tv Church Committee Hearings on FBI Intelligence Activities CSPAN May 30, 2016 3:05pm-4:41pm EDT
liberties with a need to protect the nation's security is an ongoing debate. it's certainly not one that we're just engaging in. it's been ongoing for some time. i think the crises of the 1970s era and the senate's response to that crises with new statutory reforms and agency internal reforms suggest that there are ways to address immediate problems in a way that makes people feel more comfortable and confident in the process and in the system going forward. i think history is best when it reminds us that the current issues that we're grappling with today are in some ways not new. we need to look back on these periods in our past and say, okay, we've faced these problems before. these have been -- we've seen these as crises in the past. how are we going to respond to them in a way today that is mindful of the progress that we made then and also maybe the
limitations of that investigation 40 years ago. >> kate scott, thank you very much. >> thanks. our coverage of the church committee 40 years later continues. this is american history tv only on c-span 3. welcome to real america on c-span 3's american history tv. 40 years ago in the wake of watergate the united states senate created a special committee to look into the activities of the u.s. intelligence services. the committee officially known as the senate select committee to study government operations is best known as the church committee after its democratic chairman, frank church of idaho. the committee met for 16 months, reviewing more than 10,000 documents and calling more than 800 witnesses. its legacy includes the creation
of the senate intelligence committee and the foreign intelligence surveillance act of 1978, better known as fisa, and new requirements for the executive branch to notify congress about covert activities. two former staffers of the committee are with us to provide context for the 40-year-old video that you're about to see. frederick schwarz who was the committee's chief council and richard elliott. in this series we're looking into the church committee's hearing on possible excesses by the federal bureau of investigation. rich schwarz, former chief council for the church committee, on november 18th, 1975 you testified before the senate committee to share the staff's findings in an investigation of fbi intelligence activities. we're going to show a clip of you reading an anonymous letter
that the fbi sent to martin luther king. >> the bureau went so far as to mail anonymous letters to dr. king and his wife shortly before he was awarded the nobel peace prize and finishes with this suggestion. king, there is only one thing left for you to do. you know what it is. you have just 34 days in which to do it. this exact number has been selected for a specific reason. it has definite practical significance. it was 34 days before the award. you are done. >> give us some context for what we just saw. why was the fbi looking into the activities of martin luther king? >> right after i made that statement, fritz mondale asked me a question --
>> if i could interrupt, that was taken by dr. king to mean a suggestion for suicide, was it not? >> that's our understanding, senator. >> and the answer was, it was intended and it was taken as an effort by the king family and the king associates like andy young to get him to commit suicide. hoover hated king. j. edgar hoover hated king. hoover had a negative view of what were then called negros. indeed on the very afternoon of king's "i have a dream" speech in washington d.c., in the bowels of the fbi's office, they resolved to destroy martin luther king. they set out to do that in lots of ways.
they persuaded the kennedy brothers to agree to wire tapping of king and king's close associates. they did that, we later discovered, by exaggerating the role of advisor to king, his closest white advisor, stanley levinson, who had been a member of the communist party but who left the party and the party turned against him. what the fbi told john kennedy and robert kennedy was he was a member of the communist party and a close advisor of king and they wanted to get the wire taps. they then obtained -- they didn't have to obtain permission. under the rules then the fbi put a bug in anybody's house, in anybody's bedroom, and they put bugs in hotel rooms that king was going to use and they made
recordings from that and then sent those to king with the letter. just one final thought that may be helpful. we obviously focused very much on the cia and very much on the fbi and a lot on other institutions like the nsa. my own view -- and i remember mentioning this to the committee at some time -- was that the cia was a danger to the country because its successes undermined the reputation of the united states in the world, but that the fbi was a danger to the country because its efforts undermined democracy in america. both of those things one should be worried about, but i thought that the effort to undermine democracy in america was the
more dangerous, and so my personal view is that our hearings on the fbi were the most important work we did. other people might not agree with that but they certainly were enormously important. >> watching that video 40 years later, what kind of emotions does it bring to bear in you? >> i think that the hearing about the tapping of martin luther king had a profound effect on me in part because of a statement that senator hart, phil hart, made. the gist of it was in response to all the senators in their opening statements talking about martin luther king and his impact on america and the qualities of the man -- the
importance of his work, and what phil hart said was, there will always be protecters for people like martin luther king, but what we need to worry about are the actions of the government about people who will have no protecters. that the socialist workers party representatives whose neighbors were talked to by the fbi and were told not to let their children play with their children, the employers who were told not to employ them on the grounds that these people were a threat to the united states. these people were not a threat to come out of a paper bag if they were in a paper bag, but phil hart recognized that it is the powerless who are most at risk. and i remember that profoundly as for me the high point of the hearing. if the government acts against the powerless, we should be terrified because it's not only
the powerless but who will be next. and it was in those hearings that i think for me crystallized the kind of concern that you need to have with the exercise of secret power. >> as we learn about the work of the church committee 40 years ago, now from november 18th, 1975, here's senator frank church, the committee chairman, opening up a hearing on the fbi and its abuse of power. >> there has never been a full public accounting of fbi domestic intelligence operations. therefore, this committee has undertaken such an investigation. its purpose is not to impair the fbi's legitimate law enforcement and counter espionage functions but rather to evaluate domestic intelligence according to the standards of the constitution and the statutes of our land. if fault is to be found, it does not rest in the bureau alone. it is to be found also in the
long line of attorneys general, presidents, and congresses who have failed -- who have given power, rather, and responsibility to the fbi but have failed to give it adequate guidance, direction and control. information is a powerful resource. one of the fbi's most significant features is its system for efficient processing, filing, and retrieving of the data it gathers. the potential dangers in this system are obvious. today we are here to review the major findings of our full investigation of fbi domestic intelligence, including the cohen tell program and other programs aimed at domestic targets.
