When the FBI, acting with local police, arrested Ismail Shabazz in Kingston, NY, last summer, it was a set-up. The charges were preposterous. Ismail was accused of selling guns. As head of the NAACP, he has long practiced nonviolence. Ismail is an African American man who embraces Islam. He is loved in Kingston as a mentor for Black youth and an outspoken critic of police abuse. What is the FBI up to?
I didn’t have to look far for clues. Just 2 exits south on the NY State Thruway, in Newburgh, in 2009, the FBI arrested 4 Black men and put them into prison for long terms on fabricated charges of terrorism. “The government did not act to infiltrate and foil some nefarious plot; there was no plot to foil,” presiding Judge Colleen McMahon said in open court. The FBI concocted the affair to create the illusion that terrorists were plotting mayhem in Newburgh.
A powerful HBO documentary on the case, “The Newburgh Sting” can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3WeAPUHVtc. The FBI is doing things like this all over the country.
These plots promote hatred and fear of Islamic people and create support for the government’s fruitless and unending Global War on Terror.
Learning about Newburgh, I was moved to study the history of the FBI, a topic often shrouded in secrecy. For about a year I have been working on this. What follows is a concentrated version of what I’ve found.
Where Ismail has pursued change nonviolently, the FBI has worked to prevent change, often using great violence to stop, or kill activists. Rather than an agency of law enforcement, the FBI is an agency of political repression, involved in virtually every well-known case of political repression over the last century. They have consistently promoted a right wing counterrevolutionary agenda, supporting the established order.
They regularly reach for the well-honed lie, calculated to instill fear into the public with exaggerated threats that justify political repression. FBI actions give the lie to “American democracy.” Malcolm X wisely said, “American democracy is American hypocrisy.”
The Bureau was officially formed in 1908, a part of the growing centralized state. But they made their bones as power’s henchmen in WWI. They proved indispensible to retain order in the capitalist society that grew after the Civil War.
The Bureau persecuted and deported thousands of “enemy aliens,” often illegally, who opposed the First World War. They busted the big labor strikes after the war, breaking the back of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”), America’s most vigorous revolutionary working class organization, through arrests and deportations. The Bureau persecuted, arrested and deported Emma Goldman for her outspoken political views, and Marcus Garvey for his efforts against America’s racial hierarchy. They persecuted and framed Sacco and Vanzetti for their political views and saw to it that the anarchists were executed. The FBI routinely propagated “patriotic fervor.”
During the Depression, the Bureau attacked the Communist Party and launched McCarthyism, which peaked with the execution of the Rosenbergs. Ethel was falsely charged to pressure Julius into talking, but the brave couple remained silent and was electrocuted on June 19, 1953. “The most sensational case of the McCarthy period” ended with another execution based on FBI lies. Ellen Schrecker, preeminent historian of the McCarthy period, suggests the era should be called “Hooverism,” not McCarthyism, recognizing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s role in conducting the repression.
In the sixties the FBI ruthlessly attacked the Black freedom struggle and the antiwar movement, especially the Black Panther Party, jailing of scores of activists; many remain in prison to this day. Dozens of others were killed. Working with Chicago police, the bureau engineered the assassination of BPP leader Fred Hampton while he slept. Hampton was widely respected for his eloquence and his ability to unite groups opposing racial oppression.
In 1979, FBI and police informant Eddie Dawson organized, recruited and led a caravan of KKK and Nazis to carry out the Greensboro Massacre in North Carolina. Five fine young revolutionaries were killed. I was shot in the head and paralyzed. My motivation to study the FBI is not hard to understand.
Since the heyday of their Counter-Intelligence Programs (COINTELPRO’s), they have gone on to orchestrate Green Scares to smear environmentalists as “eco-terrorists.” The Bureau orchestrated a slander campaign against environmental leader Judi Bari, jailing her after an attempt on her life. The timber companies who hated her for her work to stop from them clear cutting forests were the likely source of the bomb that almost killed her. The FBI dropped their “investigation” – it remains unsolved.
Most recently the FBI has been busy concocting Terror Scares like the one in Newburgh. Once again, many have been falsely jailed to prevent movements opposing the status quo, the Bureau’s basic purpose. Their “patriotism” is a right wing force.
Today we face economic and ecological crises, for which the government has no answers. New movements are growing. Black Lives Matter and the spreading calls to end mass incarceration of people of color are poised to renew the Black Freedom Struggle in America. European-Americans in the millions, sick of the established order, are responding to calls for revolution. The FBI is bound to resort to its old tricks of staging incidents calculated to inspire fear split the population and justify its repression of radicals. The media stands ready to help.
It’s too early to know precisely what they are up to in Ismail’s trial, but we need to watch closely and not let the FBI imprison him and attack the growing movements for change. Don’t let the FBI smother this nascent movement in its cradle. Don’t let them rob our future.
What can you do?
Support his case financially. His fundraising web site is: Www.gofundme.com/callmeIsmail. “Justice” in America is expensive, so give generously. Attend fundraisers and rallies. Dare to show your support.
Come to the opening of the trial on July 19 in Kingston.
If the authorities know we’re watching and understand what they’re up to, they are less likely to frame Ismail. Turn Ismail’s court hearing into a trial of the FBI.
Historian Richard Gid Powers worries about the FBI’s “uncertain future” and poses the alternatives, “end it or mend it.” But the modern state/economy needs a sophisticated combination of force and fraud to maintain order. Until we are rid of a society that requires an FBI, the Bureau will endure.