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HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES:
THE UNFINISHED STORY
CURRENT POLITICAL PRISONERS - VICTIMS OF COINTELPRO
Thursday, September 14, 2000
Rayburn House Office Building
P R O C E E D I N G S
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: I would like to encourage those of you in the audience, if you didn't sign in, please sign in, because we don't want to lose you. This is not going to be a first time thing or a one time thing only. This is our initial contribution to a long-standing struggle that we will be a part of for as long as we are in Congress. We don't want to lose you. Did everybody sign in? Raise your hand if you didn't. If you didn't. Okay, great.
Okay, we are going to try our best to get started on time. Of course, that was supposed to have been a joke because we are already 30 minutes late, and I am the only one laughing, but that is quite all right, too.
I want to thank all of you for joining us for what we think is one of the most important events that will take place on the Hill this weekend. There are so many issues, and there are so many individuals who have been affected by what we are about to talk about, and I didn't realize the full extent of how important this issue is to individuals, to our community, until we got started.
Of course, you know that I am Cynthia McKinney from Georgia, and I am known to say some things that cause people to be uncomfortable. And once we begin to talk about issues, human rights in the United States, a whole lot of folks become uncomfortable.
I have the pleasure of serving as the ranking member, which is inside the Beltway lingo talk, or the highest ranking Democrat, since we are in the minority, on the Human Rights Subcommittee of House International Relations Committee. And trying to give relevance to my tenure in Congress, however long it might be, I chose to dedicate my service to human rights issues around the world. And then it became patently clear to me that there is a big, gaping hole in our human rights approach, because we dare not mention human rights at home.
And so while I look forward to the Democrats becoming the majority party in Congress, certainly in the House, I look forward to becoming then the chairwoman of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. And we intend to broaden the definition of human rights to include human rights at home, and this is our opening shot. This is the opening salvo of what America can expect when strong sisters and brothers are able to achieve leadership positions in the United States Congress.
So I welcome all of you here, and let us walk down, take this journey together, because we don't know what is going to be at the end of it. There are already rumors that they are going to try and remove me from that subcommittee because they don't want this to happen, but we will stay in touch, because if there is such a move, I know that my brothers and sisters are going, absolutely, got my back.
And with that, I would like to introduce panel one. We have Professor Nkechi Taifa, who is the director of Howard University's Law School Equal Justice Program. Prior to joining the staff at Howard University School of Law, Nkechi Taifa served as legislative counsel for the ACLU, policy counsel for the Women's Legal Defense Fund, staff attorney for the National Prison Project, network organizer for the Washington Office on Africa, and as a teacher at Watoto School.
For several years she was a private practitioner maintaining a general criminal and civil law practice, focusing on the representation of indigent adult and juvenile clients in the District of Columbia, as well as employment discrimination law. Professor Taifa has worked on issues involving COINTELPRO and political prisoners since 1975. She is the proud mother of one daughter, Mariama.
Of course we have with us Kathleen Neal Cleaver, who has spent most of her life participating in the human rights struggle. As a college sophomore, Cleaver dropped out of Barnard College in 1966 to work full time with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, where she served in the campus program. From 1967 to 1971, Ms. Cleaver served as the communications secretary of the Black Panther Party, the first female member of their Central Committee.
After sharing years of exile with her former husband, Eldridge Cleaver, she returned to the United States and earned her B.A. in history from Yale College, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Thank goodness she didn't follow in Clarence Thomas's footsteps.
Yale is going to have to live that down forever.
Ms. Cleaver has been a visiting professor at several universities, including the Cardozo School of Law in New York, Yale University, and Emory University in Atlanta. She is currently in the process of completing her memoir, "Memories of Love and War," forthcoming from Random House.
We have with us Michael Tarif Warren. Michael Tarif Warren is a criminal defense attorney currently practicing in New York City. He specializes in major criminal matters, human rights and police misconduct cases under Section 1983. Mr. Warren has been the lead counsel in approximately 60 murder cases, and served as the lead prosecutor for the Mumia Abu Jamal Tribunal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Warren has served as a legislative aide to Congressman Louis Stokes; associate director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Juvenile Defense Project; assistant general counsel for the NAACP Special Contributions Fund; and as staff attorney for the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.
Mr. Warren received his J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Laura Whitehorn--I think these are not in correct order--Laura Whitehorn was released August 1999 after 15 years. Settling into New York City, and already working hard to free all political prisoners and prisoners of war. Since the 1970s, when she helped lead a building occupation at Harvard, Laura has been active in anti-racist and anti-war organizing and the women's liberation movement.
Along with Linda Evans, Marilyn Buck, Susan Rosenberg and others, she was convicted in the Resistance Conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol, the Navy War College, and other government and corporate targets. She was in Federal women's prison at Lexington, Kentucky and Dublin, California, where she was active in AIDS support work and where, with the other political prisoners, she helped organize the Bay Area Art Show for Mumia. Laura is currently an assistant editor with POZ magazine in New York City.
And certainly, finally but definitely not least, we have got with us a birthday boy. Bruce Elison is not the birthday boy.
MR. ELISON: No.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: But is with the Leonard Peltier defense. He is defending Leonard Peltier, and I don't have his bio, but he can give it better than I ever will be able to. So I will give you the opportunity to speak now, before we go to the birthday boy.
MR. ELISON: I am a simple country lawyer from western South Dakota. I have practiced criminal defense work for the last 25 years. I started as an attorney with the Wounded Knee Defense Committee, which was representing members of the American Indian Movement, including Leonard Peltier, and I have continued to work on behalf of Leonard Peltier's freedom, and will share with you today my continued efforts to not only talk about his case but to expose what the FBI has done out in my part of the country.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Great. Thank you.
And now to our birthday boy. Birthday man. Geronimo ji Jaga, former leader in the Black Panther Party, suffered 27 years in jail as a victim of COINTELPRO tactics. He spent every painful day maintaining that he was framed for a crime he did not commit. Throughout his incarceration, there was always visible mass support for this political prisoner in and outside the courtroom.
In 1997 he was released from prison after an Orange County Court of Appeals threw out his conviction. The judge ruled that prosecutors had withheld vital evidence regarding a witness who could have cleared ji Jaga of the charges.
Ever since his release, ji Jaga has been attracting big crowds of activists, new and seasoned, to spread the message about the need to struggle against all forms of racist oppression and to fight for the release of all political prisoners. Geronimo has become one of the most vocal supporters of the former Black Panther and award-winning journalist, Mumia Abu Jamal.
And so, with that, we will have our panel, our first panel, begin their presentations.
MS. TAIFA: Thank you very much, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Let's all give her a big round of applause for having the courage and the insight to have this very important--
MS. TAIFA: All right.
"COINTEL's got blacks in hell, they open up our mail, tap our phones and kick our bones, and railroad us to jail.
"COINTEL's got blacks in hell, they open up our mail, tap our phones and kick our bones, and railroad us to jail.
"FBI went so low, they invented COINTELPRO, to stop the rising fire of a black messiah who could unify and electrify the people to revolutionize.
"CO is for counter, which means to use against. INTEL is for intelligence. PRO is for program, they thought it was the perfect solution, counterintelligence program to crush the revolution."
And so goes the beginning of a poem I wrote in 1977, while working on the defense committee of a group of political prisoners called the RNA Eleven.
Now, in the FBI's own words, the purpose of the COINTELPRO directed against the black liberation movement--I say the black liberation movement because they had a COINTELPRO for just about whatever movement you have out there. They had it for the new left, the black nationalist hate group, the list goes on and on.
But in the FBI's own words, and you can follow along in one of the handouts I have passed out, "The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist organizations and groupings and their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters."
Never meant to be read or disseminated to the public at large, these millions of pages of documents reveal a coordinated national program of war against the movement.
The FBI memorandum expanding the program described the long-range goals of COINTELPRO as--and I'm a teacher, so I have my handouts, you can follow along--number one, "to prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups."
And the FBI even went to Africa and retrieved an African proverb. They said, "In unity there is strength," a truism that is no less valid for all its triteness.
Hoover said, "An effective coalition of black nationalist groups might be the first step toward a real Mau Mau in America." Now, if you all remember, at that time the Mau Mau was very strong in terms of the liberation struggle in Kenya, and he said it will be the beginning of a true black revolution, so he wanted to prevent black groups from getting together.
Number two, "to prevent the rise of a messiah who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement," and he said that Malcolm X might have been such a messiah. He is the martyr of the movement today. "Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and Elijah Muhammad, all aspire to this position. Elijah Muhammad is less of a threat because of his age. King could be a very real contender for this position, should he abandon his supposed obedience to white liberal doctrines, nonviolence, and embrace black nationalism. Carmichael has the necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way."
Number three, "to prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups," and I'll just stop right there, because a little bit later on in my presentation we'll see how it was actually the FBI who was fomenting the violence they were supposedly trying to prevent.
Number four, "prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining respectability." And they were very analytical because the FBI said that you have to be very careful how you discredit. The discreditment must come in different ways, depending on the community that you are dealing with.
He says that you must discredit these groups and individuals to, first, the responsible negro community. Second, they must be discredited to the white community, both the responsible white community and to the "liberals" who have vestiges of sympathy for militant black nationalist groups simply because they are negroes. Third, these groups are to be discredited in the eyes of the negro radicals, the followers of the movement, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
And a final blow should be to prevent the long-range growth of militant black nationalist organizations, especially among the youth. And the FBI said that specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed. And as we look at the drug trade and the crack and the heroin, particularly at that time, the media images and all like that, I think that they have been very successful with respect to these specific tactics.
According to the congressional committees which investigated activities of the FBI in the '70s, its counterintelligence neutralization program, code name COINTELPRO, was an illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power by the FBI. Now, that is not Kathleen or Geronimo saying this; this was the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Frank Church, in the '70s, that said it was an illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power by the FBI.
It went on to say that COINTELPRO is the FBI acronym for a series of covert programs directed against domestic groups. Many of these techniques would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all the targets had been engaged in violent activity, but COINTELPRO, the Senate said, went far beyond that. The Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.
Now, when the Freedom of Information Act was amended in 1974 to remove a special exemption that had kept the FBI's records secret, the door was opened to a massive and unending stream of revelations concerning the details of Bureau misconduct under the COINTELPRO. Millions of pages of documents--if you ever looked at any, you were talking about millions.
Despite being heavily censored, and by that I mean whole pages just blocked off, blacked out, blacked out, revealed the harrowing nature of the FBI's neutralization campaign, and they used the word "neutralization". I never was in the military or anything like that. Maybe Geronimo knows all this. But "neutralization" is a military term. It is a war term.
They were talking about war--okay?--against people who were simply trying to exercise rights and stand up for justice. But such groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Council, the Revolutionary Action Movement, the Deacons for Defense, the Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society, Nation of Islam, the Weather Underground, Republic of New Africa, the Lawyers Guild, as well as countless, countless other civil liberty, civil rights, peace, labor, and social action groups.
The FBI secretly engaged its end campaign to destroy those whose political views and opinions then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did not personally approve of. With his country-wide staff of agents, the FBI organized a vast network of political spies who infiltrated thousands of political, religious and civil organizations, and trained and coordinated similar operations by other law enforcement agencies at every level of government. The information gathered by the FBI's informant network was augmented by activities such as illegal wiretaps, letter openings, burglaries of homes and offices, secret examination of bank records, physical surveillance, arranged murders, and again, the list goes on and on.
Although the Black Panther Party was not among the original black nationalist targets, by 1969 the Black Panther Party had become a primary focus of the program, and was ultimately the target of 233 of the total 295 authorized black nationalist COINTELPRO operations. Now, that figure came from the FBI, the 295 authorized. I don't know how many more unauthorized there were, but they came out with that number.
Although the claimed purpose of the Bureau's COINTELPRO action was to "prevent violence," many of the FBI's tactics were clearly intended to foster violence, and many others could reasonably have been expected to cause violence. For example, this effort to actually foment violence between organizations included mailing anonymous letters and characteratures to Black Panther Party members, ridiculing the local and national leadership, for the express purpose of creating violence between the Panthers and other organizations, Black Keystone Rangers, for one, in Chicago.
Such actions demonstrate that the chief investigative branch of the Federal Government, which was charged by law with investigating crimes and criminal conduct, itself engaged in lawless tactics and responded to deep-seated social problems by fomenting violence and unrest. The Senate Select Committee's staff investigation uncovered numerous other instances in which the FBI thought to turn one organization against another, in an effort to foment violence and mistrust.
It is deplorable that officials of the U.S. Government should engage in such activities, however dangerous a threat they may have considered the group. Equally disturbing, let me tell you this, is the pride which those officials took in claiming credit for bloodshed that occurred. If you look at some of these memos, you see they would tell the agents to "be creative" and "be imaginative" and "be innovative" for coming up with new and better ways to destroy the lives of people, of organizations.
Many organizations and individuals did not survive the FBI neutralization program. Some were outright destroyed. Some were seriously weakened and destabilized. Many were unjustly imprisoned, while still others were driven underground. Some were outright murdered. The only two FBI officials ever convicted for COINTELPRO abuses, Mark Felt and Edward Miller, were pardoned by Ronald Reagan before they even began to serve their sentences.
In conclusion, we need to reopen the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s. We need hearings today on these unsolved issues from over 30 years ago, of FBI and governmental abuses. Although that congressional committee rightly condemned the FBI's counterintelligence program as an illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power by the FBI, that committee failed to establish remedies for those who were victims of COINTELPRO actions.
I see this brain trust today, hosted by our Representative, Cynthia McKinney, as the first step in the very, very necessary process to update the Church Committee findings and pick up from where that committee left off. And I really would like to thank you, Congresswoman McKinney, for putting these unsolved issues back on the table. What I have provided was just a simple overview of the issue of COINTELPRO, to try to lay the framework for my illustrious and esteemed panel members that will continue on after me. Thank you.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Yes. Give her much love.
Kathleen? Make sure you speak into the mike.
MS. CLEAVER: I think it is appropriate that the day that we are gathering here on the Hill during the Congressional Black Caucus weekend is a notable anniversary. In fact, it is the 29th anniversary of the Attica uprising, one of the most damaging and expensive prison revolts in this country, and just a few days ago the survivors of that event, the Attica uprising, those who are still alive, after nearly 23 years of litigation, received some compensation.
That gives you an idea, any of you who knew the extent of the damage, the extent of the death within Attica, to know that 23 years later a few people were given $6,000, a few others were given $25,000, and the maximum was $125,000. I mean, that to me puts it in context. What is the level of human rights awareness and human rights consciousness that we are dealing with when you deal with the legal system?
