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P R O C E E D I N G S
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: I would like to encourage those of you in the audience, if you didn't sign in, please sign in, because we don't want to lose you. This is not going to be a first time thing or a one time thing only. This is our initial contribution to a long-standing struggle that we will be a part of for as long as we are in Congress. We don't want to lose you. Did everybody sign in? Raise your hand if you didn't. If you didn't. Okay, great.
Okay, we are going to try our best to get started on time. Of course, that was supposed to have been a joke because we are already 30 minutes late, and I am the only one laughing, but that is quite all right, too.
I want to thank all of you for joining us for what we think is one of the most important events that will take place on the Hill this weekend. There are so many issues, and there are so many individuals who have been affected by what we are about to talk about, and I didn't realize the full extent of how important this issue is to individuals, to our community, until we got started.
Of course, you know that I am Cynthia McKinney from Georgia, and I am known to say some things that cause people to be uncomfortable. And once we begin to talk about issues, human rights in the United States, a whole lot of folks become uncomfortable.
I have the pleasure of serving as the ranking member, which is inside the Beltway lingo talk, or the highest ranking Democrat, since we are in the minority, on the Human Rights Subcommittee of House International Relations Committee. And trying to give relevance to my tenure in Congress, however long it might be, I chose to dedicate my service to human rights issues around the world. And then it became patently clear to me that there is a big, gaping hole in our human rights approach, because we dare not mention human rights at home.
And so while I look forward to the Democrats becoming the majority party in Congress, certainly in the House, I look forward to becoming then the chairwoman of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. And we intend to broaden the definition of human rights to include human rights at home, and this is our opening shot. This is the opening salvo of what America can expect when strong sisters and brothers are able to achieve leadership positions in the United States Congress.
So I welcome all of you here, and let us walk down, take this journey together, because we don't know what is going to be at the end of it. There are already rumors that they are going to try and remove me from that subcommittee because they don't want this to happen, but we will stay in touch, because if there is such a move, I know that my brothers and sisters are going, absolutely, got my back.
And with that, I would like to introduce panel one. We have Professor Nkechi Taifa, who is the director of Howard University's Law School Equal Justice Program. Prior to joining the staff at Howard University School of Law, Nkechi Taifa served as legislative counsel for the ACLU, policy counsel for the Women's Legal Defense Fund, staff attorney for the National Prison Project, network organizer for the Washington Office on Africa, and as a teacher at Watoto School.
For several years she was a private practitioner maintaining a general criminal and civil law practice, focusing on the representation of indigent adult and juvenile clients in the District of Columbia, as well as employment discrimination law. Professor Taifa has worked on issues involving COINTELPRO and political prisoners since 1975. She is the proud mother of one daughter, Mariama.
Of course we have with us Kathleen Neal Cleaver, who has spent most of her life participating in the human rights struggle. As a college sophomore, Cleaver dropped out of Barnard College in 1966 to work full time with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, where she served in the campus program. From 1967 to 1971, Ms. Cleaver served as the communications secretary of the Black Panther Party, the first female member of their Central Committee.
After sharing years of exile with her former husband, Eldridge Cleaver, she returned to the United States and earned her B.A. in history from Yale College, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Thank goodness she didn't follow in Clarence Thomas's footsteps.
Yale is going to have to live that down forever.
Ms. Cleaver has been a visiting professor at several universities, including the Cardozo School of Law in New York, Yale University, and Emory University in Atlanta. She is currently in the process of completing her memoir, "Memories of Love and War," forthcoming from Random House.
We have with us Michael Tarif Warren. Michael Tarif Warren is a criminal defense attorney currently practicing in New York City. He specializes in major criminal matters, human rights and police misconduct cases under Section 1983. Mr. Warren has been the lead counsel in approximately 60 murder cases, and served as the lead prosecutor for the Mumia Abu Jamal Tribunal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Warren has served as a legislative aide to Congressman Louis Stokes; associate director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Juvenile Defense Project; assistant general counsel for the NAACP Special Contributions Fund; and as staff attorney for the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.
