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COINTELPRO: The FBI's Secret War on Political Freedom

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"the focal point of this paper is a relatively small segment of the Caribbean area"

221 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1975

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Nelson Blackstock

3 books1 follower

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.7k followers
Want to read
November 5, 2016
Now that America's secret police have come out in favor of Donald Trump, I can't help thinking it's time to stop and consider what a Trump presidency would look like. Trump takes pride in getting even with anyone he believes has slighted him. He's said openly that he's going to change the law so he can stop the press writing things he doesn't like. He tells us he's going to make the women who revealed that he's sexually assaulted them regret they'd ever said it.

Of course, it's possible that that FBI will reconsider and not create a Stalinist police state after all. Even though Trump has said more than once that he admires Vladimir Putin, we don't know for a fact that any journalist who dares criticize Comrade Donald will be picked up, tortured to death and dumped a few days later by the side of the road. But on the other hand, it's certainly possible that that will happen. With unsubstantiated innuendo being the new black, how can I not write this post? Dozens of people have said they'll unfriend me unless I take action now.

No, I'm sure you understand. I'm in an impossible position, damned if I do and damned if I don't. Really, I had no choice.
Profile Image for Randall Wallace.
531 reviews389 followers
July 20, 2013
americans need to read about cointelpro to understand the danger what the government can do to it's people and why the people must remain vigilant. there are a few books of this subject - this is the first one i've finished. next i'll read the ward churchill one. anyway this great. i guess i didn't give it a five because it's an old book and it looks that way.

noam writes a great intro

this book talks FBI involvement in the gestapo-like political assassination of fred hampton.
this confirms noam's claim that evidence shows that the war in vietnam was in fact FIRST a US war of aggression carried out against the rural society of SOUTH vietnam and north vietnam only entered later. few americans have learned this critical fact - the war gone wrong was outright aggression from the start.

more great facts: palmer of the palmer raids was actually a progressive
the red scare was funded by business groups
the greatest threat to power is protest by groups that escape control of the political leadership.
throughout the past century and FBI, etc, have worked to keep those social change groups attacking each other to keep them from getting together from gaining strength
cointelpro shows that watergate's crimes were not original
fred hampton was killed not because he was violent - but because he was NON-violent and was also a community organizer
this book is about the problems when the state starts attacking the people it is supposed to protect.
if any black person feels a sense of hopelessness or depression - this book will help explain why that person feels a large amount of that weight on his shoulders. the organizations fighting for him/her were destroyed by the state.

this book has a bunch of great stuff and i don't want to give it all away so let me leave you with one more cool thing from this book: see the late vietnam war also this way - you simply can't draft 30,000 young kids a month without bringing in some serious draft resisters hell bent on ending the war. and those kids spread out through the armed forces and see they brought it down (look at the great film "sir, no sir" which discusses HUNDREDS of anti armed forces newsletter being printed WITHIN the armed forces.) that's why it finally ended - mutiny in the armed forces and and this book shares one of the pieces of the puzzle so buy it and read it, and never mind the boringish cover - what you learn will be worth it.
Profile Image for Cwn_annwn_13.
472 reviews66 followers
February 18, 2010
This documents various dirty (and illegal) tricks that the FBI pulled with political activists who were doing nothing that was against the law in the 60's and 70's. This was the first thing that came out that caused the American public to lose respect for the FBI. The faults with this book are there is a huge left wing bias, not that I condone anything the FBI was doing but the people that wrote this book act like its all a big "right wing" FBI against the left. They talk about Fred Hampton but what about Kathy Ainsworth? I'd also say this book is outdated. Much more has come out since this was published and even though they stopped the official cointelpro program reality is they never stopped using the exact same tactics against activists from all over the spectrum. You still get plenty of good info in this though.
Profile Image for Casey Wagner.
68 reviews
July 6, 2020
This short book was published in 1975 soon after the first wave of FBI documents was forcefully released to the public via the 1971 Media, Pennsylvania FBI office break in, the subsequent barrage of Freedom of Information Act requests, and the lawsuit by the Socialist Workers Party. It covers the known information about the FBI's secret Counter-Intelligence Program's (COINTELPRO), in which the J. Edgar Hoover directed bureau targeted groups and individuals that the FBI deemed subversive, including feminist organizations, the Communist Party USA, anti–Vietnam War organizers, activists of the civil rights movement, environmentalist and animal rights organizations, the American Indian Movement (AIM), independence movements (such as Puerto Rican independence groups like the Young Lords), and a variety of organizations that were part of the broader New Left.

