[Ppnews] Manipulated news stories against Black Panthers in 'Omaha Two' case

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 18 15:30:31 EST 2008

Original Content at 

December 18, 2008

Omaha World-Herald manipulated news stories against Black Panthers in 
'Omaha Two' case

By Michael Richardson

We will probably never know if the Omaha World-Herald manipulation of 
news stories about the August 17, 1970 bombing murder of an Omaha 
policeman was of its own doing or if the newspaper had been worked by 
COINTELPRO agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The FBI in 
the 60's and 70's conducted a massive clandestine operation 
code-named COINTELPRO which illegally targeted domestic political 
organizations and activists for dirty tricks and often used news 
media to accomplish its nefarious deeds.

The COINTELPRO tactics employed to manipulate news included anonymous 
letters-to-the-editor, the release of confidential information to 
selected reporters, withholding information from news organizations, 
providing misinformation about COINTELPRO targets, and harassment of 
publications deemed hostile.

Three examples of news manipulation are evident in the World-Herald's 
1970 reporting of the charges against Ed Poindexter and Mondo we 
Langa (formerly David Rice) for the murder of patrolman Larry 
Minard.  Officer Minard was killed instantly when a booby-trapped 
suitcase bomb exploded in his face while investigating a false report 
of a woman screaming in a vacant house.  Poindexter and Langa were 
leaders of Omaha's Black Panther chapter called the Nebraska 
Committee to Combat Fascism and targets of FBI director J. Edgar 
Hoover's secret war on the Panthers.

The summer of 1970 was an angry time in North Omaha.  The year 
earlier, 14-year old Vivian Strong was shot to death in the back by 
an Omaha policeman who was later acquitted of a manslaughter 
charge.  The NCCF was the leading police critic of the shooting death 
of Strong and daily confrontations between the police and members of 
the NCCF were the norm.  Riots and bombings rocked the Midwest and 
did not spare Omaha.  There were bombs exploded outside a police 
substation, at Horace Mann Junior High, and outside a business in the 
year preceding the fatal attack on Minard.  The city was jittery and 
the World-Herald followed the events closely.

The newspaper was careful to follow all dynamite stories in the 
news.  That summer a paper sack with dynamite was found in Bellevue, 
an Omaha suburb, and the World-Herald gave a running account of the 
investigation.  However, in late July a car with three men and 41 
sticks of stolen dynamite was seized by police after an earlier 
dynamite buy of 10 sticks from the three men, but the newspaper did 
not publish a single word about the arrests.

The omission could not have been ignorance of the dynamite bust.  The 
paper not only daily examined official police log reports but 
reporters also regularly enjoyed inside access to the 4th floor 
criminal investigation bureau room at police headquarters according 
to a World-Herald article written shortly after the fatal bombing. 
The paper apparently kept quiet about the newsworthy arrest at the 
request of police.  This is not an uncommon journalistic practice but 
usually results in the pledge of future cooperation and often a 
scoop.  Reporters buy into secrecy to obtain more details and inside 
information not otherwise available.  In this case, however, the 
World-Herald kept the secret forever.

The newspaper self-censored this news story again three weeks later 
when Larry Minard was murdered.  The paper ignored police Captain 
Murdock Platner's testimony to a congressional committee speculating 
the dynamite seized in July was the same dynamite used in the Minard 
killing.  The World-Herald kept quiet during the murder trial when 
the history of the dynamite used in the bomb was at issue.  The paper 
continued the news blackout on the stolen dynamite arrests when 
charges were quietly dropped against the trio who had been peddling 
stolen dynamite, just days after the Minard trial ended.  The Omaha 
World-Herald continues ignoring this dynamite arrest and has failed 
to report on the episode despite its key relevance to the case.

The second example of news manipulation is maybe just a sad comment 
on the times instead of COINTELPRO mischief but the blatant bias of 
the newspaper cannot be ignored.  Suspects in the Minard case 
arrested by police were repeatedly labeled by the World-Herald as 
"militants" and there is a clear racial identification theme in the 
paper's stories about the case.  Contrasting the many "Negro" 
references were gratuitous remarks about the police.  Officer John 
Tess, one of the seven officers injured in the blast, was "blond, 
handsome" and his girlfriend "pretty".

The third example of news manipulation is directly tied to an issue 
now pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court in Poindexter's bid for 
a new trial--the FBI role in examining the emergency call tape 
recording that lured Minard to his death.  "Voiceprint in Bombing to 
FBI Lab" declared the article headline in the World-Herald and quoted 
acting-Chief of Police Walter J. Devere saying the tape recording of 
the 911 call luring police to the ambush would be a good 
investigative tool.  The killer's deep voice was captured on tape and 
a vocal analysis could have helped identify the unknown caller.

The World Herald showcased the "Voiceprint" story at the top of the 
front page just below the banner on August 18th.  However, the next 
day at FBI headquarters, J. Edgar Hoover gave a secret order to the 
head of the FBI Crime Laboratory, Ivan Willard Conrad, to withhold a 
formal report on the tape recording thus thwarting any effort to 
identify the killer by voice comparison.  Conrad noted Hoover's 
command by scrawling on a confidential COINTELPRO memo recommending 
withholding a formal report, "Dir advised telephonically & said OK to do."

The Omaha newspaper never followed up their lead story on the FBI's 
testing of the 911 recording and subsequent articles about the case 
dropped the subject.  Hoover's secret command to compromise the 
investigation did not come to light until years later after Mondo we 
Langa obtained portions of his FBI file under a Freedom of 
Information request.

Omaha World-Herald readers continue to be unaware of the COINTELPRO 
involvement in the 'Omaha Two' case and the arrest and subsequent 
release of the three men caught in possession of dynamite just three 
weeks before Minard's killing.

Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, targets of Hoover's COINTELPRO 
directives, were convicted of Mindard's death despite their denial of 
any role in the killing.  Both men are imprisoned at the 
maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary and continue to proclaim 
their innocence.  Poindexter has a new trial request pending before 
the Nebraska Supreme Court over the withheld 911 call evidence and 
conflicting police testimony about dynamite allegedly used in the 
bomb.  No date for a decision has been announced.


  Permission granted to reprint

Authors Bio: Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in 
Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and 
music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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