And I bring that up because much of what we are talking about in terms of the United States human rights record, victims of COINTELPRO, political prisoners, much of that has roots in those social uprisings that wreaked this country during the 1960s in the wake of the Vietnam War. I mean, it is usually you are taught to think of the war is over here and the black movement is over here and the student movement is there and the women's movement is there, but all this was happening at the same time, under the aegis of the kind of psychotic militarization that this country went into during that war.
Most of us were students at that time, either in high school or college, or getting ready to go, and our political understanding and our consciousness of the level of intolerance for humanism and the level of rejection of human rights happened at that time. And that is when we formed our commitment to the human rights struggle.
Now, you will remember or you have read back in the 1960s, in particular 1967, that was the year in which there were uprisings. We called them uprisings, the government called them riots, you could call them rebellions, but there was 150 across the country in cities and towns, the most notable being Detroit and Newark.
The United States Government called for a study. They called together the National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders, or National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, to study this process, study this phenomenon. What were its causes? How could we prevent it?
And they issued a report that was popularly called the Kerner Report for the name of the leader of this commission, Governor Kerner of Ohio. Now, one of the things that is peculiar about this report, although it very explicitly stated the causes of these disturbances and uprisings was white racism--the causes were white racism, the causes were not extremists, conspiracies, communists, or any--white racism and its attendant ills of unemployment and distress, when it came to recommending on what they should do, one of the clearest recommendations was that they needed much more sophisticated police tactics to suppress the disorders.
And one of the recommendations, repeated both in the summary and in Chapter 12, was that they needed highly trained--a training program for intelligence officers, they needed to use undercover police, reliable informants. And so you can see the genesis of the mentality that leads to a COINTELPRO in this very liberal and supposedly enlightened report on how this country can handle civil disorder.
Now, I have to tell you I went back and looked at this report in the library a few days ago. When it came out, I wasn't reading the Kerner Report. The people I was associated--I was in the Black Panther Party. We were reading things like the Wretched of the Earth. We were reading Malcolm X. We were reading the Red Book. We were reading about "History will absolve me," as Fidel Castro said. We were reading what Ho Chi Minh wrote. We were reading texts that would help us understand and further what we saw as the revolutionary opportunity to transform this country.
In 1967, when the Kerner Report was being prepared and the studies were being done, I went out to California. I had just met Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers, and I went out there, and the day I arrived, it was July something, let's say July 6th, Eldridge Cleaver's car was in the shop, so he had a friend come to the airport to pick me up.
And this friend, and I mention this because this friend's name was Earl Anthony, he drove, picked us up, took us to his house. Earl Anthony was a COINTELPRO agent. Of course, I didn't know that at the time. But what I say is, from the beginning of my connection with the Black Panther Party in California, COINTELPRO was there.
It was the very same summer of 1967 that J. Edgar Hoover was articulating his counterintelligence program and articulating which groups were his targets. Stokely Carmichael, who was the head of the organization I was a part of, SNCC; Southern Christian Leadership Council, led by King, Elijah Muhammad; Revolutionary Action Movement, led by Max Stanford. All of the parts of the upheaval, the challenge, the excitement that we thought, this is our chance, we will transform this country, we will make a difference, they were the targets of not only COINTELPRO but innumerable investigations, Diversive Activities Board, McClelland hearings, this hearing, that hearing.
And in fact, in the documentary that many of you will see, there is a statement by Philip Agee, a former CIA agent, who said when he watched these people, and he watched Stokely Carmichael and saw them on television, he said it frightened him. He said, "Now, if I'm a CIA agent and it frightens me, what do you think it's doing to the rest of the country?" And so out of fear and hatred, a type of police apparatus was put in place that we are still struggling with to this day.
A few months later, I came back to California. I was in SNCC, but I came back to visit Eldridge Cleaver. By then, we were engaged, and I came back because he had called me and said, "You've got to come back out and help us. Huey Newton has been arrested. He's charged with murder. He's facing the gas chamber."
So my actual involvement, full-time involvement with the Black Panther Party began with working around a prisoner, working around a case. And what we saw in this charge of murder was an effort to destroy our movement, to destroy our leader.
And usually in that time we would hear reports, "Black man killed by police. Justifiable homicide." No one ever heard a report that said, "Policeman killed by black man." That was never heard, so when you hear it, then that's a murder charge.
And I remember going out in Oakland, telling people they had to come down, come down to the courthouse, see about Huey. And they say, "He's going to the gas chamber." It's like it's inconceivable at that time that any black may could survive a charge of killing a policeman.
So we moved and organized and mobilized, and wanted people to understand what was our movement, what was it about, what were our principles, what was our program, and why it was important for them to support our leader. Among those types of supports was an activity that many of you probably would--you know, it was just one of those many things, but in terms of its political significance, the Black Panther Party took a delegation to the United Nations in 1968 to talk about the case of Huey Newton.
And I think I have a copy of that at some point. Here it is. You can't see it, but this is a photograph of a delegation of Black Panthers outside the United Nations in 1968, including a minister, Reverend Earl Neal, and Mae Mallory, who had worked with Robert Williams. And the point was that we wanted the world community to understand that they were attempting to silence our movement, that there was a war going on, that we were the targets, and that we had to bring this to the attention of the world.
Now, I point that out because Earl Anthony also went with this group, and in this issue of COINTELPRO, to disrupt and prevent coalitions, at that point, up until that point the Black Panther Party and SNCC had worked very carefully together. The Black Panther Party collaborated with us. The Black Panther Party worked with other groups. Those relationships were all frayed.
In those years we saw an enormous amount of cases arising out of battles and uprisings in which members of the Black Panther Party became political prisoners. It is my pleasure to be here today with my brother Geronimo. The last time I was in the Congressional Black Caucus, we were talking about his case and how to free him, and now he is here. He is someone the FBI took it upon themselves to set up in 1969.
There are others, like Romaine Fitzgerald, who is still after 30 years serving time for killing a policeman which they know he didn't shoot. It was an accessory to murder case. He is very ill. We have Mumia Abu Jamal. We have Eddie Conway, 30 years on a police killing.
And what I want to bring to your attention is, why are these prisoners and why is the nature of their work covered up? This government says there are no political prisoners. All these are criminals. They are all people who were engaged in criminal behavior.
But when you look at what the people did, what Mumia, and Marilyn Buck, Mutulu Shakur, you will know that there was a revolutionary movement. There were people who were dedicating their lives to the transformation of this country, who put the benefit of their communities ahead of themselves, who believed that transformation was not only possible but they were willing to die for it. They were willing to die to end brutality, racism, economic discrimination, imperialism, war.
And when you hear their stories and know who they are, then you know that the sanitized version of what the civil rights movement was, and about the dream, and about integration, and about voting, is not the whole story. As you know, you don't get the whole story about anything, but the level of fabrication of evidence, assassination, perjury, the deceit, the destruction that was used to put people away, is another story that you have to know.
Much of the history of our community gets encapsulated in these trials, and so if you go back through black history, go back to Marcus Garvey or even as far as Nat Turner, Angela Davis, we see our history progressing through massive trials. And I remember, and to many of you this is history, when we would say, "Free Angela," "Free Bobby," "Free this one, and all political prisoners." We are still trying to free all political prisoners.
And it is in the context, it is in the context of a human rights struggle. This is what began in Alabama. The movement in Alabama was not
--we call it the Alabama campaign for human rights. The Atlanta statement on human rights.
The issue of human rights was what we were fighting about, but it was reconceptualized. "Well, I think you actually want integration. I think you just want the right to vote. You want something the government--you want to be a first class citizen." And do the international and the broad concept of human rights which motivated us was cut down.
The ability for us to say that our human rights are being violated at a time when this government uses "human rights" almost every other day, they are attacking the human rights record in China, or the human rights record in Indonesia, or the human rights record in some other country as if, as if there are no human rights violations in this country.
And when you look at the genocide convention or the treatment to end all forms of racist discrimination or the way they handle the death penalty, every day this country and these courts are in violation of international treaties that the United States has signed and international law on the issue of human rights, but it is not in our--we are not allowed to say that. We are told, "You are criminals. Your issues are criminal. It has to be handled by the criminal courts."
And so when you have a man like Mumia Abu Jamal, who had absolutely nothing that even begins to resemble a trial, and then he is convicted, and you challenge that and you say he was innocent, he was framed, the reason he was given the death sentence, because the court and the jury couldn't figure out, well, why would he shoot this cab driver he didn't even know? Oh, the judge solved that problem. Well, the reason he did it is because he used to be a Black Panther and he believed that was what you did.
So we have to get this story, have a clear understanding of where we are, who we are, know our own human rights struggle, and move to bring these prisoners and these freedom fighters out of the dungeons in which they have been put. And we will hear further specific cases from the rest of our panelists.
It is my pleasure to be here, and I want to thank Cynthia McKinney for stepping out and taking on this very, very important issue.
MS. McKINNEY: Michael?
MR. WARREN: Thank you. I would like to, first of all, thank Cynthia McKinney for having the formidable guts and the backbone that I think is sorely missing in a lot of people who purport to represent the interests of communities of color and communities which are oppressed. So, as Nkechi suggested at the onset, I think that we should applaud her for this gallant effort, because this is--
In the figurative sense, this is a very important stream that will ultimately create a surging river that will ultimately go into the ocean, and we will be a part, out of necessity, we will be a part of this process.
Nkechi talked about the FBI and the tricks played by the FBI, the misinformation program which is a very essential part of the process in terms of creating divisions between the ranks of those troops who were fighting for the interests of the oppressed people and communities in this county. And of course they used that in various ways, in different ways that were done strategically and that were done as a result of specialized training that they had received.
But I think that the employment of those tactics came about as a result of their recognition that they were utilizing the talents of what can be defined as front line troops, but the counterintelligence program is much wider in scope than that. The counterintelligence program involves institutions that interact and relate to each other for one purpose, and that is to continue to oppress communities of color and poor communities in this city and this State, in the District, and in this country, and to make sure that a vanguard never comes about, and never operates, if it does come about, in an effective action or manner to liberate those people who are oppressed by this governmental and corporate apparatus.
And that is what the counterintelligence program is about in totality. You can equate it, I suppose, to the type of interaction that comes about when one of us is taken by police officers, also front line troops. And when those people--when one of us is taken by police officers, then what happens right away is that these institutions come together. The Medical Examiner's office, the city hospital, even the District Attorney and some corrupt judge who has been elevated to a judicial position because of the obligations that he has given to his political clubhouse.
All of these institutions, make no mistake about it, are a part of the process that gives rise to counterintelligence. And in fact, the most important institution that involves the criminalization process that Kathleen just talked about is the so-called private but in reality State-controlled media.
The State-controlled media is a propaganda organ of these institutions that gives rise to coloring these valiant soldiers as criminals, when in fact they are soldiers who are fighting on behalf of people who are oppressed and who have been oppressed for many, many years in this country, and they have the ability to tell the truth and expose this system.
And just like in Vietnam and just like in Thailand and just like in the Congo with Patrice Lumumba, and just like in other parts of the Third World, whenever a vanguard comes into existence to expose the crimes of Western imperialism, there is always an agency and agencies that come together and work together for purposes of eradicating those people.
The prisoner who struggles on behalf of the people and who becomes the object of the vicious objectives of the counterintelligence program, those people are called political prisoners once they are incarcerated. The political prisoner, after the political prisoner is arrested, is unlike any other prisoner, because the political prisoner is more dangerous to the system than any other type of prisoner.
So that is why those who are arrested for struggling on behalf of the people, who are political prisoners, many of them are thrown into isolation, thrown into the hole right away, stay there, stay there for long periods of time with the ultimate purpose of attempting to break their spirits so that they can begin to cooperate with the very system that they were struggling against.
There are other efforts made against these individuals throughout the so-called criminal justice system. Many of them receive no bail. It is a form of what we call preventive detention. Those that may never have had any arrest whatsoever, and those who are arrested solely on the basis of, in many situations, false information that is given by paid confidential informants who have been compromised by the system. They are held in preventive detention, they are remanded without the benefit of bail, again for the purposes of breaking their spirits.
I would like to talk about one person that I represent, along with my colleague, Jonathan LaBelle, Dr. Mutulu Shakur. Dr. Mutulu Shakur is a political prisoner who was housed in the Atlanta prison in Atlanta, Georgia, a Federal complex. He was once a brilliant acupuncturist, studied in China, very dedicated to his community, operated a center called Bana in Harlem, treated people in the community, their ails and their illnesses, with acupuncture.
He had a staff of people that worked with him, that came in and out of the center for purposes of giving support to this vital apparatus. He also worked at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, along with a number of other people, again in the interests of the community, as an acupuncturist, to aid those who were ailing, who were sick. As a result of those activities, and the wider scope of his activities and others who were with him, to show concern for their people in their community, they became targets of the counterintelligence program.
And so back in 1981, to be precise, October of 1981, there were allegations of an incident that occurred up in Nyack, New York. A number of people stood trial for that. Those people were swooped up, they were put in jail, they were not given bail, they were stigmatized for months in the State-controlled media to make sure that any prospective jurors that sat on any ultimate trial remembered these people not as individuals who struggled on behalf of their community, but individuals who were criminals, who had been criminalized through the propaganda that was implemented through the State-controlled media.
Again, that is the counterintelligence program. So, by the time that they reached the trial stage, they didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. And that is a course of conduct, the anticipated expectations of the counterintelligence program.
And so Dr. Mutulu Shakur, who was arrested in California back in 1986, stood trial in 1987, basically he was convicted on, solely on the basis of the testimony of one confidential informant. That is all the government really had, one confidential informant.
And something interesting happened during that trial. There was a request by the defense for the identity and the whereabouts of a police agent who had infiltrated the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa, and who knew about various things that went on during those times; who knew about, for example, the New Bethel incident that occurred up in Detroit, Michigan some time ago.
And the government's response was that, "We don't know of any person by the name of Key. We never heard of him." Of course, we knew he was lying. So, as a result of not being able to contact this important person during the course of the trial, and again solely on the basis of the testimony of a paid confidential informant who had everything to gain by virtue of giving false testimony, Mutulu was convicted, and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
And one of the things that they do if you are a political prisoner, once you are convicted and you are in the belly of the beast, they send you straight to a maximum security prison. And he was sent straight to Marion Penitentiary, a maximum security prison in Marion, Illinois, that is basically underground, where you have no contact with other prisoners. You are kept in your cell for 23 hours a day, and only get out one hour for exercise. That is what happens to political prisoners.
But, you know, a strange thing happened in Mutulu's case. We were persistent, and after a number of years, through our collective, joint efforts, we were able to locate Key. Key was a deep cover officer in the New York City intelligence division. And, to be sure, he had contact with the FBI.
