FBI

FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the investigative branch of the United States Department of Justice, was established by Attorney-General Charles J. Bonaparte (1851-1921) in 1908. The original function of the FBI was the investigation of violations of federal law. However, it also assists the police and other criminal investigation agencies in the United States.

In 1924 John Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the FBI. Under Hoover's leadership, the FBI also became involved in counter-intelligence activities. This included the collection of information on those with radical political beliefs. For example, the FBI secretly supplied information to Joseph McCarthy and members of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

In 1961 William Sullivan was appointed assistant director of the FBI's Intelligence Division. Sullivan gradually moved up the hierarchy and eventually became the FBI's third-ranking official behind J. Edgar Hoover, the director, and Clyde A. Tolson. Sullivan was placed in charge of FBI's Division Five. This involved smearing leaders of left-wing organizations.

Sullivan was a strong opponent of the leadership of Martin Luther King. In January, 1964, Sullivan sent a memo to Hoover: "It should be clear to all of us that King must, at some propitious point in the future, be revealed to the people of this country and to his Negro followers as being what he actually is - a fraud, demagogue and scoundrel. When the true facts concerning his activities are presented, such should be enough, if handled properly, to take him off his pedestal and to reduce him completely in influence." Sullivan's suggested replacement for King was Samuel Pierce, a conservative lawyer who was later to serve as Secretary of Housing under President Ronald Reagan.

William Sullivan disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover about the threat to national security posed by the American Communist Party and felt that the FBI was wasting too much money investigating this group. On 28th August, 1971, Sullivan sent Hoover a long letter pointing out their differences. Sullivan also suggested that Hoover should consider retirement. Hoover refused and it was Sullivan who had to leave the organization.

In 1975, Frank Church became the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. This committee investigated alleged abuses of power by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Intelligence.

The committee looked at the case of Fred Hampton and discovered that William O'Neal, Hampton's bodyguard, was a FBI agent-provocateur who, days before the raid, had delivered an apartment floor-plan to the Bureau with an "X" marking Hampton's bed. Ballistic evidence showed that most bullets during the raid were aimed at Hampton's bedroom.

Church's committee also discovered that the CIA and FBI had sent anonymous letters attacking the political beliefs of targets in order to induce their employers to fire them. Similar letters were sent to spouses in an effort to destroy marriages. The committee also documented criminal break-ins, the theft of membership lists and misinformation campaigns aimed at provoking violent attacks against targeted individuals.

One of those people targeted was Martin Luther King. The FBI mailed King a tape recording made from microphones hidden in hotel rooms. The tape was accompanied by a note suggesting that the recording would be released to the public unless King committed suicide.

The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover collected information on all America's leading politicians. Known as Hoover's secret files, this material was used to influence their actions. It was later claimed that Hoover used this incriminating material to make sure that the eight presidents that he served under, would be too frightened to sack him as director of the FBI. This strategy worked and Hoover was still in office when he died, aged seventy-seven, on 2nd May, 1972. Clyde Tolson arranged for the destruction of all Hoover's private files.

In its final report, issued in April 1976, the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities concluded: “Domestic intelligence activity has threatened and undermined the Constitutional rights of Americans to free speech, association and privacy. It has done so primarily because the Constitutional system for checking abuse of power has not been applied.”

William Sullivan was shot dead near his home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, on 9th November, 1977. An inquest decided that he had been shot accidentally by fellow hunter, Robert Daniels, who was fined $500 and lost his hunting license for 10 years.

Sullivan had been scheduled to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Sullivan was one of six top FBI officials who died in a six month period in 1977. Others who were due to appear before the committee who died included Louis Nicholas, special assistant to J. Edgar Hoover and his liaison with the Warren Commission; Alan H. Belmont, special assistant to Hoover; James Cadigan, document expert with access to documents that related to death of John F. Kennedy; J. M. English, former head of FBI Forensic Sciences Laboratory where Oswald's rifle and pistol were tested; Donald Kaylor, FBI fingerprint chemist who examined prints found at the assassination scene.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) John Edgar Hoover, testimony before the House of Un-American Activities Committee (26th March, 1947)

The Communist movement in the United States began to manifest itself in 1919. Since then it has changed its name and its party line whenever expedient and tactical. But always it comes back to fundamentals and bills itself as the party of Marxism-Lenninism. As such, it stands for the destruction of our American form of government; it stands for the destruction of American democracy; it stands for the destruction of free enterprise; and it stands for the creation of a "Soviet of the United States" and ultimate world revolution.