Mr. Warren received his J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Laura Whitehorn--I think these are not in correct order--Laura Whitehorn was released August 1999 after 15 years. Settling into New York City, and already working hard to free all political prisoners and prisoners of war. Since the 1970s, when she helped lead a building occupation at Harvard, Laura has been active in anti-racist and anti-war organizing and the women's liberation movement.
Along with Linda Evans, Marilyn Buck, Susan Rosenberg and others, she was convicted in the Resistance Conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol, the Navy War College, and other government and corporate targets. She was in Federal women's prison at Lexington, Kentucky and Dublin, California, where she was active in AIDS support work and where, with the other political prisoners, she helped organize the Bay Area Art Show for Mumia. Laura is currently an assistant editor with POZ magazine in New York City.
And certainly, finally but definitely not least, we have got with us a birthday boy. Bruce Elison is not the birthday boy.
MR. ELISON: No.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: But is with the Leonard Peltier defense. He is defending Leonard Peltier, and I don't have his bio, but he can give it better than I ever will be able to. So I will give you the opportunity to speak now, before we go to the birthday boy.
MR. ELISON: I am a simple country lawyer from western South Dakota. I have practiced criminal defense work for the last 25 years. I started as an attorney with the Wounded Knee Defense Committee, which was representing members of the American Indian Movement, including Leonard Peltier, and I have continued to work on behalf of Leonard Peltier's freedom, and will share with you today my continued efforts to not only talk about his case but to expose what the FBI has done out in my part of the country.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Great. Thank you.
And now to our birthday boy. Birthday man. Geronimo ji Jaga, former leader in the Black Panther Party, suffered 27 years in jail as a victim of COINTELPRO tactics. He spent every painful day maintaining that he was framed for a crime he did not commit. Throughout his incarceration, there was always visible mass support for this political prisoner in and outside the courtroom.
In 1997 he was released from prison after an Orange County Court of Appeals threw out his conviction. The judge ruled that prosecutors had withheld vital evidence regarding a witness who could have cleared ji Jaga of the charges.
Ever since his release, ji Jaga has been attracting big crowds of activists, new and seasoned, to spread the message about the need to struggle against all forms of racist oppression and to fight for the release of all political prisoners. Geronimo has become one of the most vocal supporters of the former Black Panther and award-winning journalist, Mumia Abu Jamal.
And so, with that, we will have our panel, our first panel, begin their presentations.
MS. TAIFA: Thank you very much, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Let's all give her a big round of applause for having the courage and the insight to have this very important--
MS. TAIFA: All right.
"COINTEL's got blacks in hell, they open up our mail, tap our phones and kick our bones, and railroad us to jail.
"COINTEL's got blacks in hell, they open up our mail, tap our phones and kick our bones, and railroad us to jail.
"FBI went so low, they invented COINTELPRO, to stop the rising fire of a black messiah who could unify and electrify the people to revolutionize.
"CO is for counter, which means to use against. INTEL is for intelligence. PRO is for program, they thought it was the perfect solution, counterintelligence program to crush the revolution."
And so goes the beginning of a poem I wrote in 1977, while working on the defense committee of a group of political prisoners called the RNA Eleven.
Now, in the FBI's own words, the purpose of the COINTELPRO directed against the black liberation movement--I say the black liberation movement because they had a COINTELPRO for just about whatever movement you have out there. They had it for the new left, the black nationalist hate group, the list goes on and on.
But in the FBI's own words, and you can follow along in one of the handouts I have passed out, "The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist organizations and groupings and their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters."
Never meant to be read or disseminated to the public at large, these millions of pages of documents reveal a coordinated national program of war against the movement.
The FBI memorandum expanding the program described the long-range goals of COINTELPRO as--and I'm a teacher, so I have my handouts, you can follow along--number one, "to prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups."
And the FBI even went to Africa and retrieved an African proverb. They said, "In unity there is strength," a truism that is no less valid for all its triteness.
Hoover said, "An effective coalition of black nationalist groups might be the first step toward a real Mau Mau in America." Now, if you all remember, at that time the Mau Mau was very strong in terms of the liberation struggle in Kenya, and he said it will be the beginning of a true black revolution, so he wanted to prevent black groups from getting together.