In those days that was a creation of the Joint Terrorist Task Force, which is a combination of Federal agents and local law enforcement people, and they come together for purposes of attempting to utilize the techniques of the counterintelligence program to entrap people who struggle on behalf of their people, and to make sure that they are isolated, arrested, and never come out of prison for a long period of time.
And of course, after finding Key--and I won't mention his real name, we found him in a remote part of the country, flew there, met with him--he was quite helpful to us. He was retired by then, had a lot to say. We got a declaration from him, otherwise known as an affidavit, filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking an evidentiary hearing so that we could call Key to testify, and he promised us if he were called to testify in an evidentiary hearing, he would even give us more than he gave us in the declaration because, after all, he did have a pension to think about.
But you know something? We went before the same trial judge, Charles Haight, who presided over the trial of Dr. Shakur, and who sentenced him to 40 years, and he heard convincing evidence that merited an evidentiary hearing. But in spite of that, he refused to give Dr. Shakur an evidentiary hearing because he knew that if he was given an evidentiary hearing, that we would call Key and present other evidence that would ultimately lead to the basis of a new trial.
So the judiciary becomes a fifth column in this counterintelligence program. You can't, you just can't focus in on the front line troops of the FBI and the Joint Terrorist Task Force. In fact, they do the dirty work, the initial dirty work, but it is a dirty process. It is a dirty institutional process, and those who have sold themselves out, have sold themselves out all the way up to the top, if you can define it as such.
Now, I want to talk very briefly at the end, and I have got to close soon, in just a couple of minutes, on the other aspect of the counterintelligence program that relates to the grand jury system and how the government uses the grand jury as a tool of oppression. And I know because I have represented people who were arrested in sweeps.
For example, in the case I talked to you about, there is a sister who is in this room today, by the name of Fulani Suni Ali, who was arrested and who was separated from her children, and who was pregnant while she was serving time for refusing to testify before a Federal grand jury. That is what they do.
They will arrest or they will drop a subpoena on anybody that has any contact, for example, people who came to the Bana acupuncture center that I just mentioned in Harlem, that Dr. Shakur ran, or people that have minimal contact, they will drop a subpoena on them. You know why? Because they are in the process, the illegal process of fact-gathering.
They use a grand jury for their dirty purposes of fact-gathering, for gathering facts so that they can use in the case against the individuals who have already been arrested, and that is clearly illegal. And they use it for purposes of expanding their investigation, to arrest other individuals that they don't have a scintilla of evidence on.
So normally the course of conduct is for a person who receives a subpoena to refuse to testify, because of those reasons and other reasons, to testify before the grand jury. And if they don't testify, they are given up to 18 months for contempt, for refusal to obey a grand jury subpoena.
Many of them stay in jail, as Fulani did, and we had to represent her and represent her children because she was separated from her children. She was allowed to be with her at that time unborn child, once the child was born, for purposes of nurturing. But many folks stay in jail for 8, 9, 10 months, sometimes longer, until it becomes futile and the government knows that they are not going to cooperate and a judge will release them.
So I wanted to mention that to you, as well. You know, there are others who were arrested with Fulani, but the grand jury tool is an important tool in the counterintelligence process.
Thank you so much for your attention.
MS. CLEAVER: Thank you so much. Congresswoman McKinney had to leave because she had to go on the floor and vote, but she will be back as soon as she has fulfilled her responsibility.
And now we will have a brief, 10-minute video presentation in which you get to see some of the political prisoners and hear some of the issues. This is very, very short. Later, at the conclusion of this program, there will be a full-fledged showing of the documentary that many of the clips are taken from, called "All Power to the People," in this room. But right now, just to give you some visual, we are going to watch a videotape prepared by this office from longer material.
MR. ELISON: As I was introduced before, my name is Bruce Elison. I am a criminal defense lawyer that is currently based in western South Dakota, where I have been for 25 years. On behalf of Leonard Peltier, who is now a grandfather, and my own children, I hereby want to thank the members of the Black Caucus, and particularly Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, for conducting this meeting here today. I mean, this is fantastic. Congresswoman McKinney, you have done what the Senate Intelligence Committee under Frank Church decided not to do, and what the Congress failed to do, despite strong recommendations of the necessity of such an inquiry by the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Amnesty International.
I came to western South Dakota to be a staff attorney with a group called the Wounded Knee Defense Committee back in 1975, and I came from an urban Jewish upbringing in the New York City area. I was raised to believe in the importance of justice for all people. I was raised to believe in the importance of our democracy and our fundamental rights to free speech, freedom of association, and freedom to seek redress of grievances. From what I have seen over the last 25 years, Native Americans have many legitimate grievances, as do others in this country.
Educated as a lawyer, I was taught that our courts exist to promote and preserve justice, our Congress to enact responsible legislation, and our executive branch to enforce the laws of our country. What I have experienced since my move West has both shocked, amazed, and terrified me as a citizen of this country and, more importantly, as a father, and I remain so today.
I prepared a written text, since I understand that is what you are supposed to do when you testify in front of a congressional hearing, and I forgot my glasses, so you are going to have to bear with me.
FBI documents and court records in the thousands, together with eyewitness accounts, show clearly that beginning in the late 1960s the FBI began a campaign of infiltration and disruption of the treaty and human rights movement which calls itself the American Indian Movement or AIM. FBI operations were directed towards the destruction of AIM and its grassroots supports in the urban and reservation communities containing the survivors of America's wars against its indigenous population of the last 400 or more years.
Particular emphasis was directed by the FBI towards the descendants of the Lakota, who stopped the campaign of slaughter by General Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry, who now reside on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and some of the surrounding reservations.
FBI operations against AIM began with surveillance of peaceful demonstrations of people calling for the enforcement of treaty rights, for human rights, for equal opportunities for jobs and housing and medical care, and for justice in America's courts. It soon led to the infiltration of informants and agent provocateurs, to the manipulation and use of our criminal justice system, and ultimately, out where I live, to state-sponsored terrorism in the Indian communities within this country.
Documents show the FBI was assisted in the suppression of domestic dissent by agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the State Department, military intelligence, often enlisting the aid of State and local police and intelligence agencies throughout the country.
It was a period in which the groundswell of people's movements in our communities were regarded as a threat by the Federal Government, perhaps due to its magnitude and intensity and the righteousness of the grievances being aired. The FBI targeted the voices, the members, the supporters, and the funders of those who stood up and visibly tried to obtain fundamental correction of the ills affecting millions of people across America.
The FBI acted as if terrified by any signs of bridges across the barriers of color and ethnicity and the joint recognition of common problems and collective solutions that we could all work together to accomplish. Many of the documents that I have reviewed, that we obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, talk about the concern around the time of Wounded Knee, and between then and the firefight in Oglala, of the connections between the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party, particularly in California.
After the 71 day siege at Wounded Knee in 1973, our criminal justice system became but an improper tool of the Domestic Security Section of the Intelligence Division of the FBI, in its efforts to destroy AIM. The man in charge of the Domestic Security Section at the time, whom others present today are well familiar with, was Richard G. Held.
Based in Chicago, Held secretly came to Pine Ridge during the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973 to directly supervise FBI domestic security operations against AIM in the field. While claiming in documents that AIM members were engaging in acts of sedition, the Bureau sought to arrest hundreds in the aftermath of Wounded Knee, in the hopes that it would tap the strength and resources of the Movement and make it go away.
It soon concluded that this approach was insufficient. As one FBI document stated, "There are indications that the indian militant problem in the area will not be resolved or discontinued with the prosecution of these insurgents."
Most Wounded Knee criminal charges brought against hundreds of AIM members were eventually dismissed by Federal court judges for illegal use of the United States Military. The FBI then began to fund and arm and equip a group of more western-oriented Lakota men and women who called themselves the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, or the "goon squad" on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
As many as 60 men, women, and children were killed in the period of political violence which then followed, and this is out of a population of 11,000 people. These were mostly members of AIM, members of their families, supporters, their friends, and sometimes simply people who were neighbors of those people involved in the movement.
I remember staying in homes in Pine Ridge during this period where men felt compelled to keep loaded weapons nearby while they and their families, including children and elders, slept, fearful of the real and immediate danger of an attack by the goon squad in the night. People whose families lived for years in fear of immediate serious bodily injury or death in their homes, their yards, or walking in the streets of their community.
And we are not talking at this time of random acts of mindless violence by those who are angry, mentally ill, desperate or lost in this country, but violence directed at them and their families because they believed in the traditional indian ways of their ancestors and belonged to or supported the American Indian Movement.
One instance I personally witnessed involved FBI agents and a Bureau of Indian Affairs SWAT team escorting carloads of goon squad members and their weapons out of the community of Womblee after a day and night of armed attacks on the community. This resulted in the ambush murder of a young AIM member, and the burning and shooting up of several homes.
One of the killers was given a deal by the FBI for five-year sentence in return for his testimony that two goon squad leaders had acted in self defense in their attack on four men who were unarmed in a vehicle. I investigated this murder at the request of the tribal president-elect, and was horrified by this deal, and the main killers went free.
I represented a 14-year-old who was physically handicapped at the time, who was forced to face an adult sentence in adult court, charged with murdering one of three goons who had just threatened to kill him as one of them attacked him. Court testimony revealed that he had previously witnessed his brother being shot in the streets of a nearby town, his obviously pregnant sister being beaten in the stomach by a rifle butt, and his family hugging the floor of their rural home for nearly five hours while members of the goon squad fired semiautomatic and high-powered rifle bullets through the walls of their home.
There was no investigation by the FBI of those responsible, although they were identified in each instance. This child's brother was involved in the American Indian Movement. That was the only connection the family had.
I represented a young mother and AIM member named Anna Mae Pictu on weapons charges. She told me after her arrest that an FBI threatened to see her dead within a year unless she cooperated against members of AIM. In an operation previously used against members of the Black Panther Party, the FBI, through an informant named Doug Durham who had infiltrated AIM leadership, began a rumor that she was an informant.
Six months later her body was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The FBI said she died of exposure. They cut off her hands, claiming that this was necessary to identify her, and buried her under the name of Jane Doe.
We were able to get her body exhumed, and a second, independent autopsy revealed that rather than dying of exposure, that someone had placed a pistol to the back of her head and pulled the trigger. When I asked for her hands after the second autopsy, because she was originally not buried with her hands, an FBI agent went to his car and came back and handed me a box, and with a big smile on his face he said, "You want her hands? Here."
I myself have been personally and directly threatened by agents of the FBI for my efforts to expose what the Bureau did on Pine Ridge and within the courts of our country. They seem to be fearful of what daylight could bring to their conduct in the past, and perhaps their plans for dealing with dissent in the future.
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Heaney, after reviewing numerous court transcripts and FBI documents, concluded that the United States Government overreacted at Wounded Knee. Instead of carefully considering the legitimate grievances of Native Americans, the response was essentially a military one which culminated in a deadly firefight on June 26, 1975, between Native Americans and FBI agents and U.S. Marshals.
While Judge Heaney believed that the "Native Americans" had some culpability in the firefight that day, he concluded the United States must share the responsibility. It never has. The FBI has never been held accountable or even publicly investigated for what one Federal petit jury and Judge Heaney concluded was complicity in the creation of a climate of fear and terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The resulting firefight near Oglala was preceded by FBI documents internally declaring AIM to be one of the most dangerous organizations in the country and a threat to national security. It followed by two months the issuing of a position paper entitled "FBI Paramilitary Operations in Indian Country," a how-to plan of dealing with AIM in the battlefield. It referred, used such terms as "neutralization," which in the document it defined as "shooting to kill." It included the role of the then-Nixon White House in handling complaints as to such military tactics being utilized domestically.
It followed by one month the build-up of FBI personnel on the Pine Ridge Reservation with mostly SWAT team members from various divisions of the FBI. It followed by three weeks an inspection tour of the reservation by senior FBI officials and the reporting of concern by those officials for the widespread support enjoyed by AIM in the outlying communities on the Pine Ridge Reservation, such as Oglala.
The FBI headquarters document further referred to an area near Oglala which reportedly contained bunkers and would require the use of paramilitary forces to assault. Three weeks later a firefight broke out on the ranch of elders Cecelia and Harry Jumping Bull which lasted for nearly nine hours. FBI documents describe as many as 47 people being involved in the battle with SWAT teams of the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and State police agencies.
Three young men lost their lives that day, each shot in the head, two FBI agents and one AIM member. And one thing, and I will detract from my notes for a moment, that I have always felt was so critical about the way the FBI has looked at that firefight and the way the American Indian Movement has looked at that firefight, is that for AIM people that day, before they left that area, before they were able to escape, they sat and prayed for the three men who died that day, all three. The FBI has always only considered that only two men died that day, their own agents.
One of the agents had in his briefcase a map of the reservation. It had the Jumping Bull ranch circled with the word "bunkers" written next to it. The bunkers turned out to be aged and crumbling root cellars that one wouldn't want to defend in a spitball fight behind.
Leonard Peltier and other AIM members from outside the reservation had come into the Jumping Bull area to help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They had come in to join other local AIM members because the climate of violence on the reservation had gotten so intense that people felt the need to gain assistance from the outside, so men and women came in, including Leonard Peltier, and they brought with them their single-shot 22's and their rusted shotguns and a few hunting rifles that they were able to get, and they were in a camp on the Jumping Bull ranch.
The government used the incident to increase its campaign of disruption and destruction of the American Indian Movement. FBI agents, dressed and equipped like combat soldiers, searched homes and questioned Pine Ridge residents at gunpoint. Armored vehicles patrolled the reservation, as did SWAT teams and National Guard helicopters.
This was accompanied by a public disinformation campaign by the FBI, designed to make Oglala residents and their guests appear to be the aggressors and, in fact, terrorists. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights would soon report, "It is patently clear that many of the statements released to the media regarding the incident are either false, unsubstantiated, or directly misleading."
You know, we used to think of, during the anti-war days of the war in Indochina, we used to talk about "bringing the war home." Well, I think the FBI kind of thought that that was really a good idea, and many of the tactics that they used in Indochina and Central America and other places in this world, they decided to try out on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Noting Leonard Peltier's regular presence and involvement in AIM activities throughout the country, the FBI targeted him for prosecution from the desks of its agents. According to FBI documents, about two and a half weeks after the firefight, the Bureau was going to, in its own words, "develop information to lock Peltier into the case," and it set out to do so.
The FBI eventually charged four AIM members, including Peltier, with the killing of the agents. No one has ever been prosecuted for the killing of AIM member Joe Stuntz that day.