The preamble of the latest constitution of the Communist Party of the United States, filled with Marxian "double talk," proclaims that the party "educates the working class, in the course of its day-to-day struggles, for its historic mission, the establishment of socialism." The phrase "historic mission" has a sinister meaning. To the uninformed person it bespeaks tradition, but to the Communist, using his own words, it is "achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat"; "to throw off the yoke of imperialism and establish the proletarian dictatorship"; "to raise these revolutionary forces to the surface and hurl them like a devastating avalanche upon the united forces of bourgeois reaction, frenzied at the presentment of their rapidly approaching doom."

In recent years, the Communists have been very cautious about using such phrases as "force and violence"; nevertheless, it is the subject of much discussion in their schools and in party caucus where they readily admit that the only way in which they can defeat the present ruling class is by world revolution.

The Communist, once he is fully trained and indoctrinated, realizes that he can create his order in the United States only by "bloody revolution." Their chief textbook, The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, is used as a basis for planning their revolution. Their tactics require that to be successful they must have: (1) The will and sympathy of the people. (2) Military aid and assistance. (3) Plenty of guns and ammunition. (4) A program for extermination of the

police as they are the most important enemy and are termed "trained Fascists." (5) Seizure of all communications, buses, railroads, radio stations, and other forms of communications and transportation.

They evade the question of force and violence publicly. They hold that when Marxists speak of force and violence they will not be responsible - that force and violence will be the responsibility of their enemies. They adopt the novel premise that they do not advocate force and violence publicly but that when their class resists to defend themselves then they are thus accused of using force and violence. A lot of double talk.

(2) William Sullivan, memorandum to John Edgar Hoover (8th January, 1964)

It should be clear to all of us that Martin Luther King must, at some propitious point in the future, be revealed to the people of this country and to his Negro followers as being what he actually is - a fraud, demagogue and scoundrel. When the true facts concerning his activities are presented, such should be enough, if handled properly, to take him off his pedestal and to reduce him completely in influence. When this is done, and it can be and will be done, obviously much confusion will reign, particularly among the Negro people... The Negroes will be left without a national leader of sufficiently compelling personality to steer them in the proper direction. This is what could happen, but need not happen if the right kind of a national Negro leader could at this time be gradually developed so as to overshadow Dr. King and be in the position to assume the role of the leadership of the Negro people when King has been completely discredited.

For some months I have been thinking about this matter. One day I had an opportunity to explore this from a philosophical and sociological standpoint with an acquaintance whom I have known for some years.... I asked him to give the matter some attention and if he knew any Negro of outstanding intelligence and ability to let me know and we would have a discussion. He has submitted to me the name of the above-captioned person. Enclosed with this memorandum is an outline of (the person's) biography which is truly remarkable for a man so young. On scanning this biography, it will be seen that (Samuel Pierce) does have all the qualifications of the kind of a Negro I have in mind to advance to positions of national leadership....

If this thing can be set up properly without the Bureau in any way becoming directly involved, I think it would be not only a great help to the FBI but would be a fine thing for the country at large. While I am not specifying at this moment, there are various ways in which the FBI could give this entire matter the proper direction and development. There are highly placed contacts of the FBI who might be very helpful to further such a step. These can be discussed in detail later when I have probed more fully into the possibilities.

(3) Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Pacific News Service (3rd May, 1997)

It is known that, with the blessings of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and the Justice Department relentlessly tried to tie King to the Communist Party. This was not just Hoover acting on his own obsessions, it was a war against the black movement. And Hoover decided the cheap way to win that war was to discredit the movement's most respected figure.

Hoover assigned the job to assistant FBI director William Sullivan, who branded King "the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation." In his book, "My Thirty Years in Hoover's FBI," Sullivan said "There were no fewer than 14 men with high-ranking positions who not only never objected to the investigation of King, but because of Hoover's pressure were vigorously behind it."

