[Ppnews] FBI used United Airlines in planned COINTELPRO action against 'Omaha Two'

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 2 10:35:22 EST 2009

Original Content at 

February 1, 2009

FBI used United Airlines in planned COINTELPRO action against Black 
Panthers in 'Omaha Two' case

By Michael Richardson

In the late 1960's and early 1970's there was a fierce, illegal, and 
clandestine war being raged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation 
against the Black Panther Party.  FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had 
ordered agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise 
neutralize" the Black Panthers.

The full scope of misdeeds under Operation COINTELPRO will never be 
known although some of the dirty tricks and actions have emerged 
piecemeal through Freedom of Information requests.  Political 
Research Associates maintains one of the largest collections of 
COINTELPRO documents and its copies of heavily redacted FBI memos 
tell part of the story.

To keep the momentum of the secret operation going Hoover ordered 
field offices to make written reports to him every two weeks.  The 
Omaha, Nebraska FBI office had drawn criticism in late 1969 from 
Hoover for inaction against the leaders of Omaha's Panther chapter, 
Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice).

On December 10, 1969, Hoover ordered the Omaha field office to "give 
consideration to counterintelligence measures directed against these 
leaders to weaken or destroy their positions."  Hoover told Omaha 
agents to make up a plan, "Evaluate your approach to this program and 
insure that it is given the imaginative attention necessary to 
produce effective results."

The Omaha Special-Agent-in-Charge responded to Hoover on December 
29th with an update on the Panther group.  "United Front Against 
Fascism (UFAF) has been limited in activity to the sale of "The Black 
Panther", the official Black Panther Party (BPP) newspaper, the 
publication of a UFAF newsletter and making plans for starting a 
liberation school at its Omaha Headquarters in the near future."

"Consideration is still being given by Omaha to some type of 
counterintelligence activity directed against leaders of this 
organization or aimed at the disruption of the UFAF newsletter or the 
planned liberation school."

"Close attention will be afforded this matter in order to produce 
effective results and proposals for counterintelligence activity will 
be supplied to the Bureau by separate communications in the very near future."

Two weeks later on January 12, 1970, the Omaha FBI office informed 
Hoover they were still working on his request.  "Several 
counterintelligence measures aimed at this organization are presently 
under consideration and proposals for counterintelligence activities 
aimed at disruption of this organization or directed against its 
leaders will be submitted to the Bureau by separate communication in 
the very near future."

The next two-week letter to Hoover from Omaha had a COINTELPRO plan 
which was signed off on by the Racial Intelligence Section.  The 
COINTELPRO actions were conducted by field agents under the direction 
William Cornelius Sullivan, head of Domestic Intelligence.  The 
proposals had to also secure the approval of George Moore of Racial 
Intelligence and were reviewed by Mark Felt, an inspector better 
known as 'Deep Throat' of Watergate infamy.  Hoover, however, had the 
final word and closely monitored COINTELPRO proposals each day.

The Omaha Special-Agent-in Charge advised Hoover of the progress 
being made on his December order to be "imaginative" in crafting a 
COINTELPRO action.  On January 26, 1970, the Omaha office wrote to Hoover.

"The United Front Against Fascism (UFAF) is the only BPP affiliated 
organization presently active within the Omaha Division.  At present 
the only known source of income of the UFAF is money derived through 
the sale of the Black Panther newspaper which arrives in Omaha weekly 
via United Airlines."

"Contact is presently being maintained with United Airlines to 
ascertain if a regular pattern exists for the pickup of this 
newspaper by [REDACTED] a known UFAF member to whom these papers are 
consigned.  As soon as this pattern is established, Omaha 
contemplates initiating counterintelligence measures aimed at 
disruption of the distribution of this newspaper."

The operational details were worked out for the "disruption" of the 
newspaper distribution in a memo dated February 9, 1970, which is 
missing from the PRA archive.  However, the next regular report 
provided an update of the secret plan to interfere with the group's 
lawful activities.

"As pointed out in re communication and prior letters in captioned 
matter the only known source of income of the United Front Against 
Fascism (UFAF) at the present time is money derived through the sale 
of the Black Panther Newspaper, which prior to the last week of 
January 1970, arrived on a weekly basis in Omaha via United Airlines 
Air Freight."

"Since BPP Headquarters has changed its policy concerning the 
publishing of this newspaper to demanding that payment for these 
newspapers be received at BPP Headquarters prior to the time the 
newspaper goes to the printer, no papers have been received in Omaha 
from the San Francisco area.  In recent communications from San 
Francisco, it appears that arrangements are being made to have 
further shipments of the BPP Newspaper sent to Omaha and contact is 
being maintained with United Airlines Air Freight so that the Omaha 
office will be apprised when regular shipments of the newspaper to 
Omaha are resumed."

"Once these shipments are resumed, United Airlines Air Freight will 
be contacted on a continuing basis in order to determine if a regular 
pattern is established for the pickup of these newspapers by UFAF 
members.  Once a pattern is established for the pickup of these 
newspapers, counter intelligence measures will be aimed at disruption 
of the distribution of these newspapers."

FBI efforts against the Panthers escalated through the summer of 1970 
culminating in the arrest of Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa for the 
August 17th murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard.  Minard had 
had been lured to his death by an anonymous caller on the newly 
installed 911 emergency call system.  A recording of the killer's 
voice was captured on tape and presented a problem to the COINTELPRO plotters.

Omaha police sent the tape recording to the FBI Crime Laboratory for 
analysis with the stipulation that no formal laboratory report be 
issued.  Ivan Willard Conrad, lab director, checked with Hoover about 
withholding a lab report and noted on a COINTELPRO memorandum that on 
August 19th Hoover said it was "OK to do".  Conrad followed orders 
and issued no report on the killer's voice.

The jury that convicted the two Panther leaders in April 1971 had no 
idea of the FBI intrigue or of Hoover's direct order to withhold 
evidence about Minard's killer.  Poindexter and Langa were sentenced 
to life imprisonment and remain confined at the maximum-security 
Nebraska State Penitentiary where they continue to proclaim their innocence.

Poindexter has a new trial request pending before the Nebraska 
Supreme Court over the withheld evidence and conflicting police 
testimony.  Oral argument in the case was in October 2008, 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.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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