After hearing testimony of numerous eyewitnesses to the violence directed at AIM members by the goon squad and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two of Leonard Peltier's codefendants were acquitted on self-defense grounds by an all-white jury in the conservative town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa--truly a remarkable thing, but people who were willing to keep their eyes and their ears open and listen to the truth, and were able, by a judge who had the courage and willingness to learn himself, to allow this evidence to be presented.
However, after those acquittals, the FBI analyzed why these two men, these two long-haired indian militant men could be acquitted by an all-white jury, and decided a new judge was needed. FBI documents show that a meeting in Washington, D.C. at FBI headquarters, there was a decision made to "put the full prosecutive weight of the Federal Government" against Leonard Peltier.
Evidence shows the government used now admittedly false eyewitness affidavits to extradite Peltier from Canada. This would catch the attention of Amnesty International and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but only a little bit.
The Court of Appeals would call such conduct "a clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI" and gives credence to the claims of indian people that if the government is willing to fabricate evidence to extradite a person in this country, it is willing to fabricate evidence to convict those branded as the enemy. Well, absolutely true, but Leonard Peltier remains in prison.
At Peltier's trial the government presented evidence and argued to the jury that he personally shot and killed the agents. To do this, the government presented ballistics evidence purportedly connecting a shell casing found near the agents' bodies with a rifle said to be possessed by Peltier on that day, and the coerced and fabricated eyewitness account of a terrified teenager, claiming that the agents followed Peltier in a van, precipitating the firefight in Oglala.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the ballistics evidence was a fraud; that the rifle could not have fired the expended casing found near the body. Further, the FBI had suppressed evidence showing the agents followed a pickup, not a van, into the compound, and thought someone else, not Peltier, was in that vehicle.
Citing the case of Leonard Peltier as an example, Amnesty International has called for an independent inquiry into the use of our criminal justice system for political purposes by the FBI, other intelligence agencies in this country. Amnesty cited similar concerns for other members of AIM and other victims of the COINTELPRO-type operations by the FBI.
I will submit to you, when the government can select a person for criminal persecution because of their political activity, when they can fabricate evidence against that person and suppress evidence proving that fabrication, and go ahead and prosecute a person and put them in prison for any amount of time, let alone for life, you have a political prisoner.
Upon disclosure of these documents, a renewed effort in a new trial was sought from the courts. While concluding that the suppressed evidence "casts a strong doubt" on the government's case, our appellate courts denied relief. The U.S. Attorney's office has now admitted in court that it had no credible evidence Leonard Peltier killed the agents, and speciously claimed it never tried to prove it did. Under our system, if there is a reasonable doubt, then Leonard Peltier is not guilty, yet he has been in prison for nearly 25 years for a crime he did not commit.
The FBI still withholds thousands of pages of documents in this case, claiming in many instances that disclosure would compromise the national security. In the absence of such disclosure, no further efforts in a new trial are possible. And Leonard Peltier is not alone in his imprisonment for his political activities. We have heard about some of the other people today, and I am hearing more every day. Kind of isolated, out in South Dakota, from some of the things.
Despite congressional interest in an investigation of the tragic events at Ruby Ridge and Waco, the committee of Congress with subpoena power has yet to hold full and formal hearings on what the FBI did to suppress the indian movement in the 1970s, as well as the human and civil rights movements in the black and brown communities of this Nation. This meeting today is an important first step, Congresswoman McKinney, to make sure that we truly have freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the freedom to seek redress of grievances in this country.
I would respectfully submit that the FBI's involvement in the suppression of dissent within our country is a cause for great alarm. Its use of the criminal justice system, disruptive campaigns, and outright condoning and support of terrorism in our communities must be investigated and never allowed to happen again.
On behalf of Leonard Peltier and my own children, we would urge a full congressional investigation, and we would urge the granting of executive clemency to those activists from the '70s, '80s, and '90s who have yet to gain their freedom.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Geronimo?
MR. ji JAGA: I want to thank the Honorable Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney for her courageous and bold move to have this done, and I want to salute everybody on the distinguished panel. It is hard to follow up. But you forgot to mention the activists of the '60s.
It is something that we who have been released have been trying to get established and done since I have been out of prison, and what it boils down to is murder. We are trying to get hearings into actual murder cases. When you are talking about COINTELPRO, it came in so many forms, and I guess I would wait for the question and answer period because we don't have much time out front to lay it all out, to talk about the victimization.
But the first thing that you would think of is the murder. When you would have everyone together, like we are all together right here, and we all say, "Okay, we are all going to not disrespect each other," and everybody agrees, someone else sends someone in and causes us to begin to disrespect each other. Well, the ones who end up in prison, or the ones who end up in house arrest or what not, it should be investigated.
But I think we should start with the murder, because one may disrespect another one, and then another one stabs him and he is dead, and then you have the murderers in the background boasting and bragging about it.
When you have beautiful sisters and brothers such as Fred, who was shot eight times, put in a sleeping bag and thrown off a freeway, still unsolved; you have Robert Wells-all of these cases I am talking about are clear COINTELPRO murders--who was killed in New York City; Fred Bennett, who was killed in San Francisco; Franco Diggs; John Bunchy; Sam Napier.
All of the names I have mentioned are victims of COINTELPRO, and they were murdered. Their murderers have never been brought to justice. So this is where we begin. We are dealing with straight-up murderers who turn around and call me a murderer and put me in prison for 27 years, when I murdered no one. So these murderers are running around. They still are practicing their art of murder, outright murder.
John Clark; Watature Pope; each and every case are cases where these brothers and sisters were murdered. Fred Hampton, excuse me. And Mark Clark. Twyman Meyers. Arshe. Come on with some more. John Africa. Kombora. Komboze. Tracy. Kayatta, yes. Ralph Featherstone. That's very true. There is Malik al Ashabaz. And we can continue to name. This is how important this is to us. Kwambe Ture. That is right. That is right. That is who I was just talking about. That is right.
So this is very serious to us, because these brothers and sisters we have mentioned, they were family members. They were mothers, they were fathers, they were sisters, they were brothers, and they are dead, and they were murdered, and this has the seriousness of that, straight murder. It was done by the U.S. Government. They have admitted it.
You have brothers like Mutulu who--and myself when I was in, and others--call ourselves prisoners of war. We say political prisoners, okay. And you try to understand, what are you talking about? This was, and it continues and is, an actual war against our people, and it should be handled just as they handled the trials in Nuremburg, maybe. Ruby Ridge and Waco, yes.
So I really want to urge everyone to put as much support and muscle behind this effort that will expose the true murderers and let the victims out. Sundiata, what is Sundiata doing in prison? Ruchelle McGee? Ruchelle was in the courtroom when Leonard Johnson come in, and because the little brother came, it wasn't a planned thing, Ruchelle is the epitome of a political prisoner. He is going into his median year. Yogi Fenell. Chip Fitzgerald. There is so many. Mumir Ismalias. Mutulu Ismalias.
We can't allow that to happen. These hearings will make it very clear, and then these brothers and sisters will be released out of these prisons. If not, then we have a stronger case to go in and liberate them ourselves, as in the case of our beautiful comrade sister, Asanta Shakur, who is also a victim.
And so we could talk all day about this, but I just want to give you the brief introductory remarks, and later on maybe we can follow up to other areas. It didn't stop at the black liberation movement, as we all know, and we all should study this, but it went into every liberation movement that was involved in liberation. This is why Laura Whitehorn spent so much time prison, why Marilyn Buck and Susan Rosenberg and so many who are victims of COINTELPRO continue to languish.
I am going to hold it up right here and let Laura speak, and then later on we can kick it more. Thank you.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: All right. All right.
MS. WHITEHORN: This is like carrying my life before me, because all of these things that we are talking about have been going on ever since I started to be a political activist back in the '60s.
And I think these hearings are really significant also because COINTELPRO still continues. And I don't mean just because, even though that particular FBI program with that particular name was supposedly stopped in '72, we know it continues in other forms. And I don't mean just because we can see it happening. It just happened at the Republican Convention. We were talking about that, the infiltration of the demonstrations that were basically for Mumia.
I mean that, but I don't just mean that. I mean also because all of the political prisoners are still doing the time, and until they are out, COINTELPRO continues, no matter what anyone says. And I think it is interesting that a couple of weeks ago, a week ago, the Bureau of Indian Affairs apologized for the genocide against the Native American people, but Leonard Peltier is still in prison.
I was a political prisoner for almost 15 years, and I was in a case called the Resistance Conspiracy case, and one thing that was not said about Nkechi Taifa is that she was my lawyer in that case, and I was very lucky to have her.
And we were accused--our indictment was great. It was written by the U.S. Government, and they said that we were guilty of conspiring to protest change and oppose policies and practices of the United States Government in domestic and international affairs through violent and illegal means. And we said the domestic and international affairs policies of the United States Government were violent and illegal, and some of those--
--some of those were things that were going on right then. For example, the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Grenada, in this hemisphere, not coincidentally the first socialist African government in this hemisphere. And the shelling of the people of Beirut, Lebanon, at the same time. And the use of low-intensity counterinsurgency warfare against the liberation struggles in Central America, which was the U.S. development off of what they saw as a losing strategy in Vietnam, but was also a response to what we had seen for our entire lives.
Most of the political prisoners who are in prison now were born around the same time as me, right, around in the '40s and early '50s, and we grew up in the era of national liberation and struggles for human rights, and supposedly it was going to be the era of international law. Nazi Germany wasn't going to happen again because the community of nations was going to uphold international law.
And as a child I was taught that there were certain human rights that were so important that they would be upheld by international law, and if your government broke those codes, broke those ethics, broke those principles, then you had a responsibility to take action against that government. And I still believe that to this day.
And that is one pole of what every political prisoner, I believe, stands for. The other pole was that I was moved as a child by the civil rights movement. I mean, to me it was just a gross injustice, what was going on in the South, the refusal of the southern States to allow black people to vote. It was like, you know, what could be more basic? The right to vote. And yet the police dogs and the fire hoses were brought in.
And the courage of the people who were standing up was inspiring to me, and I think to a whole generation, and we started to be civil rights activists. Later on I became a member of Students for a Democratic Society because I opposed the war, and I was marching along with my little placards and, you know, signing petitions and writing letters to my Congressman.
And I moved to Chicago in 1968, and I got to know the Black Panther Party, and Fred Hampton in particular, who was the chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, and he was about 20 years old at that point. And he was a danger to the United States Government, if the United States Government was afraid of the rise of a black messiah, because Fred had the ability, like Malcolm X, to articulate the hopes and aspirations of an entire nation of people. And when he did that, we saw--anyone who was in Chicago in those days remembers--people of all ages coming out. Fred would stand on a fire escape or a balcony, and people would come out.
And in 1969 he was murdered, and the police of Chicago, who carried out the assassination, claimed that there had been a shootout, and that is what they said all the time. Every time there was an attack on the Black Panther Party, it was "a shootout," and the Panthers started shooting first, was what the government would always say. It was what the police would say.
And it took a very long time, but it was proven that not a single shot was fired from inside the apartment, they were all fired by the police, and that it was actually--the basis for it was laid by a joint--just like the Joint Terrorist Task Force in New York, there was some kind of an association between the Chicago--the Illinois State prosecutors, State Attorney's office, the Chicago Police, and the FBI. And a man named William O'Neill was infiltrated into the Panther environment, and he drugged the food of Fred Hampton and the rest of the Panthers that night, and Fred was murdered in his bed, along with Mark Clark.
And that told me and told a whole generation of people that we could not be confined by what the laws of this country told us we could and could not do in order to struggle for justice, because it was a war. And it was a war here, and it was a war declared by the FBI and all the law enforcement agencies and backed by the U.S. Government against the black nation in this country, and that if there was ever going to be justice, we would have to fight for it.
And so there are various kinds of political prisoners. I wasn't a victim of COINTELPRO, in the sense that the FBI was never particularly interested in me. I mean, they tried to find me when I was listed in the phone book for years, but I was moved by what I saw and still see today as a war against the African American community in this country, the Native American community in this country, and the Puerto Rican independence movement, that told me that certain actions were going to be necessary.
And I took those actions, and I did that time in prison, and I was the lucky one, not just because I had Nkechi for my lawyer, but also because due to certain illegalities that were carried out by the FBI, I was able to postpone my original trial long enough so that the headlines which called me a terrorist--and that is the name that is now used for all the political prisoners, we are all, in the eyes of the government, terrorists--could fade a little bit, and eventually I ended up with 23 years, which was a very fortunate sentence. And that might sound like a terrible thing to say, but when you look at Marilyn Buck with 80 years and Mutulu with 60 years, and Ruchelle, as Geronimo said, having already served over 30 years, you realize that 23 years is a very fortunate sentence.
I just want to say one other thing about the release of political prisoners. And it is true that when I got out, the day I got out of prison was the happiest day of my life and the saddest, because I left behind--at that point the Puerto Ricans had not been granted pardon yet, so I left behind Carmen Valentine, Dulcia Pagan, Lucie Rodriguez, Alicia Rodriguez, and Marilyn Buck and Linda Evans. They were all in the prison I was in. And I have no choice but to right for their freedom.
I watched from the beginning the campaign for the freedom of the Puerto Rican independentista prisoners. I watched from when they were arrested in 1980, remember, we were doing the work to support them, and the slogan was, "They are freedom fighters, not terrorists." And the nation of Puerto Rico took up that slogan and said, "They are our freedom fighters, they are not terrorists."
And we watched as the campaign was built for many years, and I do believe we need to wage a campaign like that for all of the political prisoners in the Federal system and also in the State system. Otherwise, they will not be free. And just to explain why, the parole system is the last phase of what Tarif was talking about, about the politicization and the counterinsurgency carried out in the courts.
Just to give you an example, well, Leonard was a good example. Leonard had everything going for him going into a parole hearing, and the parole commissioner, as I understand it, halfway through, said "We've already made up our mind."
My co-defendant on the case where we bombed the Capitol, Linda Evans, went to parole. She had the most incredible record in prison of doing AIDS work, getting her B.A., getting her Master's degree, and the parole commissioner lectured her about the sanctity of the symbols of the United States Government, and that is all he was interested in.
But perhaps the most outstanding current example is Susan Rosenberg, who was my co-defendant in the Resistance Conspiracy case and also had a prior case of possession of explosives and guns with a man named Timothy Blunk, her co-defendant, and for possession of explosives and guns they had gotten 58 years. So Susan was also a defendant in the Black Liberation Army case, the Brinks case that Tarif was talking about from 1981 in New York, and that Marilyn Buck and Mutulu Shakur and Sayku Odinga are now doing time for in the Federal system.
