[News] New Documents Suggest J. Edgar Hoover Was Involved in Fred Hampton’s Murder

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Tue Jan 19 10:13:21 EST 2021


  New Documents Suggest J. Edgar Hoover Was Involved in Fred Hampton’s

# ByFlint Taylor <https://truthout.org/authors/flint-taylor/> &Jeff Haas 
<https://truthout.org/authors/jeff-haas/>, January 19, 2021


In March 1976, we sat in a cavernous Chicago courtroom while FBI agent 
Roy Martin Mitchell testified in the federal civil rights case that we 
and our partners at the People’s Law Office had brought on behalf of the 
families of slain Illinois Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark 
Clark and the seven survivors of the murderous pre-dawn Chicago police 
raid on their West Side apartment.

Thanks to the liberation of FBI documents from the Media, Pennsylvania 
FBI offices, the revelations of the Senate Select Committee on 
Intelligence Activities and our own hotly contested pretrial battles to 
uncover the truth about the raid, we had been able to document the local 
FBI’s central role in setting up the raid as part of the Bureau’s secret 
and highly illegal COINTELPRO Program 
This program had previously targeted Black liberation leaders including 
Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, 
Elijah Muhammad and the organizations that they led. As the Senate 
Select Committee would later find in its April 1976 report, the FBI had 
more recently turned its attention to “destroy[ing] the Black Panther 

Roy Martin Mitchell was an integral member of the Chicago FBI office’s 
Racial Matters Squad and the control agent for a prized “asset”: 
informant-provocateur William O’Neal, who was the captain of security of 
the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP). As such, O’Neal 
had ready access to the local BPP chairman, the dynamic Fred Hampton, 
who had garnered particular attention from Mitchell, his Racial Matters 
Squad and the COINTELPRO program.

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At the time Mitchell testified, we had documentation of the FBI’s secret 
role in setting up the raid, including a detailed floor plan of the 
Hampton apartment — designating the bed on which Hampton would later be 
slain — that Mitchell and O’Neal had drawn up, and which Mitchell had 
supplied to the Chicago police raiders and their state’s attorney 
supervisors, including Cook County State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan, 
who utilized this invaluable information to execute the murderous 
pre-dawn raid on December 4, 1969.

We also had obtained two other damning FBI documents: a December 3, 
1969, document that claimed the impending raid as a COINTELPRO project, 
and a post-raid document that set forth the outlines of the conspiracy 
to cover up the FBI’s involvement in the raid.

Concluding from the Senate report and the liberated media documents that 
the raid and its coverup had to have been approved and ratified at the 
highest levels of the Bureau, we had sought, months earlier, to join as 
defendants in our suit FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Director of 
Domestic Intelligence William C. Sullivan, and George Moore, who, as 
boss of the Extremist Section of the Domestic Intelligence Division, had 
the Black Panther Party directly in his administrative sights. We had 
also journeyed to Washington to question Sullivan under oath in a 
pre-trial deposition, but his Department of Justice lawyers thwarted our 
efforts to probe the Bureau’s knowledge of the raid and COINTELPRO, and 
our overtly hostile federal trial judge, J. Sam Perry, acted similarly 
by denying our request for relevant documents and to bring Hoover and 
his crew on board as defendants.

So it was in March 1976 when Mitchell set about to meticulously slander 
Hampton and the BPP through the reports of his informant O’Neal. An 
instinctively cautious witness, Mitchell nonetheless made a crucial 
mistake, and in the process, revealed that the FBI and its government 
lawyers had suppressed 200 volumes of FBI files that pertained to 
Hampton, Clark, O’Neal, the seven survivors of the raid, and the FBI’s 
cover-up investigation — files that the judge had previously unwittingly 
ordered produced.

The government rushed Mitchell off the stand with the judge’s blessing, 
and, over the next two months, its lawyers produced (several files at a 
time), the 200 volumes of documents. The files contained a great deal of 
information relevant to our claims of FBI conspiracy, but the FBI and 
its government lawyers, perhaps hoping to stave off the inevitable, 
saved the smoking gun for last: a pair of documents to and from the 
Bureau in Washington and the Chicago office that were buried in O’Neal’s 
personnel file and which requested and obtained for O’Neal a $300 bonus 
for furnishing “a detailed floor plan of the apartment” that 
“subsequently proved to be of tremendous value” and “was not available 
from any other source.”

Incredibly, Judge Perry shrugged off the damning government misconduct, 
refused to grant a mistrial and forced us to continue with the trial as 
we attempted to read and digest the deluge of documents that we were 
receiving on a daily basis.