fbi surveillance of law abiding groups and several specifications of unjustified intelligence operations. these hearings have one overriding objective. the development of sufficient information for congress to legislate appropriate standards for the fbi. >> schwarz and smothers began their testimony and giving some notable examples. >> in the area of what they characterize as the new left, an example of the overbreadth of the requirement for information laid on the field can be found in the document that's at 13-1 of your books. and in this document, the
director of the fbi issued an instruction to all special agents of the bureau as to the kind of information that he wanted them to collect and report on. now, the number of items in the report are in letters from a through r and numbers under each one of those entries. i will just refer to a couple of the specific examples of what the fbi agents are required to report into the field. in the area of finances, who are the so-called angels for the group. in the area of publications, describe all the publications. in the area of religion, the policy of the organization relating to its approach to religion and any veement statements made against religious bodies by leaders,
conversely support for the religion leaders or individuals. in the area of political activities, any and all political activities in which so-called new left leaders are involved and details relating to their position taken on political matters including efforts to influence public opinion, the electoral and government bodies. in the area of education, all information concerning courses given, together with any educational outline and together with what is the assigned or suggested reading. in the area of so-called social reform, all information on activities in connection with demonstrations aimed at social reform, whatever that may be. in the area of labor, all information including all activity in the labor field. with respect to the public appearance of leaders, the identity of any leader who makes a public appearance on radio and television and who appears before groups, for example, labor, church and minority
groups, and in connection with such appearances, the identity of the group sponsoring the speaker and a succinct summary of the subject matter discussed. in the area of mass media, influence of the new left on mass media and any indications of the support of the new left by the mass media. a wholly comprehensive list are of everything those people thought or did or any subject you can imagine they're having a concern with. taking the -- as a next example of how the intelligence desire seeks out information scarcely relevant to subjects that we had thought the bureau was concerned with, in the area of women's liberation, report after report about meetings of women who got together to talk about their problems. how the bureau got this
information is not entirely clear but it's apparently by informants. we have informants all over the country checking up on what housewives are talking about in their efforts to decide whether women should have a different role in society. reports on particular women who said why they had come to the meeting and how she felt oppressed sexually or otherwise. reports on the release of white mice by women at a protest demonstration. reports on such other important matters as the women's liberation movement is interested in zapping the miss america pageant in atlantic city by protesting the standards and -- well, whatever they protest in atlantic city. my favorite example, in the baltimore women's liberation
movement, in a document that was sent not only to the fbi -- this is tab 5.4 -- not only to the fbi but two three military agencies for some reason, a document in which there is a long discussion of the origins, ames and purposes of the group, its location, pamphlets and in concluding on the purposes of the group comes up with such important findings that they wanted a purpose to free women from the hum drum existence of only being a wife and mother. they wanted equal opportunities that men have in work and society and so forth. nothing to do with violence, nothing to do with labels of subversion and extremism. what's the conclusion on the document? quote, we'll continue to follow and report the activities of the women's liberation movement. >> not all of the information collected by the agency was stashed away in some musty file. much of it was turned over to white house aides and much was used for political purposes. >> there was an indication that
violence may erupt. the bureau was called upon to supply information regarding the potential for violence. i assume both on a federal level and to assist local law enforcement officials. in addition to that, after infiltration of various groups, the challenge plan of the mississippi convention, the plans of those who are challenging the official delegation were developed by the fbi and submitted to the white house through a white house staffer. the plans of dr. king, the plans of core, the plans with respect to the activities at the convention were also communicated both as they related to efforts to disrupt as well as general political strategy at the convention. this was accomplished through a
complete infiltration of these groups, and when it became apparent as in the case of the mississippi challenge that it might be politically expedient to have some information to discredit the group, the fbi provided that also by providing some bookkeeping data on the organization and its funding sources. we see the same kind of unofficial dissemination occur after the critics of the warren commission began to surface and the white house is a bit concerned about these persons who are criticizing the warren commission. the fbi is directed to gather information on those persons, information which extended to their personal lives indeed down to and including sex activities. the name check process was often
used as a basis of getting a clearer fix on people who had begun to criticize the administration. in several cases we've identified news correspondence at major networks who apparently at one point or another were the subject of name checks. the number of reporters from major newspapers, many of the names there pop up immediately after revelations or accusations about misconduct or the activities of the white house. we even got to the point where the name check process was used as the basis to gather the views or information on private citizens who objected to vietnam policy and this information was subsequently distributed to persons who may be in a position
to point out adverse information in the individual's background. this took the form, for example, of going to political figures and saying to those figures if you have an occasion to comment upon so and so, you might want to have this information. we will talk a little more about that when we come to other activities. the use though in a political arena virtually covered the spectrum. in one case we reduce information regarding the fbi's reported efforts to influence the speaker of the house regarding a prominent civil rights figure using information that had been gained through various investigative techniques and accomplishing this unofficial, over lunch, kind of dissemination. >> a footnote on the 1964 democratic convention, a technique which was used there was the funishing to the fbi of
false credentials by one of the major networks which the fbi then used in order to insert itself as a bogus news man into legitimate discussions of political persons and protest groups and acquire information concerning their plans pretending to be a reporter and, in fact, acquiring it for the purposes of the bureau and transmission to higher authority. now, turning to cohen tell pro. cohen tell pro is an abbreviation of the words counter intelligence program. co-intel pro is the name for the effort by the bureau to destroy people and to destroy organizations, or as they use the words disrupt and neutralize. >> and in pursuit of this goal, fbi agents used a wide range of
