FBI memo announcing COINTELPRO counterintelligence program against civil rights groups (August 25, 1967)

In this memo, J. Edgar Hoover announces a counterintelligence program against “Black nationalist, hate-type organizations.” The memo identifies several mainstream, nonviolent civil rights groups—like Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference—as threats to national security. The FBI encourages field officers to disrupt these groups’ activities and to discredit movement leaders.

This document was one of many uncovered by the Church Committee, a senate select committee tasked with investigating abuses perpetrated by federal intelligence programs. Led by Idaho Senator Frank Church, the committee exposed COINTELPRO, a coordinated effort by the FBI to infiltrate and neutralize so-called subversive groups, including civil rights organizations, New Left student groups, anti-war activists and Black power groups. The committee’s final report asserted that “the unexpressed major premise of much of COINTELPRO is that the Bureau [FBI] has a role in maintaining the existing social order, and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who threaten that order.”
("Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans: Book III," Final Report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations (no. 94-755), 1976, pg. 7.)
J. Edgar Hoover
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