And the government refused to try Susan at that time, and Susan wanted to go to trial with Marilyn and Mutulu. They wouldn't try her. They nolo'd--is that how you pronounce it?--they nolo'd the case. They said, "We won't take you to trial because you already have 58 years."
Timothy Blunk was released on parole from the 58 years, three or four years ago. Susan went to the parole board. She was told, "On your possession of explosives case, we would give you parole also," because she has an excellent record in prison, too. She has done AIDS education and all kinds of productive things. "But because you were charged in the Brinks case, we cannot let you out. You have to do 15 more years before you can even be heard."
So she said, "Well, then, take me to trial." And they won't take her to trial, and they won't let her out. And that is just an example of, because of the politics of the case, they will not even hear her in front of the parole board.
So unless we mount a campaign to free all of the political prisoners, they are not going to get out, and that is unacceptable. So that is all I wanted to say today.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: I would like to thank all of our panelists, who have given such tremendously moving testimonies today. I would also like to assure you and the members of our audience that I have been taking good notes, because you are going to be the leaders of our movement here in Congress, one, to find out what happened; two, to address the issue of compensation. That is something that most of us get scared about, when we start talking about getting money, but these victims and their families, the survivors of COINTELPRO, need to be compensated, as does our community in general.
I would like to tell you what we have begun to do, and one of the things that--interesting thing that just happened today was, they wanted to kick us out of the room. And since I knew I had backup, I told them that "You can kick us out of the room, but we ain't going to voluntarily go." And you see we are still in the room.
We have actually written a letter to the President requesting updating of all of the materials that were released as a result of the Church committee hearings and any other declassifications. We are going to get on them, because we have heard from CIA--and, Dana, you can help me, who else we have heard from. We have heard from CIA, and I think we heard from FBI. We requested State Department, you mentioned the State Department, and we have been told the DIA is particularly bad, and we are going to--CIA was very forthcoming in saying that they were going to turn the information over.
We will be going through probably volumes of information, and then we are going to need assistance on what to do with that information, and is where our COINTELPRO project comes in that perhaps Kathleen will talk about later, about the COINTELPRO project that we want to get up and running.
I would like to acknowledge Bee Wardlow in the audience--Wardlaw--who just walked in, who has made a financial commitment to help underwrite the COINTELPRO project. Stand up, Bee.
I am supposed to now acknowledge the family members or representatives of political prisoners who are here with us today. We have Sherri Wynn. Where is Sherri? George Katsiafikos. Where is George? Harold Lee Giddings. Ricky Giddings. Fulani Suni Ali, former political prisoner, as well as her husband.
For Harold and Ricky Giddings, their brother is Larry Giddings, I presume is a political prisoner. Stand up, Harold and Ricky. Okay. Dee Curry is here, representing Dr. Mutulu Shakur.
Mr. Brown, Sherry Brown, representing Eddie Conway.
Sabrina Green, representing friends of Mumia Abu Jamal. Prince Asiel Ben Israel. Gilda Sherrod Ali, Jericho Movement.
Rochelle Asher. Great. Thank you for being here.
Okay, Dana, help me. What am I supposed to do? Q&A? Okay, this is the opportunity--
MS. TAIFA: Before you do, I just want to mention that Safia Bukari is in the audience, a former political prisoner. Herman Ferguson is in the audience. Please stand for a moment. He said here he is, back from in exile, former political prisoner.
Brother Achmed Overfani, Achmed Overfani is the audience, also a former political prisoner. Stand up, stand up.
I forgot your name, brother. Brother Masai Hosey, Safia's co-defendant. Brother Suja.
MS. SUNI ALI: I am also here representing the Committee to Support Imam Jamil Al-Amin.
MR. WARREN: I would have mentioned Jamil's case--
MS. SUNI ALI: Got a gag order, right?
MR. WARREN: --but there is a gag order. I am one of the attorneys on the case. Not allowed to talk about it. So, Fulani, I am glad that you got up and made a statement.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: I would also like to acknowledge that we have in the audience Paul Wolf, who has put a lot of the COINTELPRO papers on the internet [www.cointel.org]. Paul, why don't you stand up?
Okay. We don't have microphones for the audience members to speak into, but please let's get started with our questions.
MR. BEN ISRAEL: Let me first thank you, Congresswoman, for this historic and profound meeting. For those of you who don't know me, in 1985 when the FBI and six government agencies arrested 41 members of our community, the (inaudible) of our community, I have had--I am on record for having the longest trial in the D.C. Circuit, and the jury was out longer than any jury. I was sentenced to 30 years under RICO and RICO conspiracy (inaudible).
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Laura, could you turn your microphone out?
MR. BEN ISRAEL: I think it's important that you understand how important this is, that with the beginning of the year 2000, the FBI talked about those who would be dangerous in the new millennium. And in Chicago, on the 10 o'clock news on the 31st of December, they announced that the most dangerous movement in America was the African Hebrew Israelite Movement, and that we needed to be destroyed under Operation Midigo.
Now, I am saying that to say to you that it is live and real. And it was Congressman Merv Dymally who stood with me and came to court and testified. I was put in all of the maximum security prisons across this country, five of them, to break my spirit.
But what I did was organize in prison what we call the Divine Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood. We brought together Christians and Muslims and Rastafarians, and (inaudible) and Nation of Islam. We brought together black and white and Puerto Rican, so that no longer could we be divided on those superficial titles.
And that is why this panel is so important, and that is why I applaud you. And I can't say enough about you, Brother Geronimo, because to come out with your life after 27 years, that--
So I want you to know we put together a document that we want to submit to this panel, and I brought Prince Emmanuel, who is my D.C. representative here, to go and be a permanent part of this, because the fight is real, and we must not back down.
And one last thing. One entity that I think we must add to our fight, spirituality, not religion but spirituality.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: We have TV cameras who love for you to use the mike.
MS. BUKARI: Okay. I am talking, not because I want to, because political prisoners across the country, when they heard about this symposium that is being held here today, sent letters and they sent statements, and they wanted me to bring this message to you.
And then, too, I thought it was very important, as Geronimo talked about, is to recognize those people who gave their lives for the struggle. And we are not able to talk about in terms of freeing them, because they are dead, and nobody remembers their names.
But talk about the fact that Twyman Meyers was shot 80 times by a joint squad of FBI, New York State Police, and then they had a rally after they shot and killed him, and then they raided his funeral and looked at everybody, even babies' diapers, because they were looking for political prisoners that they were trying to capture, people they were trying to capture. And nobody remembers Twyman Meyers, who was killed in 1973. Eighty times, his legs shot off, and a coup de gras bullet put in the back of his head. We have to understand the nature of what is going on here.
And then Harold Russell, sitting on the stoop on 122nd, right around the office from the Panther Party, during the time the Party was dealing with the drug raids, trying to get drugs out of our community, and shot and killed on 122nd Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue in Harlem. Who knows and who remembers Harold Russell? We can't free Harold, because Harold is already victimized to the point he is not going to come out.
And then on March 13th, 1998, while we were putting together the Jericho March, Merle Austin Africa, a woman of the (inaudible) Nine, died in prison, supposedly of cervical cancer, after 20 years in prison. Where is the medical treatment for these political prisoners? There is no adequate medical care.
And just this year, April 28, 2000, Albert Noel Washington, one of the New York Three, died in prison of cancer. And the medical care, we talk about what brought them to the prison, we talk about all of that, but we have to talk about the treatment of these political prisoners inside the prison, to break their spirits and destroy them, to make sure they don't come out, even though they have held themselves together 33 years like Romain "Chip" Fitzgerald, who had a stroke two years ago and has still not gotten the medical treatment that he needs in order to survive and to come out whole from prison, and still in prison, in a hospital in California.
And we have to look at, across the board, in New York right now you have two other political prisoners who are in dire medical conditions. You have Robert Seth Haines, who has diabetes, and who now has neuropathy in his arms, and he can't use his hands, and he is an artist, and do his art work, his organizing and what not. And these are the kinds of things that are happening to our political prisoners.
And we have to not just wage this--we have to deal with all of these issues, and the fact that these people are growing old in prison. While we talk about we have to do something about our political prisoners, we have to do it consistently, we have to do it with a strategy and a plan, and we have to work to bring these people home.
These people are getting knocked out at the board, two years at a time, two hits. Two years, you have got to come back in two years, and this is what they have been told, "the nature of your offense." A 30-year-old offense, and you are talking about the nature of an offense to keep them in prison? Jumiata Akole.
MS. TAIFA: A 20-year hit.
MS. BUKARI: A 20-year hit, "Come back and see me in 20 years." And he was 60 years old, he is already. At what point do he come home?
So these are not just names, these are human beings who are growing old and sick and frail and dying, but are still maintaining that they are about freedom and liberation for their people.
The Chairman. Yes, sir?
MR. BEN ISRAEL: These people have also, black people have been political prisoners of other black people. Black people have been manipulated by other black people, because we stood up to fight for our people, and then other black people manipulated us and took advantage of us because of that. And I am going to leave the room.
MR. : Asiel, would you just remain one minute so I can make some mention? Just one minute. Just one minute. Asiel, will you remain one minute? We can talk about--
MR. BEN ISRAEL: The African American Day Parade, with 1 million people, that is going to take place, (inaudible) Harlem, with people all across the country. And we have supported, in the last five years, all the members of the Nation of Yahwe, we have got 100,000 signatures and released every prisoner that was being held in contravention to the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, denied their right for a speedy trial. And all of those members except Yahwe ben Yahwe have been released from prison, all of them. And we also intend to support this hearing and this committee in the parade. Geronimo, you were in our parade. We had you in our African American Day parade.
MR. ji JAGA: Yahwe ben Yahwe is one of my heroes.
MR. : Exactly, and we had all the political prisoners in our last parade in Harlem, and we intend to do that this year, and we intend to have all of the organizations that are coming across the country to ask President Clinton to give clemency to Abu Jemal Mumia. He has released murderers and convicted felons from prison, and Mumia is not a felon, neither is he a murderer. We saved him in the impeachment hearing, and he owes us big time, right now.
Free these people that are going to be (inaudible), we are in Harlem and in Baltimore, and in Georgia where my family comes from, the amnesty (inaudible). We will make the President understand that we have the power to decide the next President of the United States, and we have the power to decide who is going to be on what committee, because we are 1 million votes that are held in abeyance. We are Democrats and Independents, and we are not going to vote until we get an answer from Clinton. He has got to stand up because he has got to defend us, as we defended him in the impeachment area.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Thank you, sir. Thank you, sir.
MR. WARREN: Thank you very much.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: We encourage everyone to participate in the parade in Harlem.
MS. SUNI ALI: Congresswoman McKinney, thank you for hosting these hearings, and all of you distinguished panelists. I want to focus on the impact of COINTELPRO on the children and families.
As Brother Tarif, one of my attorneys during the case, stated--and actually he represented my unborn child and then, once she was born, represented her rights to have her mother. I think there are only three women that I could think of in this contemporary period of our struggle who went through the abuses of having a child in your womb in jail, and the type of treatment that we received, thereby abusing our children even before they came out of the womb. That is Asanta Shakur, Efemi Shakur, and Fulani Suni Ali.
We were all shackled and handcuffed to the bed, forced examined, and in fact Asanta delivered under shackles and chains. Efemi and I were a little bit more blessed not to have to experience that, but we were shackled and chained for examinations. I in fact had a gun held to my head while they examined me, forcing me to take the examination as I pleaded with them not to, because I was already almost nine months pregnant.
So the children are abused even before birth, abused. Then, firstly, the judge tells us that, in the case of a grand jury resister as myself, that we hold the keys to our freedom; that "You can be with your children tonight or tomorrow morning, if you just cooperate with the grand jury."
And so a lot of people are put on guilt trips. A lot of people can't stand up because they haven't had the background, the training, the preparation or the commitment to go forward. Fortunately, I have a very strong family who supported me. They were impacted and devastated, yet they stood with me and they encouraged me to hold onto my mind and my position.
I also want to call the name of a victim of COINTELPRO, my father, Brother Elijah Odegbelola--
--who for 30 years led the defense forces in the black liberation movement. We understood, when they came after us in Mississippi, they came with firstly four tanks, two Air Force helicopters, a reconnaissance plane, and over 200 armed so-called law enforcement agencies, combined agencies, where they took into custody 12 children, myself, the mother of the children who we were visiting, and my father, Brother Elijah.
Out of the whole five-hour charade, the only one who was held in custody was myself. Everyone else was released, and I was extradited to New York, where I, with 10 other grand jury resisters, broke the back of the grand jury in the Nyack case in New York. Were it not for the sisters and brothers, Yasmin, Naisha, Richard Delaney, Shahim Jabar--who else am I forgetting?--Jerry Gaines, Asha Thornton, all of us who stayed in jail, some for 18 months, some longer, and our families were totally devastated.
My children had neither of their parents because my husband was on trial in the same case. And so some of the children had one parent, and in our case, none. But these children were not taken care of. The Federal Government has not compensated them for the loss of time, the loss of bonding with their parents. Many of these children today are wandering around with emotional problems. Many of them need assistance, need to be with their parent, can't visit their parents.
There are numerous children out here now who are still suffering from the devastation of what happened in the particular cases of their parents, and what continues to happen, because I also want to make sure that everybody understands, COINTELPRO is not dead. It has been replaced with NOWINTELPRO. It does exist, and Imam Jamil Al-Amin is a case in point. Another family devastated. Imam Jamil has young children who are left without their father because of the government conspiracy against him.
And in the grassroots we always call files and reports "jackets," and Imam Jamil got his jacket from the government when he was 16. Some of us, 19, 20. I go back until I was 19 years old, in the anti-war, anti-draft movement. That is when my jacket began. All the files on me began at that point, and just followed our progression. This is what COINTELPRO does, it follows our growth and development, and at each juncture there is information put in our jacket.
And at some point they decide they are going to pounce, and so in 1981, this is what they did to several revolutionaries that they had been watching since the '60s. They began to round people up, and they began to try and put people in a case where they didn't belong, and that is why you have so many people who stood firm and would not collaborate with the grand jury. And out of that case, two people walked, beating all 30 counts of a RICO indictment. That was Bilao Suni Ali and Ileana Robinson, the only two of six defendants who were totally acquitted of all 30 count indictment.
And so I am asking that we consider in these discussions, as they continue, the grand jury aspect, because it is a very important aspect. This is where they turn our people into traitors and snitches and use any lever that they can to mess with your mind and get you to turn against your comrades, your friends, your family. And so this is where we need to be clear. People need to understand what their rights are and the positions that they should take when they are asked to come before a grand jury, actually commanded, as the subpoena says.
