Friday, December 23, 2011

Excerpt from Secret US Gov't Report: "Law Enforcement Turned Law-Breaking"

The following is but one section from the 1976 report of the House Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA and intelligence agencies, procedures and finances, known to history as The Pike Report. The investigation paralleled the more famous Church Committee investigation undertaken by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Unlike the Church committee report, the Pike Report was suppressed by Congress -- after it was completed (and the CIA complained) -- and never officially released to the United States citizens who paid for it. The late Daniel Schorr famously released a leaked copy to the Village Voice, which published it to great fanfare. Schorr was castigated, and his career and liberty temporarily threatened. But that is an old story now, and readers can follow it at a number of online sites (some of which are linked below).

The staffers working for Congressman Otis Pike were pugnacious and the investigation had a contentious relationship with the CIA. For one thing, the Pike Committee was investigating the financial aspects of the intelligence agencies, and was looking into certain areas the agencies wished to keep secret. Pike famously wrote in the report that the intelligence world had slipped "beyond the lawmaker's scrutiny," and that the CIA and other government agencies were using "national security" secrecy "to intimidate Congress and erode fragile support for sensitive inquiries."

Full Suppressed Pike Report Now Online

In the past I've excerpted portions of the report, but the selection posted below comes from a full, online version of the report, scanned from a 1991 version of the report assembled by Gregory Andrade Diamond and published by McGraw Hill. This version, as well as other versions, including one published in Great Britain in the 1970s by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, have been incredibly difficult to come by, and prohibitively expensive for those who might see a copy for sale. The small portion posted here is within fair use guidelines and for the public good. It is posted without remuneration of any kind.

The Committee's hearings volumes (including the statements of witnesses, charts, correspondence, etc.), along with an unpublished draft report by the committee on NSA electronic surveillance, can be viewed at the Mary Farrell Foundation website, though you must be a member to download the actual documents.

Readers can investigate some of the background of the report's controversies at a selection of Kathryn S. Olmstead's 1996 book, Challenging the Secret Government, posted by Third World Traveler. Another interesting, if necessarily partial, history of the Pike report was written by CIA historian Gerald K. Haines, "The Pike Committee Investigations and the CIA."

Contrariwise, the introduction to the British publication of the report, by former CIA agent Philip Agee, constitutes another crucial discussion of the controversies around the report and its suppression. For one thing, Agee is critical of some aspects of the investigation and subsequent report:
For all the valuable information contained in the Pike Committee's report, one most important area of CIA operations was completely overlooked, possibly because the committee considered the matter too hot to handle. These are the relations between the CIA and foreign intelligence and security services -- commonly known in the Agency as liaison operations. Through these operations the CIA trains, finances and in varying degrees guides the foreign services into operations that will help the CIA. Over the years the CIA has played a major role in the growth and strengthening of many of the world's most dreaded and cruel security services: the South Korean CIA, the Indonesian KOPKAMTIB, the Thieu security services in South Vietnam, the SAVAK in Iran, the OBAN, CODI, DOPS and SNI in Brazil, the DINA in Chile and the Federal Police in Argentina....

Nowhere in the Pike Report can one find an indication that the Select Committee even considered the CIA's role in promoting and supporting such repressive security services.
Ongoing Government Use of Informants & Agents Provocateurs

The following excerpt (from pages 163-165 of the report) is chosen for its particular relevancy to the ways that agencies of the state operate to entrap political opponents by the use of agents provocateurs. This is not merely an historical lesson, but directly pertinent due to recent reports (such as this one at NPR) of such FBI and police activities concerning informants.

Last October, a Mother Jones investigation by Trevor Aaronson, detailed the use of FBI informants "to bust, and sometimes lead, terrorist plots." Back in 2005, a Dan Eggen report at the Washington Post detailed the findings of a Department of Justice investigation that found "in a handful of cases in which the FBI permits informants to commit an act -- such as engaging in conversations about a conspiracy or handling money as part of a controlled drug purchase -- that would otherwise be a crime." But this was certainly a soft-peddling of a much larger problem.

A September 18 article by Petra Bartosiewicz at the Los Angeles Times described the wide-scale use of informants as provocateurs in the Muslim community:
In a case in Chicago last year, for example, the FBI instructed informants to pay a suspect to quit his day job so he could focus on jihad.

To aid them in their efforts, the FBI has deployed paid undercover informants throughout the nation's Muslim community, particularly in mosques. These informants often act as agents provocateur. At a mosque in California in 2007, for example, one such FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, who says he was paid $177,000 for his services, talked so vigorously about jihad that the mosque sought and received a restraining order against him.

In another high-profile case known as the Newburgh Four — four African American Muslim converts convicted last year of attempting to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community center and to shoot down military planes — an FBI informant promised the defendants, among other enticements, a BMW and $250,000 to carry out the attack. The details of the plot were choreographed in such detail that the presiding judge in the case chastised the government for its "decidedly troubling" tactics and concluded that the defendants would never have committed the attacks on their own.
But these kinds of reports are not really new. The 1970s Church hearings themselves reported on the use of FBI agents provocateurs in the Cointelpro operation used to destroy the Black Panther Party and other supposed "extremist" groups.

Not much was really done to curtail the activities of law enforcement and intelligence operations, though exposure may have slowed their operations for a time. As a result, these same agencies feel free to exercise the same kind of activities now. Political activists need to know about this history and these kinds of spy and provocateur operations in their midst, the better to arm themselves against police/intelligence penetration of their groups.

In the following subsection from the Pike Report, I have not changed spelling or other textual problems with the document, though I did make the subhead bold for greater clarity. The footnotes in the original are at the bottom of each page, but here are formatted entirely at the end of the text selection.
Law Enforcement Turned Law-Breaking

The use of informants, albeit an effective law enforcement tool, is a method of investigation which is particularly subject to abuses of constitutional rights and rights of privacy.

