Wing Tips in Their Midst: The Impact of COINTELPRO

David Cunningham

in There's Something Happening Here

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780520239975
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939240 | DOI:
Wing Tips in Their Midst: The Impact of COINTELPRO

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This chapter focuses on the effects that COINTELPRO actions had on their targets, especially how these impacts varied across COINTEL programs based on the vulnerability of particular classes of targets. Bureau agents enjoyed considerable access to many Klan members, as the latter's patriotic sympathies fostered respect for law enforcement, created a common ideological ground for interview-based tactics, and ensured that Klansmen were not prepared to face an organized program of repression. Additionally, the Klan's semicovert nature made many “secret” members (who hoped to prevent the negative implications exposure would have in community and workplace) vulnerable to counterintelligence, a vulnerability compounded for some Klansmen by their precarious financial states. In contrast, the New Left's anti-police orientation and sometimes countercultural disposition ensured that FBI agents had little understanding of or access to their targets. Organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) learned quickly to anticipate and develop strategies to combat typical forms of counterintelligence, and the impact of COINTELPRO–New Left was therefore considerably less direct, succeeding mainly when it could contribute to a repressive climate created by more overt repressive forms such as police actions and court cases.

Keywords: FBI; counterintelligence; COINTEL programs; Klan; SDS

Chapter.  14185 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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