This is Part II of Eddie Conway’s conversation with political activist and writer Ward Churchill on how COINTELPRO helped destroy freedom of speech and social movements the government deemed a threat. To see Part I of the interview, click here.
Ward Churchill is co-author of The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States.
The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors.
EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome back to The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway from Baltimore, and thanks for joining me for the second part of our discussion with Ward Churchill. We were discussing COINTELPRO and the agents’ attacks upon the social movements, and we’ll continue that discussion now.
WARD CHURCHILL, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST: When all else fails, when the rumormongering and disruption and false prosecutions and false convictions and all the rest of that, if everything else fails, you take them out another way. And it can be a direct assassination, which–you mentioned Fred Hampton, who was killed, along with Mark Clark–assassinated is the right word–in a pretext arms raid conducted by a special squad of state’s attorney’s police in Chicago, Illinois, coordinated by the FBI. The FBI provided them the key information. Floor plan to the apartment where Hampton would be sleeping was drawn. And he had actually been drugged beforehand so that he was a stationary target. And they went in with a .45 caliber submachine gun and M1 carbine, being the heavy arm armaments–all the cops were carrying riot guns, but you also had the machine gun and the carbine–and basically shot everybody in sight and then charged the surviving Panthers. They killed Hampton in his bed while he was drugged on barbiturates. They killed a guy who was a personal acquaintance of mine, a friend, if you will, the defense captain from Peoria, who was on security that night. He was the first one killed. Shot him point blank.
CONWAY: You mean Mark Clark?
CHURCHILL: Mark Clark. Shot him point blank in the chest from five feet away. Okay? Every Panther in that apartment, with the exception of two people, was dead or wounded when that was over. One shot had been fired by a Panther in the process of very nearly 100 rounds of ammunition being expended. That shot was fired by Mark Clark when he was struck in the chest with a round from Gloves Davis’s M1. That Gloves Davis was a notorious Chicago cop, an enforcer. He’s the one who shot him. And in his death spasm, Mark discharged the shotgun that he was holding into the ceiling. That’s how badly the cops were threatened. Well, in Hampton’s case, they fired through the wall with a submachine gun, just drew it the full length of the wall, firing into his bed.
I mean, they hadn’t killed him. He was only wounded. He was in bed with his nine-month pregnant fiancee, Deborah Johnson. They had her come out of the bedroom. Two cops, the key one being a guy by the name of Ed Carmody, went into the bedroom, but she could hear the voices. She’s in the kitchen adjoining the bedroom outside the door. And one says to the other, is that Fred Hampton? He says, yeah. And he says, is he dead? He said, no, it looks like he’s going to live. There’s a sort of a thump as they drag the body off the bed. Two shots in rapid succession. And the voice which–Carmody’s voice comes out of the bedroom and says, well, he’s good and dead now. And he had been shot twice in the head from about a foot away. That’s cold. They can also orchestrated it, foment tension between groups that are armed groups, groups that are under pressure, groups that are taking this kind of a pressure, try to get a shooting engagement going between them.
So in L.A. you had, right on the UCLA campus, an organizational meeting in the Black Student Union, and you got to competing organizations, I guess, for influence in that, which is the Black Panther Party and Ron Karenga’s US organization. And what are supposed to be Karenga’s guys killed Bunchy Carter, who was the head of the L.A. chapter, and John Huggins, was also a key activist in the L.A. chapter, shot him to death right there in a classroom in Campbell Hall. Turns out the actual shooter, Claude Hubert, was not a member of US, he was in infiltrator of US. And there’s two other guys that participated in that. The Steiner Brothers, who apparently had been drawn into that loop. So they were functioning as federal provocateurs, not actually as US members. But US was riddled with this. So the question becomes, then, whether US is a functioning organization in its own right or whether it is the creature of the FBI, since most of the personnel who were doing things in its behalf are actually federal agents. So that was an example of it being done by proxy. The result’s the same. When you’re dead, you’re neutralized. And that’s the purpose of assassination. So you’ve got everything from rumormongering, somebody is sleeping with somebody’s wife, somebody’s skimming off money, the proceeds, trying to discredit people at the rank-and-file, all the way up through this manipulation of the judicial system to outright assassination.
CONWAY: Well, we only have, like, a couple of minutes left. Can you tell me (’cause I understand they had a Church Committee hearing about this) what was the results of that?
CHURCHILL: Well, quite a lot of it was exposed, quite a lot of it was not exposed. They did not go into the assassinations and phony prosecutions. But they did go into a lot of sitting groups at odds with one another, disinformation, and attempting to prevent communication with the public, destroy the Black Panther newspaper, for example, trying to disrupt relations between target groups in the community they were attempting to provide services to, provision of false information. That’s all a matter of government record. They described it as a sophisticated vigilante operation. Okay? That’s the Senate investigating committee describing the FBI program as a sophisticated vigilante operation directed squarely against free speech and political expression in the United States. Free speech, political expression, First Amendment–supposed to be core to democratic values. So you’ve got an anti-democratic operation that’s being run. That’s their conclusion. And it was all illegal. That was also their conclusion. That’s the reason they described it as a vigilante operation. It’s outside the law. Well, this is the key law enforcement entity. The law enforcement entity is conducting itself.
CONWAY: Breaking the law.
CONWAY: Okay. On that note, we’re going to stop here, but we’re going to revisit–at the next time we get a chance to get together, we’re going to revisit the state of COINTELPRO now, flash forward into the future, because apparently they have codified all those things that they did in the past and made them legal. So we need to have that as our next discussion.
CHURCHILL: Well, you mentioned the Church Committee.
CHURCHILL: We can sort of close it off right there. They concluded, among other things, that those operations were continuing, they had simply changed the captions. They had identified identified four programs, possibly five, that were ongoing in 1975, and this program that supposedly ended in 1971.
CHURCHILL: So it comes as no surprise they’re still doing it today. They never did stop.
CONWAY: Okay. Alright. So thanks for joining me.
CHURCHILL: My pleasure.
CONWAY: And thank you for joining The Real News.