By Carey Wedler
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday approved by the federal government, it’s important to remember how that same federal government viciously targeted the beloved activist and orator.
Just days after he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C. in 1963, the FBI declared him a threat. “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security,” wrote FBI Domestic Intelligence Chief William Sullivan in an internal memo.
The FBI set up a surveillance operation against him, tracking his sexual behavior and attempting to use it to blackmail him. One agent sent him a vitriolic letter, which was uncovered by a Yale historian and published in 2014.
“King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a complete liability to all of us negroes,” it read. “I repeat, you are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that. You could not believe in God and act as you do. Clearly you don’t believe in any personal moral principles.”
Warning that “like all frauds, your end is approaching,” the letter referenced the sexual activities they had surveilled, suggesting a copy of them was included in the correspondence.
No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself. Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure. You will find yourself and in all your dirt, filth, evil, and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time.
“You are finished,” the letter threatened, referencing sexual orgies and calling him an “abnormal animal.”
The letter closed by implying King should kill himself. “There is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days,” it read. “You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”
In 1999, a jury in a civil trial concluded King’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy that had been covered up by multiple government agencies, including the FBI and CIA.
The FBI’s abuses are not limited to Dr. King. In the 1960s, they infiltrated and destabilized black rights and anti-war movements, among others, via their COINTELPRO operation as they worked to undermine activists’ efforts.
Even during the years of alcohol prohibition, the FBI was violating rights by wiretapping Americans to hunt bootleggers. Almost one hundred years later, the bureau still engages in surveillance, operating the Data Intercept Technology Unit, which works in concert with the NSA, providing a key foundation for the agency’s PRISM program. Further, as Foreign Policy has noted, “the unit is the FBI’s equivalent of the National Security Agency and the primary liaison between the spy agency and many of America’s most important technology companies, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Apple.”
The agency does not just overstep in the realm of surveillance. It has made a habit of luring in troubled individuals and persuading them to commit terror attacks, only to foil those attacks and hail them to the public as victories in successfully thwarting real threats.
Agents have operated child porn sites to catch child pedophiles, colluded with gangsters, injected their narratives into mass media, and urged informants to sleep with unknowing members of circles they are surveilling.
The agency also repeatedly advocates against privacy, fear-mongering about the dangers of encryption, and one FBI forensics expert recently criticized Apple, calling the company “jerks” and “evil geniuses” for making their phones difficult to crack.
As Americans commemorate the leadership and heroism of Martin Luther King Jr., they should also remember the great efforts this powerful government agency took to tear him down — and that their attempts to blackmail him are but one example of corruption, foul play, and violations of basic rights.