COINTELPRO & Operation Mockingbird

Have you read the news lately? Son of a bitch. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore conspiracy theories that say the world is really run by rich people. I think it goes much deeper, though: I suspect it might be run by rich idiots.


In fact, sometimes it’s so hard to ignore conspiracy theories, you have to start forgetting that some of them have been confirmed to be true.

In the 20th century, within living memory of some of you readers, the American government has admitted, directly, to deceiving and subverting its own people. COINTELPRO and Operation Mockingbird are just two cases of it, and they may still be having effects today.

Not these effects.

COINTELPRO was a program run by the FBI from 1956-1971. It stood for COunter INTELligence PROgram, and was the government’s way of fucking with racists, feminists, nationalists, war protestors, and this one dude you may have heard of: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Long before internet trolls, there was the FBI.

The idea behind COINTELPRO was to infiltrate and disrupt groups deemed subversive to the United States government. Specifically, they were interested in womens’ and blacks’ rights groups, which doesn’t seem very cool nowadays, and white power groups like the KKK, who are totally okay to fuck with by most people’s standards. Essentially, they were interested in any group that they deemed pro-communist, nationalist, or just plain having the potential to disrupt or overthrow the government in some way, shape, or form. (Or, sometimes, just because the president asked them to look into somebody.)

The usual M.O. for COINTELPRO operatives was to divide and conquer by creating rifts in these groups after infiltration. Other popular ways to cause drama? Charging people with fake crimes, illegal wiretapping, searching houses without a warrant, and just plain driving up and shooting motherfuckers. (I felt that was important enough to actually cite an in-line source for once.)

So why did the FBI drop the program in 1971? Because a bunch of dudes broken into one of their offices and found documentation about it. Otherwise, they’d have kept on doing it. The Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate (aka The Church Committee, named after Senator Fred Church, who led it) took a look at all this and shat their collective pants.

“We would like to declare that this shit officially just got real.”

After the Church Committee brought COINTELPRO into the light, the FBI had no choice but to shut it down… except they never actually stopped doing the shit they were doing, they just quit calling it COINTELPRO. Stay classy, FBI.

But the FBI weren’t the only ones up to crazy shit. The CIA had their own set of trolling tactics. One of these was known by a couple of names, but the most common is Operation Mockingbird. Now, why would you name some cool intelligence campaign after the state bird of Tennessee? When you hear what the program was meant to do, you might see why: Operation Mockingbird was a propaganda program targeted at journalists, both domestic and overseas, from the 1950s to the 1970s. Specifically, both newspaper and television reporters were paid, blackmailed, and otherwise coerced into reporting the news the CIA wanted you to hear.

The operation was started to cause unrest in foreign, communist-controlled areas of the world, but the CIA figured if they had the resources, better use them. And the names of some of the reporters they were alleged to have dragged into it are some you might recognize. Names like Walter Pincus, Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Walter Lippmann…  you don’t know any of those people? Okay, how about Ed Murrow? George Clooney made that movie about him.

“’Hello, America. This is the CIA Calling’? Why can’t I just do ’This… is the CIA?’”

Okay, well how about these respectable publications: The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS, Time Magazine, Washington Post, all were infiltrated by the CIA during Operation Mockingbird and used to publish stories approved by, and sometimes written by, the CIA.

So what happened to Operation Mockingbird? The Church Committee found out about it, too, and brought it down around the same time as COINTELPRO… just kidding! The CIA agreed to stop “Operation Mockingbird”, but the new head of the CIA at the time didn’t really say they’d quit using the media for propaganda. What he actually said was “Effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contract relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station.” Notice how he didn’t say anything about unpaid? That’s because he immediately followed it up by saying that the CIA would welcome any “voluntary”, unpaid cooperation from journalists. That new head of the CIA? I bet you’ve heard his name: George H.W. Bush.

“That’s right, bitches.”

Now, you may be wondering why I chose these two particular programs to mention in this one article. Honestly, there was enough material for me to do two separate articles, but there’s a bit more I want you to chew on.

This is Hal Turner:

This is what making threats against federal judges gets you.

Some of you from, ahem, unmentionable web communities may be familiar with him already. Hal Turner used to be an internet radio show host who, if you didn’t notice there, got put in the pokey for calling for his listeners to kill three federal judges. Turns out, the police don’t like that very much. His show was a white supremacist sounding board, accepting calls from racists and assholes all over the country, all while Hal and his cronies turned the ultra-conservative paranoid rhetoric up to 11.

The thing is, Hal thought he had some protection against what he was saying. Why would he possibly think that? Because Hal worked undercover for the FBI. Hal claims he’s not a racist at all, but a paid informant. Not only a paid informant, but a former FBI operative. He claims that the FBI put him up to the radio show to act as an agent provocateur, that is, a shit-stirrer. His goal was to ramp the crazy talk up so high that some violent people might go overboard and spill the beans on plans they had to commit assassinations and other crimes. The FBI called him “Valhalla”, and used him as a source for over 100 arrests. But when he got taken into prison, the FBI pulled the Saint Peter card, right up until documentation came to light that proved that Turner worked for them. So Hal asked for the FBI to help defend his case, but got no response. Then Hal started making threats. Really scary threats. You see, Hal says he’s not alone.

Hal Turner claims that government intelligence agencies have infiltrated major news magazines, papers, and television channels, and are using those positions to their advantage, just like Operation Mockingbird. He says that this information, were it leaked, would put his life in danger, but would possibly cause a massive reaction in the general population, because these people aren’t just targeting dissidents, they’re trying to influence the average American television viewer. And these aren’t people working in the back rooms and behind the scenes.

Hal Turner says that these people are major reporters and television talking heads, household names. And since Hal started making these threats, the FBI has caved and begun acknowledging his work with them. We’ll probably never hear what Hal had to say now, since he’s clammed up and many of the news sources who were covering his threats have removed the information. But still, the idea looms. Could intelligence agencies be using pundits to influence and direct the conversation of American political and social issues? Is this the new Operation Mockingbird?

I’m just sayin’.

Wikipedia – COINTELPRO & Operation Mockingbird (Reliability? They have an article on it, at least.)
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