weapons disseminating this information, creating animosities and generally spreading havoc among the target groups. >> one of the other techniques utilized was to destroy the job or family life, and family life was a particularly opportune target in the bureau's view and played on this fairly tender sensitivities. without mention of the name reflected therein, if you look to tab 9-4 of your books, you will see the bureau's report on a co-intel pro effort against a white female who was involved as an officer in what is defined as a local black activist group. the way to discredit or
neutralize this leader was to take attention away from activities of the group by creating another kind of distraction. the distraction read as follows. dear mrs. blank, look, man, i guess your old lady doesn't get enough at home -- mr. blank, i'm sorry. letters to her husband. or she wouldn't be shucking and jiving with a black man in action, you dig? like all she wants to integrate is the bedroom, and us black sisters ain't going to take no second best for our men. so lay it on her, man, or get her the hell out of blank. it's signed, a soul sister. particularly effective technique as reflected by the memoranda, it did succeed in distracting
her. >> bureau agents were told to attack the new left by disinformation and new information. i'll give you six quick examples of what was done in that program. there was a body called the national mobilization committee to end the war in vietnam. at the time of the democratic national convention in 1968, that body attempted to obtain housing in chicago for demonstrators who would come to the convention. the fbi local office in chicago obtained 217 of those forms and filled them out with fictitious names and addresses of persons who purported falsely to have houses in which the demonstrators could say. the tactic had its designed effect because, according to fbi documents, the persons who went out to look for these houses made, quote, long and useless journeys to local the addresses and the effort to find housing
was cancelled. what effect that had upon the attitude of the persons who were there in chicago and what contribution that made to what happened thereafter, i suppose we'll never know. the same tactic was carried out with respect to the 1969 presidential inauguration where they again filled out false housing forms to confuse and disrupt efforts by persons coming to washington to find places to stay. during those same 1969 inauguration ceremonies, the washington field office of the fbi discovered that persons who were attempting to coordinate and control the demonstrations. there were marshals, and this committee has examined in executive session mr. eagle crowe who was responsible for coordinating law enforcement at that demonstration, and he has told us that the marshals of the demonstrators were a very useful and helpful group of persons in order to keep the demonstration
orderly. what did the fbi do? they found out what citizen band was being used for walky-talkies and they used that citizen band to supply the marshals with misinformation and pretending to be a unit of the national mobilization to end the war in vietnam counter manned the orders issueed by the movement. in 1967 there was a rally in washington protesting the vietnam war. a newspaper in new york city indicated that its contribution to this rally was to be the symbolic act of dropping flowers on the pentagon. and the newspaper put an ad in the newspaper asking for a pilot who could help them do that. the federal bureau of investigation answered the ad and kept up the pretense it was a pilot up until the newspaper
showed up with 200 pounds of flowers and there was no one there to fly the plane. >> the most dramatic testimony today involved the surf martin luther king. the committee staffers described in detail attempts to discredit and to destroy king to try to turn his followers against him, even to find another idol for black americans. martin luther king was and is a national hero to millions, but to j. edgar hoover, he was a dangerous man who would wreck the country. >> by january of '62 mr. hoover has already typed dr. king as no good. hoover was particularly disturbed after, in 1963 it became clear that the concept of nonviolence was gaining adherence, an adherence to be made even more clear by the time the march on washington came
around. this development of the concept of nonviolent confrontation or nonviolent protests were seen as a threat to law enforcement and something the bureau was indeed unhappy about. this was aided apparently by what the bureau regarded as dr. king's direct attacks on mr. hoover and the bureau. and the public controversy was pretty much full blown at the time in 1963 when mr. sullivan who should be able to give us some assistance on this matter communicat communicates to mr. hoover a plan for dealing with dr. martin luther king. quoting from a memoranda, the
plan here is to completely discredit dr. king by, quote, taking him off his pedestal and to reduce him completely in influence. in its effort to reduce dr. king in influence, to take him off his pedestal and to change if you will his image before the masses, we begin to get some insight into the thought process of the fbi at the time. the thinking was that this would not be a terribly difficult task. the memo indicated for example that this can be done and will be done. obviously confusion will reign, particularly among the negro people. the negros will be left out a national leader of sufficient
compelling personality to steer them in the proper direction. so the fbi decided that if they were going to take king off his pedestal, it was a part of their task to find and bring into prominence a new, quote, national negro leader. >> after the march on washington, there was an acceleration. he was defined by of his speech in that demonstration in washington as the most dangerous and effective leader in the country, and there was a paper battle between -- within the bureau as to how best to attack him and he was attacked. after "time" magazine named him as man of the year, again the bureau finds that reprehensible, believes it must attack and destroy. when he was given the nobel prize, again they seek to discredit dr. king with the persons who welcomed him back from that award. when he began to speak out against the vietnam war, there's
a new crescendo of efforts by the bureau to discredit and destroy dr. king. when the poor people's campaign took place, once again they go after dr. king. their activity to go after dr. king didn't even cease when he died because, as congress began to consider the question of whether or not dr. king's birthday should be made a national holiday, the bureau developed plans to call in friendly congressmen for off the record briefings concerning king in the hopes they will keep the bill out of the committee. the period surrounding washington and directly following it is particularly revealing. a report was written for the director by his chief intelligence officer reporting
the communist party in fact for 40 years had been trying to control the negro movement and that it had always failed and that its efforts in connection with the march on washington were infinite tess mall. this was not accepted by the director of the fbi. he found that thinking wrong, unacceptable, and said that it must be changed, and it was changed. and then we find paper coming in in which the lower level people in the fbi apologized for having misunderstood matters and on they go with this effort to discredit and start they do the bugs on dr. king. the fbi sought to prevent the pope from meeting with dr. king. it intervened with a cardinal -- >> the pope from meeting with dr. king? >> it did.
when the pope despite that effort did meet with dr. king, the fbi documents record the add verb, astounding. >> must have been pope john, was it? >> it was in 1964. someone's got to help me. who was it? pope paul. that effort didn't work. the paranoia, the belief that american citizens couldn't deal themselves with dr. king as indicated by this story at one point governor rockefeller was planning a trip to latin america and the bureau felt that it had to approach governor rockefeller so he could be -- he was planning to see dr. king before going -- so he could be warned of what a great danger dr. king was. this effort went on and on and on. each time that he was doing something important, there was an effort to discredit him.
