Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War against the Central America Movement

Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War against the Central America Movement

Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War against the Central America Movement

Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War against the Central America Movement

Excerpt

My involvement in this book began near the end of 1984. As a Boston Globe reporter, I covered two break-ins at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which had recently joined the Sanctuary movement and which housed the offices of several Central America-oriented political groups. While the stories ran only a few paragraphs, I found the break-ins at the church very troubling.

In both cases, the intruders who ransacked the offices and rifled and apparently copied organizational files, left—untouched—cash, office equipment and other items of value. Since it was clear this was not a case of normal street crime, I wondered why these political groups had been targeted. At the time, I had little interest in —and less knowledge of—events in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. But I had (and continue to have) an almost religious belief in the United States' bedrock committment to free speech and the sanctity of the democratic process. The break-ins, as inconsequential as they appeared, evoked an ominous premonition of a "brownshirt" type of political thuggery.

Over the next few years, I was appalled to learn that the break-ins in Cambridge were merely the early symptoms of a nationwide epidemic of such events. Over the next six years, Central America activists experienced nearly 200 incidents of harassment and intimidation, many involving such break-ins and thefts or rifling of files. Many of those reports came from the Movement Support Network of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which had set up a hotline for political groups to report various types of political harassment. A number of other reports of such harassments came to me from people who were aware of my reporting for the Globe. In the case of virtually all such reports, I

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