Zinn On the FBI

Federal Bureau of Intimidation
by Howard Zinn

I thought it would be good to talk about the FBI because they talk about us. They don’t like to be talked about. They don’t even like the fact that you’re listening to them being talked about. They are very sensitive people. If you look into the history of the FBI and Martin Luther King-which now has become notorious in that totally notorious history of the FBI- the FBI attempted to neutralize, perhaps kill him, perhaps get him to commit suicide, certainly to destroy him as a leader of black people in the United States.

And if you follow the progression of that treatment of King, it starts, not even with the Montgomery Bus Boycott; it starts when King begins to criticize the FBI. You see, then suddenly Hoover’s ears, all four of them, perk up. And he says, okay, we have to start working on King.

I was interested in this especially because I was reading the Church Committee report. In 1975, the Senate Select Committee investigated the CIA and the FBI and issued voluminous reports and pointed out at what point the FBI became interested in King. In 1961-62 after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, after the sit-ins, after the Freedom Rides of ‘61, there was an outbreak of mass demonstrations in a very little, very Southern, almost slave town of southern Georgia called Albany. There had been nothing like this in that town. A quiet, apparently passive town, everybody happy, of course. And then suddenly the black people rose up and a good part of the black population of Albany ended up in jail. There were not enough jails for all who demonstrated.

A report was made for the Southern Regional Council of Atlanta on the events in Albany. The report, which was very critical of the FBI, came out in the New York Times. And King was asked what he thought of the role of the FBI. He said he agreed with the report that the FBI was not doing its job, that the FBI was racist, etcetera, etcetera.

At that point, the FBI also inquired who the author of that report was, and asked that an investigation begin on the author. Since I had written it, I was interested in the FBI’s interest in the author. In fact, I sent away for whatever information the FBI had on me, through the Freedom of Information Act. I became curious, I guess. I wanted to test myself because if I found that the FBI did not have any dossier on me, it would have been tremendously embarrassing and I wouldn’t have been able to face my friends. But, fortunately, there were several hundred pages of absolutely inconsequential material. Very consequential for the FBI, I suppose, but inconsequential for any intelligent person.

Read the rest of it here.

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