each person who the bureau felt could give further credit, further recognition to dr. king, an effort to stop that from happening. the bureau went so far as to mail anonymous letters to dr. king and his wife which were mailed shortly before he was awarded the nobel peace prize and finishes with this suggestion. king, there is only one thing left for you to do. you know what it is. you have just 34 days in which to do it. this exact number has been selected for a specific reason. it has definite practical significance. it was 34 days before the award. you are done. >> if i can interrupt, that was taken by dr. king to mean a suggestion for suicide, was it not? >> that's our understanding, senator. >> who wrote the letter? >> well, that's a matter of
dispute. it was found in the files of mr. sullivan who was the assistant director of the fbi and was heavily involved in these programs. he claims that it's a plant in his files and that someone else in the bureau, in fact, wrote the document. the document which was found is a draft of the letter which was the anonymous letter which was actually sent. >> is there any dispute that the letter did, in fact, come from the fbi? >> we've heard no dispute of that. >> one thing that is very clear as we examine the king information is that the fbi has not only presumed to know an awful lot about the movement which dr. king headed but that many of its fumbling efforts, many of its failures to convince people that dr. king should be discredited was born out of the ignorance and if you will the
very clear racism at large then in the agency. a particularly revealing aspect of the bureau's approach to the question, even at a time when they were examining the so-called negro question, is evidenced by the response to a memoranda which then attorney general kennedy wrote mr. hoover. mr. kennedy wrote a memoranda asking mr. hoover how many negro special agents he had. mr. hoover wrote back, we don't catalog people by race, creed or color, and now reading from mr. sullivan's transcript on the point, it was assumed by mr. hoover that this would take care of mr. kennedy. mr. kennedy came back with another very nice letter. a little auditory attitude. you're commended to have it. but i still want to know how many negro special agents do you have. so we were in trouble. it so happened that during the war he had five negro chauffeurs
so he automatically made them special agents. it did not matter whether they finished college or high school or grammar school or had a law degree. so now he wrote back and said we have five. then mr. kennedy came back and said this was atrocious. at the time, according to mr. sullivan, the fbi had 5500 special agents. out of that number, 5500, and you only have five negro agents? of course we did not say in that memoranda that none of them conducted investigations. they were just drivers. this is 1961. any wonder the fbi was presumpti presumptionous. the bureau looked across the landscape and decided who should
be neutralized, discredited or destroyed. >> the bureau was originally set up as a crime fighting agency but in 1939 in a directive by president roosevelt, it assumed a new task of seeing that the country's internal security was maintained in the face of a growing threat from fascism and communi communism. >> in 1939 the fbi had and established an index called the security index which was a list of individuals, both aliens and citizens -- i'm now quoting -- on whom there is information available to indicate that their presence at liberty in this country at time of war or national emergency would be dangerous to the united states government. the documents which notified all fbi offices of such lists and to prepare names indicated that the bureau should make certain that the fact it was making such
investigations does not become known to individuals outside of the bureau. nevertheless, the department of justice was then informed and in 1941 the department of justice commenced to work with the bureau on classifying persons as to degree of dangerousness. in 1943, however, the attorney general then in office, mr. bidle, wrote a memoranda for j. edgar hoover in which he instructed j. edgar hoover to get rid of the lists and to stamp on each document in which a person had been given a classification for the purpose of being locked up, the following legend. this classification is unreliable. it is here by cancelled and should not be used. attorney general bidle told j. edgar hoover that after full
reconsideration of these classifications, i am satisfied that they serve no useful purpose. there is no statutory authorization or other present justification for keeping a custodial detention list of citizens. the department fulfills its proper functions by investigating the activities of persons who may have violated the law. it is not aided in this work by classifying persons as to dangerousness. now, within a few days of that instruction, very flat instruction from the attorney general, the director of the fbi indicated to all fbi agents that the instruction in effect indicated that the instruction should not be carried out. he told them that what they should do is simply to change the label on the files from, quote, security -- to, quote,
security matter and from, quote, custodial detention. he instructed the agents of the fbi as follows, that the bureau will also continue to prepare and maintain security index cards, and this was for the same purpose of knowing who the bureau might lock up. and he further instructed them, the fact that the security index and security index cards are prepared and maintained should be considered as strictly confidential and should at no time be alluded to in investigative reports or discussed with agencies or individuals outside the bureau, other than representatives of the military intelligence agencies who were going to be let in on the secret. in 1948 there was a new attorney general in office. he, contrary to attorney general bidle who had instructed that this be turned off, the new
attorney general in 1948 instructed the fbi to prepare an emergency detention program following something called the attorney general's portfolio. this included plans to suspend the writ of habeas corpsous. it included a master warrant of arrest whereby the signature of the attorney general and only that signature and without reference to the courts, thousands of people could be locked up. >> have they continued to maintain these files for lockup purposes? >> the key question is your last three words, senator. they have continued upon the agreement of the department of justice to maintain the same files. the numbers have now been reduced to 1,200 persons. the name has been changed to
something called the administrative index. what purpose that serves and whether it is still used as a reserve list of persons to lock up i think we're going to have to ask the bureau. >> for most of the hearing the members of the senate committee sat silently listening to the documentation of abuses by staffers schwarz and smothers. one said he recorded the fbi wrongdoing as more serious than the cia wrongdoing. all were stunned and appalled by the disclosures, and at day's end several gave vent to their feelings. >> i've been told for years by, among others, some of my own family that this is exactly what the bureau was doing all the time. and in my great wisdom and high office, i assured them they were
on pot. this just wasn't true. it couldn't happen. they wouldn't do it. what you've described is a series of illegal actions intended squarely to deny first amendment rights to some americans. that's what my children have told me was going on. now, i didn't believe it. the trick now, as i see it, is for this committee to be able to figure out how to persuade the people of this country that indeed it did go on and how shall we ensure that it never
happens again. >> and i would hope as we lead to the strengthening of the fbi and the criminal field, we impose very clear and unquestioned limits so that this kind of unrestrained illegal, secret, intimidation and harassment of the essential ability of americans to participate freely in american political life shall never happen again. >> seems to me that we have moved away from concern by the bureau for actual actions that might be violent or might be criminal. toward action toward ideas that might be unpopular or may not be acceptable to some people within the bureau of perhaps within the administration. >> the fbi has never had a
