Conclusion: Because the FBI treated racial violence as a problem of internal security, it did not target Klan groups due to any concern for black civil rights, and nonviolent segregationists were never targeted.208 COINTELPRO did not target non-violent Klan organizations. Charlotte North Carolina-based agents reasoned that “small, inactive and peaceful” groups should not be targeted because disruptive activity “would likely have the effect of stirring them up.”209 The Little Rock special agent in charge explained that
interviewing agents have been received in a friendly manner by Klansmen and have generally stated that they were glad to have been interviewed by the Agents. They have expressed a cooperative attitude and have generally stated they would cooperate with the Bureau in keeping down violence.
He concluded that counterintelligence against Association of Arkansas Klan members "would serve no useful purpose." Headquarters concurred that there was "some justification," for this policy given a "relatively quiet racial picture in Little Rock."210 Agents maintained informants within the group but launched only one COINTELPRO operation against it, to no effect.211 Concerned lest the non-violent Association of South Carolina Klans be replaced by the more militant United Klans of America, FBI agents interviewed ASCK Klan members without antagonizing them. Even though ASCK membership increased, they never targeted the group with covert action.212 The Richmond office advised against targeting one UKA officer because “he has held down violence" and it was therefore "not in the best interest to remove him.213 FBI executives reasoned that:
In their public utterances, Klan promoters are careful to emphasize that their organizations are against violence in any form. In the same breath, however, they flatly state that there will be no integration of the races in the South. But they have no program to bridge the gap—a fatal defect which distinguishes Klan groups from legitimate organizations seeking the answers to social problems in the South today.214
Indeed, the Justice Department continued to refuse to provide protection to civil rights activists, even after local blacks began to organize self-defense groups and retaliated against nightriders.215 Moreover, as late as 1965, aside from prosecutions of three notorious crimes, relatively few prosecutions had been brought, despite a rise in civil rights crimes over the decade.216
This failure had profound implications: civil rights activists became disillusioned with nonviolence, and some embraced revolutionary Nationalism.217 In response, the FBI worked vigorously to thwart the black freedom struggle, the antiwar movement, and the New Left.218 COINTELPRO did not target anticommunist vigilantes which, supported by local police and Military Intelligence agents, used vigilante violence against leftists in Chicago during the late 1960s.219 Red Star Cadre?
Between March 1967 and January 1971, Houston Klansmen launched a similar wave of vigilante violence-including infiltration, break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and shootings and bombings- against New Left and antiwar activists. Despite the failure of local police to do anything, and pressure from local leftists and civil libertarians a Justice Department spokesman found no jurisdiction, so the FBI made no investigations.220
Acting upon an assumption that Socialist Workers Party activists had bombed their own office in February 1971,221 FBI agents worked with Houston Police Intelligence agents to conduct aggressive interviews of all SWP members; under COINTELPRO-New Left, the FBI actively disrupted leftist activities.222 Although an informant eventually enabled the FBI to intercept terrorists whilst en-route to bomb a radio station in California, resulting in convictions,223 vigilante activity continued to occur.224
Historian Sanford Ungar argued that COINTELPRO, along with "strong arm tactics" had a "deterrent effect" on Klan violence in Mississippi.225 This author’s research has confirmed that this assessment applies not only in Mississippi, but in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.226
In his final report for 1966, the Charlotte SAC had described the "primary aims" of COINTELPRO as "cutting down the membership" and "curtailing violent activities and views of the organization."227 These two goals were deemed compatible in the sense that the "substantial dropout rate" by new members was a result of the fact that "in some cases, there is less 'action' than the new members had expected." The Charlotte SAC also observed, however, “in most units there continues to be a "hard core" of devoted members who stay on in spite of almost anything that can happen.228
As this author has argued elsewhere, COINTELPRO thus also had unintended consequences for subsequent racist-right organizing in the United States: some militant racists expelled from Klan groups due to COINTELPRO-exacerbated disruption, either joined or founded racist groups that advocated terrorist violence against the Federal Government.229
