activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: cointelpro

activists confess to breaking into federal bureau of investigation office more than forty years ago

On March 8, 1971, eight activists broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in Media, Pennsylvania. They stole files regarding the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a secret war on dissent involving surveillance, infiltration, snitch-jacketingintimidationfabrication of correspondence and publications, disinformation, false arrest and prosecution, and assassination. According to today’s Alabama Public Radio article,

The plotters executed their break-in on a night when millions of people sat glued to their TV sets, watching Muhammad Ali square off against Joe Frazier for the heavyweight championship of the world. … Not long after the burglary, reporter Betty Medsger received an anonymous package at her desk at the Washington Post: secret documents. She published the story.

The activists called themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. In the FBI’s wide-ranging investigation of the burglary, agents visited one of the eight activists, but he successfully deflected their inquiries. The FBI never determined who was involved.

Today Medsger, the former Washington Post reporter, released a book titled The Burglary, in which several of the activists admit their participation in the break-in.

thirty years since unfair trial of journalist and author mumia abu-jamal

Thirty years ago this month, Mumia Abu-Jamal went to trial in Philadelphia for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal was closely involved with MOVE, a multiracial community that protested injustices ranging from police brutality to animal exploitation in zoos. He was also a former member of the Black Panther Party.

As a result of Abu-Jamal’s political activity, he was under surveillance by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a secret war on dissent with which the Philadelphia police cooperated. His 1982 trial and conviction provoked criticisms that, combined with revelations about COINTELPRO false prosecutions and his claims of innocence, have cast doubt on the guilty verdict. Last December prosecutors finally halted Pennsylvania’s effort to execute him, but said he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cases like Abu-Jamal’s remind us to agitate unceasingly against political repression. In the words of attorney Lennox Hinds,

we threaten our own interests and rights when we condone by our silence the government’s use of surveillance, attacks on the legitimacy of political activists, and the use of the criminal law to suppress and punish political dissent.