By John Dee
The Shabazz Sanction
Originally published in the Lumpen Times v.3 n.27 (March 1995).
“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinions of the day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of [government] ministers too plainly proves a deliberate, systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.” -Thomas Jefferson
“The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.” -1968 FBI Airtel communique sent from Hoover’s office to San Francisco Field Office, released under FOIA.
“Because [federal] agents create crime, rather than merely detect it, they hold the power to create the appearance of guilt… Many of the values reflected in our Constitution are directly threatened by these operations.” -1984 report, US House Subcommittee on Civil & Constitutional Rights; Don Edwards (D-CA), chairman
Shabazz’s remarkable team of defense lawyers, all of whom are working for free, say the FBI used a con man to “seduce, entice and lure” the vulnerable woman into a set up. Her friends, neighbors, family and associates unanimously describe Shabazz as decidedly non-political, poor, and incapable of plotting murder.
Not only are the facts surrounding the case and the FBI’s informant entirely consistent with documented past cases of entrapment, extra-legal abuse and violence, the case itself appears to be a part of a escalating nationwide program meant to, in the FBI’s own words, “prevent the rise of a Black Messiah who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.”
In a speech the day before Shabazz was indicted, Farrakhan told the crowd of 3,000 that “The US government is frustrated because there is no basis to bring me to trial. They’re working feverishly to provide a basis to prosecute me.”
Minister Louis Farrakhan is undeniably an important political leader with anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 active followers and respect among many more in the African American community. With the NAACP in what itself calls “the worst organizational crisis in our 85 year history”, the Nation of Islam (NOI) is emerging as one of the most important African American political groups in the country. It is also among the largest and best organized.
Min. Farrakhan recently announced a “Million Man March” on Washington to take place in October 1995. Most observers agree that if any organization could command those kinds of numbers and handle the logistics of what would be the largest political march in US history, the Nation of Islam could. This makes the government extremely nervous.
It is not the first time. In the months before he was assassinated, Martin Juther King, Jr. was organizing a massive Poor People’s March on Washington. It was a nationwide project to gather what King called a “multiracial army of the poor” to descend on Washington for demonstrations and civil disobedience. King and his co-organizers were demanding the enactment of a poor people’s Bill of Rights calling for job programs and the rehabilitation of urban slums.
Just months after initiating the project, King was assassinated. In recent years, evidence has mounted that the government was involved in King’s murder. This includes revelations that in 1965 the FBI used the threatened release of surveillance tapes of King with one of his mistresses, combined with a series of anonymous letters, in an effort to convince him to kill himself.
The entrapment of Qubilah Shabazz has many similarities with past efforts to destroy Black organizing. But this time it seems to have backfired. In a remarkable show of rare unity, the African American community has stood as one in support of Shabazz. It is thanks to this that we know as much as we do about this disturbing case.
CHARGES & EVIDENCE
The federal indictment charges Qubilah Shabazz with nine counts of calling and travelling across state lines to arrange the assassination of Min. Farrakhan. The calls were made to Michael Fitzpatrick in St. Paul, MN between July 28 and August 22 . Shabazz moved from New York City to Minneapolis September 6, 1994, after which the US Attorney’s office says she made a down payment for the hit to Fitzpatrick.
Prosecutors eventually admitted the alleged down-payment was “less than $1,000”. Gradually it has become known that the sum was only $250, an absurdly small amount for an assassination of such difficulty and magnitude.
Furthermore Shabazz is poor, receiving food stamps, housing and medical assistance, and other state aid. A friend of hers in Minneapolis told the New York Times, “She didn’t have no money; how’s she going to hire a hit man?”
The FBI says it has audio recordings of about 40 phone conversations as well as undercover videotape of a meeting between Shabazz and Fitzpatrick in which the hit is discussed “at length”. Federal officials have refused to discuss specifics about the recordings or any other evidence, saying it will all be brought out in the trial.