statute clearly defining its authority. and after all these many years, this is the first serious congressional investigation of its activities. and we have seen today the dark side of those activities where many americans who were not even suspected of crime were not only spied upon, but they were harassed, they were discredited, and at times endangered through the covert operations of the federal bureau of investigation. such revelations places serious
responsibility upon this committee to see to it that that can't happen again. >> as a result of the committee's investigation, did you ever learn who wrote that letter to martin luther king or who authorized it? >> well, i think it was a man called sullivan who we examined actually. he died before we could call him at a public hearing. but he was head of the domestic intelligence group under j. edgar hoover and i think he was the person who did it. whether hoover himself authorized, i'm certain hoover would not have objected because all of the so-called co-intel proposals, like for example one in chicago where the fbi tried
to get one black leader to kill another black leader by sending an anonymous letter to the one they wanted to do the killing. but all of those actions were authorized by hoover, and he would say, okay, go ahead and do it so long as you don't embarrass the bureau. that was the exact words, so long as you don't embarrass the bureau, by which of course he meant, so long as you can keep it secret. but we didn't find internal evidence in the fbi beyond our being certain that mr. sullivan had been responsible for producing that letter. we didn't find internal evidence about whether the approval went up to hoover. a lot of hoover's document, the day he died, his famous close secretary and one of his closest aides went through his files and
destroyed a lot of them. fortunately, they didn't destroy everything. and we found an enormous amount. it may be there was a hoover approval of the suicide letter, but that was one of the things that was destroyed. >> did the committee find out what impact this had on dr. martin luther king at the time? >> well, i think it was -- i'll leave that to fritz to answer. he was more deeply involved in the domestic side than i was. >> was there any witness who -- was dr. martin luther king aware of the fbi's surveillance of him and did it affect his activities? >> yes, he was, and yes, it did affect his activity, but it didn't suppress his activity. that letter which was received and talked about not only between king and his wife, but
between king and his close advisors was of great concern to them. it just proved further the extent to which the fbi was trying to hurt them. i mean, the fbi peddled information about king to the pope, to the white house, to universities, to foundations, to foreign leaders. they tried to prevent his getting the nobel peace prize. but, you know, elliot made a great point which were used phil hart for this. king of course is a known counter-leader to the practices of j. edgar hoover. but the fbi did things that injured all kinds of people. civil rights leaders where they would right anonymous letters trying to break up marriages.
unitarians from ohio who traveled to chicago for the democratic convention in 1968 where the fbi used false information to have them not have housing and get all mixed up in where they were staying. an actress who did commit suicide after the fbi had peddled information about her relations with people of another race. and it was -- it was deeply, deeply disturbing that a law enforcement agency knowingly and intentionally violated the law and did it in ways that were designed to hurt lots of ordinary people and lots of signature and famous people. >> in just a few minutes you're going to see 30 minutes of the deputy associate fbi director,
james adams, who appeared before the committee the day after the martin luther king revelations. let's show you a short clip of democratic senator phil hart questioning director adams. it's the segment we just heard about from mr. maxwell. let's watch. >> there are an awful lot of people who never got close to a nobel prize whose name is jones and smith that my review of the file show had violence done to their first amendment rights. and nobel prize winners will always get protection, but joe potatoes doesn't. this committee should focus on him, too. >> joe potatoes, quite a memorable reference by senator phil hart. we're going to show the entirety of this in a few minutes.
would you give us a sense of what the atmosphere was like in that room at the time? >> i think it was electric. the extent of what the fbi had done was almost unbelievable. and it came against a -- a public backtrdrop about the fbi which was the crime busters, the elite police activities on the federal level, incorruptible, unbeatable, a bullworth of mesh institutions, and to think that these things had been going on below the surface and in such contrast to the image of the fbi was extraordinary. >> we should tell people, that image was propelled by
hollywood. the fbi agent was always the type of person that you describe. so this was a real revelation to the public. >> absolutely. it was the untouchables in a sense. and all of a sudden to think that the untouchables had been doing things that were so destructive, so wrong, so in violation of the oath that they took was, i think, almost unimaginable at the start of the investigation. >> so thanks to elliot maxwell and fritz schwarz for setting the stage for this. you're going to see from november 19, 1975, the pbs broadcasting of this hearing. it's anchored by paul duke. it's the edited highlights of testimony of fbi director james ada adams. let's watch. >> from the outset today, it was plain that much of the interrogation would revolve around the committee's
disclosures yesterday of the attempts to discredit dr. king. the hand of hoover was everywhere in the harassment of dr. king. adams told of 25 separate acts acknowledging there was no legal base for any of them. as we pick up the proceedings, adams is being questioned about an anonymous letter sent to dr. king in 1964 shortly before he received the nobel peace price, a letter some suggest was an attempt to induce suicide. >> king, there is only one thing left for you to do, you know what it is. you have just 34 days in which to do this exact number has been selected for a specific reason. it has definite practical significance.
you are done. there is but one way out for you. now, if you had received such a letter, how would you have interpreted it, what would you have thought it meant? >> i have read that statement. i have heard the conclusions of your staff that it was a suicide urging. i can't find any basis upon which they drew that conclusion. i think that approaching it from an objective standpoint as i read it, i don't know what it means. i could -- i think rather than a conclusion, it should be a speculation in a realm of possibilities as to what was intended. but i cannot -- i don't understand the basis for it. it's a possibility, but i certainly would not reach such a conclusion --
>> now if you had received a letter of this kind and it had been directed to you and you were in dr. king's position, and you read king, there is only one thing left for you to do, you know what it is, you have just 34 days in which to do it. now that happens to roughly correspond to the time before which he was to receive the nobel peace prize. what would you think that meant? >> i would have to consider what i was being accused of. i would have to consider what the facts were. i would have to consider what the intent of the person was writing such a note coming just before christmas. i don't know if it means -- is an urging to reindependent frre
something. >> certainly no christmas card is it? >> it's certainly no christmas card. >> it reads, there ask but one way out for you. what does that mean? >> i don't know if it means confession. i don't know if it means suicide as has been raised. i have no idea. you have the statement. i'm not in a position to -- to say. i haven't interviewed anyone that was with him at the time he received it. >> would you disown this statement and say that any connection the fbi had with it was utterly improper and grotesque. >> i certainly would say it's improper and i can't justify its being prepared or sent, yes, sir. >> i gather there was never any question raised about mr. dr. king was a communist, that was never charged?