Sullivan coordinated the "Seat of Government" committee, mostly special agents from Washington DC and Atlanta offices, who deluged King with wiretaps, physical surveillance, poison pen letters, and threats, and leaked smear stories to the media.

(4) Isobel Lennart was interviewed by Robert Vaughn in 1970.

The FBI asked me a million questions. They said they had information that I had been a member of the Young Communist League when I was sixteen in New York. They wanted to know about John Garfield and Bromberg. I had two sessions when they asked me about names and I answered quite honestly. Then MGM called me in and said: "We can't protect you any longer and this time you're going to have to testify."

(5) William Turner, Hoover's FBI: The Men and the Myth (1970)

At headquarters there wasn't even a section working on organized crime. In the field, what we did get on top mobsters was just dropped into the General Investigative Intelligence file - to be forgotten.

(6) Telephone conversation between Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover (23rd November, 1963)

J. Edgar Hoover: I just want to let you know of a development which I think is very important in connection with this case. This man in Dallas (Lee Harvey Oswald). We, of course, charged him with the murder of the President. The evidence that they have at the present time is not very strong.... We have the gun and we have the bullet. There was only one and that was found on the stretcher that the President was on...

Lyndon B. Johnson: Have you established any more about the visit to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico in September?

J. Edgar Hoover: No, that's one angle that is very confusing. We have up here the tape and this photograph of the man who was at this Soviet Embassy, using Oswald's name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man's voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet Embassy down there.

(7) William Sullivan, The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover's FBI (1979)

At the heart of Hoover’s massive public relations operation were fifty-nine FBI field offices whose territory took in every village, town, city, and county in America. Each day, out of these field offices streamed eight thousand agents going into every state, city, and town, talking to and becoming friendly with ordinary citizens from all walks of life.

Because of his network of field offices, and thanks to the scores of contacts made and maintained by the special agents in charge, Hoover was able to place "news" stories - invented and written in the bureau, really nothing more than press releases, puff pieces for the FBI - in newspapers all over the country. Our strength was in the small dailies and weeklies; and with hundreds of these papers behind him, Hoover didn’t give a damn about papers like the New York Times or the Washington Post. Most of the men who run small local papers are used to printing stories about grange suppers on the front page; imagine how grateful they are for a story from the FBI. Of course, scores of Washington-based reporters printed stories we gave them too, and they usually printed them under their own bylines. Some of them lived off us. It was an easy way to make a living. They were our press prostitutes.

When I hear people talk about a "new" FBI, I know that the changes they talk about are only paper changes. This public relations operation of Hoover’s, this massive attempt to control public opinion, continues to this day, and it is at the very heart of what is wrong with the bureau. Unless it is exposed, until every editor of every little weekly newspaper who ever printed an FBI press handout realizes how he was used, the FBI will do business in the same old way.

A massive, pervasive public relations operation is no substitute for the job of investigating crimes. The FBI should conduct its business quietly and it should earn its respect from the citizens of the United States by the results of its work, not from the results of its propaganda.

(8) Final Report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (1976)

According to an FBI memorandum, this sharing of informant information was crucial to police during their raid on the apartment occupied by several Black Panther members which resulted in the death of the local Chairman, Fred Hampton, and another Panther: " (Prior to the raid), a detailed inventory of the weapons and also a detailed floor plan of the apartment were furnished to local authorities. In addition, the identities of BPP members utilizing the apartment at the above address were furnished. This information was not available from any other source and subsequently proved to be of tremendous value in that it subsequently saved injury and possible death to police officers participating in a raid on the morning of 12/4/69. The raid was based on the information furnished by the informant."

(9) Anthony Summers, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993)

FBI dirty tricks, the Senate Intelligence Committee later discovered, provoked "shootings, beatings and a high degree of unrest" in the Black Panther movement. For two Panthers in Chicago, the FBI tactics brought sudden death. Fred Hampton and Mark dark died in a hail of gunfire, and three others were wounded, when police burst into their apartment at 4:00 a.m. on December 3, 1969. It later emerged that the police had fired ninety-eight rounds, the Panthers - maybe - one.

