Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program

Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program

Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program

Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program


"COINTELPRO"--an acronym for "Counterintelligence Program"--is the code name the FBI gave to the secret operations aimed at five major social and political protest groups: the Communist party, the Socialist Workers party, the Ku Klux Klan, black nationalist hate groups, and the New Left movement. Spying on America, the first book to chronicle all five of the operations, tells the story of how the FBI, from 1956 until COINTELPRO's exposure in 1971, expanded its domestic surveillance programs and increasingly employed questionable, even unlawful, methods in an effort to disrupt what amounted to virtually our entire social and political protest process. Violations of citizens' constitutional rights were rampant, and the secret operations actually resulted in a number of deaths. At the time, neither the public nor the news media knew anything about COINTELPRO. In vivid detail, Spying on America demonstrates that the system of checks and balances designed to prevent such occurrences was simply not functioning--until an illegal act uncovered the secret activities. The book opens with the daring raid on a Media, Pennsylvania, FBI office by a group that adeptly used its booty--about 1,000 classified documents--to make COINTELPRO operations public. The burglars, who called themselves the Citizen's Commission to Investigate the FBI and with whom the FBI never caught up, used sophisticated techniques releasing copies of incriminating documents to the media at carefully timed intervals. Spying on America draws on newspaper and magazine articles, interviews with many of the people involved, and FBI memos to trace the historical beginnings and operating methods of COINTELPRO against each of the fivetargeted groups. In vivid detail, the author re-creates the reactions of the bureau--including the subsequent policy changes--as well as the response of the news media and the resulting shift in public attitudes toward the F


They are experts at saying you have to talk to "A" about that and "A" says you have to talk to "B" about it and it becomes obvious soon that nobody is going to talk to you.

Robert D. Cross President, Swarthmore College

On the night of March 8, 1971, a small group of burglars--almost certainly antiwar activists--carefully made their way to the corner of Front Street and South Avenue in the Philadelphia suburb of Media, Pennsylvania. They probably paused to glance at the Delaware County Courthouse and then focused their attention on an innocuous-looking privately owned office/apartment complex across the street.

This complex housed the local resident office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Senior Resident Agent Thomas F. Lewis. Neither the building nor the FBI office had an alarm system. The group knew this. They had planned their mission with the greatest of care. Hastening to the front door, they broke into the building with very little effort and headed up the stairs in what must have been almost total silence. The door to the FBI office presented no problems and they moved inside. Knowing exactly what to look for, the burglars avoided . . .

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