What We Can Learn From the Files Themselves

Many people in the United States have a hard time understanding why so many political dissidents, labor organizers, immigrants, and activists in communities of color warn about government repression and the erosion of civil liberties. These are people who have good reason to worry--they are in groups that have been targeted repeatedly by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies for who they are, or what `they believe, rather than anything they have done.

On these pages we are in the process of collecting stories of FBI abuses during the period of the illegal COINTELPRO operations (1956-1974). We do this to illustrate actual incidents targeting real people. Each story will be backed up with selected images of actual COINTELPRO documents.

Read more about COINTELPRO here.

We hope that this archival collection of COINTELPRO documents will assist in educating the public about the need to defend dissent and protect civil liberties for all. Of special interest is the documentation of a network of federal, state, and local police and intelligence agencies that shread information with corporate, commercial, and right-wing security and intelligence-gathering organizations and individuals. This network, which was illegal during the period of the FBI COINTELPRO operations, is now being legalized piece-by-piece.

This collection of documents is being unveiled to remind us that protests of government policies, such as those at the political conventions this summer in Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul , are protected by the Bill of Rights, unless there are specific criminal acts for which specific individuals can be charged. Caging demonstrators, clearing streets with preventitive detention sweeps, and indiscriminate arrests violate the spirit and the letter of the Constitution of the United States.

Browse FBI COINTELPRO operations by state and city

See list of COINTELPRO documents in the archive of Political Research Associates - listed by program and then city or other location

Other COINTELPRO Documents & Collections

Paul Wolf's pages: Documents and Reports, including:
Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book II
Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports, Book III

Other Spy Files

ACLU of Colorado Collection, includin:
Denver Police and Joint Terrorism Task Force.

COINTELPRO: Background Reading


Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO 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.

-Final Report of the Church Committee


Introduction to COINTELPRO by Noam Chomsky - Public Eye Magazine 1978

Overview of COINTELPRO by Mark Ryter - Public Eye Magazine 1978

The FBI and the Media by Chip Berlet

The Hunt for Red Menace by Chip Berlet

This set of pages is Under Construction

A Joint Project with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (CLUM)

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