The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program) in the 1960s and 70s to infiltrate civil rights and labor movements. The goal was to disrupt, sow discord, create paranoia, and convince movement members to conduct criminal acts that would get them arrested. This allowed authorities to demonize the members and the movements to shut them down.

Many groups were targeted by the FBI. The Black Panther Party, the United Farm Workers, the Young Lords Party, and the Civil Rights Movement were impacted by these infiltrations. Despite what we know, there’s more we don’t know. Recently, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) asked the heads of the FBI and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) if they were willing to work with him to declassify the rest of the information regarding these operations. They agreed.

A COINTELPRO document outlining the FBI’s plans to ‘neutralize’ Actor Jean Seberg for her support for the Black Panther Party in 1970 | Public Domain

Reports indicate that millions of pages have yet to be declassified. The extent of the operation is still unknown. But the investigation into the programs in 1975 opened U.S. citizens’ eyes to just how far federal agencies will go to undermine our constitutional rights. However, that investigation would never have unfolded if not for the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI burglarized an FBI office in Pennsylvania, stole confidential files, and released them to the press.

The files released uncovered federal law enforcement tactics that included broad surveillance, organization infiltration, anonymous mailers, and police harassment. Additional information regarding COINTELPRO was later obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) followed by lawsuits filed against the FBI by the Black Panther Party and the Socialist Worker’s Party. It wouldn’t take long for statements by agents who came forward to confess their activities to further verify the allegations against the FBI and CIA.

The 1964 “suicide letter” that the FBI mailed anonymously to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to try to persuade him to commit suicide | Public Domain

Despite these programs being exposed decades ago, there is nothing to suggest federal agencies ever stopped using such tactics. It’s quite the contrary. In 2017, we were informed through media reports that the FBI was labeling Black Lives Matter protesters as Black identity Extremists (BIEs) at a time when white supremacy and white nationalism were on the rise. The FBI denied a FOIA request by the Center for Media Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding how the label is being used.

An FBI document regarding the BIE label–dated nine days before the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia–was obtained in 2017 by Foreign Policy and marked for official use only reads in part:

“Possible indicators for BIEs posing a violent threat to law enforcement include advocating for violence against law enforcement, violent anti-white rhetoric, attempts to acquire illegal weapons or explosives, and affiliations with others in both BSE [Black Separatist Extremists] and sovereign citizen extremist movements.”

The FBI’s warning fell in line with the false accusations against organized human rights groups of the past in suggesting people are doing something they’re not. Meanwhile, they stoked fear and demonized the groups in making predictions about them that would never happen. These warnings fueled the fake ‘war on cops’ narrative that we still hear today thus, preemptively trying to stall if not outright kill the movements before they gained any traction.

This brings us to today.

MAGA shills with a history of problematic and bigoted behavior have suddenly begun caring about Palestine and are getting rich from Palestinian suffering

Millions of U.S. voices have taken to the Internet to speak up for Palestinians and demand a stop to the genocide being committed by Israel. Protests have erupted on college campuses across the country to demand that those institutions divest from Israeli businesses while calling attention to the atrocities being committed using U.S. taxpayer dollars. But does the movement need people who peddle racism and antisemitic conspiracy theories or defend hate groups like the Proud Boys? Does it need people who accuse Black Lives Matter of committing ‘terrorist acts’ when we all know that’s untrue?

It’s no secret that many have falsely accused others of antisemitism for showing their humanity toward the 42,510 Palestinians killed in Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza. (38,621 were civilians, including 10,091 women and 15,780 children). It’s a huge problem that I’ve covered many times. But what about when it’s true? Far-right extremists are split on the slaughter of Palestinians.

Some support Israel using Islamophobia while others support Palestine based on their hatred of Jews that existed long before October 7, 2023. Another issue I’ve covered extensively.

Meanwhile, far-right figures who often suggest violent action suddenly caring about Palestine–something they couldn’t care less about before October 7, 2023–reeks of federal authorities creating disruptions, fear, and distrust in the pro-Palestinian movement. In other words, it sounds an awful lot like COINTELPRO, the labeling of Black Lives Matter activists as Black Identity Extremists, and everything in between.

If this doesn’t reek of COINTELPRO, nothing does.

When all is said and done, the message is simple. Be mindful of who you associate with and who you follow on social media. Be cognizant of anyone trying to convince you or others to commit crimes, acts of violence, promote hate speech, or anything of the sort. It’s precisely those actions that will undermine a movement faster than anything else.

The solution is also simple. Avoid them as much as you can. Far too many of them are essentially taking content from Palestinians, passing it off as their own, and making money off the clicks and views they get from posting the content. I know, Palestinians need every voice right now. But we must all be careful.

Profiting off of nonwhite people’s labor is an issue Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities have brought attention to in the past. And yet, here we are.

Read the FBI’s Black Identity Extremist Document:

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Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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