Learn The Lessons Of Cointelpro, Don’t Repeat The Mistakes


The very point of the FBI’s COINTELPRO strategy of the 1960s was paranoia, divisive hatred, and ultimately cannibalization of radical opposition movements in the United States. And it was grimly successful. Now that there are signs that US police agencies are reviving such tactics, it is imperative that activists learn from the mistakes of their counterparts two generations ago, and find rational, principled, humane and above all tactically astute ways to respond…COINTELPRO functioned first through surveillance, with the FBI supplying intelligence to local police forces. But infiltration wasn’t merely aimed at information-gathering. It was aimed at creating paranoia about who was an infiltrator. This was consciously exacerbated through the use of false rumors, poison-pen letters and other such "black propaganda." There was even a term for it back then: "snitch-jacketing"—ruining someone’s reputation by portraying him or her as a government snitch. The aim was to enflame factionalism—preferably to the point of violence. And, again: It worked.

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