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COINTELPRO, short of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, was created by former director J. Edgar Hoover as a means to spy on and disrupt anti-American interests in the nation. The program’s invasive reach was ended on this day in 1976 after the release of the so-called “Levi Guidelines” from former Attorney General Edward H. Levi.

Levi, a former law professor at the University of Chicago, was appointed by President Gerald Ford as Attorney General in the wake of the Watergate scandal that sank President Richard Nixon. Levi established the guidelines to end COINTELPRO’s ability to use wiretaps and surveillance on political groups without proper evidence. The program is connected to several investigations that disrupted and in some cases, destroyed civil rights and social justice organizations and movements.

COINTELPRO was connected to an attempt by Hoover to blackmail Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. into silence as he become an icon of the civil rights movement. In a series of now-published letters, Hoover threatened to expose King’s infidelities if he didn’t cease his peaceful activist efforts.

COINTELPRO also is credited with infiltrating the Black Panther Party by filling its ranks with double agents. An especially paranoid man, Hoover also used COINTELPRO to look into rising Communist and Marxist groups in the U.S.

The guidelines have since been amended and are now known as the Attorney General’s Investigative Guidelines. In simple terms, the agency must have established reason to launch wiretapping and surveillance operations.

PHOTO: Public Domain

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