SPYING ON AMERICA: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program by James Kirkpatrick Davis

SPYING ON AMERICA: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program

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Davis--coauthor of Kelley (1987), the autobiography of former FBI director Clarence M. Kelley--delves into the FBI's secret counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO), which from 1956 to 1971 aimed to stifle dissent among domestic radical groups. J. Edgar Hoover, Davis explains, obtained a vast charter for the FBI to monitor domestic intelligence when FDR signed a special directive just prior to WW II, and managed to get the National Security Council to expand the FBI's portfolio in this arena in 1956. The author documents the Bureau's war against extremist groups of both the left and the right, such as the Communist Party U.S.A., the Socialist Workers Party, the KKK, and the Black Panthers, and shows how Hoover also employed extensive surveillance against New Left organizations like SDS. He pays particular attention to the FBI's virtually obsessive campaign to destroy the reputation of Martin Luther King. The lid was blown on these activities when, in 1971, an illegal break-in occurred at the FBI's Media, Pennsylvania, office. The perpetrators, believed to be anti-Vietnam War activists, proceeded to release to the press stolen classified documents that revealed the FBI's secret operation. To research his text, Davis interviewed FBI agents, former agents, and people who were subject to illegal surveillance or harassment. He recognizes the need for an organization like the FBI, but argues that the Bureau got out of control with COINTELPRO and severely damaged American civil liberties in the process. And Davis notes that, although congressional committees investigated the FBI in the mid-1970's, the Bureau was still committing abuses in the 1980's, particularly against groups opposed to US policy in Central America. A fair-minded and balanced report, backed by extensive research.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1992
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Praeger/Greenwood