(Without a trace of irony, David L. Lillehaug, the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota, whose office is handling the prosecution, told reporters, “We feel strongly that this case must not be ‘O.J.’ed’.”
A Feb. 15 NY Newsday wire story said the FBI recorded about 40 telephone conversations in which Fitzpatrick repeatedly told Shabazz he knew hitmen who would kill Farrakhan, and told her to send him a post-dated check to help cover expenses. He also urged Shabazz to move to Minneapolis from New York, where she was living at the time.
Shabazz told her friends in New York that she was moving to Minneapolis because Fitzpatrick wanted to marry her. She also hoped to find better medical care for her 10-year-old son Malcolm.
On September 6, Shabazz travelled by train to Minneapolis. Practically upon her arrival, Fitzpatrick took her the Holiday Inn Express near the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport where a room had been rigged for video surveillance by the FBI. In the early-morning hours of Sept. 7, prosecutors say, Fitzpatrick told Shabazz that the hit would take place on a Friday night outside the Islamic Center in Chicago following religious services. At some point Shabazz gave him the $250.
According to other sources who say they have seen the videotape, Shabazz was expressing serious doubts even at this stage and Fitzpatrick had to persuade her to go through with the plan. In mid-January, a “federal official with direct knowledge of the case” described a portion of the tape to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
“He talks at length and she listens. She’s not pleased. She’s coming up with objections, reasons why he shouldn’t do it,” said the official… “He’s talking about ‘righteous’ sanctions to have Minister Farrakhan killed. She’s worried that innocent people could be killed. She’s worried that there might be retaliation by Farralhan’s people against the Jews.”
In subsequent phone conversations after the Holiday Inn meeting taped by the FBI, Fitzpatrick prodded Shabazz to give the go-ahead for Farrakhan’s murder. But ultimately she backed out of the plan.
“I’m very leery, Michael, of the whole shebang,” she said. “I’m afraid to have anything to do with it at this point. I have to rethink it.”
Fitzpatrick became enraged, saying Farrakhan is an enemy of the Jews. Despite his attempts to persuade her, Shabazz never acceded to the plan. Indeed, by the government’s own evidence she appears to have been extremely reluctant about it all along.
If convicted, Shabazz could be sentenced to 90 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines. She must attend a pre-trial hearing on February 22, the day after the 30th anniversary of the assassination of her father. At that hearing, Shabazz’s defense team will file a motion with US District Judge James Rosenbaum for dismissal on grounds of “outrageous government misconduct”.
“Part of it is setting her up,” William Kunstler told reporters, “part of it is unabashed release of what the government considers to prejudicial material through the media to poison the atmosphere. …Part of the government misconduct is entrapment.”
The trial itself will likely not convene until May.
It was the defense team who revealed the identity of the FBI’s “hit-man” informant. The FBI and prosecutors tried to keep him shrouded in secrecy, but were required to divulge his identity in the indictment proceedings. Considering what has become known about him, it is little wonder that federal officials still refuse to “confirm or deny” any details.
Michael Kevin Fitzpatrick, alias Michael K. Summers, age 36, is a paid FBI informant who perfectly matches the profile of a Bureau infiltrator/provocateur, and has been involved in a number of FBI operations against political targets over 15 years. His first job as an informant was at age 18 in 1978 when he helped bust a planned bombing by the Jewish Defense League (JDL). Since then he has been in the Federal Witness Protection Program, while simultaneously fomenting violence among political groups of wildly differing ideologies.
Fitzpatrick and Shabazz met and became friends when they attended the United Nations International School, an upper-crust private high school in Manhattan. Former classmates tell reporters that even as a youth Fitzpatrick was a “charmer” and “a bit of a con-artist”. They describe him as a misfit who “sometimes carried a gun to school, threatened other students and barely managed to skirt by without getting expelled.”
In the words of the NY Times, “He was notorious at the school for being confrontational, seductive and persuasive, as well as eager to become involved in controversial causes.”
Chaim Ben Passach, a former JDL member and friend, recently told reporters that Fitzpatrick hated African-Americans and called them “very easy to manipulate”.