The Committee heard testimony from a former FBI informant named Robert Hardy. Mr. Hardy chronicled for the Committee his role in a 1971 Camden Draft Board break-in. Pursuant to FBI instructions, he infiltrated a peaceful anti-war group in Camden, New Jersey.540 He instigated the burglary and supplied the would-be burglars with tools, money, technical assistance and encouragement.541

In sum, Mr. Hardy acted as an "agent-provocateur." At one point, he attempted to halt the actual burglary, because a conspiracy had been established. His FBI handling-agents insisted that the burglary be committed. 542

The disturbing lesson is that in the FBI system there is virtually no mechanism to control agents in charge of informants. The FBI Manual of Instructions on Informants sets forth specific guidelines for the handling of informants,543 yet the uniqueness and secrecy surrounding each informant's relationship with the handling-agent544 impairs the effectiveness of those instructions.

In the Hardy case, the informant-agent relationship was further complicated by political considerations. 545 The defendants in a celebrated case in nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had recently been acquitted of all conspiracy counts. The FBI apparently felt that an overt act such as an actual break-in would be required to insure a conviction, even though the alleged crime of conspiracy, which was the basis of later prosecution, appears to have been completed far in advance of the actual break-in.

It should be noted that Department of Justice attorneys were advised of this situation long before the break-in and did nothing to avert the course of events. 546

The Committee investigated another example of lack of control over informants. The FBI used Robert Merritt 547 as an informant on New Left activities during the early 1970's. His duties included reporting on activities at the Institute of Policy Studies. Merritt told the Committee that his FBI handling-agents instructed him to conduct break-ins, deliver unopened mail acquired illegally, and solicit and provide information to the FBI regarding homosexual proclivities of politically prominent people and individuals of the new Left. 548

The FBI agents who handled Merritt denied these allegations under oath. They stated that Merritt acted on his own. 549

The handling-agents stated that they terminated Merritt because they ascertained that he ha provided false information on one occasion and had reason to believe he provided false information at other times in the past.550 If this was true, it does not fit with other facts. During the seven months that Merritt was an FBI informant, he provided over 100 reports on at least 25 people. He had, in fact, been categorized as "reliable" in FBI records. 55l

No effort was ever made to "correct" the Merritt reports, by indicating that the information contained therein might be unreliable. No prosecutive actions were ever recommended as a result of Merritt's allegedly wrong actions. His efforts apparently fit well with intelligence operations. 552

Furthermore, Merritt told staff that he had committed numerous illegal acts at the direction of District of Columbus Metropolitan Police. 553

His FBI handling-agents stated that although they acquired Merritt form [sic] the Metropolitan Police Department, they never inquired as to the nature of his prior activities as a police informant. 554 This attitude of "see no evil, hear no evil" appears to violate the seemingly rigid regulations of the FBI Manual, designed to effect the recruitment of responsible and reliable informants.

Conflicting testimony in the Merritt matter reveals the problem itself. Since FBI agents' instructions to their informants are, by necessity, given orally555 and without witnesses, it is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately fix responsibility for an informant's actions.

If the FBI agent is at fault, the problem becomes one of administrative command and control. If, however, the informant has gone bad, the problem is more difficult. For example, if an informant successfully instigates others to commit a crime, as in the Hardy matter, his FBI contact agent may overlook the informant's improper actions, because the informant is important to a case for which the FBI agent is likely to receive credit.

The risk that informants may use illegal methods is heightened when one considers the kind of person needed to infiltrate suspected criminal elements. Understating the problem, James Adams, Assistant to the Director of FBI, testified before the Committee on November 18, 1975: "[T]he informants you develop are not recruited from Sunday Schools."556 The dubious character of most informants is compounded by the fact that informants are paid cash, and their payment is commensurate with the information they furnish. The more incriminating the information, the more lucrative the reward.

540 None of the group's members was known by the FBI to be violence-prone. Comm. Hearings, at, Nov. 18, 1975

541 All of which were paid for with FBI funds. Ibid.

542 The FBI's denial of this allegation appears in their Memorandum of Nov. 28, 1975, Appendix II.

543 FBI Manual of Instructions, "Security Informants and Confidential Sources," Section 107.

544 The FBI considers the confidentiality of the relating between a special agent and his informant to be of paramount importance. Staff briefing, FBI Intelligence Division personnel and J.B.F. Oliphant and R. Vermeire, Aug. 28, 1975, copy on file with Sel. Comm. on Intell.

545 Staff interview, Guy Goodwin, by J.B.F. Oliphant and R. Vcnneirc, Nov. 14, 1975, at 83, copy on file with Sel. Comm. on Intell.

546 Ibid., at 83-84.

547 Staff interview, Robert Merritt, by J.B.F. Oliphant, J. Atkisson, E. Miller. Staff memo on fIle with Sel. comm. on Intell.

548 Ibid.

549 Staff interview, FBI Special Agents Tucker and O'Connor. by l.B.F. Oliphant, J. Atkisson, Nov. 5, 1975, copy on file with Sel. comm. on Intell.

550 Ibid.

55l Ibid., at 33.

552 Merritt interview.

553 Ibid.

554 Tucker-O'Connor Interview.


john francis lee said...

Thanks for the excerpt. There are references to notes 555 and 556 in the text ... do you have the corresponding footnotes?

Links to any further excerpts of the report would be great, if you know of them.

Thanks again.

Valtin said...

John, Thanks for your sharp eyes.

The relevant footnotes were:

"555 - FBI Manual of Instructions, Section 107-108
556 - Comm. Hearings, at Nov. 18, 1975"

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