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Notes on the State System of Oppression

"This was in Seattle, where it was revealed that FBI infiltrators had been engaged in a campaign of arson, terrorism, and bombings of university and civic buildings, and where the FBI arranged a robbery, entrapping a young black man who was paid $75 for the job and killed in a police ambush".
* This chapter is a revised version of the introduction to Nelson Blackstock, COINTELPRO (New York: Vintage, 1976), with some further material added in 1980, and reworked again in 1999.

Exerpted from Domestic Terrorism: Notes on the State System of Oppression

by Noam Chomsky

...Similarly, the comprehensive program to "expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents," secretly put into operation in May 1968, was motivated by the fact that New Left activists "urge revolution," are responsible for unspecified "violence and disruption," "call for the defeat of the United States in Vietnam," and "continually and falsely allege police brutality and do not hesitate to utilize unlawful acts to further their so-called cause." They have even "on many occasions viciously and scurrilously attacked the Director and the Bureau in an attempt to hamper our investigation of it and to drive us off the college campuses," where, naturally, the state's police should be free to operate with impunity.

The latter offense was particularly grave since, as is now known, FBI provocateurs were engaged in extensive efforts throughout the country to instigate campus violence, disrupt student groups, eliminate radical faculty, and the like, and FBI agents were, for example, engaged in such actions as stealing documents of campus groups and burglarizing the offices of professors supporting them. 7

...During these years, FBI provocateurs repeatedly urged and initiated violent acts, including forceful disruption of meetings and demonstrations on and off university campuses, attacks on police, bombings, and so on. Meanwhile, government agencies financed, helped organize, and supplied arms to right-wing terrorist groups that carried out fire-bombings, burglaries, and shootings, all with the knowledge of the government agencies responsible 12 -- in most cases the FBI, although one right-wing terrorist in Chicago claims that his group was financed and directed in part by the CIA. 13 One FBI provocateur resigned when he was asked to arrange the bombing of a bridge in such a way that the person who placed the booby-trapped bomb would be killed. This was in Seattle, where it was revealed that FBI infiltrators had been engaged in a campaign of arson, terrorism, and bombings of university and civic buildings, and where the FBI arranged a robbery, entrapping a young black man who was paid $75 for the job and killed in a police ambush. 14 In another case, an undercover operative who had formed and headed a pro-Communist Chinese organization "at the direction of the bureau" reports that at the Republican convention he incited "people to turn over one of the buses and then told them that if they really wanted to blow the bus up, to stick a rag in the gas tank and light it" (they were unable to overturn the vehicle). The same ex-operative contends that Cointelpro-type operations, allegedly suspended in April 1971, were in fact continuing as late as mid-1974, when he left the Bureau's employ. 15

...Many details are now available concerning the extensive campaign of terror and disruption waged by the government during these years, in part through right-wing paramilitary groups organized and financed by the national government but primarily through the much more effective means of infiltration and provocation. In particular, much of the violence on campus can be attributed to government provocateurs. To cite a few examples, the Alabama branch of the ACLU argued in court that in May 1970 an FBI agent "committed arson and other violence that police used as a reason for declaring that university students were unlawfully assembled" 16 -- 150 students were arrested. The court ruled that the agent's role was irrelevant unless the defense could establish that he was instructed to commit the violent acts, but this was impossible, according to defense counsel, since the FBI and police thwarted his efforts to locate the agent who had admitted the acts to him. William Frapolly, who surfaced as a government informer in the Chicago Eight conspiracy trial, an active member of student and off-campus peace groups in Chicago, "during an antiwar rally at his college,...grabbed the microphone from the college president and wrestled him off the stage" and "worked out a scheme for wrecking the toilets in the college dorms...as an act of antiwar protest." 17

7 On the latter, see Vin McLellan, "FBI Heists Names of 1970 Student Strikers," Boston Phoenix, March 5, 1974, based on the report of former security officers at Brandeis University.

12 For a review of some of these actions, see Dave Dellinger, More Power than We Know (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975); Gary T. Marx, "Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant," American Journal of Sociology, vol. 80, no. 2 (September 1974, pp. 402-42).}

13 Mike Royko, Chicago Daily News; Boston Globe, February 1, 1975. Royko's source refused to take his information to the investigating agencies, on the grounds that "these local prosecutors...were involved in the same kind of thing" and will "wind up looking at themselves in a mirror."

14 For information on these and other FBI actions in Seattle, see Dellinger, op. cit., and Frank J. Donner, "Hoover's Legacy,"Nation, June 1, 1974.

15 John M. Crewdson, "Ex-Operative Says He Worked for F.B.I. To Disrupt Political Activities up to '74," New York Times, February 24, 1975.
16 Civil Liberties, no. 273, December 1970; publication of the ACLU.

17 Dellinger, op. cit

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