Number two, "to prevent the rise of a messiah who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement," and he said that Malcolm X might have been such a messiah. He is the martyr of the movement today. "Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and Elijah Muhammad, all aspire to this position. Elijah Muhammad is less of a threat because of his age. King could be a very real contender for this position, should he abandon his supposed obedience to white liberal doctrines, nonviolence, and embrace black nationalism. Carmichael has the necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way."
Number three, "to prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups," and I'll just stop right there, because a little bit later on in my presentation we'll see how it was actually the FBI who was fomenting the violence they were supposedly trying to prevent.
Number four, "prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining respectability." And they were very analytical because the FBI said that you have to be very careful how you discredit. The discreditment must come in different ways, depending on the community that you are dealing with.
He says that you must discredit these groups and individuals to, first, the responsible negro community. Second, they must be discredited to the white community, both the responsible white community and to the "liberals" who have vestiges of sympathy for militant black nationalist groups simply because they are negroes. Third, these groups are to be discredited in the eyes of the negro radicals, the followers of the movement, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
And a final blow should be to prevent the long-range growth of militant black nationalist organizations, especially among the youth. And the FBI said that specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed. And as we look at the drug trade and the crack and the heroin, particularly at that time, the media images and all like that, I think that they have been very successful with respect to these specific tactics.
According to the congressional committees which investigated activities of the FBI in the '70s, its counterintelligence neutralization program, code name COINTELPRO, was an illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power by the FBI. Now, that is not Kathleen or Geronimo saying this; this was the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Frank Church, in the '70s, that said it was an illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power by the FBI.
It went on to say that COINTELPRO is the FBI acronym for a series of covert programs directed against domestic groups. Many of these techniques would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all the targets had been engaged in violent activity, but COINTELPRO, the Senate said, 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.
Now, when the Freedom of Information Act was amended in 1974 to remove a special exemption that had kept the FBI's records secret, the door was opened to a massive and unending stream of revelations concerning the details of Bureau misconduct under the COINTELPRO. Millions of pages of documents--if you ever looked at any, you were talking about millions.
Despite being heavily censored, and by that I mean whole pages just blocked off, blacked out, blacked out, revealed the harrowing nature of the FBI's neutralization campaign, and they used the word "neutralization". I never was in the military or anything like that. Maybe Geronimo knows all this. But "neutralization" is a military term. It is a war term.
They were talking about war--okay?--against people who were simply trying to exercise rights and stand up for justice. But such groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Council, the Revolutionary Action Movement, the Deacons for Defense, the Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society, Nation of Islam, the Weather Underground, Republic of New Africa, the Lawyers Guild, as well as countless, countless other civil liberty, civil rights, peace, labor, and social action groups.
The FBI secretly engaged its end campaign to destroy those whose political views and opinions then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did not personally approve of. With his country-wide staff of agents, the FBI organized a vast network of political spies who infiltrated thousands of political, religious and civil organizations, and trained and coordinated similar operations by other law enforcement agencies at every level of government. The information gathered by the FBI's informant network was augmented by activities such as illegal wiretaps, letter openings, burglaries of homes and offices, secret examination of bank records, physical surveillance, arranged murders, and again, the list goes on and on.
Although the Black Panther Party was not among the original black nationalist targets, by 1969 the Black Panther Party had become a primary focus of the program, and was ultimately the target of 233 of the total 295 authorized black nationalist COINTELPRO operations. Now, that figure came from the FBI, the 295 authorized. I don't know how many more unauthorized there were, but they came out with that number.
Although the claimed purpose of the Bureau's COINTELPRO action was to "prevent violence," many of the FBI's tactics were clearly intended to foster violence, and many others could reasonably have been expected to cause violence. For example, this effort to actually foment violence between organizations included mailing anonymous letters and characteratures to Black Panther Party members, ridiculing the local and national leadership, for the express purpose of creating violence between the Panthers and other organizations, Black Keystone Rangers, for one, in Chicago.
Such actions demonstrate that the chief investigative branch of the Federal Government, which was charged by law with investigating crimes and criminal conduct, itself engaged in lawless tactics and responded to deep-seated social problems by fomenting violence and unrest. The Senate Select Committee's staff investigation uncovered numerous other instances in which the FBI thought to turn one organization against another, in an effort to foment violence and mistrust.
