puerto Rican grassroots 
leaders and organizations in major Northern urban 
areas. The FBI compiled 165,000 files against 
Puerto Rican leaders and organization 
members.  As the Puerto Rican Cultural Center 
activist Jose Lopez explains, the FBI had free 
reign to infiltrate organizations, blacklist, and 
arrest, incarcerate, and kill activists who 
attempted to protest against U.S. colonial policies.

By the early 1970s, the FBI targeted American 
indifference.  With the aid of the media, the FBI 
created a red-alert narrative warning that the 
“minorities” are coming! Indifference took a 
stance against marauders! In turn, as Cointelpro 
101 shows, the government green-lighted a pogrom 
of infiltrating, wiretapping, framing, and 
incarcerating activists groups everywhere and anywhere in the U.S.

The Chicano/Mexicano struggle for farmer’s and 
immigration rights did not begin in the 1960s but 
an extension of the conquest of Mexico by the 
U.S. government. Thanks to the goodwill of local 
law enforcement and (yes) right-winged vigilante 
groups, the FBI build up its attack­with willing 
bedfellows. (The KKK, other pre-Tea Party 
citizens, and law enforcement, were, not many 
years ago, one and the same militia force, with 
individuals members of both groups). As activists 
Ricardo Romero, Francisco “Kiko” Martinez, and 
Professor Falcon comment, this joint operation 
became an effective killing machine. Cointelpro 
101 presents us with names and photos of freedom 
fighters, one after another, (Linda Montoya, an 
educator, Rito Conales and Antonio Cordoba, both 
“riddled” with bullets, Ricardo Falcon, 22 years 
old, and six young activists blow to bits in a 
car bomb)­outright murdered­most all in the early 
1970s.  What crime did these young people commit?

The “American public” has yet to confront this 
nation’s practice of genocide against Indigenous 
peoples, and few understand how the government’s 
assault on the people at Wounded Knee ultimately 
resulted in more oppression and the framing of 
American Indian Movement members, including 
Leonard Peltier.  Fewer still understand how the 
U.S. government trained and funded “goon squads” 
to orchestra a reign of terror predominantly 
against the elderly leaders and women and 
children. (How different is this war tactic from 
the one in which citizens in Chile, Guatemala, 
for example, are trained at the School of the 
Americas to return to their homeland as military 
and police officials charged with terror and 
murder). When young AIM members were called in to 
protect the people, the U.S. government speeded 
to the reservations with armored tanks and 
high-powered weaponry­in support of its hired 
goon squads­not the elderly, women, and children. 
The Constitutional Rights of Indigenous people 
was, states Professor Ward Churchill, suspended.

Cointelpro 101 challenges the viewer to recognize 
the connections as well-planned and, most 
important, as Churchill states, “illegal” 
destructive strategy to eliminate people, a 
strategy no less horrifying than that one 
executed by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. In 
America, Churchill states, the government waged a 
counterinsurgent war against activists. 
Counterinsurgency, anti-war activist, Laura 
Whitehorn added, on U.S. soil is “supposed to be illegal.”

--Not in America!

But in America, the strategy to eliminate 
activists engaged in the fight for justice and 
social change had to also target the American 
public with a campaign labeling these activists 
criminals, conspirators against innocent 
Americans and the red, white, and blue. In other 
words, the American public had to be eternized by 
the language government officials and the media 
employed to demonize Puerto Rican, 
Chicano-Mexicano, Indigenous, and Black activists and their communities.

Take cover in your homes while we battle these 
monsters in the streets and in their adobes.

COINTELPRO, the film insists, the U.S. government 
inflicted violence and used terror on U.S. 
citizens (long before 9-11) as is its strategy 
against what it perceives as a threat to its 
racial, social, and economic dominance anyone else in the world.
Inspired by the Civil Rights movement on the 
Left, these movements in Puerto Rico, in the 
Chicano-Mexicano communities, on Indigenous’ 
lands challenged their right to free speech, to 
organize, and to protest for social change, and 
the government’s response involved massive 
efforts on the part of hundreds of FBI agents, 
local law enforcement operations, and informants. 
A drugged-out-on-fear American public did not 
notice and did not care if the government cleaned 
the treasury to pay for an insurgency against American citizens of color.