And that also we look at, when we talk about compensation, we look at the children. The children, the grandmothers, the aunts, and all those people who had to take care of our babies when we were incarcerated and have no been compensated. They also were harassed. The FBI would visit our families, visit the homes where the children were, harass the children on the way to school, attempt to come into school.
In fact, in the case of my daughter, Ayisha, who was in high school in New Orleans, the FBI went to her school, and actually went to the principal and told the principal that they were going to go to her classroom and take her out of the classroom in order to interrogate her. And the principal and the vice principal stood up and said, "You will not, you will not interfere with this child while she is in this school. While she is here, I am her mother, I am her guardian, and you will not touch her."
So we have to know that the COINTELPRO doesn't stop with us, the targets, but they will go and they will turn every stone to try and get people to participate in this terrorist conspiracy against us when they can. So we must keep these things out front, and particularly the travesties against our children.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Thank you very much.
MR. WILLIAMS: I would like to say good afternoon to everyone. My name is David Van Williams, and my hebrew name is David Ben Israel, and I would like to say good afternoon to Honorable Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and all the distinguished panelists.
I wouldn't have said anything today because I didn't come here to speak, I just came to support this event, but after hearing the gentleman that came up and spoke earlier from the Hebrew Israelite group, my spirit and my heart was troubled. Because, yes, we want to abolish the COINTELPRO movement and the abuse of our people by the U.S. Government with human rights and all of that, but one of the greatest cancers in our community is our own people that are also contributing to this catastrophe.
Myself, I was a young revolutionary, you know, just out of the military in 1982, you know, grew dredlocks just to show that I wanted to distinguish myself, and searching for God and spirituality. And so I joined this organization because they were so "outside of America." They had established themselves out of America.
But when I joined the organization, I was a carpenter by trade, and I was married, and they encouraged all the men who would join this organization to send their wives to Israel. You know, I had never been to Israel before, but I believed these people were godly people, and they even refer to themselves as the Kingdom of God and that Ben Amin is the messiah. Okay.
And so at that particular time, you know, I was young, and so I allowed my own wife to go to Israel even though I had not been myself, because I believed them and I trusted them, and I trusted the leadership that was in Atlanta, Georgia where I was. And so my job, instead of me leaving and going to Israel, I was actually doing construction for this organization. I was--
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Sir, I want to hear your story, and I will listen to your story personally. If you would allow us to get back to the issue of COINTELPRO, I will listen to your story in just a few moments.
MR. WILLIAMS: I understand. Let me close with saying this. I allowed my wife to go to Israel, and as I was working and doing this work for this organization, and I completed this work--
MR. WARREN: Brother--
MR. WILLIAMS: --and then--
MR. WARREN: --Brother, with all due respect, no, Brother--Brother--
MR. WILLIAMS: --they separated me from my wife, and then they come here in this audience and they try to present themselves as being a godly people. And that is what I have to say.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Thank you.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Yes?
MS. DAVIS: My name is Jamie Davis. I have been active in working with legal support for political protests, most recently in Philadelphia, in the protests in conjunction with the Republican National Convention that was held there. People there hit the streets to highlight the connections between the political parties and police repression, and it was a good opportunity for white people to show solidarity with people of color who are often victimized by government repression.
There were over 420 arrests that resulted from the protests. A lot of these arrests were able to occur because of testimony and affidavits that resulted from undercover officers who infiltrated groups active in the protests on August 1st, so COINTELPRO is alive and well.
We are facing 37 felony trials that are coming up soon, and many other misdemeanor trials, and we really need your support for this, to make sure that the population of political prisoners is limited. As was mentioned before, when the political protestors were arrested, they were placed in isolation, beaten, given excessive bail, up to $1 million. And we really need your support to make sure that there are no more political prisoners as a result of this and COINTELPRO. Thank you.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: We appreciate your presence here, and I would like you to know that we have begun to have discussions with Chaka Fattah, the Representative in Philadelphia, so that we can do everything that we can do to help the prisoners who are in Philadelphia.
MS. GREEN: Hi. I am not only here representing (inaudible) family and friends, but also as a news reporter, and thank you very much for mentioning about Merle Africa, you know, about her case; and also representation of at least 11 members, women and children and unborn, that were killed as being (inaudible).
I am also, as I said, for Mumia Abu Jamal. I have got copies of the amicus brief. I don't have enough for everyone. You can get it on line. The information is out there for that. It is very urgent, critically urgent that you and your organizations sign onto it. I have to stress on that.
And you see here this picture I have here of Shaka here. When we came to the Hill earlier, in May, when we were meeting with different organizations, they pointed out that, you know, is Shaka had stuck to the name Gary Graham, that maybe would have made it viable for people. But being a strong revolutionary, he was not going to buy that, that down. And like he said in January, he was going to fight to the end, and we said we were going to be in the struggle with him to the very end, to the very last second.
So I would ask you, it is very critical that on the amicus brief, that you get involved. And like the lady was saying earlier about the demonstrators in Philadelphia, I need to remind that in April when the WTO, when the police attacked, the majority of the crowd that they arrested were Mumia supporters. The same thing in Philadelphia, and definitely the same thing in Los Angeles.
When you saw the tape earlier, the first person that you saw was Zack in "Rage Against the Machine." He has allowed that video that you saw to be broadcast on MTV, and it was also brought at the cable stations for the convention, and we know what the attack that they did on there.
So we are filing a class action lawsuit against--anyone that has been a supporter, physically harassed, bruised, whatever, any type of attack by the police that you join us in this lawsuit. We are also, December the 9th, having another tribunal, a tribunal for Mumia. And sometime in the fall we are expecting for Mumia's day in court before Judge Yohn. But I have to stress for you, I know I am very limited on here, about the amicus briefs.
Last word I want to say on this, on the internet I have been getting a lot, a lot of communications for Australia with the aboriginal people. Over the last four or five years it has been a struggle to demand that there be a struggle to stop the Olympics to happen within Australia.
Now, we have seen that the government there, what they have done is said anyone coming out strongly in support for the aboriginal people's rights, that they will shoot to kill those protesters. And honestly, yes, this has been out internationally on there. So I want to stress on there, there is a very serious situation as the so-called Olympics are taking place in Australia. Thank you.
MS. MANGUM: Hello. My name is Angela Mangum, and I am with the December 12th Movement, International Secretariat, and I we have done a lot of work just in terms of political prisoners and their struggles, you know, for self-determination. Which brings me to the policies of the United States that I feel that we have to struggle very hard to try to defeat, because these policies, these policies give the FBI, CIA, the right more or less to brutalize our people.
And I want to go beyond the U.S. borders to talk about the Zimbabwe Democracy Act of 2000, which I think that that struggle is really no different than the struggle that is going on right here in the U.S. with our own people, and that is that the right, you know, to self-determination. And I think that Africans here in this country have to do everything that they possibly can to defeat this bill, you know.
I also want to speak on the World Conference on Racism that is coming up in the year 2001. And we have been struggling to have a national preparatory meeting here in the U.S. to address that the transatlantic slave trade in a sense was a crime against humanity, and that Africans here should receive reparations. We were recently told that that conference, that national meeting, that the U.S. and Canada has linked up with Latin America, and that meeting is scheduled to be in Chile. I think that that is, you know, crazy. That meeting should be here in the United States.
I just want to, you know, to raise, go back to the Zimbabwe Democracy Act--
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Do you have a paper to submit to us?
MS. MANGUM: Yes, I do.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Okay. We would be more than happy to accept it. You can bring it to me.
Unfortunately, I have got to run and go vote again, because the Republican majority in Congress doesn't respect Congressional Black Caucus Weekend. Now, we have had--and I will ask Tarif to moderate.
MR. WARREN: Thank you.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: And I would just like to say that in Congress we are accustomed to speaking for one minute only, and I know that that is not the way general, ordinary people talk, but if we could just kind of keep it to one minute, two minutes, it would be a whole lot better, and then ask questions of the panelists.
I will be back as quickly as I can.
MR. WARREN: [Presiding.] Okay. Is there another question from the floor? Go ahead, sir. And try to be as succinct as possible, so that we can get as many different questions heard.
MR. : There are two questions I have and a couple of comments. One question is, someone mentioned about Philip Agee saying, "I'm afraid of surveillance. Imagine what everyone else feels about all the surveillance." And my question is, is that it seems to me a lot of people buy into the rhetoric of the surveillance doctrine. They buy into this articulation of difference in others being a source of fear rather than something to see as curiosity.
For example, in the protests of the last year, the way the surveillance community has been portraying the protestors has been one of terrorists, and I am wondering, how do you feel you reach out to the community, this warm and fuzzy middle class that doesn't really know much about the protestors and what they are saying, doesn't necessarily trust the government, and yet is buying into this notion of them being terrorists and the surveillance, and justifying the surveillance?
The second question I have is about the fragmentation or the balkanization of the left progressive movement, that it seems in my own observations that there are a fair amount of focus on race, a fair amount of focus on class, but rarely is there a focus on the intersection of race and class. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. put out something on PBS a couple of years ago called "The Two Nations of Black America," in which he basically identifies that once certain members of minority communities reach a certain economic status, they tend to forget about the people that they left behind. So I am wondering if there are any comments about that.
MR. WARREN: Okay. How many questions do you have, sir?
MR. : Two questions and one more point.
MR. WARREN: Okay.
MR. : Over the last year there have been--it was talked about the media, the corporate media being evil and not representing issues properly. Over the last year you had, dotting along the political landscape, something called Independent Media Centers. They started in Seattle with the N-30 protests, picked up all across the country, all across North America and parts of Europe.
These are viable alternatives to the corporate media structure, yet they lack a certain funding, they lack a certain presence that known people could give them. And I am wondering if some of you people would be willing to work with the IMCs throughout the Nation to bring them more into prominence. Thank you.
MR. WARREN: In terms of the first question that you raise, I think that one of the first levels of rebutting the type of concerns that you express is organization. What we are attempting to do here is create the initial stimuli for a sound organizational structure that will address the issue of political prisoners, putting that issue on a national and international agenda with the hopes that we can get our political prisoners released.
Now, I think beyond that one of the issues that you raised was the issue of the state propaganda organ, which ultimately serves as a vehicle for defining revolutionaries and freedom fighters as terrorists. I think that if in fact we develop a sound organizational structure that involves hard-working folks, that we can incorporate into that structure elements, propaganda elements of our own that are based on the truth, that can refute the unfounded assertions by the state propaganda apparatus that you alluded to.
In terms of the second question, now what is it? I didn't quite understand that question.
MR. : There is something call the Independent Media Centers.
MR. WARREN: Yes.
MR. : And they are struggling for recognition, they are struggling for funding.
MR. WARREN: Yes.
MR. : And it is a multifaceted approach to the news--web, radio, press, and video.
MR. WARREN: Right.
MR. : Now, I was involved with the (inaudible), I was also involved with the Philadelphia, the Republican Convention--
MR. WARREN: Yes.
MR. : --and in both cases I was working with the IMC, and it was amazing that here in D.C. they turned (inaudible) 66, which is an art gallery, into this multimedia center that had, you know, thousands of feet of cable and was just pumping out information--
MR. WARREN: Yes. Well, I am familiar--
MR. : And I am just wondering, is there a possibility of you and other influential members of various resistance movements hooking up with IMCs throughout the country and, you know, channeling prestige and funding and bringing out these counter-corporate media entities.
MR. WARREN: Well, I am not in a position to say whether in fact our efforts will ultimately lead to that type of relationship or arrangement, but what I am aware of is that the organs that you have just alluded to are very effective organs in their own right, and they should continue on, notwithstanding the fact that ultimately we don't make or create that type of relationship. But I think that other models can be created off of those existing models.
MS. CLEAVER: I would like to respond to something you said. You were talking about how do you get people to think clearly. They don't really believe the government but they kind of are influenced. Just about how important it has been for the police agencies, the intelligence agencies, particularly the FBI, to control what people think.
They have rosters of reporters working in different major newspapers, in different wire services and on television, that will put out the stories that they want them to put out or will actually just take their stories and put them out as news. So we have active disinformation campaigns, active apparent news items that are coming directly from intelligence services, so that people will believe.
For example, most people believe the Black Panther Party was a violent organization, the Black Panther Party were thugs, or things like this. Where do they get this information? They get it from government intelligence information that is put through the media over years and years and years, to the point that they believe it.
You will hear, I think it was Walter Cronkite, say "The FBI released a report today claiming the Black Panther Party is the most dangerous threat to the internal security of the United States." So people sitting at home, they watch this, they believe Walter Cronkite and they believe that this is true.
So we are still, to this day, trying to get out from under that kind of media propaganda, and many of the people who are in prison, political prisoners or political exiles, have been targeted and tarnished by that, so no one wants to--"Why should I support them? They're just criminals They're just thugs. They're just cop killers." Or whatever.
So my point is that if you have these kind of Independent Media Centers, there is a tremendous work to be done in overturning and eliminating and restoring some kind of honesty and openness to what goes on in what they call the public airwaves.
MR. WARREN: In fact, I think that consistent with what Kathleen said, that one of the--you can get involved and engaged in several different projects. One project--on your own, I mean, and I am talking about these independent media centers. One project would be to get involved in an analysis of how state-controlled media operates so that they disseminate criminal information, false information for purposes of criminalizing people who are involved in legitimate political activity. You know, that is one of the things that they can do.
Another thing they can do, irrespective again of whatever structure we are able to establish here as a result of this initial effort, is to get involved in examining who political prisoners are. I mean, the importance of the political work in the community and why they are being criminalized. I mean, there is a lot of work for everybody who is operating in a principled manner, and that is all I am saying, irrespective of whether there is an ultimate interaction between us, if we are able to develop this vehicle, when we are able to develop it, and any of these other independent media centers.
Thank you. Next question.
MS. OWEN: My name is Miriam Owen. I have been told to be very concise, and I don't mean to take any time away from the African-Americans in any way, but I wanted to speak about my experiences with police organizations and the FBI, and also with the people and the people's organizations as well, human rights groups, lawyers, whether they are from the national bar or from the Hispanic bar or the D.C. bar or any other bar.
I was reporting to them that I had been beaten up by the police, I had been beaten up by just citizens. When I reported any crimes that were being committed against me, when I said that, there was some sort of a language--and I know they said to be concise, so I don't know how, when to begin. But what I was reporting to these groups was that there was something that was controlling, and it was affecting not only my family or destroying my family and me, but it was affecting the people around us as well. And it had to do with in and out and up and down, and we and I and--
MR. WARREN: Well, let me--
MS. OWEN: These words, I just wanted to explain, these words had political meanings. They were making me a political being, and everything I did, what I ate, what I wore, where I went, and whether I was in a building or out, or whether I was up or I was down or otherwise the we. And the we and the I bothered me very much, because we all have a we and an I identity, and--
MR. WARREN: Okay. Let me just stop you here. I think that what you raise are very serious personal concerns, but--
MS. OWEN: No, it isn't personal, because it is affecting the citizens--
MR. WARREN: That is fine.