It is deplorable that officials of the U.S. Government should engage in such activities, however dangerous a threat they may have considered the group. Equally disturbing, let me tell you this, is the pride which those officials took in claiming credit for bloodshed that occurred. If you look at some of these memos, you see they would tell the agents to "be creative" and "be imaginative" and "be innovative" for coming up with new and better ways to destroy the lives of people, of organizations.
Many organizations and individuals did not survive the FBI neutralization program. Some were outright destroyed. Some were seriously weakened and destabilized. Many were unjustly imprisoned, while still others were driven underground. Some were outright murdered. The only two FBI officials ever convicted for COINTELPRO abuses, Mark Felt and Edward Miller, were pardoned by Ronald Reagan before they even began to serve their sentences.
In conclusion, we need to reopen the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s. We need hearings today on these unsolved issues from over 30 years ago, of FBI and governmental abuses. Although that congressional committee rightly condemned the FBI's counterintelligence program as an illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power by the FBI, that committee failed to establish remedies for those who were victims of COINTELPRO actions.
I see this brain trust today, hosted by our Representative, Cynthia McKinney, as the first step in the very, very necessary process to update the Church Committee findings and pick up from where that committee left off. And I really would like to thank you, Congresswoman McKinney, for putting these unsolved issues back on the table. What I have provided was just a simple overview of the issue of COINTELPRO, to try to lay the framework for my illustrious and esteemed panel members that will continue on after me. Thank you.
CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY: Yes. Give her much love.
Kathleen? Make sure you speak into the mike.
MS. CLEAVER: I think it is appropriate that the day that we are gathering here on the Hill during the Congressional Black Caucus weekend is a notable anniversary. In fact, it is the 29th anniversary of the Attica uprising, one of the most damaging and expensive prison revolts in this country, and just a few days ago the survivors of that event, the Attica uprising, those who are still alive, after nearly 23 years of litigation, received some compensation.
That gives you an idea, any of you who knew the extent of the damage, the extent of the death within Attica, to know that 23 years later a few people were given $6,000, a few others were given $25,000, and the maximum was $125,000. I mean, that to me puts it in context. What is the level of human rights awareness and human rights consciousness that we are dealing with when you deal with the legal system?
And I bring that up because much of what we are talking about in terms of the United States human rights record, victims of COINTELPRO, political prisoners, much of that has roots in those social uprisings that wreaked this country during the 1960s in the wake of the Vietnam War. I mean, it is usually you are taught to think of the war is over here and the black movement is over here and the student movement is there and the women's movement is there, but all this was happening at the same time, under the aegis of the kind of psychotic militarization that this country went into during that war.
Most of us were students at that time, either in high school or college, or getting ready to go, and our political understanding and our consciousness of the level of intolerance for humanism and the level of rejection of human rights happened at that time. And that is when we formed our commitment to the human rights struggle.
Now, you will remember or you have read back in the 1960s, in particular 1967, that was the year in which there were uprisings. We called them uprisings, the government called them riots, you could call them rebellions, but there was 150 across the country in cities and towns, the most notable being Detroit and Newark.
The United States Government called for a study. They called together the National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders, or National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, to study this process, study this phenomenon. What were its causes? How could we prevent it?
And they issued a report that was popularly called the Kerner Report for the name of the leader of this commission, Governor Kerner of Ohio. Now, one of the things that is peculiar about this report, although it very explicitly stated the causes of these disturbances and uprisings was white racism--the causes were white racism, the causes were not extremists, conspiracies, communists, or any--white racism and its attendant ills of unemployment and distress, when it came to recommending on what they should do, one of the clearest recommendations was that they needed much more sophisticated police tactics to suppress the disorders.
And one of the recommendations, repeated both in the summary and in Chapter 12, was that they needed highly trained--a training program for intelligence officers, they needed to use undercover police, reliable informants. And so you can see the genesis of the mentality that leads to a COINTELPRO in this very liberal and supposedly enlightened report on how this country can handle civil disorder.
Now, I have to tell you I went back and looked at this report in the library a few days ago. When it came out, I wasn't reading the Kerner Report. The people I was associated--I was in the Black Panther Party. We were reading things like the Wretched of the Earth. We were reading Malcolm X. We were reading the Red Book. We were reading about "History will absolve me," as Fidel Castro said. We were reading what Ho Chi Minh wrote. We were reading texts that would help us understand and further what we saw as the revolutionary opportunity to transform this country.