In 1982, after persistent litigation, the survivors were awarded $1.85 million in damages against the police, in a case that revealed the killings had been the direct result of action by the FBI. The Bureau had provided the police with detailed information on Hampton's movements, along with a floor plan of the apartment. Veteran agent Wesley Swearingen quoted a Chicago colleague as telling him: "We told the cops how bad these guys were, that the cops had better look out or their wives were going to be widows. . . . We set up the police to go in there and kill the whole lot."

(10) Arthur Murtagh, former FBI agent, interviewed in 1990.

I certainly do not want to indicate that Hoover did not have some unusual ability in structuring an organization designed to perpetuate a sort of dictatorial control of both the FBI and, so far as he could manage it, the minds of the American citizens: but so did Adolf Hitler.

(11) Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993)

Such an explanation is less plausible for the FBI's interference with leads that appeared to be guiding its agents to the actual assassins of the President - a case, seemingly, of obstruction of justice, or worse. How else should one assess the response of FBI headquarters to a report from Miami that Joseph Adams Milteer, a white racist with Klan connections, had in early November 1963 correctly warned that a plot to kill the President "from an office building with a high-powered rifle" was already "in the working"? These words are taken from a tape-recording of a discussion between Milteer and his friend, Miami police informant Bill Somersett. Miami police provided copies of this tape to both the Secret Service and the FBI on November 10, 1963, two weeks before the assassination, and this led to the cancellation of a planned motorcade for the President in Miami on November 18.20

Although an extremist, Milteer was no loner. Southern racists were well organized in 1963, in response to federal orders for desegregation; and Milteer was an organizer for two racist parties, the National States Rights party and the Constitution party. In addition he had attended an April 1963 meeting in New Orleans of the Congress of Freedom, Inc.,

which had been monitored by an informant for the Miami police. A Miami detective's report of the Congress included the statement that "there was indicated the overthrow of the present government of the United States," including "the setting up of a criminal activity to assassinate particular persons." The report added that "membership within the Congress of Freedom, Inc., contain high ranking members of the armed forces that secretly belong to the organization."

In other words, the deep politics of racist intrigue had become intermingled, in the Congress as elsewhere, with the resentment within the armed forces against their civilian commander. Perhaps the most important example in 1963 was that of General Edwin Walker, whom Oswald was accused of stalking and shooting at. Forced to retire in 1962 for disseminating right-wing propaganda in the armed forces, Walker was subsequently arrested at the "Ole Miss" anti-desegregation riots. Nor was the FBI itself exempt from racist intrigue: Milteer, on tape, reported detailed plans for the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., whom Hoover's FBI, by the end of 1963, had also targeted for (in their words) "neutralizing ... as an effective Negro leader."

Four days after the assassination Somerset! reported that Milteer had been "jubilant" about it: "Everything ran true to form. I guess you thought I was kidding you when I said he would be killed from a window with a high-powered rifle." Milteer also was adamant that he had not been "guessing" in his original prediction. In both of the relevant FBI reports from Miami, Somersett was described as "a source who had furnished reliable information in the past."

(12) New York Times (10th November, 1977)

William C. Sullivan, former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations intelligence operations who broke in dramatic fashion with the late J. Edgar Hoover, was killed early yesterday in a shooting accident near his home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. He was 65 years old.

Major Mason J. Butterfield, law enforcement director of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, said that Mr. Sullivan, who had been on the way to meet two hunting companions shortly after daybreak, had been shot and instantly killed by another hunter, Robert Daniels, Jr., 22, who had mistaken Mr. Sullivan for a deer. Major Butterfield said that the shooting was under investigation and that no charges had been filed...

Mr. Sullivan, who acquired a reputation as the only liberal Democrat ever to break into the top ranks of the bureau, retired in 1971 after he arrived at his office one morning to find that Mr. Hoover had ordered the lock on his door changed and his nameplate removed. That incident, widely reported at the time, was the culmination of increasing friction between the two men over Mr. Sullivan's private, and then public, insistence that Mr. Hoover had greatly overemphasized the threat to national security posed by the American Communist Party while devoting less attention than was warranted to violation of Federal civil rights laws in the South.