MS. OWEN: --because they are taking part, and also I reported to Congress, and Congress, they didn't think there was anything wrong with this.
MR. WARREN: Okay. Well, Congresswoman McKinney will hear you, I am sure.
MS. OWEN: I noticed that she left, because I already--
MR. WARREN: She will be back, and you will be able to speak with her about that.
MS. OWEN: --I already went to her office and wrote this out for her.
MR. WARREN: That is fine, but we want to continue this along.
MS. OWEN: But don't you think it is dangerous if a language is separate from the dictionary--
MR. WARREN: Absolutely, absolutely.
MS. OWEN: --and it has political meaning, and--
MR. WARREN: But we will deal with that later on, and we will talk about that later on.
MS. OWEN: But I just want these people to know, and you to know, and Congress, that I don't adhere to this stupidity of in and out and up and down and--
MR. WARREN: Sure. That is fine. Okay.
MS. OWEN: --I am not being programmed, and that I like to think for myself.
MR. WARREN: Sure. Thank you so much. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you.
MR. COATES: My comments are going to be real brief. Two things. I am Paul Coates. I am here on my own behalf, but also more important than me, I am here on behalf of Marshall Conway, Marshall Eddie Conway, who cannot be here today. Eddie Conway has done the better part of 30 years, he is on 31 now, in the Maryland State Penitentiary, along with another brother who seldom gets mentioned, Jack Johnson.
MR. WARREN: Yes.
MR. COATES: Their cases are known to some, and more than anything, in talking with Eddie, the hope for this panel would be and the hope for the hearings that would come out, yes, on the one hand there is hope that some justice will be given to those brothers and sisters who are incarcerated.
There is hope for that, but at the same time there is a larger concern that the record really be set straight, going along the lines and toward the end that Kathleen was just talking about, the media. Our lives--and the folks who have survived through two wars, like Geronimo did, Vietnam and the war of the police against the Panthers, Marshall Conway survived against that, I survived against it, and so many other people did--our lives and our time is limited, but those who come after us certainly need and should have the full benefit of the record that only we who have survived this tragedy can leave and create for them.
This hearing, the possibilities of this hearing certain goes toward the end of justice for those brothers and sisters who are incarcerated, those who have passed, those who passed in jail, those who are going to pass before they get out of jail. Nothing will be really done for them, but those beyond us, those beyond us, we have that responsibility, we have that responsibility.
And I really would encourage this panel to make sure that that responsibility is upheld, to make sure that all of us who have survived participate to that extent, to the fullest extent that we possibly can. It is going to be a difficult job, but I would hope that we would all do our best. And I really want to thank not only Congresswoman McKinney for bringing us together, but all the organizer who have worked, and I know all the political prisoners, and really congratulate all the brothers and sisters who spent their time in and made it out and are here today.
MR. WARREN: Thank you for your comments.
MS. WHITEHORN: I just want to say one thing to that. I have been thinking about it during this whole hearing. In 1980, when Reagan was going to be inaugurated and we heard--I was part of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, and we heard that the Klan was going to be there to celebrate his inauguration, and we said, "Well, now the Klan is in the White House."
So we came down here to organize a teach-in, and I spent about a month here. And I would go to different community groups, and I met four different people who didn't know each other, all African American people, who were in writers' groups and other community groups, not the Black Panthers, nothing that was nationally heard of, a small group, that were infiltrated by COINTELPRO. And the story is much broader than even what, you know, we could put together ourselves.
And just one other thing is that the other thing I was remembering was that whole sense of defeat that we had at the end of the '60s, before--we knew COINTELPRO was going on, but before it was out there and on the record, there was a sense in all these organizations, "Well, we tried and we couldn't do it." You know, "Look, we ended up fighting each other."
And so I think that that point about making the record and, you know, putting it on the media, making more movies, making something like "The Murder of Fred Hampton," a movie that is seen by young people as opposed to something you have to describe to them, is really an important point.
MR. WARREN: Thank you.
MS. GAGE: Hi. I am Kit Gage. I am Executive Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild, which has been in the struggle for 60-plus years, with the National Conference of Black Lawyers, has defended political prisoners, been the target itself of everything, everybody in the government.
But I am also the head of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, which is a relatively new group that is founded around defending people who are being jailed, denied bond by the use of secret evidence, in the process of being deported. There have been about 20 people in the last four or five years.
And what has been interesting for me about this situation is, it is mostly Arabs and Muslims who were being targeted for their politics explicitly. We have won six cases where the government has been completely embarrassed over the last year or so, because they have been found out as just going after people's politics.
These are folks, by and large, who are here, who are immigrants to the United States and don't understand this history, and it has been very helpful I think for them to have folks like, other folks like me and other people in the Coalition, and talking to folks like in this room who understand this history, so they don't understand that they are alone in this kind of targeting. They are starting to learn the history of this kind of abuse, and I urge them especially to increase their ties to these communities. And if you all have any ideas about, you know, how to proceed with that, I would be happy to have that.
Let me just add one little quick thing, too. The National Lawyers Guild has a project on community radio, on micro radio, and it is helping to empower people to start up very small community radio stations, you know, that are now--we have pushed to get them actually legal through the FTC, and I would urge that also as a mechanism to organize within your community and bypass the regular media.
MR. WARREN: Thank you.
MR. LOUIS WOLF: I am Louis Wolf. I am with the magazine Covert Action Quarterly. A couple of points--
Thank you. A couple of points.
There is a man by the name of Anthony Downs who was a consultant to the Kerner Commission who you were mentioning, Kathleen, who said, and I quote, "It would be far cheaper to repress future large-scale urban violence through police and military action than to pay for effective programs against remaining poverty." He was a devotee of a term which he called "spatial deconcentration," which in effect is moving the poor, sending them somewhere else, and in fact is the largest, I think the largest basis for homelessness in this country.
You mentioned Richard Held. Bruce also mentioned him. He is a war criminal. Okay? Actually we published a picture of him with a weapon, and that is his favorite pose, I think. He is today sitting in California as a CEO of a major credit card company. Think about that.
MR. ELISON: Which one?
MR. LOUIS WOLF: I am still looking into which one, but I think the list is rather narrow. The implications of that are rather serious.
I did a Freedom of Information Act request on COINTELPRO, and we had gotten a tip about the new name of COINTELPRO, or new names, which were COMTEL, C-O-M-T-E-L, for communications intelligence, or TOPLEV, which is an acronym for top level. I can't prove that it is the name, these are the names or were the names as of the date of that request, but I got back a letter from the FBI, and at the top of the letter was "Subject: COMTEL and TOPLEV programs." Well, if it doesn't exist, then why would they call it that? You have to wonder.
My last anecdote, I think an important one, is that the talk about the media, CNN and NPR both are now engaged in what are called internships with the Psychological Operations Corps or the fourth Psychological Ops group. PSYOPS is, of course, for those who don't know, a huge operation in this country that is used, of course, around the world, but it is also engaged, they are engaged here in the United States.
One of the better known ones was the case in the Iraqi War that led to, if you will, the support that was given to that war before it started, to Operation Desert Storm, was the hearing that was held in this very building, where it was stated that the Iraqis were taking babies, ripping babies out of--what are they called? The incubators, thank you. Incubators. This never happened, and this was an operation which, a PSYOPS operation which was amazing, and they had a hearing in the Congress about it.
So I just think we all have to be aware of what is going on. Actually, I just came from a conference on PSYOPS. One was called Surveillance Expo and the other was called Information Warfare, and that is a term--that is their term, not mine. And the range of information warfare which they allege is defense, but in fact when you get down to them and you have lunch with them, as I have been doing the past three days, they talk about the offensive side, and "We can't talk about it. We're not allowed to talk about it." And that is where it is really at.
MS. TAIFA: Something that Lou Wolf said just sparked something. He had mentioned, earlier in his presentation, something about war criminals, and it just reminded me of a letter that I got, Fed Ex, from Nancy Jacob Bell, the wife of Herman Bell. I just want to read a short paragraph from that. Herman Bell is one of the New York Three: Delia Muta Kiyim; Albert Noel Washington, who just recently passed; and Herman Bell is the third.
And his wife, she said, "If there can be truth and reconciliation in South Africa, why can't it happen in the U.S. as well? If the most heinous torturers and murderers in the South Afrikkaner government can admit their actions against the people and be forgiven, why can't the same attempt to clear the slate take place in this country? Our activists were not only responding to the FBI's war crimes, but were taking a most courageous stand against ongoing war against black people that this government has been waging since the first time we were brought to this country. Our political prisoners deserve not only their immediate freedom, but our homage, respect, and governmental reparations for all the years they have spent languishing in prison or sacrificing their lives to fight for black people."
It just reminded me of that, and since she Fed Ex'd it to me, I wanted to have the opportunity to read it. Thank you.
MR. ELISON: For the first time in 25 years, the FBI agreed to direct debates on what was happening on the Pine Ridge Reservation on three Public Radio stations, South Dakota Public Radio, Baltimore Public Radio, and Kansas City Public Radio, and these were senior FBI officials.
In light of the gentleman that just spoke, the problem that exists is that these folks were going out and saying during this debate that there never was any kind of domestic security operation against the American Indian Movement. And when I would try to quote from documents, or I at one point even said, "Would you like me to refer to file numbers, dates, who it was sent to, it was sent from, and what not," they told me that it didn't exist.
So I think that the Congresswoman's task is--I mean, to me it is just exemplifies, and that is why I wanted to say it, it just exemplifies the problem of the disinformation campaign, because these debates were arranged at the behest of the FBI. We didn't initiate them.
And the particular community that they targeted, because they know that we are pushing hard for clemency for Leonard Peltier, and the FBI has stated publicly to the media they are very concerned that clemency is going to be granted by President Clinton, you know, this disinformation campaign is alive and, I agree, a very dangerous component of the continued misinformation of our populace.
MS. FINNEGAN: My name is Jennifer Finnegan, and I am here as a reporter from the IMC covering this event, and I just wanted to let people know that the D.C. IMC has a news--
VOICES: Speak up, please.
MS. FINNEGAN: Sure. Sorry. The D.C. IMC has a news wire that we are--there is currently a legal case being mounted against the D.C. police for their transgressions against the protesters for the--
MR. ELISON: What is the IMC?
MS. FINNEGAN: It is the Independent Media Center.
MR. ELISON: Thank you.
MS. FINNEGAN: It was mentioned a few times before.
MR. ELISON: I'm slow.
MS. FINNEGAN: That's okay. But, anyway, we are--we need evidence to help indict the police, and to also help the political prisoners who were taken and mistreated during the protests, to help them. So if anyone has any evidence or any pictures or any stories that they have to tell, they can upload them to the news wire, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
MR. WARREN: Thank you. Before the next question, I just want to let you know that anybody who has any questions that they want to address any one of the panel that is up here on, concerning anything that was said, feel free to stand up and ask a question.
MR. FERGUSON: Yes. I am Herman Ferguson.
First of all, I am operating under a tremendous handicap. When Sister McKinney said that you had only one minute, I thought to myself that to say that to a black person after 400 years of the holocaust that we have experienced, to only give us a minute to talk about it? I could stand here until this time next week, but I am going to be as brief as I possibly can, understanding the constraints under which I am laboring.
I am speaking, I am wearing two hats when I speak to you here. I am speaking on behalf of the Republic of New Africa, and also speaking on behalf of the New African Liberation Front. I am representing a movement that we call the New African Independence Movement.
Back on March 31, 1968, 500 New African people from all over the United States came together in Detroit, Michigan, signed a declaration of independence stating that we are not citizens of the United States, and we declared the Republic of New Africa as the government that would represent us. The following year, when we came back for our first conference, our first convention, the Detroit police surrounded the church, the New Bethel Baptist Church, and fired 900 rounds of ammunition in that church, trying to kill us all. This was done with the cooperation and the collaboration of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The reason they were doing it is because from all over the United States there were close--there were about 150 of the very heart of the black nationalist movement, was gathered in that place, and so they thought that if they could take us out, that would have destroyed the black nationalist movement in one thrust. Unfortunately, they did not succeed because our legionnaires, who had been well trained, and our officers were well trained themselves, they fought back and held them off, and we were able to get away with our lives.
A few years ago--and I think this is a story that needs to be told because very few people know that, and it is an important part of our history. We should keep our history in a continuum. We should understand that all of these types of, these things that have happened, follow a line that is carefully planned and thought out by this government. Nothing happens in isolation.
The struggle of the Panther Party is part of that continuum. The one thing that this country is frightened of is the nationalistic fervor of our people, that exists in all of our people. Whether you are an integrationist or a separatist, that feeling of a nation is in all of our people.
Now about five or six years ago, about eight political prisoners and prisoners of war sent out a call for the founding of or forming of a liberation front. Dr. Mutulu Shakur was one of those people. And we came together, black nationalist organizations who felt that our struggle was for land independence and nationhood, to try and give the New African Independence Movement the kind of leadership that we thought was necessary.
And so this meeting here today is extremely important because we have to respond to the call of those brothers to carry on this liberation struggle. We see this as a means, a tactic towards getting them released from prison or some relief for them in prison.
We have talked over and over again, we have said it in so many places, that we are involved in a war, but there is no shooting going on at this point in time. So how do we prove, what is the evidence we have that there is a war going on? It is the fact that we have these political prisoners and prisoners of war in the prisons today.
And so we will support this committee in any way that we are asked to. At the same time, we will continue the work that we have already been doing and have been doing over the years to get these brothers out of prison, and these sisters.
And the last thing I want to say is that when Safia spoke about Noel Washington, I was personally--I didn't know Noel personally, I got to know him by way of the telephone after I came back in this country, after being in exile for 19 years
--but I was personally hurt when he died. It was a blow that I felt was an indication of the weakness and the powerlessness of our struggle, that we could not get that brother out of prison to die at home, when we knew that he had only 10 months to live, and he only lived 5 months.
Personally, I felt like I didn't want to talk anymore. I mean, we have talked, talked, and if talking could get it done, then we wouldn't have anybody in prison 30 years. Mutulu wouldn't be in prison for 60 years, or 80 years, or whatever it is. Mumia wouldn't be on death row.
But I have reached the point where in my thinking, that while this is good and it is necessary, and it will expose the fact that this country does have political prisoners, we have got to be prepared to go beyond that. We have got to go beyond that. We have got to find a way to get those prisoners after prison, if we have to, as somebody said here, I believe, if we have to go and get them ourselves.