This book is an excellent introduction to the program, although with so much newer information being available on sites like Wikipedia, I feel the usefulness of this book has diminished with time. My use for this work primarily sits in its direct reprinting of various FBI files related to the operation. These files vary from the infamous MLK suicide letter, to programs targeting local kindergarten teachers who had socialist tendencies while in college. The breadth of illegal surveillance on US citizens for the most minor political stances is sickening, and these pages contain consistent attempts by the FBI to actively ruin political opponents lives by harassing them and their families, visiting workplaces and pressuring bosses to fire them, sending fake correspondence to distances themselves from friends. You really have to read it to believe it.

I recommend this book to those who have a cursory knowledge of the program, and want to read about it in the FBI's own words.
Profile Image for B Sarv.
246 reviews14 followers
December 23, 2016
Now, with much more sophisticated methods, in this current climate, they will be working to consolidate their strangle hold on freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I would be interested in reading about their misdeeds in relation to the Black liberation struggle. Who'd have thought the secret police existed to constrict freedom? Learning.
Profile Image for Sherrie Miranda.
Author 2 books140 followers
September 21, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Sadly, this is true
Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2020
As someone who knows many of the people these incidents happened to, I can tell you this book tells the absolute truth about how the FBI follows activists fighting for peace.
This book brought back memories of actual events that I could write about in my 2nd novel.
Thank you for doing the hard work of getting these stories down.
Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
Watch for the prequel coming out soon! "Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans" follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
Profile Image for Ross Nelson.
240 reviews2 followers
August 28, 2020
In its time (1975), this was probably a breakthrough book. However, there is so much more that came out after the Church Committee hearings that same year that it feels pretty dated now. It also focuses fairly tightly on incidents that involved the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) which the author is a member of. That said, that still means he got FOIA information on the Black Panthers, the Free Speech Movement, the Civil Rights leaders and more.

More recent books have done analysis and put the bigger picture together. This early work mainly wants to provide proof of the FBI's illegal activities, and so about 1/3 of the book are reproductions of actual FBI memos either describing or initiating those activities. The text then describes what happened and often feels redundant.

A better book for people wanting to find out about this might be Tim Weiner's "Enemies: A History of the FBI." It covers more than COINTELPRO, but it gives a much bigger picture and is more up to date.
15 reviews
February 8, 2023
This book gives a good glimpse into the story of the reach of what COINTERPRO was and how wide it reached into facets of the American society during its existence. Using documents obtained from the government, the author gives examples of the FBI tried to achieve under the umbrella of the program. While the book shows examples of the activities taken against the socialists in detail, it doesn't seem to go into details about others who were being monitored under the COINTERPRO. Overall, this is a solid read to get an understanding of what happened under the program. There's definitely more to the story.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mary.
245 reviews
July 11, 2020
The Noam Chomsky introduction is a self-contained essay and worth reading on its own. The rest of the book doesn't really provide any more information than you can get from the Cointelpro Wikipedia article, but the scans of FBI documents are neat.
Profile Image for Joe Richardson.
98 reviews4 followers
December 12, 2018
Absolutely phenomenal. Far more shocking and engaging than I initially expected, and filled with actual transcripts of documents. This is worth the time.
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,381 followers
February 14, 2008
In light of how fascinating its topic is, I found this book surprisingly difficult to slog through.

Totally not bad. But not all that much fun, really, either.

I do recommend it, if you're interested in these things, since they're worth knowing about, and this seems to be the main source. However, don't expect an especially good time, that's all I'm saying.

PS Reading about government repression should be FUN!
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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