1956 March 8

Notorious FBI COINTELPRO Program Approved


At a regular meeting of the National Security Council on this day, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover proposed the COINTELPRO program (Counter Intelligence Program) to combat the Communist Party. With President Dwight Eisenhower and Attorney General Herbert Brownell present, the NSC approved the program, even though Hoover described actions that were clearly illegal, including warrantless wiretapping and break-ins. For some of the notorious COINTELPRO activities, go to August 4, 1960; July 30, 1964; August 25, 1967; and May 9, 1968.

The exposure of COINTELPRO began when a group of anti-Vietnam War activists broke in the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, on March 8, 1971, stole FBI documents and then leaked them to the news media (see Medsger’s book, below). Only one document among those stolen had the word COINTELPRO on it, and no one knew what it referred to. Nonetheless, the first news stories on FBI spying on, and attempts to disrupt, political groups appeared in March 1971, and led to further inquiries into FBI misconduct.

The full story of COINTELPRO was not known until the Senate Church Committee investigation of the intelligence agencies that began on January 27, 1975.

The other most notorious FBI program was its campaign to “neutralize” Martin Luther King as a civil rights leader, which was discussed and approved on December 23, 1963.

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

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

Read the FBI documents on its COINTELPRO program:

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

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

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