Mr. Sullivan was known both within the bureau, and by a wide and distinguished circle of acquaintances outside it as less a policeman than a scholar, one whose interests ranged from theoretical Marxism, on which he was an acknowledged expert, to modern English poetry.

Mr. Sullivan held advanced degrees from American and George Washington Universities and an honorary doctorate from Boston College.

In retirement, Mr. Sullivan became even more vocal of Mr. Hoover's nearly five decades of unchallenged leadership of the bureau and of its controversial counterintelligence programs, including some that he himself had conceived and administered.

Testifying two years ago before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which termed some of his official actions abusive and even illegal, Mr. Sullivan declared, "Never once did I hear anybody, including myself raise the question, is this course of action which we have agreed upon lawful, is it legal, is it ethical or moral?"

The Senate investigation uncovered considerable detail about the counterintelligence programs, collectively labeled Cointelpro by the bureau, that were intended to spread confusion and dissension among extremist political groups in this country, ranging from the Communist Party on the left to the Ku Klux Klan on the right.

It also developed in the Senate investigations that Mr. Sullivan had been instrumental in the arranging for the mailing of a tape recording in 1964 to Coretta Scott King, wide of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that contained snippets of Dr. King's conversations with other women that had been overheard by concealed F.B.I. microphones.

Mr. Sullivan was in the news most recently a few weeks ago when he acknowledge that he had passed to subordinates instructions from Mr. Hoover to use whatever means were necessary in tracking down fugitive members of the Weather Underground organization in the early 1970's.

One former agent, John J. Kearney, is now the subject of a Federal indictment charging the bureau with having employed illegal wiretaps and mail intercepts in those investigations, and Mr. Sullivan was expected to have been a principal witness at Mr. Kearney's trial. Mr. Sullivan, whose hopes for replacing Mr. Hoover as the bureau's director were dashed when the Nixon Administration installed L. Patrick Gary as Mr. Hoover's successor, infuriated many of his longtime colleagues in 1973, a year after Mr. Hoover's death, when Mr. Sullivan publicly questioned Mr. Hoover's mental acuity during his last few years in office.

"I'm no doctor," he said at the time in assessing Mr. Hoover. "I can't make a judgement. But he had an unusual personality. In the last three years, you couldn't depend upon him. He became extremely erratic."

Surviving are Mr. Sullivan's wife, Marion, two sons, William and Andrew, both law students in Boston, and a daughter Joanne Tuttle. A funeral service will be held on Saturday in Hudson, Mass., Mr. Sullivan's birthplace.

(13) G. Robert Blakey was interviewed by Frontline in 1993.

Q: Did the CIA and FBI give you access to the necessary files?

A: CIA clearly did lie about the case. For example, Helms lied about the case. The CIA appear to have been not cooperative, to have put out false photographs of Oswald, to have claimed they had no photographs of Oswald, there were many cases where they seem to have tried to cover their tracks,. How do you know that you found the underlying cause of this? You have to draw a distinction between the FBI and the Agency in the 1960s - and the substantial lack of candor between them and the Warren Commission - and the subsequent behavior of the agencies as they dealt with the congressional committee (in 1977).

Q: Is there significance in the fact that the military intelligence file on Oswald disappeared? What happened? Many people would see a far more sinister significance to the fact that the military destroyed a file of obvious historic significance.

A: In 1972, largely as a result of the investigations into military intelligence activities in the United States, the Defense Department destroyed all of the military intelligence files that they had about American citizens and things in the United States, which was shocking from the point of view of the committee. This general order resulted in the destruction of historically very valuable files.

Most disturbing was the destruction by the Army intelligence of Oswald's Army intelligence file. The suspicion immediately was that this was part of a cover up. We interviewed all of the officers who were responsible for the order to destroy it, and while we have the testimony of these individuals, we do not have the file.

Again, our ultimate conclusion was that in the United States, more often than not, the better explanation for government action is not hob nailed boots, but Keystone Cops. It's incredible how our bureaucracy simply responds in a mindless way without any regard to the historical significance of what they have.