[Pnews] COINTELPRO - FBI's "Suicide Letter" to Dr. Martin Luther King and the Dangers of Unchecked Surveillance

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 14 15:04:57 EST 2014


November 12, 2014 | By Nadia Kayyali 
<https://www.eff.org/about/staff/nadia-kayyali>
*https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/11/fbis-suicide-letter-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-and-dangers-unchecked-surveillance*


    FBI's "Suicide Letter" to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the
    Dangers of Unchecked Surveillance

The New York Times has published an unredacted version 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/magazine/what-an-uncensored-letter-to-mlk-reveals.html> 
of the famous "suicide letter 
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/20/martin-luther-king-fbi_n_4631112.html>" 
from the FBI to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter, recently 
discovered by historian and professor Beverly Gage, is a disturbing 
document. But it's also something that everyone in the United States 
should read, because it demonstrates exactly what lengths the 
intelligence community is willing to go to---and what happens when they 
take the fruits of the surveillance they've done and unleash it on a target.

The anonymous letter was the result of the FBI's comprehensive 
surveillance and harassment strategy against Dr. King, which included 
bugging his hotel rooms, photographic surveillance, and physical 
observation of King's movements by FBI agents. The agency also attempted 
to break up his marriage 
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-christian-hall/martin-luther-king-jr-rem_b_426841.html> 
by sending selectively edited "personal moments he shared with friends 
and women" to his wife.

Portions of the letter had been previously redacted. One of these 
portions contains a claim that the letter was written by another 
African-American: "King, look into your heart. You know you are a 
complete fraud and a great liability to all us Negroes." It goes on to 
say "We will now have to depend on our older leaders like Wilkins, a man 
of character and thank God we have others like him. But you are done." 
This line is key, because part of the FBI's strategy 
<https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/02/history-surveillance-and-black-community> 
was to try to fracture movements and pit leaders against one another.

The entire letter could have been taken from a page of GCHQ's Joint 
Threat Research and Intelligence Group 
<https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipulation/> 
(JTRIG)---though perhaps as an email or series of tweets. The British 
spying agency GCHQ is one of the NSA's closest partners 
<https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/09/13-principles-week-action-five-eyes-quest-security-has-given-us-widespread>. 
The mission of JTRIG 
<http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/edward-snowden-interview/exclusive-snowden-docs-show-british-spies-used-sex-dirty-tricks-n23091>, 
a unit within GCHQ, is to "destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt enemies 
by discrediting them." And there's little reason to believe the NSA and 
FBI aren't using such tactics.

The implications of these types of strategies in the digital age are 
chilling. Imagine Facebook chats, porn viewing history, emails, and more 
made public to discredit a leader who threatens the status quo, or used 
to blackmail a reluctant target into becoming an FBI informant 
<http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/enemywithin/reality/informant.html>. 
These are not far-fetched ideas. They are the reality of what happens 
when the surveillance state is allowed to grow out of control, and the 
full King letter, as well as current intelligence community practices 
illustrate that reality richly.

The newly unredacted portions shed light on the government's sordid 
scheme to harass and discredit Dr. King. One paragraph states:

    No person can overcome the facts, no even a fraud like yourself.
    Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure. You will find
    yourself and in all your dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk exposed
    on the record for all time. . . . Listen to yourself, you filthy,
    abnormal animal. You are on the record.

And of course, the letter ends with an ominous threat:

    King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it
    is. You have just 34 days in which to do it (this exact number has
    been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical
    significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You
    better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared
    to the nation.

There's a lesson to learn here: history must play a central role in the 
debate around spying today. As Professor Gage states:

    Should intelligence agencies be able to sweep our email, read our
    texts, track our phone calls, locate us by GPS? Much of the
    conversation swirls around the possibility that agencies like the
    N.S.A. or the F.B.I. will use such information not to serve national
    security but to carry out personal and political vendettas. King's
    experience reminds us that these are far from idle fears, conjured
    in the fevered minds of civil libertarians. They are based in the
    hard facts of history.

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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