In 1975, former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach defended the FBI’ s operations against the Mississippi Whie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan before a US Senate Committee investigating COINTELPRO abuses. He argued that
. . . the Bureau’s thorough and unceasing investigation, and the Department’s prosecution of Klan activities, was one of the major factors in bringing to an end the Klan's criminal conspiracy of violence that scourged the South, especially Mississippi, in the middle 1960s.230 Characterizing Ku Klux Klan violence as an internal security issue, he emphasized that Klansmen were not “ordinary citizens seeking only to exercise their civil rights,” but “law breakers” and “terrorists” who operated “often under the watchful and protective eyes of their brethren in local law enforcement agencies.”231
Allowing that “the Bureau's investigation of the criminal activities of the Klan was tough, intensive, harassing and thorough,” Katzenbach acknowledged that these investigations transcended normal criminal investigation procedures, because they aimed not only to “punish” but also to “prevent violence” in a “desperate situation.”232
You cannot do a criminal investigation of any organization properly without having some disruptive influence. . . . Where you have reason to know that the [Klan] organization and its members are engaged in acts of violence, then by George, you want to disrupt those acts of violence. . .233 He defended FBI “techniques [that] did in fact disrupt Klan activities, sowed deep distrust among the Klan members, and made Klan members aware of the extensive informant system of the FBI and the fact that they were under constant observation,” in order to “deter violence.”234
Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark disagreed strongly, and called for restricting the FBI to investigating evidence of criminal activity. Significantly, also advocated abandoning the body of American conspiracy law in favor of “addressing acts individually.”235Katzenbach held firm, however, arguing that the only way to figure out which Klansmen were responsible for individual crimes was to place informants in Klan groups which advocated violence. He provided documentation that virtually all members of the Mississippi White Knights and the Louisiana-based Original Knights “were dedicated to an unlawful purpose, to be carried out by unlawful means.”236 William Keller has observed that according to this logic, since Klansmen violated the civil rights of others they forfeited some measure of their own civil rights.237 Anti-Defamation League activist Abraham H. Foxman made a similar argument for preventative counter-terrorist operations against racist groups.238
Cut From American Studies: check against above:
The goal of this operation, according to former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach’s subsequent testimony to a Senate Committee, was to suppress “the Klan's criminal conspiracy of violence that scourged the South."239 He later acknowledged that since the FBI’s domestic security operations aimed to thwart conspiratorial violence, they transcended normal criminal investigation procedures.
You cannot do a criminal investigation of any organization properly without having some disruptive influence. . . . Where you have reason to know that the [Klan] organization and its members are engaged in acts of violence, then by George, you want to disrupt those acts of violence. . .240 He was less willing to admit that such investigations infringed Constitutional liberties:
. . . the Bureau's investigation of the criminal activities of the Klan was tough, intensive, harassing and thorough. I expected nothing less, the President asked for no less and the nation deserved no less. . . . Klansmen in Mississippi - the Klan leadership - were not ordinary citizens. They were lawbreakers of the most viscous sort - terrorists who intimidated, bombed, burned and killed, often under the watchful and protective eyes of their brethren in the local law enforcement agencies.241 He concluded, "To equate [FBI domestic security operations] with surveillance or harassment of persons exercising constitutionally guaranteed rights is in my view unmitigated nonsense."242 One insightful analyst had observed that according to this logic, since Klansmen violated the civil rights of others they forfeited some measure of their own civil rights.243 USE THIS STUFF IN CONCLUSION ABOUT VIO AND ANTI TERROR, ALONG WITH OTHER CUT STUFF ON ANTUFED TERROR IN 80s.
Policy analyst William Keller has emphasized that since COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE was the first FBI domestic covert action program that targeted a security threat having no relationship to a foreign government, it marked a watershed in the development of the American Security State.244 Subsequent COINTELPRO operations conducted against other indigenous social movements in the United States, according to a 1975 U.S. Senate investigation, involved illegal, extralegal, unconstitutional methods, and constituted fundamental violations of human dignity.245