>> not as a communist party member. >> never a member. or that he was about or had committed acts of violence? >> no. >> the peg for investigating was apparently that he was subject to communist influence. >> yes. >> now what -- what makes that a justified for investigating him? is it a crime to be approached by someone who's a communist? >> no. >> what is the legal basis for that investigation? >> the basis would be the communist influence on him and the effect it would have upon the organization, would be in connection with our basic investigation of the communist party. >> yeah, well i'm -- as i understand the law today, it is not a crime to be a member of a communist party. >> that's correct.
>> how can it be a crime to know someone who is a member of the communist party? >> it isn't. >> how do you investigate something as tenuos as that? >> it falls into the area of, one, the intelligence jurisdiction of the activities of the communist party. you have a situation where an individual in an organization, a leader of an organization, efforts are being made to influence him and the chief control over the organization, and it's part of the overall investigation of the party trying to exert this influence, as to are they successful, are they taking over the black movement or the civil rights movement.
it's like we try to make clear in investigations that were more prevalent years ago, but still occur and the communist influence in labor unions. we're not interested in labor matters. we're not trying to inquire into that. >> mr. adams, i'm trying to get at the legal basis in this particular case of investigating dr. king on the grounds that he might be subject to communist influence. can you cite any legal basis for that, or is it based entirely upon a generalized authority thought to exist in the fbi to investigate, quote, internal security matters? >> it would fall also in the presidential directives of investigating subversive activities. >> then the question would return to what authority the president had for such an order? >> that's right.
>> now, dr. king was investigated, among other things, for matters of -- i think you call it delicacy. would that basis for investigating an american citizen sent by the fbi? >> no. >> would you say that those investigations were improper? >> i -- i don't believe that there is an allegation that we investigated him for that. i think there were certain byproducts of information that developed. and i think that at a point, you had a situation where the tail was wagging the dog perhaps. but i don't see any basis for such investigation and i -- i find it very difficult to get into a discussion of this in view of the prohibitions that i think we -- >> well, you answered my question. that by itself would not be a basis. >> no, sir.
>> you've been familiar with the bureau's domestic intelligence work for many years. how did the bureau come to launch the co-intel program and what in essence did co-intel pro accomplish? >> well, the program as such as i can reconstruct from the files was indicated to concern over the conspiracy efforts of certain groups and an attempt to -- decision made that perhaps more affirmative action should be taken to neutralize violence which was becoming of more concern to the fbi in that regard. i believe these are some of the basic considerations that went into the launches of co-intel pro. as far as the first one, which was the communist party, of course, that was a concern here
to neutralize the effectiveness of the communist party in the united states. in fact, out of all the co-intel pro operations that were approved, 59% of them were directed at the communist party. the bulk of the concern initially was with the communist party and it was a desire to create -- neutralize its efforts. the communist party, congress itself still has a determination on the record as to the threat of the communist party and a statute. the supreme court had -- has held that the communist party is an instrument of the soviet union. the soviet union certainly has not relinquished its interest in the united states as a target. all of these considerations went into should we do something not
only to follow the activities of the communist party, but destroy its effectiveness in the united states. >> did the bureau receive direction or counsel from the attorney general on any of its co-intel efforts or spefg programs? >> as best as i can reconstruct senator, there was no direct authority requested from any attorney general for the initiation of these programs and it's only a question as your staff presented yesterday that the attorney general's, presidents, congress had been made available of certain aspects of programs after the fact and those were primarily concerned with the communist party and one other organization, but not the new left and these other types. so i cannot find any evidence that -- and i have no reason to believe there would be any
evidence, that the bureau initiated these programs other than as an internal decision. >> were reports on these programs made to the attorney general? was he kept informed on a continuing basis? >> he was kept informed by letters, which again the staff has alluded to. letters reporting certain developments. one went to one attorney general reading of that letter outlined almost in complete detail klan activities. activities taken to disrupt the klan. it used terms of newly rattize, disrupt. there was clear explanation of what we were doing against the klan in that regard. >> how is it you came to believe you had the authority to neutralize or disrupt these organizations rather than proceed against them frontally
and prosecuting them for law violations in. >> i guess you would have to say in a position like this that it's like like the smith act of 1940 which is designed to prevent revolutionary groups from advocating the overthrow of the government and then subsequent interpretations as to the contusionality of it. you have the degree of proof necessary to operation under the few remaining areas is such that there was no satisfactory way to proceed. and it was an area where -- >> would the senator yield at that point, please? what you're saying mr. adams, excuse me, is that you didn't operate within the law because the law didn't give you sufficient latitude.