The movement that began in the South, that is, 
the Hoover movement, spread throughout the 
country. J. Edgar Hoover’s fear of the Civil 
Rights Movement and its leaders, Malcolm X and 
Dr. Martin Luther King, spread, too, to win the 
hearts and minds of white America.  Because the 
Civil Rights Movement, Cointelpro 101 shows, had 
the “ability to bring unity and to transform 
grassroots movements” into national campaigns, 
Black leaders had to be “neutralized.” To 
understand U.S. history is to recognize that 
enslavement of Africans and their descendents was 
but one phase in the relationship between Blacks 
and the U.S. government. The elimination of an 
enslaved Black was costly and therefore employed 
as a strategy to instill terror in the masses of 
Black workers and remove the treat of terror in 
the white community.  But the effort to 
neutralize Black Americans began the minute 
Southerner confederate soldiers understood change 
in the South was on its way, and free-roaming 
Blacks on the landscape was not the change 
Southern citizens could live with and thrive. The 
official policy that spread throughout the U.S. 
then became one that encouraged the servitude or 
the neutralization of Black Americans.

In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, African Americans 
were the most visible and vocal population 
calling for social change. The work of Stokely 
Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and Fannie Lou Hamer drew 
the attention of the FBI’s COINTEPRO, who, as 
former Black Panther Geronimo Pratt explained, 
organized an assault that began with SNCC.  Other 
targets of COINTELPRO included the Black Panthers 
and RAM. Leaders were expunged­shot dead­in the 
streets, in their homes, or in the prisons as the 
FBI infiltrated these organizations with agent 
provocateurs and informants.  Many under 
surveillance were framed, charged with “crimes,” 
and forced to fight erroneous charges as “criminals.”

The Department of Justice, according to an ex-FBI 
agent, “learned everything and about people in a 
political organization.” In 1968, while 
protesters took to the streets. The Chicago 
Police department was organizing the “Red Squad,” 
and, as police footage reveals, the function of 
the Red Squad was to watch and ultimately 
infiltrate suspicious Black, Latino as well as 
anti-war organizations in order to neutralize 
leaders.  Former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver 
recalls the Key Agitator Index, in other words, a 
list of grassroots and organization leaders the 
FBI targeted for an early death.

There is a moment in Cointelpro 101 when a juror 
from the Geronimo Pratt case, faces the camera: “We had no clue,” she admits,
as to what the government could do or what they 
did do even tough Vietnam was going on.  You 
couldn’t believe that your own government was 
doing that at home to one of its own citizens, to one of its own veterans.
Geronimo Pratt, a Vietnam veteran, joins and the 
Black Panthers and becomes an instant target of COINTELPRO.

That was America then
and this is America now


Homeland Security!

“When those kinds of people are making decisions 
on what is politically appropriate for the 
citizens to do, then we don’t have a democracy,” 
states Kathleen Cleaver. COINTELPRO used 
taxpayers’ money to operate illegal and criminal 
activities, explains Pratt, to declare victims 
enemies of the people. Today, taxpayers fund the 
government’s strategy to continue expanding its 
surveillance of an ever-expanding number of 
activists and organizations within its borders 
and without while it attempts to win the hearts 
and minds of the “American public” with narratives profiling the “enemy.”

The message: “If you dare to go out and make 
social change, you will be punished” (Priscilla Falcon).

Today, the operation is more sophisticated, 
states activist attorney Bob Doyle.  “It doesn’t 
have to be secret anymore.” As Cointelpro 101 
shows, anyone can be charged as a terrorist today 
if engaged in radical politics. With the Patriot 
Act, adds Cleaver, there need not be a 
crime.  “People are just investigated, whisked 
off to prison, [then] interrogated and tortured.” 
What was illegal under COINTELPRO is now legal. “Now, that’s the law.”

Cointelpro 101 shows that the discovery of 
COINTEPRO files and the Frank Church 
investigation barely fazed the government. How 
does the government take it upon itself “the 
supervising of what is allowed politically and 
what isn’t allowed politically?” asked Cleaver.

The “shoot to kill” suspected American 
“terrorists” did not begin under the Obama 
administration, but Obama’s selection assured the 
FBI and other law enforcement agencies that the 
business of murdering justice and democracy will 
progress. To what? What is that future envisioned by these fellow citizens?

All the voices who contribute to Cointelpro 101 
agree in one voice that the U.S. government’s 
practice of injustice must be “dismantled” and 
replaced “with something that reflects our 
interests, concern with our well-being, and 
reflects a certain sort of respect for the 
dignity of our communities and traditions, and us as individuals.”

I watched COINTELPRO 101 thinking of the students 
who, while preparing cover letters and resumes to 
send to Homeland Security, inherited a perception 
of the terrorists homeland propaganda.

Students need to view this film.

Cointelpro 101 is a riveting recall of history 
for anyone who wants to be inspired to work 
toward an end to the U.S. practice of terrorism. 
Because it was not then: it is happening still in America!

To purchase the film or to learn more, contact: 
Claude Marks, www.freedomarchives.org or 
<mailto:info at freedomarchives.org>info at freedomarchives.org. Phone: 415 863-9977.





Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

www.Freedomarchives.org  
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