In 1967, when the Kerner Report was being prepared and the studies were being done, I went out to California. I had just met Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers, and I went out there, and the day I arrived, it was July something, let's say July 6th, Eldridge Cleaver's car was in the shop, so he had a friend come to the airport to pick me up.
And this friend, and I mention this because this friend's name was Earl Anthony, he drove, picked us up, took us to his house. Earl Anthony was a COINTELPRO agent. Of course, I didn't know that at the time. But what I say is, from the beginning of my connection with the Black Panther Party in California, COINTELPRO was there.
It was the very same summer of 1967 that J. Edgar Hoover was articulating his counterintelligence program and articulating which groups were his targets. Stokely Carmichael, who was the head of the organization I was a part of, SNCC; Southern Christian Leadership Council, led by King, Elijah Muhammad; Revolutionary Action Movement, led by Max Stanford. All of the parts of the upheaval, the challenge, the excitement that we thought, this is our chance, we will transform this country, we will make a difference, they were the targets of not only COINTELPRO but innumerable investigations, Diversive Activities Board, McClelland hearings, this hearing, that hearing.
And in fact, in the documentary that many of you will see, there is a statement by Philip Agee, a former CIA agent, who said when he watched these people, and he watched Stokely Carmichael and saw them on television, he said it frightened him. He said, "Now, if I'm a CIA agent and it frightens me, what do you think it's doing to the rest of the country?" And so out of fear and hatred, a type of police apparatus was put in place that we are still struggling with to this day.
A few months later, I came back to California. I was in SNCC, but I came back to visit Eldridge Cleaver. By then, we were engaged, and I came back because he had called me and said, "You've got to come back out and help us. Huey Newton has been arrested. He's charged with murder. He's facing the gas chamber."
So my actual involvement, full-time involvement with the Black Panther Party began with working around a prisoner, working around a case. And what we saw in this charge of murder was an effort to destroy our movement, to destroy our leader.
And usually in that time we would hear reports, "Black man killed by police. Justifiable homicide." No one ever heard a report that said, "Policeman killed by black man." That was never heard, so when you hear it, then that's a murder charge.
And I remember going out in Oakland, telling people they had to come down, come down to the courthouse, see about Huey. And they say, "He's going to the gas chamber." It's like it's inconceivable at that time that any black may could survive a charge of killing a policeman.
So we moved and organized and mobilized, and wanted people to understand what was our movement, what was it about, what were our principles, what was our program, and why it was important for them to support our leader. Among those types of supports was an activity that many of you probably would--you know, it was just one of those many things, but in terms of its political significance, the Black Panther Party took a delegation to the United Nations in 1968 to talk about the case of Huey Newton.
And I think I have a copy of that at some point. Here it is. You can't see it, but this is a photograph of a delegation of Black Panthers outside the United Nations in 1968, including a minister, Reverend Earl Neal, and Mae Mallory, who had worked with Robert Williams. And the point was that we wanted the world community to understand that they were attempting to silence our movement, that there was a war going on, that we were the targets, and that we had to bring this to the attention of the world.
Now, I point that out because Earl Anthony also went with this group, and in this issue of COINTELPRO, to disrupt and prevent coalitions, at that point, up until that point the Black Panther Party and SNCC had worked very carefully together. The Black Panther Party collaborated with us. The Black Panther Party worked with other groups. Those relationships were all frayed.
In those years we saw an enormous amount of cases arising out of battles and uprisings in which members of the Black Panther Party became political prisoners. It is my pleasure to be here today with my brother Geronimo. The last time I was in the Congressional Black Caucus, we were talking about his case and how to free him, and now he is here. He is someone the FBI took it upon themselves to set up in 1969.
There are others, like Romaine Fitzgerald, who is still after 30 years serving time for killing a policeman which they know he didn't shoot. It was an accessory to murder case. He is very ill. We have Mumia Abu Jamal. We have Eddie Conway, 30 years on a police killing.
