1968 May 9

J. Edgar Hoover Memo Orders COINTELPRO Action Against New Left Organizations

 

FBI Director J.Edgar Hoover on this day ordered the Bureau’s program to attack New Left political organizations. The New Left included a variety of anti-Vietnam War groups, some radical African-American organizations, and other politically radical groups that emerged in the 1960s. The “new” left defined itself in contrast to the “old” left, which was seen as dominated by socialistic and communist ideologies. (The definition of who was “new left” and a danger to the U.S. was, for the FBI, solely its own decision.)

COINTELPRO involved break-ins, thefts, wiretapping, forging of documents, and other actions designed to disrupt and destroy targeted organizations.

COINTELPRO (for COunterINtelligencePROgram) was one of the most notorious secret and illegal FBI activities. Authorized on March 8, 1956, by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, it was initially directed only at the Communist Party. Later, it was later extended to cover the Ku Klux Klan, on July 30, 1964, and, on this day, was extended to New Left organizations.

The details of COINTELPRO first came to light after a group of activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, on March 8, 1971, and stole about 1,000 FBI documents, which they then released to the public through the media. Only one of the stolen documents contained the word COINTELPRO, but the news stories based on the documents, which began in March 1971, spurred further inquiries that revealed the nature and extent of the program (see the book by Betty Medsger, below).

Read: Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI (2014)

Read the Church Committee report on COINTELPRO (pp. 1–79): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports.htm

Learn more: John McMillan and Paul Buhle, The New Left Revisited (2003)

Find a Day

Go
Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps

Topics

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!