1960 August 4

FBI COINTELPRO Memo Orders Disruption of Puerto Rican Independence Organizations


An FBI memo on this day ordered the Bureau’s notorious COINTELPRO program to disrupt organizations advocating independence for Puerto Rico. COINTELPRO, created on March 8, 1956, was a secret program that engaged in a variety of illegal activities against targeted organizations, including wiretaps, burglaries, theft, the forging of documents, and the dissemination of disruptive disinformation.

COINTELPRO was originally directed at the Communist Party and other Marxist groups, but was later expanded to target the Ku Klux Klan, on July 30, 1964, and “New Left” political groups on May 9, 1968.

Public knowledge about the secret program began to emerge after activists burglarized the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, on March 8, 1971, and then leaked the stolen documents to the media. Only one document had a cryptic reference to COINTELPRO, but that led to further investigative reporting that eventually exposed COINTELPRO. The full story of COINTELPRO was not revealed until the Senate Church Committee investigation of the intelligence agencies that began on January 27, 1975.

Learn more about the Media burglary and the exposure of COINTELPRO: Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI (2014)

Learn more from the Senate Church Committee report on COINTELPRO (pp. 1–77): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

And more: Ward Churchill and James Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Domestic Dissent (1990)

Still more: Curt Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (1991)

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