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FeaturesWhat is COINTELPRO?

by Nuri Muhammad

BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 15, 2023

In 1956, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), J. Edgar Hoover, convinced US President Eisenhower of the ominous danger faced by Americans from homegrown dissidents, and justified the use of an undercover operation known as Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), “to suppress and destroy all radical subversives in the US”.

Historical records show that J. Edgar Hoover executed a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by FBI agents, aimed at “investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations”. According to these records, “eighty-five percent of the resources of this program were expended on infiltrating, disrupting, marginalizing, and/or subverting groups suspected of being subversive; such as communist, socialist, militant black groups, women’s groups, civil rights groups and the American Indian Movement”. Hoover ordered his agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” these groups. So paranoid was Hoover about these supposed internal enemies that he even saw Dr. Martin Luther King, a pacifist, as an enemy of the state, and therefore ordered wire taps and constant surveillance to keep an eye on Dr. King.

COINTELPRO had specific methodologies to reach its objective, one of which was the tried and tested tactic of turning ‘brother against brother’. They played on internal ego conflicts, whispering in the ear of contending brothers and exaggerating small things into big things; then supplied the weapons to murder when the arguments got out of control

We also learned from the records how they infiltrated the Nation of Islam (NOI) and were involved in the assassination of Malcolm X, the armed attack on the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, and the infiltration of the Black Panther Party (BPP) which resulted in the death of Bobby Hutton, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. (For further research, use Google).

While COINTELPRO officially ended in 1971, suspicions persist that the program’s tactics continued informally and may have also been used in the Caribbean. Unlike the US, where the use of the Freedom of Information Act has provided their citizens access to documents which revealed information about US covert activity, in the Caribbean, unfortunately, no such access exists, despite Freedom of Information provisions in our laws.

We know that between 1968 and 1975 there was a revolutionary fervor running throughout the Caribbean. These groups were nationalistic, black, socialist, and a mixture of the educated and the grass-roots working together for a common purpose. To name a few, there were the Joint National Action Committee (NJAC) in Trinidad, New Jewel Movement (NJM)in Granada, Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) in Guyana, and the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) in Belize, with others in Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbados. These groups were not only of security interest to their respective governments, but also drew the attention of British and American intelligence.

According to the record, they used sleepers who posed as dedicated followers but were secretly agents of the US/UK intelligence network. These sleepers were sophisticated and very subtle in their execution of their scheme. They are the “whisperer” described in the Qur’an, who withdraws after his whisper, thereby making you think it was your idea. These agents from this intelligence network are very subtle, sometimes appearing as good advisors.

We know again from antidotal observation rather than recorded facts, that agents must have been involved in exaggerating the differences between Maurice Bishop and Bernard Corde which ultimately resulted in a faction, led by Corde, assassinating his friend and comrade, Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, on October 19, 1983. This was the power of the tactic of COINTELPRO to stop or suppress revolutionary movements as they rose in the west. Understanding that this strategy continues to be used to destroy black movements, we can better understand how the rift between Bishop and Corde occurred, which led to Bishop’s assassination, and ultimately created the enabling environment for the invasion of the US forces, which brought the New Jewel Movement government to an abrupt end.

In the case of Belize, it will take some ambitious young Belizean American, using the Freedom of Information Act in the US, to access some of the documents of embassy officials and CIA agents to see how Belize was being viewed by COINTELPRO in the late sixties, early seventies.

It’s not clear how the operation was unfolded in Belize, but the results tell us that there must have been some scheme afoot to exacerbate ego conflicts and splinter unity of action. How else could you explain how intelligent men like Norman Fairweather, Bert Franklin, Evan X Hyde, Roy Cayetano, Bert Tucker, Dr. Joe Palacio, Nuri Muhammad and so many others could go through the seventies and eighties, nineties, and now 23 years into the new century, and not have formed some kind of front to advance the cause which they all for so long have espoused?

How else could you explain this monumental failure of these intellectual activists to not forge something larger than themselves? These so-called cultural/nationalistic/religious leaders did not deliver a collective response to the problem. The horrible condition of young black males (Creole/Garifuna) in 2010, is our collective burden.

Clearly, we can’t blame the implosion of all these groups in the Caribbean to the machinations of British/American intelligence activities, because the endemic ego conflicts played an equally important role in our eventual demise. But one cannot discount the role of agents within these organizations in turning brother against brother. It worked in the Congo, Kenya, and Algeria and in the US with the NOI and the BPP.

Some say that, clearly, Black Power as defined by the radicals of the 60s and 70s has been defeated in the eyes of the US Justice Department and has been relegated to the dust bins of undercover programs, some dating back to the 1920’s. They say Black Power is no longer a national security concern, and there is no need to focus on the specter of “Black Power” anymore; “Black Power” is no longer a foundation or platform for social action in America. In fact, in Belize, “Black Power” is just a T-shirt fashion statement.

The new focus today is on narco-trafficking, money laundering, gun-running and human trafficking, but the biggest of them is the specter of radical Islam; therefore, Belize is filled with intelligence operatives who are not necessarily in the employ of the US Justice Department, yet they remain an essential source of information to the NSC.

There are the conscious agents and there are the un-conscious agents; we know what a conscious agent is about, but it’s the un-conscious agents that slip between the radar because they themselves don’t realize that they are inadvertently, agents of the intelligence network.

I remember interviewing former CIA agent Phillip Agee, in 1990, on KPFK Radio in Los Angeles. He was at one time stationed in Guatemala City and had some knowledge of the agency’s activities in Belize. He said that the CIA used a number of ways to assess a “point of interest” before executing any action. One way of assessing the climate of a target group is their public statements. Studying newspaper articles, editorials, op-eds, and monitoring radio talk shows is the major way the CIA assesses the climate in places like Belize. He said the CIA (and its British counterpart) may have tons of information gathered through its massive surveillance apparatus, but will only engage that information when the US or UK national security interest is threatened. (Comments welcomed at [email protected]}.

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