therefore, you undertook direct action to disrupt and otherwise undermine these organizations. did you proceed on the assumption that -- that these organizations would eventually break the law and therefore you sought to neutralize or disrupt them before they did? >> i can't say that sir. i think that the investigations of them were based on this belief that they might break the law or they were breaking the law. the disruptive activities, i can't find where we were able to relate it to that. what it boils down to is what we've gotten into a question before on. in our review of the situation, we see men of the fbi recognizing or having a good faith belief that there was an immediate danger to the united states --
>> right, but in regards to senator church's question, you don't really say that you have specific legal authority for this. >> no. and this is the hangup with the whole program in which we are not trying to justify that there's some statutory basis. all i'm trying to do is say that we had men that felt there was an immediate danger to the future of the country. they felt they had a responsibility to act. and having felt this responsibility, did act. and this is the whole problem we have at the present time. because we do have one we can see good evidence of their belief there was threat. we had cities being bush rned. educational institutions being bombed. we had deaths occurring from all
of these activities. we had a situation that we didn't know what the end was going to be. we never can look around the corner in intelligence operations. we don't know if ultimately this might bring the destruction of the country. all we know is we had an extremely violent time. so i don't find any basis in my mind to argue with their good faith belief they were faced with a danger. now, when they move over to this secondary of responsibility, here's where we have the problem and i think it's the whole purpose of this committee, the attorney general, mr. kelly, all of us realizing we can't operate in these areas where we feel a responsibility but we don't have a mandate by congress. so in that area, this feeling of responsibility, i feel, came from the fact that presidents, as your staff said yesterday -- presidents, congressmen, the attorney general, no one really
provided direction and guidance or instructions, don't do this, do this, don't do that, or what are you doing and how are you doing. for instance, there's some feeling in the -- on the part of some that our whole domestic intelligence operations were secret. the co-intel pro operation was. i think we all agree that this was to be effective, they felt it should be secret. but back in our -- this is printed appropriation testimony which went to the member ones of the committee, it was mailed out to newspaper, friends, anyone that was interested in it, back in 1970. talking about our internal security operations, the new left movement p chicago trial, nationwide demonstrations, student agitation, anti-war activities, committee of return
volunteers, communist party usa, progressive labor party, socialist workers party, extremist organizations, black panther party, all of these items and statements about extremist, white extremist and hate type groups. republic of new africa. minute men. the several groups, organizations and movements which i've discussed show the wide coverage we must maintain to follow on their activities and changing tactics in spite of the proliferation of these organizations, our informant coverage at all levels has enabled us to keep abreast of our investigative responsibilities. we've told the world we're investigating black hate groups, new left groups. i merely mentioned this to try
to put in the frame of reference of these men doing -- they know we're investigating them. they didn't tell them though in detail what we were doing to disrupt these activities. and my feeling is that the men recognized the danger. they pointed out the danger to the world. they said we're investigating these organizations. and they felt then that the comfortable climate of leave it up to the fbi, we should do something more. and that's what we're looking for guidelines on. the attorney general, mr. kelly, you, that give us the guidelines under which we should operate. now there's certain guidelines we don't need to be given. we don't have such activities today. programs designed to disrupt or
knew r neutralize in the domestic intelligence field. beyond that, we need guidelines on what does the whole of congress, representative of the people bypa passage of legislatn say -- >> mr. chairman, my time is long since expired. i would like to note that i saw mr. kelly on the "today" show this morning indicating strong support for congressional oversight. that's a healthy attitude. >> because as you have really conceded, you shouldn't have ever had to have had guidelines to tell you that the federal government's chief law enforcement agency ought not to disobey the law. and really, you don't need explicit guidelines to tell you have or you shouldn't have. wouldn't you agree? >> i would say that looking at
it today, we should have looked at it that way yesterday. but i do feel that -- i don't have any doubt about the good faith of people recognizing a danger, feeling they had a responsibility, no matter whose fault it was. ours internally or because we weren't given the supervision we should have been given and taking what they considered appropriate action. >> senator hart. >> it is right that the committee and the press be worried about the treatment of a nobel prize winner, dr. king. there were an awful lot of people who never got close to a kn nobel prize whose name is jones and smith that my review of the files show had violence done to their first amendment rights.
and nobel prize winners will always get protection. but joe potatoes doesn't. and this committee should focus on him, too. now, included in this co-intel were activities like this. anonymous letters drafted by ba bureau offices in the field sent to headquarters in washington, approved, and then put in the mail intended to break up marriages, not of dr. king.
but of mary and john jones because one or other was thought to be a -- oh, a dissenter. might have dressed strangely. or showed up at meetings in company of others who dressed strangely. anonymous letters to university officials and to the -- several newspapers in that city to prevent university facilities from being made available to a speaker whom the bureau disapproved. and it wasn't a top flight big name speaker. in that case, an anonymous letter was sent to me making
prote protest. as an anonymous letter, it never occurred to me that it came from the federal bureau of investigation. the series of anonymous letters, one with the spelling very poor, the grammar sloppy, and another more sophisticated protesting the employment by a city of a man alleging that he was a communist or came from a
communist family. and there are loyal americans out of work and what are you doing mayor. and to the press, isn't this an out rainfa outrage. and again, an anonymous letter sent to me, what are you going to do about that. there are loyal democrats in this town who need work. and in that case, i happen to have known the man about whom the protest was made. and the bureau's facts were wrong as hell on that man's loyalty. he was as loyal as you or i. now, yes or no, are those actions regarded now by the
bureau as within bounds? >> no, sir. >> why were they regarded as within bounds when they were approved by the bureau? >> well, i think even under the guidelines of co-intel pro, as established, the programs were not designed for the purpose of harassment of an individual. the memoranda indicate they're designed to disrupt the organization. some of the town turndowns were turned down on this specific wording. this is mere harassment. the rationale would have been, and of course here i say some of these you mentioned wouldn't even appear to me to meet the criteria of the program and should have been disavowed. however, in the total context of the program, activities were to be directed towards the organization itself. but we do not do that at the
present time. >> yeah, but everything i've summarized rather poorly was approved by the bureau at the time. by headquarters, not field office. >> i do think that the -- there were improper actions taken under the program, even under the program as it existed. mr. kelly has so stated his recognition of that fact. the attorney general certainly has. yet, the majority of the actions taken, even the department concluded were lawful and legal, proper investigative activitys. >> but you see, my feeling is -- it isn't a question of techniques that are bad. the concept of the program seems to do violence to the first amendment because everything that you did sought to silence somebody or frighten somebody into silence or deny somebody a
platform or create a -- an atmosphere in which people were -- were in fact afraid to assemble. now, sometimes, law enforcement, legitimate law enforcement has what we call this chilling effect. when it's legitimate law enforcement, oftentimes that chilling effect is a necessary, though regrettable side effect. but what i'm talking about, and what these files are full of, are actions the only purpose of which is to chill. >> would you agree with me, mr. adams, that this whole vague, generalized area of the assignment that the fbi has been tasked and which that i have thought they possess over the years to investigate americans
not where there were allegations of crime or suspicions that crimes are about to be committed or that violence or violence is about to be committed, but rather this whole generalized area to investigate americans in terms of ideas that they have or might be persuaded to have that might hold potential for danger to this country is an exceedingly vague, different, if not impossible define area, and an area which has gotten the fbi into an awful lot of trouble, including today's hearings? >> yes. >> and because of that, there is a very important need to sit down and redefine it, have the guidelines known specifically by law, so that the fbi can know precisely what it can do and what it cannot do? >> i think this is why the
country is fortunate at this particular time to have an attorney general who is a legal scholar and a lawyer of unquestioned repute who has indicated a willingness to address these problems, which as the staff has determined was not always the case over the years. but we have an attorney general. we have a director who has offered his complete cooperation, just as he has to the committee in this inquiry, that we're not trying to avoid embarrassment. the only thick we're trying to hold back are adenties of infor the purpose mants and sensitive ongoing operations. and that we have a concern on the part of congress that not only recognizes there have been abuses, but recognizes that there still always has to be some degree of flexibility. we're going to have situations where you have a weatherman
working for the water works. and in college, he was assigntist. i mean, a scientific student. he makes comment that -- to a fellow employee that there's going to be some spectacular event occurring that's going to bring the attention of the world on this city. >> now, wouldn't you have probable cause them to investigate -- >> we might have to investigate, but to disrupt. do we have the authority to tell the supervisor of the waterworks you better get him out of there before the city water is poisoned and 100,000 people dying. and i think the committee is going to find the same problems we do in groping with that situation. even the attorney general pointed out that there is still possibly a necessity for some flexibility. >> have you any idea how many
names of americans you keep in your files all told as a result of cumulative effect of all these surveillances and investigation sns. >> no, i don't. >> it's in the millions isn't it? >> we have 6.5 million files. >> you have 6.5 million files. >> yes, sir. >> there are surely names of more than one person typically in a file aren't there? >> well, it is a rather large country. >> well, that's a large number of files to start with. if you have multiple names in them, we're quickly up into the 20, 30, 40 million? many of these miles are applicant files. there's not all subversive files. we have a million crimes of violence each year. there's a million people. >> i wish you had more time to spend on those crimes of violence. >> i do too. >> well, there we're agreed. what i worry about is this.