“He hated Black people,” said Passach. “But he never called them Black people. He used the N-word [nigger]. He despised Black people, loathed Black people.”
Sari Gordon, a friend of Fitzpatrick, told the Washington Post that he “fancied himself as a freelance mercenary”. Two other former associates of Fitzpatrick’s quoted by the Associated Press also characterized him as a “violent racist”.
(More recently, an unnamed former employer in Minneapolis quoted in the Jan. 23  issue of Newsweek called Fitzpatrick “very deceptive… He has the ability to look you in the eye and say one thing, then do another,” the man said. “He’s an extremely good salesman, very believeable.”)
THE J.D.L. SET-UP
Fitzpatrick first became involved with militant extremists when he joined the Jewish Defense League, a right-wing Zionist group founded by Rabbi Meier Kahanne, who was gunned down in 1990. Over the years the JDL has carried out numerous terrorist attacks against Soviet officials and cultural groups, as well as US leftist and African American organizations.
In 1977, Fitzpatrick was arrested by the FBI for his role in the bombing of the Four Continents Bookstore, a Manhattan bookstore specializing in Russian language books. Agent Dan Scott, of the FBI’s criminal terrorist squad in New York City, recruited Fitzpatrick as an informant against the JDL. In exchange, his charges were reduced and he was ultimately sentenced only to probation.
Chaim Ben Passach, a member of the JDL who knew Fitzpatrick at the time, told the Associated Press, “This was the high point of his life, going around wiring himself” to secretly record incriminating conversations.
Later in 1978, Fitzpatrick’s work helped Agent Scott and the FBI foil a JDL plot to bomb the Egyptian Government Tourist Office in Manhattan. While it is unclear who exactly instigated the plot, the Dec. 19, 1978 New York Times reported that Fitzpatrick was one of the people seen carrying dynamite outside the tourist office just before the bust. Fitzpatrick, the paper said, was the only perpetrator not taken into custody on the scene and that he didn’t even appear in the federal indictment papers. Two JDL members were eventually sentenced to prison for the attempted bombing: Victor Vancier and Bruce Berger.
Agent Scott, now retired and living in Atlanta, recently told the Chicago Tribune that Fitzpatrick also had information about an assassination plan against Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was then Egypt’s ambassador to the UN.
INFORMANT INVOLVED IN ARMS DEALING
Officially, Michael Fitzpatrick went into the witness protection program, was given the alias “Michael K. Summers”, and then left New York. But rather than maintaining a low profile, he continued to participate in extremist politics and apparently even expanded into arms dealing.
A former school buddy of his told Newsday that Fitzpatrick actually went underground at that time and began recruiting and supplying supplying weapons for a group called the “Revolutionary Youth Movement of the Communist Party”.Fitzpatrick, a convicted bomber of Russian bookstores, apparently not only made a miraculous conversion from right-wing Zionism to revolutionary communism, but was arming a secret militia while under Federal protection.
The rather elusive RYMCP may actually be/have been a front group for an FBI counterintelligence operation. The Bureau has a history of creating sham political groups, usually with an extremist bent. Past groups have presented themselves most often as Maoist, while some were ostensibly pro-Cuban or pro-Soviet. These FBI fronts are designed to disrupt radical movements, unify with genuine groups to gather intelligence, and instigate illegal activity to entrap activists in prosecutable crimes.
It is known that the FBI ran at least two such bogus organizations in the years immediately prior to Fitzpatrick’s adventures with the “Revolutionary Youth Movement”: the “Red Star Cadre” in Tampa, FL and the “Red Collective” in New Orleans. Two people involved in the Red Star Cadre also served as FBI infiltrators during the Wounded Knee uprising at the Pine Ridge Reservation. There, a campaign of vigilante murder, FBI infiltration, blackmail, and entrapment ended with a full scale military invasion of the reservation. When it was all over many Native Americans had been killed, more (like Leonard Peltier) were imprisoned, and the American Indian Movement effectively neutralized.
