In addition to President Obama's second inauguration (on which the People's Blog for the Constitution will soon post a comment), yesterday was also a national holiday celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2008, American Radio Works produced King's Last March, an insightful documentary by Kate Ellis and Stephen Smith that NPR re-broadcast yesterday.
The program reminds listeners about the life of Dr. King, including not only his inspiring civil rights work, but also the disturbing examples of state surveillance and "neutralization" to which he was subjected for years preceding his untimely death.
With the FBI's ressurrection of its war on the Constitution, BORDC's 2011 video, COINTELPRO 2.0, offers a timely reminder of this unfortunate history:
According to American Radio Works, the "FBI's War on King" included "an extensive program of surveillance and harassment...[u]nder the guidance of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover - and with the permission of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy...."
J. Edgar Hoover created the modern FBI and ran it for 48 years, until his death in 1972. He collected dirt on public officials and private citizens, building a vast set of files on the famous and the obscure. Hoover was a relentless foe of people he considered subversives....Hoover kept tabs on his political enemies and those who dared criticize the Bureau.
Many historians have described Hoover as a racist. He viewed the civil rights movement - and its leaders -- as a subversive threat to the American way of life....Hoover was willing to use the FBI's enormous power to try to destroy people, like King, whom he considered the nation's enemies. In 1976, a congressional investigation described the FBI's campaign against King as "one of the most abusive of all FBI programs."
In the 1970s, in response to government investigations and Freedom of Information Act requests by scholars and journalists, the FBI released more than 70,000 pages of King's secret FBI files. It was just a fraction of the total paperwork the FBI kept on King. Most of the recordings and reports on King's private affairs were sealed by a federal judge until 2027. What was released was often incomplete. Bureau censors blacked out words, sentences and whole pages of material deemed too personal or too secret.
Still, historians and journalists have used the publically-released files to draw an extraordinarily detailed picture of King. The selected FBI documents posted here were produced in the last year of King's life.