But unless we are able and prepared to do that, I don't think that we really understand or appreciate the sacrifices that these brothers have made. I feel that there is nothing that we should not do, no stone we should leave unturned to see that these brothers are brought out of prison, out of appreciation for what they have done.
And one last thing, and I am sorry that Sister McKinney is not here, it is through the sacrifices that these brothers made that we have people like Sister McKinney sitting here in the United States Congress today.
We have people, all of these (inaudible), it was no, what is that thing they call equal opportunity that did it, no affirmative action that did it. It was done because these brothers threw down--
VOICE: And sisters.
MR. FERGUSON: And sisters, yes. All right.
MR. FERGUSON: And we have got to say clearly to these bastards that we are ready and we will throw down again if they don't treat our political prisoners right by letting them out.
When we came here in 1996 and had a session with the Black Caucus. they promised to help us. We had all kinds of promises from them. Nkechi, you remember, you were part of that group.
MS. TAIFA: I was right here.
MR. FERGUSON: Heywood Brown was one of them. I was on that committee.
MS. TAIFA: Edward Burns.
MR. FERGUSON: And what happened was, in the fall of the year, the same September time when there was supposed to have been a coming together and a culmination of the plan that we had made and the agreements we had come to around political prisoners, they told us, the CBC, that they were not prepared to make any moves at that time because it might interfere with the reelection of Bill Clinton. That is what they told us.
And that is why I wanted to say this to Sister McKinney. I told her privately, I hope she is for real, because we will back her all the way. And I believe she is for real because I have heard some damn good things about her from down there in Georgia. But I just want it to be made clear, we have been here before and we have been screwed over.
MS. TAIFA: But it is different this time, Herman. I am sorry. I have never seen what I saw here today.
MR. FERGUSON: Okay. Right. I am just saying what happened in the past. I think this is (inaudible). Thank you.
MS. CLEAVER: I would just like to share with you something I heard one of our old, old, long line freedom fighters, Ossie Davis, say. We were at a big rally in New York, Madison Square Garden, a "Free Mumia" rally, and I ran into him backstage. And I was coming down with some other people and he was coming out. And I said, "Oh, Ossie Davis," and I started talking to him, and introduced him to all the people I was with.
And he said, "Well, I've got to go. See you at the next one." And I said, "Yeah, there always is a next one, isn't there? There's always another rally for another political prisoner, to free somebody." And I said, "Yeah." He said, "They make it, they arrange it that way."
So we are trying to say let's go to another level and go on to international human rights, call them to account, make the record straight, and get these people who deserve amnesty and compensation out. Thank you.
MS. KUWUMBA: Sister Katherine, you are absolutely correct, and I am glad you put that out there in the universe, because it is going to take universal power composed of people who love justice and are willing to stand up and fight for freedom and liberation. This just a very powerful moment in all of our lives.
Look around this room and see these brothers and sisters here who are political prisoners, who have dared to step up and cross that line, and to give their time, their lives, their freedom, and separation from their families, their people, for the struggle for justice. And I just thank you so very much.
My name is Neia Kuwumba. I am Regional President of Mothers on the Move Spiritually. The basis of any nation, people or culture starts with the family, and so we have produced the family of the universe here. And now that we have people from all races, all cultures, and all of the faith communities here on this planet, North America, more so than at any other time in history, this I believe, Sister Nkechi, is the time and the moment when we can come together as the family of God and deliver our brothers and sisters from the dungeons and the bastions of antiquity.
And I say antiquity because, while you brothers and sisters have been behind metal doors and iron bars and in little cages, and receiving all kind of psychological abuse and what not, now that we are in the 21st century, we have brothers and sisters who are being abused with the electronic technology of this society, and they move and walk and live among us, and they are abused, harassed and persecuted, and many of them have died unknown. Recently some have died who have been known by name and by cause, but there is nobody who has come forward to deal with this. We have no organized body that I am aware of, as an activist, who is willing to stand up and deal with this issue.
We have a brother from Wichita, Kansas. He and his wife came here to Washington to plead their cause with a letter to President Clinton, and they were both arrested, because in their State it was legal to carry firearms, and they were carrying it for protection, but when they came to the District of Columbia they were arrested, and also on the strength because they were trying to approach President Clinton. They kept them here for about three months, and we actively tried to do everything we could until they were finally released and returned to Wichita, Kansas.
The brother is now in a comatose position in a hospital in Wichita, Kansas. His wife is afraid for her life, also because of the possibility that it can happen to her, because of implants, because of electronic violations and all of the other modern technology that they used, that is not as big as a prison cell and not as visible.
But these abuses are taking place, and as you consider how we are going to free and release our brothers and sisters who have been incarcerated from the '50s, '60s and on, and whose lives have been stolen, as Sister Abalu Baker has so brilliantly expressed in her presentation, we must at the same time consider how this new technology and methodology is being used and abused, for people who are walking and living among us and who have been quietly taken out because of the new technology.
We punch the button and bring the news in on our television at home. We walk with our cell phones. We have our little gidgets and gadgets that we use, but people are also being abused, incarcerated, and put on death row because of this new technology. And I do wish each and every one of you, in your consideration of how we are going to free and release Brother Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, bring Sister Asanta Shakur back home, and all of the other brothers and sisters who are still incarcerated because they were patriots who stood up and struggled for justice that this country says that it honors and reveres because it is a democracy, then we will have to take into consideration that the new technology has jumped light years ahead of us and is already incarcerating and abusing and destroying people, not even by putting them on death row in those antiquated systems, but in the way they can do it now, with modern technology.
Again, my brothers and sisters, I am deeply indebted to each and every one of you who have been incarcerated behind the iron bars and behind the metal doors, and all of the other kinds of psychiatric abuses that you all have been subjected to over the years. I do thank you for all of us who have struggled for you and are continuing to struggle.
And we have the Black Panther Party here, the old generation and the new generation who are still here. We salute you. We are happy that you have stepped up to the plate, and we will work in solidarity with you for the universal struggle of freeing our brothers and sisters who are still in the barbaric and antiquated dungeons of America. We have taken this issue to the world courts and to the other national communities, but we have got to get it done here in America.
And I want to thank you for that, for convening us here and allowing us to express these needs, but we must go beyond words into deeds.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Absolutely. Thank you. And it is my understanding that we are going to cut it off with two more persons?
MR. WARREN: Well, no. Unless there are two more. Are there any more? Okay, fine.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Paul Wolf, who has put the COINTELPRO papers on the internet, is standing, and I presume because you have something to say.
MR. WARREN: Okay. Two more people and (inaudible), that is three.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Okay. Two, and an announcement, right. One, two, and an announcement.
MR. PAUL WOLF: Well, I hope this is an interesting last question. I would like to hear some more from Geronimo ji Jaga. You were talking to us about murder, and I wonder if you could give us kind of a flavor of how the FBI works and what you meant by murder? We heard the names of 20 or 30 people, and to get you started, I know one of the things that happened is that there was a feud--
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Why don't you speak into the microphone, Paul, please?
MR. PAUL WOLF: --there was a feud between the Black Panther Party and another group called the United Slaves. Maybe that would be a good example you could use to illustrate some of the methods that the FBI uses.
MR. ji JAGA: Yes, they used what was called fratricidal attempts to get us to kill each other, and one example, like you mentioned, was the US organization and the Black Panther Party of Southern California, which resulted in the death of Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, in which the FBI sent agents into both groups in order to get the groups to fight each other. But in the case of Bunchy, that agent took the form of a Black Panther, contrary to what people believe, that that agent took the form of an US member.
So all this truth is going to come out, if we have these hearings, in which you will see that people who people today think were straight-up Panthers, legitimate Panthers, were in fact agents, Kathleen had already mentioned Earl Anthony, and others who maybe unwittingly worked with the FBI.
Because we are learning now about another program called Operation Minaret, that was an operation that was conducted by the NSC. We know about Chaos, which was the operation conducted against us by the CIA. Here we are talking about COINTELPRO, which was the operation conducted against us by the FBI. So as we uncover these things, we learn more and more information about how things happened.
And the response to Bunchy's death was so tremendous that a lot of people were killed thinking that it was US members, only to find out years later that it was an actual member, a person posing as a Panther who went and slapped an US member, and then the US member responded to that slap, and then the shooting ensued. So these kind of things really boggled our mind, because people for years have been hating the wrong people, and it continues.
And then people come among you and say, "I'm a Panther, I did this, I was in Ghana," and I heard people round there giving speeches, "I was a Panther and I did this and that," who were in fact working with the FBI. Until this day, they are collecting money. You have got people running around saying, "I'm a Panther," have no clue of what happened and the sacrifices and the studies and all of the training and the discipline that we had to go through in order to qualify oneself as that.
And it still continues today. You have false prophets and people faking, and people are dying, and they will continue to die as long as this is among us. So this is why it is very important for these facts to come out. This is why we want this hearing badly, so we can free our prisoners, so we can free our minds, and we can compensate our people and our families.
I can give you all kind of cases of murders, but I think we have talked enough on that, but you know, if you want me to talk further, you know, I can.
MS. SUNI ALI: This week one of the political prisoners, Maranja Bowers, who has been down over 20 years, and he is in prison in Florida, in a Federal institution in Florida, went before the parole board, but this time with a team of lawyers that we were able to help him put together by raising money, and people who could go to the parole board with him. And he went on the 12th, and we got a call last night that he made parole, he got a date, September 12, 2001.
And that date--he is not out yet, because that has to be approved by Washington. But we need your support, we still need support to get him on the street. We got one hurdle. He made it, the first time in all these years of going up for parole that he actually got a date to come home, but that could be stopped if we don't keep the pressure on, you know. So I just wanted to let you all know that we are having victories, but that victory is because we are doing the work and we are working together and we are making it known that this has to be done.
So the sister from the Jericho Legal Defense Fund--Gilda Sherrod Ali--that is what she was crying about, because I was able to tell her the date that Maranja made parole and he is coming home, and she was just--
--to the lawyers for getting that.
MR. WARREN: Last speaker.
MR. HOSEY: Two hats, and one hat, this was sent to you. We don't know whether you got it or not, and I would like to read it, if not.
VOICE: What is your name?
MR. HOSEY: My name is Masai A. Hosey. I am a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a citizen of the Republic of Africa. I claim no U.S. citizenship and don't want it.
But right now--
MS. TAIFA: He got up in court and said that, too.
MR. HOSEY: But right now with a statement from the American Friends Service Committee, the other hat. Okay?
"Sister McKinney, Member of Congress, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. Dear Sister McKinney: I am in receipt of your August 28th letter of invitation to the September 14th forum, `Human Rights in the United States: The Unfinished Story of Political Prisoners/Victims of COINTELPRO.' Unfortunately, I just received your invitation yesterday and I am unable to free my schedule." We just got it the day before yesterday.
"As a human rights advocate on behalf of prisoners and activists for over 30 years, I want to applaud the Congressional Black Caucus for holding this important hearing. I have such clear and disturbing memories of my generation of young activists in the '60s and '70s being targeted by various government entities.
"Many activists of my generation died at the hands of State troopers, the National Guard, and various police entities. It was not unusual to turn on the television news in those years, to see reports of members of the Black Panther Party or some other group of young activists being targeted for arrest. I can remember vividly seeing the news reports on the death by police of the Chicago Panthers, who were asleep at the time.
"As my own activism evolved into the human rights work that I am currently doing on behalf of prisoners in the United States, I became aware that further targeting took place for those who became imprisoned. I have met people who, because of their political beliefs, were targeted for placement in long-term isolation in prisons throughout the country. Sundiata Okole was kept over five years in a cage smaller than those in which we keep dogs in human society facilities. Ojure Lutulo has been kept in a management control unit in New Jersey since February 4, 1986.
"Throughout the years I have met countless people who were imprisoned from that era based on `evidence' supplied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As we have learned in later years, much of that evidence was falsified. It astounds me even now that so many remain in prison still based on that falsified evidence: Eleo Bottom, Russell Marun Sholtz, Zolo Aganya, Beshia Amid, Herman Bell, Mutulu Shakur, Leonard Peltier. The list that comes to my head is endless, and I am sure they will be well represented by your panel members.
"There is no question in my mind that the counterintelligence program of the FBI targeted activists for death and imprisonment. This is a chapter in the history of this country that is not yet closed. There are too many people still suffering and struggling with the consequences of COINTELPRO. This hearing has to be just the beginning. The ultimate end is nothing less than the release of those who were so cruelly victimized by COINTELPRO.
"Sincerely, Bonnie Kaness, Associate Director, Coordinator, Prison Watch Criminal Justice Program, AFSC."
MR. HOSEY: That is one of my hats. The other one, though, (inaudible), and I know some other people here can speak on it, it is like, as people mentioned, this is a war, and like, I think we need to be pushing from statements maybe from CBC that recognize the legitimacy of that war and our right to fight in as many ways as possible.
And when we are talking about political prisoners and POWs in there, one thing, POWs, sometimes people need to really focus on developing the means to get them out the way anybody else do in a war. You don't drag this on for 10 years. I have heard lawyers eight years ago come out with statements more progressive than what I am hearing now.
Control units are being built throughout the United States. They are being filled with victims of that COINTELPRO that is still going on. We ain't supposed to be letting them get built, and those prisoners, we are supposed to develop the means to get them out, and also recommend that we don't do that in public. We are talking about political prisoners, they are being created every day. POWs are going in there. We can't stop--it is up to the period, no more political prisoners or POWs, so we get them out and that is it.
And when I correspond with a lot of them brothers and sisters in there, that is what they are talking about, getting out to get involved in the struggle, not getting out for the sake of getting out. And if we don't do what we are supposed to do out here, they are going to get out here and they are going to get caught up in the same thing that sent them down.
Right now the United States is running around with programs called security management units. Many people thing of them as gang programs. It don't take nothing but a little conspiracy charge, and you are right back in there. You had better believe them brothers and sisters are so committed, they are going to go where the people are, and they are going back, if again we ain't developed the means to both get them out and to keep them out, you know.
But that is the other half, and I am gone.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Well, it has been a very long day, but I can guarantee to all of you that I have learned so much, and have deepened my commitment to making sure that we get to the bottom and go all the way up to the top, in order to make sure that we get justice, justice for our people and justice for the survivors of COINTELPRO.
Now, we have got refreshments outside, and we encourage you to mix and mingle with our witnesses who have come here, our panelists, and get a few refreshments. But then in 10 minutes, at 5 o'clock, we would ask you to reassemble here because we are going to have a viewing of "All Power to the People," the movie that was put together by Lelu Lee, which is an excellent expose of all that we have been talking about today.
Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, at 5:48 p.m., the forum was concluded.]