Disclaimer: The facts ahead were largely inspired by AJ+’s video.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, otherwise known as the FBI, was founded by President Theodore Roosevelt and his attorney general in 1908 as a response to the 1901 assassination of former President, William McKinley.
Although the Bureau’s original mission was to investigate anarchists, Director J. Edgar Hoover was the one to eventually mold and reestablish its purpose. He led the organization for forty-eight years, keeping tabs on all who he suspected of being either politically dangerous or immoral — including United States presidents.
Further down the line, following the tragedy of World War II, the Bureau’s focus shifted from anarchism to communism. This is understandable, considering that it was the time of the “red scare” and McCarthyism. McCarthyism was a then widespread practice of “making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence”. It was not only public figures, such as Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, that fell victim to such accusations but also many private citizens.
Later on in the 1960s, the FBI launched the Counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO), whose main focus was on minority groups and progressive leaders. One of such interests was the Civil Rights Movement. According to AJ+, the Bureau’s agents aimed to disrupt groups, increase paranoia among members, and destroy the public image of leaders. Even nonviolent civil rights groups felt this wrath.
As a matter of fact, the FBI authorized surveillance of nonviolent civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., in 1963 as what they called a “security measure”. However, when considering the fact that he had his home and offices wiretapped, had his hotel rooms bugged, and was sent an anonymous letter being told to take his own life, one can only wonder up to exactly what point it was a security measure.
The Bureau also took an interest in other civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers, surveilling them, just as they did with Dr. King, and attempting to divide the group. They considered the Panthers to pose an imminent threat, and it was not due to the fact that they were heavily armed. Instead, the FBI was concerned about their Free Breakfast Program, afraid that it would only draw more respect for the group.
The FBI did not only target civil rights organizations, but also other identity-based groups. For example, the American Indian Movement (AIM). When it came to the AIM, the Bureau developed informants to try to insinuate themselves into the group. They later directly faced off members during a 71-day siege at Wounded Knee.
With all of the corrupt actions that the FBI was expressing, it is almost difficult to believe that it was not until 1971 that COINTELPRO was finally exposed. According to AJ+, this exposure occurred when a group of anti-war activists broke into an FBI office and stole files related to the program. Nonetheless, it was not until 1975 that the Senate finally held an official investigation regarding the matter. Although not eliminating the Bureau altogether, the Senate committee agreed to limit its overabundant authority.
However, this was immediately overturned after the events of September 11, 2001, or 9/11, when the Bush administration pushed Congress into passing the Patriot Act only 45 days after the attack. The passing of this act not only gave the FBI access to the wide range of authority that had once been theirs but granted them, even more, power, allowing them to monitor the phone calls, e-mails, bank records and Internet usage of ordinary Americans.
Later, in 2010, the ACLU discovered that the Bureau was using a program to collect information on minority racial and ethnic groups-essentially “mapping” those communities. Their main targets varied according to geographic location, with African Americans being their main focus in Georgia, Muslim and Arab-Americans in Michigan, Chinese and Russian-Americans in California, and Latinxs in various states. However, the targeting was not effective and instead resulted in manufactured plots.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, investigators created terrorists out of otherwise law-abiding individuals. They encouraged Muslim-Americans to carry out terrorist attacks. So, in other terms, the United States government, itself, is responsible for such attacks and are creating terrorists out of people who, had they not been forced, would not have committed any crimes.
While the Federal Bureau of Investigation is supposed to be a symbol of honesty, competence, and justice, it is difficult to believe that that is the case, given their not-so-honest past. Here is to hoping that the future is different.