MINNEAPOLIS ANARCHISTS TARGETTED
By the mid-1980s, Fitzpatrick was living in Minnepaolis. In 1986 he fell in with a local collective, called Back Room Anarchist Books. Christopher Gunderson, who was a key member of the group at the time and is now living in Manhattan, recently issued a written press statement in which he identified Fitzpatrick as an agent-provocateur, describing him as a man “who worked at deceiving others.”
“My experience with Michael Fitzpatrick confirms the charge that he is not only an informant, but a provocateur who actively encourages illegal actions in order to set people up for arrest,” he said.
Gunderson says he first met Fitzpatrick eight years ago at a political rally when Fitzpatrick got into a scuffle with police. At the collective, he wasted little time in encouraging illegal violence. A member of the group who requested anonymity told the Nation of Islam’s newspaper The Final Call [Feb. 8, 1995], “He immediately began talking about ultra-violent tactics that were totally out of context with what was going on. He suggested bombing a currency exchange…”
“Fitzpatrick worked tirelessly to get members of the Back Room to commit themselves to an escalation in the militancy of our stances and tactics,” Gunderson said. He “thought we should carry out some sort of attack on a polling place with guns or Molotov cocktails.”
Gunderson and other members of the collective became concerned. “My suspicions were confirmed thereafter when I learned that Michael had bragged to a woman he did not know was a friend of another member of the Back Room that he had infiltrated the Jewish Defense League and had served time in prison for some bombings… We came to the conclusion he was an agent provocateur….”
The Back Room collective expelled Fitzpatrick for his illegal provocations. The group continues to produce and distribute political literature in Minneapolis.
In the Shabazz case, the extent of coordination between the US Department of Justice and Federal prosecutors in Minneapolis has naturally become an issue in the wake of the allegations of entrapment. The Justice Department at first denied any close involvement in the case. However, the Jan. 17 New York Times revealed this to be false.
Carl Stern, a spokeman for the Justice Department, admitted to the NY Times that “Federal prosecutors in Minneapolis had sent three ‘urgent’ reports to officials in Washington, beginning in November ,” two months before Shabazz’s arrest. Such reports are used to alert top officials of sensitive cases. Stern said the three reports advised the department of “developments” in the case against Shabazz.
Furthermore, US Attorney Lillehaug told the NY Times he was “careful to keep the Justice Department informed” of his actions. “Both our office and the local FBI,” he said, “are fully comfortable that we carefully and repeatedly advised our headquarters about the progress of this case.”
Justice officials also admitted Lillehaug “had extensive discussions in November ” about the case with top aides to Jo Ann Harris, head of the criminal division. A lawyer from the department was also assigned as a permanent monitor for the case.
The Justice Department continues to deny that senior officials, such as Attorney General Janet Reno and Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, had early involvement in the case. Aside from simply being difficult to believe, the denials do not mesh with the forgoing disclosures or with statements made by representatives of the NOI.
Specifically, the exact timing and nature of official warnings to Farrakhan have been the topic of controversy. Denise Minor, an FBI spokeswoman in Chicago, told reporters that Farrakhan was advised of the threat several months ago.
However, Nation of Islam leaders have refuted the FBI’s claim. Leonard Muhammad, chief of staff for the NOI, said the FBI had a “briefing” with them in October but that they misrepresented key details. Muhammad said the NOI had been told that a “group of Muslim extremists” had been plotting to kill Farrakhan. Neither Fitzpatrick nor Shabazz are members of any Muslim group, extremist or otherwise.
The chief attorney for the Nation says the degree of imminent threat was also apparently miscommunicated. Minister Ava Muhammad told reporters that “we were not aware of any ongoing threat until yesterday [Jan. 12], just prior to the indictment.”
Min. Muhammad said the FBI had not asked for a meeting until 9 a.m. on the morning Shabazz’s indictment was to be announced. “I find it very disturbing,” she said, “that US Attorneys would plan to make a major public announcement involving Min. Farrakhan and they would only want to notify us a few hours before the announcement.”
