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(en) [AFIB] America's Secret Police: FBI COINTELPRO in the 1990s

From Tom Burghardt <tburghardt@igc.apc.org>
Date Wed, 15 Apr 1998 18:18:34 -0700 (PDT)
Cc radiocq@sirius.com

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

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|| * -- RESEARCH  -- * - April 15, 1998 - * -- RESEARCH -- *  ||
                       RESEARCH SUPPLEMENT
                         P.O. Box 14720
                      Santa Rosa, CA 95402
                      Tel: (707) 887-0262
                      Fax: (707) 887-0865
                    E-mail: bari@monitor.net
               Web: http://www.monitor.net/~bari
                 - Wednesday, 15 April 1998 -
                              * * *
                       By Noelle Hanrahan
     This report was written in association with the Redwood
     Summer Justice Project, which pursues Judi Bari's and Darryl
     Cherney's civil rights case against the FBI and Oakland
                              * * *
     On April 22, 1970, as 22 million Americans rallied across
the country on the first Earth Day celebration, FBI agents in
over 40 cities were ordered to spy on and infiltrate these
events. Senator Edwin Muskie, himself a victim, remarked from the
floor of Congress that this surveillance was "a dangerous threat
to fundamental constitutional rights." The power of the
environmental movement and the challenge it posed to business-as-
usual made it an instant target for FBI suppression.
     Twenty years later on May 24, 1990, a shrapnel-wrapped car
bomb went off under noted Earth First! activist Judi Bari's car
seat, nearly killing her and injuring fellow organizer Darryl
Cherney. Even more frightening to Bari, as she woke up in the
hospital intensive care unit under armed guard, was the
realization that a major FBI "counter-intelligence" operation
against Earth First! was underway.
     Within minutes of their arrival on the scene of the blast,
the FBI was falsely characterizing nonviolent environmental
organizers Bari and Cherney as "terrorists". Within hours, the
Oakland Police Department had arrested and detained them for
transporting explosives. It was not enough that the two leaders
had been physically blown up; the FBI immediately began to
orchestrate a disinformation campaign designed to discredit and
imprison these activists and destroy Earth First!
     What could make nonviolent environmental organizers the
targets of repression? Back in May 1990, Earth First! in the
redwood region was gearing up for "Mississippi Summer in the
California Redwoods," a bold call that would draw thousand of
activists to Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Earth First!'s
fierce, grassroots, pro-labor campaign of mass nonviolent civil
disobedience was determined to stop corporate timber's
liquidation of the old-growth forests. Even in the face of the
attempted assassination of the key organizers and a well-
orchestrated FBI disinformation campaign, thousands came to
Redwood Summer, bringing national attention to the destruction of
the redwood forest ecosystem. It is a testimony to the power of
the movement mobilized by Judi Bari that today, eight years
later, protests to save the old growth forests are more dynamic
than ever.
     It is absolutely foolish to suggest that the FBI was
     involved in anything that would obstruct justice.
     -- Richard W. Held, FBI
     These guys are professional liars, who have raised selective
     memory loss to an art form. 
     -- Judi Bari, Earth First!
     From the moment of its birth in 1908 as the Justice
Department's "Bureau of Investigation," a key part of the FBI's
mission has been to suppress political dissent. In the early
years they used deportations and the career-destroying Palmer
raids to target union leaders and communists. Burglary,
blacklisting, infiltration, and disruption became standard
operating procedure. Later, when the Supreme Court ruled that the
Smith Act specifically could not be used to target communists,
the FBI took it undercover, developing its "counter-intelligence"
program dubbed COINTELPRO. In the words of then-director J. Edgar
Hoover, COINTELPRO was designed to "expose, disrupt, misdirect,
discredit, or otherwise neutralize" groups whose views the FBI
deemed threatening to the status quo.
     Richard W. Held was Special Agent-in-Charge of the San
Francisco FBI Office 1985-1993 during its extensive COINTELPRO
operations against Earth First! Of all the COINTELPRO operatives,
Richard Wallace Held's past is particularly brutal and haunting.
Held began his career in 1968 in the Los Angeles office of the
FBI. He quickly became the lead agent in the "racial matters"
squad which focused on what the FBI called "black extremists".
Just one year later he was involved in targeting Los Angeles
Black Panther Party leader Geronimo ji jaga (Pratt) for
"neutralization." Framed for a murder he did not commit, Geronimo
spent 25 years in state prison. He was released in 1997 after a
judge overturned his conviction based on prosecutorial
misconduct. The key witness in the case, Julius Butler, was an
informant for the FBI, LAPD, and the L.A. District Attorney's
office; that information was kept secret during Geronimo's trial.
     An uncanny ability to lie under oath, commonly referred to
as "testa-lying," is a trademark of rogue law enforcement
professionals. Under oath in a deposition for Geronimo's federal
appeal, Held remarked on his relationship with Julius Butler: "I
think that it may have been relevant, your honor, depending on
what the contact was at the time and what else I knew, because I
don't recall really knowing much about the case at all anyway."
In fact, Held was coordinating COINTELPRO operations in L.A., and
Geronimo was at the top of the "Key Black Extremists" list.