And what I want to bring to your attention is, why are these prisoners and why is the nature of their work covered up? This government says there are no political prisoners. All these are criminals. They are all people who were engaged in criminal behavior.
But when you look at what the people did, what Mumia, and Marilyn Buck, Mutulu Shakur, you will know that there was a revolutionary movement. There were people who were dedicating their lives to the transformation of this country, who put the benefit of their communities ahead of themselves, who believed that transformation was not only possible but they were willing to die for it. They were willing to die to end brutality, racism, economic discrimination, imperialism, war.
And when you hear their stories and know who they are, then you know that the sanitized version of what the civil rights movement was, and about the dream, and about integration, and about voting, is not the whole story. As you know, you don't get the whole story about anything, but the level of fabrication of evidence, assassination, perjury, the deceit, the destruction that was used to put people away, is another story that you have to know.
Much of the history of our community gets encapsulated in these trials, and so if you go back through black history, go back to Marcus Garvey or even as far as Nat Turner, Angela Davis, we see our history progressing through massive trials. And I remember, and to many of you this is history, when we would say, "Free Angela," "Free Bobby," "Free this one, and all political prisoners." We are still trying to free all political prisoners.
And it is in the context, it is in the context of a human rights struggle. This is what began in Alabama. The movement in Alabama was not
--we call it the Alabama campaign for human rights. The Atlanta statement on human rights.
The issue of human rights was what we were fighting about, but it was reconceptualized. "Well, I think you actually want integration. I think you just want the right to vote. You want something the government--you want to be a first class citizen." And do the international and the broad concept of human rights which motivated us was cut down.
The ability for us to say that our human rights are being violated at a time when this government uses "human rights" almost every other day, they are attacking the human rights record in China, or the human rights record in Indonesia, or the human rights record in some other country as if, as if there are no human rights violations in this country.
And when you look at the genocide convention or the treatment to end all forms of racist discrimination or the way they handle the death penalty, every day this country and these courts are in violation of international treaties that the United States has signed and international law on the issue of human rights, but it is not in our--we are not allowed to say that. We are told, "You are criminals. Your issues are criminal. It has to be handled by the criminal courts."
And so when you have a man like Mumia Abu Jamal, who had absolutely nothing that even begins to resemble a trial, and then he is convicted, and you challenge that and you say he was innocent, he was framed, the reason he was given the death sentence, because the court and the jury couldn't figure out, well, why would he shoot this cab driver he didn't even know? Oh, the judge solved that problem. Well, the reason he did it is because he used to be a Black Panther and he believed that was what you did.
So we have to get this story, have a clear understanding of where we are, who we are, know our own human rights struggle, and move to bring these prisoners and these freedom fighters out of the dungeons in which they have been put. And we will hear further specific cases from the rest of our panelists.
It is my pleasure to be here, and I want to thank Cynthia McKinney for stepping out and taking on this very, very important issue.
MS. McKINNEY: Michael?
MR. WARREN: Thank you. I would like to, first of all, thank Cynthia McKinney for having the formidable guts and the backbone that I think is sorely missing in a lot of people who purport to represent the interests of communities of color and communities which are oppressed. So, as Nkechi suggested at the onset, I think that we should applaud her for this gallant effort, because this is--
In the figurative sense, this is a very important stream that will ultimately create a surging river that will ultimately go into the ocean, and we will be a part, out of necessity, we will be a part of this process.
Nkechi talked about the FBI and the tricks played by the FBI, the misinformation program which is a very essential part of the process in terms of creating divisions between the ranks of those troops who were fighting for the interests of the oppressed people and communities in this county. And of course they used that in various ways, in different ways that were done strategically and that were done as a result of specialized training that they had received.
But I think that the employment of those tactics came about as a result of their recognition that they were utilizing the talents of what can be defined as front line troops, but the counterintelligence program is much wider in scope than that. The counterintelligence program involves institutions that interact and relate to each other for one purpose, and that is to continue to oppress communities of color and poor communities in this city and this State, in the District, and in this country, and to make sure that a vanguard never comes about, and never operates, if it does come about, in an effective action or manner to liberate those people who are oppressed by this governmental and corporate apparatus.