NOI spokesman Munir Muhammed, speaking on the local television program Chicago Tonight, said that when Min. Farrakhan was informed of the possible murder plot he personally travelled to Washington to meet with Attorney General Reno. Reno “declined to meet” with Farrakhan.Was Reno trying to maintain a veil of deniability?
There is also evidence of Justice Department interference on behalf of their informant no later than September 1994, two months earlier than they claim they became involved.
On November 23, 1993 Fitzpatrick and his then-boss, Harlan J. Rosenfeld, were arrested in a drug bust by Minneapolis police. The two men had worked together for about two months for the International Rarity Group, a gold a and precious coin dealership where Fitzpatrick was earning $12,000 a month. Police caught the men trying to flush plates full of cocaine down the toilet. They also found crack pipes, marijuana, foil commonly used to package cocaine for sale and, in a dresser drawer, a black vinyl bag containing $16,500 in cash. Both men admitted to cocaine addiction; Rosenfeld said he was spending $1,200 a week on it.
Despite being traceable by federal witness protection authorities, Fitzpatrick has failed to appear for numerous court dates with total impunity. His attorney, Dennis Palm, has been trying to get out of the case for some time because “I don’t have much communication with him.” So little that until the Shabazz story broke he knew his client only as Michael Summers, his official alias. This despite the fact that Fitzpatrick was arrested while holding two different ID cards: a Minnesota state ID as Summers and an unspecified piece giving his true identity. Police say he claimed to go by both names.
Palm told the NY Times [1/13/95] that “It’s been a real strange case… I show up for court and he doesn’t, and the case just gets postponed. The reason the county hasn’t really pursued it is because they’re after a bigger fish. Summers [sic] is more of a witness in the case than a defendant .” [emphasis added]
Palm also told the Minneapolis Star Tribune [1/14/95] the drug case is “not necessarily still pending because of my client being in the witness-protection program–there are other factors that have to do with a codefendent in the case.” [emphasis added]
Palm’s statements suggest that Fitzpatrick may actually have been part of a police drug sting. This seemed increasingly likely when it was learned that Tony Bouza, the former chief of the Minneapolis police department, had been a member of the NYPD’s infamous Red Squad, officially known as the Bureau of Special Services. In fact, Bouza had personally participated in surveillance operations conducted against both the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X at the time of his murder. Bouza had personal knowledge of the infiltrators the Red Squad had placed in Malcolm’s organization and security detail. They included officer Gene Roberts, who administered mouth-to-mouth resusitation to Malcolm X as he died.
The New York police department worked intimately with the FBI on this and many other COINTELPRO operations through the Bureau’s counter-terrorism division, the home of Dan Scott, Fitzpatrick’s handler. The NYPD has also long been a part of a secret nationwide network of 159 police agencies in 35 states which has illegally shared and disseminated intelligence on political activists unaccused of any crime. The police intelligence network was investigated by a federal grand jury in Chicago, which had to wait eight years for police files to be “found”. According to the grand jury’s findings, the network includes police in Minneapolis, New York City, and Chicago.
Fitzpatrick last failed to appear for a court date on January 17, the day before Shabazz was indicted in federal court. In fact, his former landlord in St. Paul says he moved out in September, leaving no forwarding address. The pre-dawn hours of September 7 was when Fitzpatrick met with Shabazz in the FBI’s video room at the Holiday Inn. Fitzpatrick has not been seen since. Although Shabazz and others spoke with him later it was always through phone calls, which could have originated from anywhere.
Rosenfeld, his co-defendant in the cocaine charges, says he talked by phone in early January with Fitzpatrick, who said he was in New York. Doug Thomson, Rosenfeld’s attorney, says he last spoke with Fitzpatrick by phone on Jan. 6, when he said he “might not be around for a while.” The Justice Department has no comment on the man’s whereabouts.
