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Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counter-Intelligence Program

NCJ Number
J K Davis
Date Published
202 pages
This is the first book to chronicle all five of the FBI's operations under its Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which was conducted from 1956 until its exposure in 1971.
COINTELPRO was aimed at five major social and political protest groups: The Communist party, the Socialist Workers party, the Ku Klux Klan, black nationalist hate groups, and the New Left movement. Under COINTELPRO policies, the FBI expanded its domestic surveillance programs and increasingly used questionable, even unlawful, methods in an effort to disrupt virtually the entire social and political protest process. Violations of citizens' constitutional rights were rampant, and the secret operations even resulted in a number of deaths. The secrecy of the program and the way in which it operated outside the checks and balances designed to prevent such abuses of power are documented to show how such practices are conducted without the knowledge of the media, the public, and governmental agencies intended to counter such rights violations. The author describes the raid on a Media, Penn., FBI office by a group that called itself the Citizen's Commission to Investigate the FBI, a raid that led to the publicizing of documents that exposed COINTELPRO. The author draws on newspaper and magazine articles, interviews with many of the people involved, and FBI memos to trace the historical beginnings and operating methods of COINTELPRO against each of the five targeted groups. The reactions of the FBI to the exposure are described, including the subsequent policy changes as well as the response of the news media and the shift in public attitudes toward the FBI. The possibility of similar operations in the future is discussed. Chapter notes and 36 references