And that is what the counterintelligence program is about in totality. You can equate it, I suppose, to the type of interaction that comes about when one of us is taken by police officers, also front line troops. And when those people--when one of us is taken by police officers, then what happens right away is that these institutions come together. The Medical Examiner's office, the city hospital, even the District Attorney and some corrupt judge who has been elevated to a judicial position because of the obligations that he has given to his political clubhouse.
All of these institutions, make no mistake about it, are a part of the process that gives rise to counterintelligence. And in fact, the most important institution that involves the criminalization process that Kathleen just talked about is the so-called private but in reality State-controlled media.
The State-controlled media is a propaganda organ of these institutions that gives rise to coloring these valiant soldiers as criminals, when in fact they are soldiers who are fighting on behalf of people who are oppressed and who have been oppressed for many, many years in this country, and they have the ability to tell the truth and expose this system.
And just like in Vietnam and just like in Thailand and just like in the Congo with Patrice Lumumba, and just like in other parts of the Third World, whenever a vanguard comes into existence to expose the crimes of Western imperialism, there is always an agency and agencies that come together and work together for purposes of eradicating those people.
The prisoner who struggles on behalf of the people and who becomes the object of the vicious objectives of the counterintelligence program, those people are called political prisoners once they are incarcerated. The political prisoner, after the political prisoner is arrested, is unlike any other prisoner, because the political prisoner is more dangerous to the system than any other type of prisoner.
So that is why those who are arrested for struggling on behalf of the people, who are political prisoners, many of them are thrown into isolation, thrown into the hole right away, stay there, stay there for long periods of time with the ultimate purpose of attempting to break their spirits so that they can begin to cooperate with the very system that they were struggling against.
There are other efforts made against these individuals throughout the so-called criminal justice system. Many of them receive no bail. It is a form of what we call preventive detention. Those that may never have had any arrest whatsoever, and those who are arrested solely on the basis of, in many situations, false information that is given by paid confidential informants who have been compromised by the system. They are held in preventive detention, they are remanded without the benefit of bail, again for the purposes of breaking their spirits.
I would like to talk about one person that I represent, along with my colleague, Jonathan LaBelle, Dr. Mutulu Shakur. Dr. Mutulu Shakur is a political prisoner who was housed in the Atlanta prison in Atlanta, Georgia, a Federal complex. He was once a brilliant acupuncturist, studied in China, very dedicated to his community, operated a center called Bana in Harlem, treated people in the community, their ails and their illnesses, with acupuncture.
He had a staff of people that worked with him, that came in and out of the center for purposes of giving support to this vital apparatus. He also worked at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, along with a number of other people, again in the interests of the community, as an acupuncturist, to aid those who were ailing, who were sick. As a result of those activities, and the wider scope of his activities and others who were with him, to show concern for their people in their community, they became targets of the counterintelligence program.
And so back in 1981, to be precise, October of 1981, there were allegations of an incident that occurred up in Nyack, New York. A number of people stood trial for that. Those people were swooped up, they were put in jail, they were not given bail, they were stigmatized for months in the State-controlled media to make sure that any prospective jurors that sat on any ultimate trial remembered these people not as individuals who struggled on behalf of their community, but individuals who were criminals, who had been criminalized through the propaganda that was implemented through the State-controlled media.
Again, that is the counterintelligence program. So, by the time that they reached the trial stage, they didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. And that is a course of conduct, the anticipated expectations of the counterintelligence program.
And so Dr. Mutulu Shakur, who was arrested in California back in 1986, stood trial in 1987, basically he was convicted on, solely on the basis of the testimony of one confidential informant. That is all the government really had, one confidential informant.
And something interesting happened during that trial. There was a request by the defense for the identity and the whereabouts of a police agent who had infiltrated the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa, and who knew about various things that went on during those times; who knew about, for example, the New Bethel incident that occurred up in Detroit, Michigan some time ago.
And the government's response was that, "We don't know of any person by the name of Key. We never heard of him." Of course, we knew he was lying. So, as a result of not being able to contact this important person during the course of the trial, and again solely on the basis of the testimony of a paid confidential informant who had everything to gain by virtue of giving false testimony, Mutulu was convicted, and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
And one of the things that they do if you are a political prisoner, once you are convicted and you are in the belly of the beast, they send you straight to a maximum security prison. And he was sent straight to Marion Penitentiary, a maximum security prison in Marion, Illinois, that is basically underground, where you have no contact with other prisoners. You are kept in your cell for 23 hours a day, and only get out one hour for exercise. That is what happens to political prisoners.