     Even more damning, Held was the control agent for informant
Julius Butler. In 2 1/2 years, Held recorded contact and meetings
with Butler 33 times. Contrast Held's repeated denials of
knowledge and responsibility with the cold, hard facts, including
this from a 1/28/70 memo by Held to the FBI Director: "I request
Bureau approval ... to attack, expose, and ridicule the BPP...
operation number one is designed to challenge the legitimacy of
the authority exercised by Elmer Gerard Pratt."
     After a few years in Washington, DC as a headquarters
intelligence supervisor, Held was back in the field on the Pine
Ridge Reservation three days after the firefight between federal
agents and the American Indian Movement (AIM) during which two
FBI agents and an Indian man were killed. An FBI memo dated
7/26/75 to the Washington Bureau's Intelligence Division notes,
"Supervisor Richard Wallace Held arrived at Pine Ridge, South
Dakota Indian Reservation Command Post on 6/29/75, to assist in
the RESMURS investigation. He was assigned three important phases
of this investigation; namely, the correlation of Bureau-wide
informants into the investigation; the establishment of the
confidential fund; and the coordination of all intelligence
information as it relates to the American Indian Movement (AIM)
and the RESMURS investigations... throughout the country ..."
     Held's work contributed to the framing of noted political
prisoner Leonard Peltier, and to covering up the truth about the
agents' deaths and the still unsolved killings of 70 AIM
supporters on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the extensive
FBI's operations.
     From 1979 until 1985, Held was Special Agent-in-Charge of
the San Juan, Puerto Rico office. There he presided over a
politically-oriented paramilitary campaign against the Puerto
Rican Independence movement, creating files on 74,000
individuals. In his last operation in Puerto Rico, Held led 300
FBI agents and U.S. marshals in raids all over the island,
trashing office and homes and arresting scores of activists. One
advocate of Puerto Rican independence said the raids made "even
the desire for independence a crime." Held left Puerto Rico in
1985 to head the FBI's San Francisco, California field office.
     In the year before the car bombing of Bari and Cherney, a
shocking and classic political disruption campaign was conducted
against Earth First! in Northern California. In the months just
prior to Redwood Summer, the disruption was intense. Bari,
Cherney and other Earth First! organizers received over 30 death
threats from March to May, 1990. Fake Earth First! press releases
were circulated in the community and to the press, falsely
connecting the Earth First!ers with violence and sabotage. Local
law enforcement refused to investigate the death threats,
signaling their tolerance for violence against environmentalists.
"If you turn up dead, Judi," Mendocino County Sheriff's Sgt.
Steve Satterwhite told Bari, "then we'll investigate."
     The FBI's very act of blaming Bari and Cherney for the
bombing that nearly killed them, and their repeated feeding of
damaging and bald-faced lies to the press about evidence in the
case, are both classic components of a "counter-intelligence"
campaign. The FBI's own files refer to the use of informants, yet
even now the full scope of their actions remains hidden.
     In depositions in Bari's and Cherney's civil rights lawsuit,
FBI agents repeatedly denied that there was an investigation
against Earth First! in California prior to the bombing. Yet,
documents at first withheld and blacked out, then later released,
show that the FBI field reports written at the time of the
bombing stated Bari and Cherney were "subjects of an
investigation in the terrorist field."
     The Arizona FBI Sting Operation In 1988, a major FBI sting
operation was launched against Earth First! in Arizona. In a
cynical attempt to discredit and criminalize Earth First!, the
FBI spent $3 million and employed over 50 FBI agents, extensive
wiretaps, body wires and overt entrapment in order to arrest
Arizona Earth First!ers for conspiracy to down power lines.
     At the heart of Operation THERMCON (short for "Thermite
Conspiracy") were undercover FBI agent/provocateur Michael Fain
and informant Ron Frazier, who infiltrated a group of
environmental activists in Prescott. Though unsuccessful, the FBI
worked long and hard to entrap these individuals into using
explosives to down power lines. Apparently the FBI sought to
involve Earth First! with explosives in order to create a
sensational case against them. This would serve to discredit
Earth First! and provide justification to conduct illegal
investigations and operations against the political and First
Amendment activity of the environmental movement nationwide.
Busted on May 30, 1989, in the Arizona desert, four people were
caught with a cutting torch attempting to disable a power
transmission tower leading to a pumping station of the central
Arizona project (CAP). CAP is a billion dollar pork barrel
project to carry Colorado River water uphill across hundreds of
miles of desert to water the lawns of Phoenix and Tucson.
     Judi Bari laughingly called this, "the only joint FBI-Earth
First! action ever to take place." Undercover FBI agents picked
the target, drove the truck, and taught the activists to use an
acetylene torch. The FBI paid informant Ron Frazier $54,000 cash
in exchange for implicating the Earth First!ers, and granted him
immunity from prosecution for various crimes.