For whatever reason, Fitzpatrick’s flagrant conduct has in fact gone entirely unpunished by the courts or police. Indicted drug suspects are not normally so blithely allowed to miss court dates without so much as a contempt of court citation. They are certainly rarely allowed to leave the city, let alone the state.
Such unusual treatment suggests intervention by high level officials, beginning absolutely no later than September 1994 when Fitzpatrick vanished. This is a full two months before Justice Department officials claim they began their supervision of the Shabazz case.
COINTELPRO NEVER ENDED
Ben Chavis, Farrakhan supporter and (subsequently) former president of the NAACP, told the crowd at Farrakhan’s Jan. 17 speech, “Never again will we allow forces outside our community to divide us, our unity is intact. If there is a difference between 1995 and 1965, we know the tricks of the past. We will not be tricked this time.”
Chavis himself was the target of a COINTELPRO-type operation in North Carolina during the mid-’70s. The FBI and the Wilmington Police Dept. worked together to frame Chavis and nine local organizers on false arson charges. The “witnesses” in the case, all of them African American, later confessed they had been coerced into lying on the stand by government threats of violence and imprisonment. At the time of his arrest, Chavis was helping local activists organize against police brutality and a resurgence of Klan violence. The “Wilmington 10” spent several years in prison until international human rights groups helped in securing their release.
Officially, the COINTELPRO apparatus was dismantled after the FBI’s crimes and murders were exposed. In 1968 activists broke into a small FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and stole documents which proved what everyone had suspected all along. The documents were released to the press and ultimately Congressional investigations revealed the hideous extent of illegal abuses. Totally disgraced, the Bureau shut down the secret program in 1971. Or so the public was led to believe.
Actually only the official name was dropped and the same activities continued under the rubric of counter-terrorism. M. Wesley Swearington is a former FBI agent who was a member of “Squad 2”, a secret joint police/FBI group which conducted COINTELPRO operations against the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panthers, resulting in the assassination of several Panther members.
In a 1980 interview with Ward Churchill, agent Swearington said that the Bureau was interested in reform in apppearances only. “Nothing else changed,” he said. “We just kept right on using all the same illegal techniques we’d used all along. Only we began framing what we were doing in terms of ‘combatting terrorism’ rather than neutralizing political extremists.”
The continuation of political abuses disguised as counter-terrorism by the FBI were further confirmed in 1984 hearings by the US House Subcommittee on Civil & Constitutional Rights chaired by Don Edwards (D-CA). In its report, the Edwards subcommittee found that the FBI was framing political activists on false charges to stop them from exercising their Constitutional rights to differ with government policy. Fifteen years after COINTELPRO had supposedly been shut down, it was just more of the same.
This was far from an unauthorized action; it had the full support of the White House. One of President Reagan’s first actions in office was to pardon the only two FBI agents ever convicted of COINTELPRO crimes. In case thaty message wasn’t clear enough, in December 1981 he signed Executive Order #12333. This still partially classified Order institutionalized many of the same tactics which had caused such outcry just six years before.
In the cloak of counter-terrorism, E.O. 12333 authorized the FBI, CIA, and all military intelligence agencies to conduct covert activities and infiltration within US borders (a violation of Posse Commitatus and a major revision of the CIA’s 1947 charter). It also permits electronic and mail surveillance without a warrant, and bestows the power to conduct warrantless “unconsented physical searches” (i.e. – break-ins). E.O. 12333 also allocated “Specialized equipment, technical knowledge, or assistance of exert personnel” to be used in coordination with local law enforcement.
Even more chilling, the Order specifically authorizes US intelligence to “contract” with private groups and individuals to conduct especially sensitive (or illegal) intelligence activities. A later order by Atty. Gen. William French Smith actually prohibited the FBI from questioning the methods used by these official police mercenaries.
In practice, the main targets under these orders were anti-war, civil rights, and environmental groups. The US State Department kept a blacklist of “terrorist groups” which consisted mostly of groups like CISPES, the Progressive Student Network, Sane/Freeze, and the Mothers of the Disappeared. Although no evidence was ever found of any terrorist activity by these groups, their presence on the list made them the target of the massive “counter-terrorist” campaign.