But, you know, a strange thing happened in Mutulu's case. We were persistent, and after a number of years, through our collective, joint efforts, we were able to locate Key. Key was a deep cover officer in the New York City intelligence division. And, to be sure, he had contact with the FBI.
In those days that was a creation of the Joint Terrorist Task Force, which is a combination of Federal agents and local law enforcement people, and they come together for purposes of attempting to utilize the techniques of the counterintelligence program to entrap people who struggle on behalf of their people, and to make sure that they are isolated, arrested, and never come out of prison for a long period of time.
And of course, after finding Key--and I won't mention his real name, we found him in a remote part of the country, flew there, met with him--he was quite helpful to us. He was retired by then, had a lot to say. We got a declaration from him, otherwise known as an affidavit, filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking an evidentiary hearing so that we could call Key to testify, and he promised us if he were called to testify in an evidentiary hearing, he would even give us more than he gave us in the declaration because, after all, he did have a pension to think about.
But you know something? We went before the same trial judge, Charles Haight, who presided over the trial of Dr. Shakur, and who sentenced him to 40 years, and he heard convincing evidence that merited an evidentiary hearing. But in spite of that, he refused to give Dr. Shakur an evidentiary hearing because he knew that if he was given an evidentiary hearing, that we would call Key and present other evidence that would ultimately lead to the basis of a new trial.
So the judiciary becomes a fifth column in this counterintelligence program. You can't, you just can't focus in on the front line troops of the FBI and the Joint Terrorist Task Force. In fact, they do the dirty work, the initial dirty work, but it is a dirty process. It is a dirty institutional process, and those who have sold themselves out, have sold themselves out all the way up to the top, if you can define it as such.
Now, I want to talk very briefly at the end, and I have got to close soon, in just a couple of minutes, on the other aspect of the counterintelligence program that relates to the grand jury system and how the government uses the grand jury as a tool of oppression. And I know because I have represented people who were arrested in sweeps.
For example, in the case I talked to you about, there is a sister who is in this room today, by the name of Fulani Suni Ali, who was arrested and who was separated from her children, and who was pregnant while she was serving time for refusing to testify before a Federal grand jury. That is what they do.
They will arrest or they will drop a subpoena on anybody that has any contact, for example, people who came to the Bana acupuncture center that I just mentioned in Harlem, that Dr. Shakur ran, or people that have minimal contact, they will drop a subpoena on them. You know why? Because they are in the process, the illegal process of fact-gathering.
They use a grand jury for their dirty purposes of fact-gathering, for gathering facts so that they can use in the case against the individuals who have already been arrested, and that is clearly illegal. And they use it for purposes of expanding their investigation, to arrest other individuals that they don't have a scintilla of evidence on.
So normally the course of conduct is for a person who receives a subpoena to refuse to testify, because of those reasons and other reasons, to testify before the grand jury. And if they don't testify, they are given up to 18 months for contempt, for refusal to obey a grand jury subpoena.
Many of them stay in jail, as Fulani did, and we had to represent her and represent her children because she was separated from her children. She was allowed to be with her at that time unborn child, once the child was born, for purposes of nurturing. But many folks stay in jail for 8, 9, 10 months, sometimes longer, until it becomes futile and the government knows that they are not going to cooperate and a judge will release them.
So I wanted to mention that to you, as well. You know, there are others who were arrested with Fulani, but the grand jury tool is an important tool in the counterintelligence process.
Thank you so much for your attention.
MS. CLEAVER: Thank you so much. Congresswoman McKinney had to leave because she had to go on the floor and vote, but she will be back as soon as she has fulfilled her responsibility.
And now we will have a brief, 10-minute video presentation in which you get to see some of the political prisoners and hear some of the issues. This is very, very short. Later, at the conclusion of this program, there will be a full-fledged showing of the documentary that many of the clips are taken from, called "All Power to the People," in this room. But right now, just to give you some visual, we are going to watch a videotape prepared by this office from longer material.