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JULY 25, 2002
9:33 AM
CONTACT:  Greensboro Justice Fund
Marty Nathan MD, 413-584-1079 in Northampton, MA or Rev. Nelson Johnson, 336-230-0001 in Greensboro, NC
Greensboro Justice Fund Warns Judiciary Committee Re Unleashing of FBI, Operation TIPS, Secrecy
NORTHAMPTON, MA - July 25 - Writing on behalf of victims of past police lawlessness, the Greensboro Justice Fund of Northampton, MA, contacted Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to oppose Attorney General Ashcroft’s lifting of Senate-imposed restrictions on the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those restrictions have, since 1976 until this year, banned the Bureau’s involvement in political spying, disruption, and violence.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled on Thursday to begin hearings on Justice Department policies in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Since last fall, Attorney General Ashcroft has voided Justice Department Guidelines previously prohibiting involvement in the widely-condemned political surveillance activities of its CounterIntelligence Program or COINTELPRO.

From Senate hearings conducted by Senator Frank Church in 1976 and from several successful lawsuits by civil rights activists, families of slain Black Panther Party members, and the Socialist Workers Party, was drawn a picture of an FBI run amok, secretly fomenting violence, dissent and fear among the political enemies of former FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover. Because of the widespread charges of violation of Constitutional rights associated with the Program, COINTELPRO excesses have been banned by the Justice Department Guidelines for almost twenty-five years.

However those guidelines did not apply to local police or other federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, both implicated in the November 3, 1979 murders by Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazi Party members of trade union and community activists in Greensboro, North Carolina. The 1985 Greensboro Civil Rights Suit on behalf of the injured and families of those killed resulted in liability assigned to two Greensboro policemen, an informant who recruited, organized and led the killers, and five Klan and Nazi shooters. The City of Greensboro paid the judgment, providing seed money for foundation work by the Greensboro Justice Fund to aid other organizers in the South working for racial and economic justice.

Based on the experience of the victims with unlawful political surveillance and informant activity leading to the Massacre, the Greensboro Justice Fund and former plaintiffs of the Greensboro Civil Rights Suit asked the Judiciary Committee to rein in the Ashcroft Justice Department from again allowing the FBI to spy upon and disrupt legitimate organizing. “The Greensboro Massacre is a possible template for FBI activity in the future as the Church Guidelines are lifted. And the plan to recruit literally millions of informants, paid and unpaid, through Operation TIPS, threatens not only Big Brother surveillance of ‘unusual’ lawful activity, but the potential for unleashing those informants who may, as did (the Klan informant in Greensboro), perform illegal activities – break-ins, provocation, assault and murder – against the FBI’s and the informants’ targets.”

Finally, the Greensboro Justice Fund decried the Justice Department’s limiting of access to information about federal government activities by its new policy of denying, a priori, requests under the Freedom of Information Act. “The access by citizens to information about their government, including information about illegal and unconstitutional activities by law enforcement against those it is designated to protect, is a strong deterrent to the kind of abuses inflicted by the pre-1976 FBI and the Greensboro Police and BATF in the Greensboro Massacre.”


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