There was also a significant increase in acts of violence committed against activists by militant right-wing groups. Klansmen who shotgunned demonstrators in Greensboro, NC turned out to be FBI informants. In 1990, Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Daryl Cheney were nearly killed by a bomb later proved to have been placed in their car by FBI operatives. Bari’s subsequent lawsuit against the government forced the sudden resignation of Richard W. Held, who had supervised major COINTELPRO operations in Los Angeles, Pine Ridge, and Puerto Rico since the 1960s.
President Clinton has proved to be little more friendly towards Constitutional dissent. In the first year of his administration, authorized FBI wiretaps alone went up some 300 percent, and Bureau collaboration with local law enforcement reached a new high. The Waco massacre clearly showed the Clinton Justice Department is unafraid of using massive lethal force toward political ends. Today, President Clinton has only token opposition to pending crime legislation which all but revokes Fourth Amendment prohibitions of illegal search and seizure.
The day of Qubilah Shabazz’s indictment, Nation of Islam attorney Ava Muhammad said to reporters, “The question that must be raised by the Black community today is whether or not, in the face of 440 years of suffering at the hands of our oppressors, we can reasonably believe that the US Department of Justice desires to protect Minister Louis Farrakhan’s life.”
There is no question the government has long had an adversarial view of the Nation of Islam. Declassified FBI documents show they began surveillance of Elijah Muhammad and the NOI in 1957. A 1968 memo from J. Edgar Hoover himself specifically identifies the NOI as a main target of COINTELPRO. William Kunstler recently distributed to reporters a 1969 FBI document that called for “methods through which the NOI could be discredited in the eyes of the general Black population or through which factionalism among the leadership could be created.” Little has changed in the 25 years since.
The FBI’s Shabazz operation guarantees that a sizeable amount of the NOI’s resources will be consumed with dealing with the court case and the media. But the government has taken further steps to hobble the Nation. Just two days after Shabazz was indicted, right-wing Rep. Peter King (R-NY) announced a sweeping federal investigation of the Nation of Islam Security Agency and New Life Self Development Inc., which provide security and other services to government housing projects. King and Senator Robert Dole worked together to pressure Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros into opening the investigation.
The NOI businesses are accused of descriminatory hiring practices and of provoking “incidents” with residents. However those very residents, including Dorothy Scott, tenant council president at one of the projects, called the allegations “untrue”. Also, the NOI Security Agency is jointly owned by Mulims and Christians. All HUD contracts with the businesses will be investigated and Farrakhan himself will be subpoenaed to testify. The hearings will coincide with the Shabazz trial.
The two businesses receive approximately $20 million of HUD money for contracts at housing projects in Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Tenants and even the Chicago Housing Authority agree that since the NOI began providing security, “Crime is down, the buildings are well-kept and most of all the respect that these brothers have for the community is outstanding.”
Nevertheless, Representative King called the contracts “a case of society subsidizing it’s own destruction.” In a truly Orwellian twist, King even equated the NOI with the American Nazi Party, the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan.
It turns out that the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL), an old nemesis of the NOI, is involved in the affair. The ADL announced on Jan. 12 that it had contacted several companies which employ the NOI Security Agency and urged them to terminate their contracts. The ADL also lobbied in Congress for the new investigation. A 1994 ADL report, “Mainstreaming Anti-Semitism: The Legitimation of Louis Farralhan”, acknowledges the group has files on Farrakhan dating back to the early ’60s. The report also details their efforts to attack NOI funding sources.
In fact, since at least 1947 the ADL has been involved in intelligence gathering and infiltration which has repeatedly crossed the line of legality. In 1993, the ADL was exposed for conducting massive intelligence operations against thousands of African American, Middle East, anti-war and anti-police brutality groups across the country. It was learned that the ADL sold intelligence to not only the US government, but the governments of Israel, apartheid South Africa, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other Latin American death squad states. Two former San Francisco police officers involved in the ADL spy ring were arrested. They alone were found to have over 12,000 files, some of them confidential files illegally obtained from the San Francisco police department.
