Five Things You Need to Know About COINTELPRO

DNA’s look at surveillance and its impact on personal freedom continues. And in order to understand what we are dealing with today, we have to look back at what the government has already done when it collects large amounts of information on its own citizens, sometimes illegally.

Let’s start with the five things you need to know about COINTELPRO, the government’s program that infamously spied on mid-century counter-culture groups:

1)COINTELPRO is short for Counter Intelligence Program. The FBI created it in 19-6 to spy on members of the Communist Party in the U.S.

2) By the 1960s the program blew up, with the Feds not only spying, but infiltrating domestic groups like the Black Panthers, the Socialist Workers Party and Chicano labor groups. Even Martin Luther King Jr. was a target.

3) Their tactics were dirty. They reportedly used psychological warfare, going as far as planting false media stories and fabricating evidence in court.

4) The top secret program was outed in 1971, after a unknown group calling itself the Citizens’ Commission stole FBI documents detailing the practices, and leaked them to reporters.

5) Congress has criticized the FBI for COINTELPRO, saying the program violated the First Amendment.

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