The trial lurched forward for another 15 months, making it the longest 
civil trial in federal court history. Both of us spent time in the 
federal lockup for protesting the outrageous rulings of the judge and 
the blatant misconduct of the defense. After the jury heard 18 months of 
damning evidence, the judge absolved not only Mitchell, O’Neal and their 
Chicago bosses, but also State’s Attorney Hanrahan and the 14 raiding 
cops who fired more than 90 bullets from a machine gun, a rifle, 
shotguns and handguns at the sleeping Panthers by entering a directed 
verdict in their favor.

Despite its relevance and our repeated discovery requests, the FBI and 
its lawyers never produced Mitchell’s personnel file as part of the 200 
volumes, nor were we permitted to recall Mitchell to the witness stand 
in order to question him about the O’Neal bonus document and whether he 
had also been rewarded for his central role in setting up the raid and 
subsequently keeping the FBI’s role under wraps.

Thankfully, the litigation did not end with Judge Perry’s baseless and 
vindictive ruling. We appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, 
which rendered a landmark 70-page opinion on April 23, 1979. The Court 
of Appeals granted us a new trial, ordered a hearing on the government’s 
misconduct and absolved us of our contempt citations. The Court held in 
no uncertain terms that we had amassed a powerful record of two 
successive police, prosecutorial and FBI conspiracies.

The first conspiracy, which was grounded in the COINTELPRO program and 
featured Mitchell and O’Neal’s central roles, encompassed the planning 
of the raid and the raid itself, and was designed, as the Court found, 
“to subvert and eliminate the Black Panther Party and its members, 
thereby suppressing … a vital, radical black political organization 
<https://casetext.com/case/hampton-v-hanrahan>.” The second conspiracy, 
which included the post-raid coverup and legal harassment of the 
plaintiffs, was, as the Court further stated, “intended to frustrate any 
redress the Plaintiffs might seek and, more importantly, to conceal the 
true character of the pre-raid and raid activities of the defendants 
involved in the first conspiracy.”

We successfully withstood the defendants’ attempt to have the U.S. 
Supreme Court overturn the Court of Appeals’ decision, and the case was 
returned to another federal judge for retrial. We pressed for additional 
FBI documents to join Hoover and Sullivan (both of whom were deceased), 
as well as Moore and several other high-ranking FBI and Department of 
Justice officials as defendants, and pursued the misconduct hearing. In 
order to avoid judicial condemnation of their suppression of the FBI 
files and, as it later turns out, discovery of additional documentation 
of the FBI’s role in the raid, the government joined with Cook County 
and the City of Chicago to settle our case for what was, at that time, 
the largest police violence settlement in federal court history.

At that point, in 1983, after 13 years of litigation, it seemed as if 
the historical record was complete and the true narrative of the raid 
established: Chicago police officers, under the command of the Cook 
County state’s attorney, and at the behest of the FBI and its COINTELPRO 
program, targeted BPP leader Fred Hampton, and assassinated him while he 
lay asleep as part of a murderous pre-dawn raid during which the police 
fired more than 90 shots that also killed Panther Mark Clark and left 
several other survivors badly wounded.

And so stood that record, until December 4, 2020, 51 years after the 
raid, when historian and writer Aaron Leonard 
<https://truthout.org/authors/aaron-leonard/> received from the FBI a 
redacted copy of Mitchell’s personnel file in response to his 2015 
Freedom of Information Act request.

    *Involvement of Hoover and FBI Officials*

The newly released file, containing several hundred pages of FBI memos 
and reports, provides substantial evidence that would have contributed 
significantly to our examination of Mitchell and his Chicago 
supervisors. It also provides the first direct documentation that 
Sullivan, Moore and even Hoover were aware of Mitchell and O’Neal’s 
Black Panther activities; that they ratified, celebrated and rewarded 
O’Neal and Mitchell’s integral roles in the Hampton raid; and that they 
were involved in the early stages of the cover-up of the FBI’s 
involvement. Here is some of the key information contained in the documents:

  * *On June 27, 1969,* in apparent recognition of O’Neal’s role in a
    June 1969 FBI raid of the Chicago BPP offices, Hoover commended
    Mitchell’s “very capable manner in which [he] performed in a matter
    of intense interest to the Bureau in the racial field … and for his
    “effective, skillful guidance of a confidential source who furnished
    valuable information.”
  * *On November 24, 1969*, only days after O’Neal and Mitchell drew up
    the Hampton floor plan and initiated Mitchell’s plan to convince the
    Chicago Police Department to execute the raid, Chicago Special Agent
    in Charge (SAC) Marlin Johnson, who was a defendant in our suit,
    sent a memo to Hoover’s desk cataloging O’Neal’s important
    BPP-related activities, and recommending O’Neal for an incentive
    bonus. O’Neal’s activities are deleted from the document.
  * *On December 2, 1969*, while the actual planning for the raid was in
    its final stages, Bureau Extremist Division Chief George Moore sent
    a memo to Bureau Director of Domestic Intelligence William Sullivan
    recommending that Mitchell receive an incentive award for
    “outstanding performance in the development of a highly productive
    informant in the Black Panther Party.”
  * *On December 4, 1969,* only hours after the pre-dawn raid, the
    Bureau’s administrative division concurred with Sullivan, Moore and
    Johnson that the “performance of SA Mitchell in developing and
    guiding informant merits incentive award” in the amount of $200.
  * *On December 5, 1969,* SAC Marlin Johnson “advised informant”
    (O’Neal) about an unknown topic; the remainder of this paragraph was
    redacted from the document, but it seems likely that it was to
    inform O’Neal that Johnson would be recommending him for a $300
    bonus. Neither Johnson nor O’Neal ever admitted in sworn testimony
    that they met or had any discussion with each other on December 5 or
    any other time.
  * *On December 10*, *1969,* a memo
    sent from the personal desk of J. Edgar Hoover to SA Mitchell reads:
    “I am certainly pleased to commend you and to advise you that I have
    approved an incentive award in the amount of $200 for your
    outstanding services in a matter of considerable interest to the FBI
    in the racial field.… Through your aggressiveness and skill in
    handling a valuable source he is able to furnish information of
    great importance to the bureau in this vital area of our operations.
    I want you to know of my appreciation of your exemplary efforts.”
  * *On December 24, 1969, *Mitchell sent an evaluation of O’Neal to
    Hoover stating, “He has been instrumental in the Chicago Office’s
    success in handling the Bureau’s interests regarding an extremist
    party in the nationalist field.”
  * *On November 6, 1970, *Hoover provided Mitchell with another $200
    incentive award for his handling of O’Neal, stating: “The manner in
    which you have developed and handled a source of information of
    great importance to the Bureau in the racial field is certainly
    commendable.… A great deal of the information which has been
    furnished by this individual has been of material assistance to the
    FBI in fulfilling its responsibilities.”
  * *On December 11, 1970*, the Chicago FBI office sent a teletype to
    the FBI director marked “urgent,” which was initialed in Washington
    by George Moore, and discussed a redacted FBI agent’s (most likely
    Mitchell’s) potential testimony before a special state grand jury
    that was investigating the raid. At this point, O’Neal, Mitchell and
    the FBI’s role in the raid was still highly secret, and the teletype
    instructed that “any information dealing with [redacted]” — most
    likely the FBI’s role — “not to be touched upon” and “if any
    questions were asked in this area, [the redacted witness] is to
    immediately leave.”

As lawyers who were deeply involved in the Hampton litigation for 13 
years, we view these documents as vehicles that would have opened up new 
avenues of questioning, led us to additional documents to pursue, 
deepened our proof of the assassination and cover-up conspiracies, and 
provided compelling proof that the highest level of Bureau officials, 
including Hoover, were partners in the conspiracies. As historians who 
have extensively written and lectured on the assassination, we welcome 
this unexpected trove of documents as further proof that the search for 
past truths continues into the future. We hope to assist Aaron Leonard — 
who has previously chronicled FBI surveillance and harassment of other 
20th-century leftists — in his efforts to compel the FBI to reveal the 
redactions in the Mitchell files, and the pursuit of the secrets that 
still remain ensconced in the bowels of the FBI files will continue.

This search for historical truths about the government’s repressive 
tactics and programs continues to be of crucial importance to this day. 
While the official COINTELPRO program was terminated soon after it was 
discovered, government attacks on today’s radical movements have 
continued and intensified. The use of private security forces such as 
TigerSwan at Standing Rock; the utilization of more sophisticated spying 
and military technology (including drones, sound canons and concussion 
grenades) in Ferguson, Missouri; the targeting of the Movement for Black 
Lives as “terrorists” under the heading “Black Identity Extremists”; and 
the nationwide violent and coordinated law enforcement attacks on 
peaceful Black-led demonstrations in the wake of the murders of George 
Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the most recent government-inspired 
white supremacist Capitol breach all demonstrate not only that the 
government’s repression mechanisms 
are alive and well, but also that law enforcement continues to be 
closely aligned with the emboldened forces of the violent and racist far 
right. The cold-blooded assassination of Fred Hampton provides an 
ongoing and detailed lesson about the illegal and violent lengths to 
which the government will resort to in its efforts to destroy social 
movements and young leaders of color when they pose a threat to its 
white supremacist power and control.

/The authors gratefully acknowledge the invaluable work of //Aaron 
Leonard/ <http://www.aaronleonard.net/>/, whose dogged pursuit of the 
Roy Martin Mitchell file uncovered the newly produced FBI documents 
detailed above. /

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863-9977
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