One of the men was a member of the police intelligence division named Thomas J. Gerard. He fled to the Philippines where he told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times that he had proof the CIA had also been involved. In fact, the San Francisco police had seized a briefcase of Gerard’s which “contained not only Gerard’s collection of false identity papers in 10 names, but a CIA cable marked ‘Secret,’ apparent CIA interrogation manuals, photographs of chained and blindfolded men, and a black executioner-style hood.” Gerard also produced a black loose leaf binder containing more than 100 names and phone numbers, which he described as “the who’s who of the CIA” operation.
Among the thousands of groups found to be targetted by the ADL’s illegal spy ring are the Nation of Islam, the NAACP, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. (Also included were Native American rights groups, Leonard Peltier, Dennis Banks and others subjected to some of the worst COINTELPRO abuses.)
Harrassment of the NOI has appeared on another front. A year ago, the NOI filed a $4.4 million libel lawsuit against the New York Post, accusing the paper of a campaign of, in Farrakhan’s words, “vicious lies which were calculated to expose me to aversion and hatred among my own people.” The NY State Supreme Court did not make a single ruling in the matter until just days after Shabazz’s indictment, when Farrakhan was ordered to be present for a hearing with the defense lawyers within 30 days. This is the same time period as Shabazz’s pretrial hearing.
The New York Post has also admitted in court documents that it was given files by the FBI, and also had special communications with the Bureau about Farrakhan. However, the Post has refused to release those documents, saying only that “certain documents were gathered in anticipation of litigation, and are thus privileged.” The question of just what litigation that might be remains unanswered.
The New York Post, oddly enough, also has ties to the ADL. Bill Tatum, the publisher of the New York Amsterdam News, says the ADL has “a stable of writers they feed their material to [so] that [it] ends up in [newspaper] columns.” The use of disinformation and propaganda by the ADL is nothing new. Their Washington, DC Fact-Finding Director, Mira Lanksy Boland, has testified in federal court that in 1983 and 1984 she attended planning sessions with a National Security Council consultant, members of the media, a banker, and others in which they mapped out a media campaign against Lyndon LaRouche.
A SLOWLY TIGHTENING NOOSE
The framing of Qubilah Shabazz comes at a critical political juncture. The Nation of Islam is entering a period of unprecendented mobilization and is actively seeking to attack what it calls disinformation directed against it. The NAACP is in total disarray and is plagued by a rupturing membership. This came about largely as a result of divisions created when Ben Chavis tried to open a dialogue between the NAACP and the Black Muslims. Because of the crisis, the NAACP has been unable to effectively devote its resources to its normal task: lobbying Congress in defense of hard-won civil rights. This inability to counter the unprecedented swiftness of the Gingrich blitzkrieg is either a most remarkable coincidence, or more evidence of government interference.
It is also the 30th anniversary of the murder of Malcolm X, a perfect opportunity for the FBI to capitalise, as it has in the past, on suspicion and factionalism within the Black political leadership and thus paralyse it with disunity. Many significant questions remain about the assassination: What exactly was Farrakhan’s role? Did the Muslims convicted in the shooting actually commit the crime? Why was the normal NYPD security detail outside the Audubon Ballroom reduced from 18 to just one? At least two different government infiltrators actually on stage that day have said they reported signs of an impending hit to their superiors. Why were these reports not followed up?
In such a climate of mystery and betrayal, it is child’s play for an old hand like the FBI to cause a great deal of trouble for their own ends. Throughout its entire history, those ends have clearly been the stifling of Consitutional political expression…by any means necessary. As citizens, we must alert ourselves to what is evidently a major escalation in the government’s war against democracy.
CONTINUE TO PART 2: “The Quiet, Troubled Life of Qubilah Shabazz”
Originally published in the Lumpen Times v.3 n.27 (March 1995).