     "The first lesson in activism is that the person that offers
     to get the dynamite is always the FBI agent," joked Judi
     It was in the context of such a massive undercover operation
against Earth First! that the FBI terrorist squad responded en
masse to the bombing of Bari and Cherney in May of 1990. Special
Agent John Conway, who was one of the main case agents assigned
to the bombing, had also handled the San Francisco FBI office's
substantial field work on the Arizona "THERMCON" sting.
     It is striking that after failing in a major COINTELPRO
operation to tie Earth First! with explosives in Arizona, the FBI
again tried to smear and defame nonviolent environmental
activists as terrorists by falsely charging Bari and Cherney with
transporting the bomb that was meant to kill them.
     In his deposition in the Bari/Cherney lawsuit, Held insists
that he was completely out of the loop and unaware of the case,
even though other FBI agents contradict his testimony and have
said that they briefed him on a regular basis.
     Were Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney or Earth First! subjects of
an ongoing investigation in "the terrorist field" as agents
claimed in FBI reports? If so, where are the files? Was this
investigation authorized? Were they under FBI surveillance when
they were bombed? What does the FBI know about who bombed Judi
Bari and Darryl Cherney? And finally, why have they never made
any attempt to catch the real bomber?
     In search of answers to these questions, the Redwood Summer
Justice Project will continue to expose secret FBI operations
against Earth First! as we pursue the civil rights lawsuit
against the FBI and the Oakland Police.
                              * * *
     This article refers to the actions of FBI Special Agent
     Richard Wallace Held. For clarification, his father Richard
     G. Held was Associate Director of the FBI.
   * Between 1987 and 1990, in a conspiracy to entrap and "pop
     Dave Foreman [founder of Earth First!] to send a message,"
     the FBI spent $3 million, used 50 agents and conducted more
     than 1000 hours of wiretaps. A key informant was paid a
     total of $54,000.
   * 1981-1990, activists opposed to the U.S. foreign policy in
     Central America (as well as a dozen U.S. Senators and
     Congressmen) were subject to FBI harassment. The FBI's
     "investigation" of CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the
     People of El Salvador) involved 59 field offices and 200
     incidents of death threats, intimidation, and break-ins.
   * In August 1985, Richard W. Held led 300 FBI agents and U.S.
     marshals in raids throughout Puerto Rico, trashing offices
     and homes and arresting scores of activists. The FBI's
     overall operations resulted in the creation of files on
     74,000 individuals.
   * In 1975, Richard W. Held was involved in the FBI's cover-up
     of the 70 deaths of American Indian Movement supporters at
     Pine Ridge in South Dakota. On the scene after an FBI
     operation which resulted in the deaths of two FBI agents and
     one Indian man, Held helped lay the groundwork for the
     framing of AIM leader Leonard Peltier for murder. Peltier
     remains wrongfully imprisoned to this day.
   * On April 27, 1970, Richard W. Held requested and received
     permission from J. Edgar Hoover to "neutralize" actress Jean
     Seberg. Held placed an anonymous letter with a Hollywood
     gossip columnist regarding the parentage of Seberg's unborn
     child. On August 7, 1970, Seberg, nearly 7 months pregnant,
     attempted suicide. On August 23rd, she gave birth
     prematurely to a baby girl. Weighing less than 4 pounds, the
     baby died. Seberg's transgression? Her support of the Black
     Panther Party.
   * Beginning in 1970, FBI agent Richard W. Held, an architect
     of COINTELPRO vs. the Black Panthers in L.A., helped
     orchestrate the 25-year false imprisonment of Geronimo ji
     jaga (Pratt). Held and others engineered the frame-up of
     Geronimo by withholding critical information that the
     prosecution's key witness, Julius Butler, was an FBI
   * On Dec. 4, 1969, Chicago police and the FBI assassinated
     Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Hampton, who was
     alive but wounded after the initial assault, was then
     executed at close range. William O'Neal, an FBI informant,
     provided a detailed floor plan of Hampton's apartment; he
     was paid $30,000.
   * In 1963, the FBI turned their attention to Martin Luther
     King, Jr., and sought to destroy him through a campaign of
     wiretaps and harassment. In one incident, the FBI confronted
     King with a compilation of secretly recorded tapes,
     threatening to release them to the press if King did not
     commit suicide before accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.
   * From 1943-63, the federal civil rights case Socialist
     Workers Party v. Attorney General documents decades of
     illegal FBI break-ins and 10 million pages of surveillance
     records. The FBI paid an estimated 1,600 informants
     $1,680,592 and used 20,000 days of wiretaps to undermine
     legitimate political organizing.
                              * * *
     Sources available on request. To order more copies of
     "AMERICA'S SECRET POLICE," to be placed on the mailing list
     to receive updates on Judi Bari's lawsuit against the FBI,
     or to make a tax deductible contribution to help fund the
     lawsuit, please contact: contact Redwood Summer Justice
     Project at the address above.
     AFIB EDITOR'S NOTE: Noelle Hanrahan through her tireless
     efforts through the Prison Radio Project has helped
     transform the case of imprisoned journalist, former Black
     Panther and MOVE supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal, into an
     international human rights issue. She is currently the
     publicist for the Redwood Summer Justice Project. Much
     respect Noelle!
     For more information on the Prison Radio Project write:
                              * * *
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