you say there's no way to know when to close a file. these are surveillance files. they were opened for to determine whether organizations might have subversive connections. there are names in those files. so some demagogue comes along and says against some public figure that his name is contained in a certain file that can be found in the subversive files of the fbi. and there it is. he hasn't made a misstatement at all. but to the american people, that man's name and reputation has been scarred. >> and i hope this committee recognizes that and recommends legislation that would enforce strong punitive or criminal violations against misuse of information in the files. we feel this way. cia feels this way. we recognize we have a lot of sensitive information. we fire employees if we find them misusing information. we feel we need additional sanctions in this area.
i don't think we can ever stop the accumulation of information. i don't know an investigative agency in the world that doesn't have to accumulate information. and we're working on guidelines as to how to get rid of the irrelevant information. how to eliminate material that really doesn't need to be kept. and we hope we'll be able to come to congress in a -- with these guidelines before too long, which will help address itself to just some of these problems. >> well, you may be assured that the committee shares your -- your objective in this regard and we will be working with you and with the department of justice and others to try and change the laws to give a greater measure of protection to the first amendment rights of the american people. >> so the hearings you've just
been watching took place in this room on november 18th and 19th, 1975. kate scott, as a historian, how could you put this in perspective? >> well, the gentleman here is in an unevenvible position. practices that have included infiltrating civil rights organizations, the womens movement, the anti-war movement. it's included all kinds of projects and plans to disrupt these -- these social movements. and the senators are particularly concerned about how this fbi's very programs have violated the constitution in ways -- in very real ways. and while the fbi is meant to protect the constitution. so they're pointing to this
problem and saying clearly we must do something about it. the challenge here is -- and not to defend the practices of the fbi, but the testimony given here is meant to provide some context, to explain the history, the time period in which these programs were created. and the very real developments that these programs were a response to. so, for example, in the 1960s, we have a number of -- we have a number of civil disturbances within newark and detroit and california. we have bombs being detonated on university campuses in madison, wisconsin, in new york city. we have, he suggests very real
dangerous situations that the fbi, as the domestic law enforcement agency is -- must address. and he's suggesting that in the context of the cold war, the very real threat of global communism, may be behind some of these movements. and that the fbi under fbi director j. edgar hoover who was the director for more than 40 years, has tasked the agency with providing a type of response to these developments. the senators are mindful of the cold war era in which these programs were developed because they've been lawmakers during this period. they understand the challenges. but they're suggesting that the fbi has gone entirely too far. and as you can see from senator hart's -- senator phil hart of
michigan, he has some very emotional testimony about how his family members have been trying to convince him for some time that these programs have been in place. and he has dismissed their arguments as irrational, the fbi can never be involved in this type of behavior. and his point is the fbi -- he's convinced the fbi is involved. he sees the evidence provided by members of the committee staff and he says, we must respond, we must educate the american public about the extent to which these programs violated constitutional protections. and then we as lawmakers, members of congress will have to respond with legislation to prevent these abuses from occurring in the future. >> did they respond and make legislation that changed things? >> well, yes and no. their ultimate goal of
establishing an fbi charter, that is a leal framework that would provide the parameters for which the fbi could operate, that was never approved by congress. it was considered for a long -- for many years, but it was never finally approved. the scrutiny of the fbi and the fact that j. edgar hoover passed away in 1972 provided a sort of unique opportunity for a new attorney general, edward levi to institute internal reform. he did that with a series of processes that were known as the attorney general guidelines. the crediticism was that they addressed this particular issue, but any attorney general coming in could change those guidelines moving forward. so a legislative charter would
have been preferable. ultimately, it was those ter internal reforms that were sort of the final effort to reform the fbi that came out of this investigation. >> do you know what sort of reaction there was in the fub and in news reports to the revelations about martin luther king? >> people were deeply disappointed. you can see the lawmakers here, the revelations that the fbi had not only infiltrated martin luther king jr.'s top circle and collecting intelligence about his top lieutenants, if you will, but the allegations that the fbi had been what they called wiretapping martin luther king jr.'s hotel room in order to gather information that they could blackmail him with was
deeply troubling to the general public and especially to members of this committee. the committee tried to handle the information that they had in a very responsible way. we now know what the content of those wiretaps was. we know what was recorded in those hotel rooms. we now know that. but at the time during the course of this hearing, the members themselves and the staff never revealed the content of that wiretap. and they did that very consciously. they said we don't want to further violate the family's privacy. o-it was reported by members of the press what the content of that material was. but it does suggest that dealing with some of this information was very challenging for members of the committee and their staff. because they wanted to present the material to the american public to help them understand these