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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Introduction of Project Subject - COINTELPRO

   In my research to determine whether politics had an effect on the way that COINTELPRO operations were conducted, and specifically if politics caused different approaches between anti-Klan and anti-New Left operations, it is critical to understand not just the anti-subversive function of the FBI, but also how such operations were undertaken.  For this discussion, I will review two sources I will be using in my study; an academic paper by John Drabble, and a report by the Comptroller General to the United States Congress.
   Drabble examines the FBI effort to discredit the image of the Klan in the communities “it” (there were multiple Klan organizations) operated within  (2004, p. 297).  He is answering the question of “how” the FBI conducted anti-Klan operations in one facet of their strategy.  The report of the Comptroller General attempts to answer the question of “how do we make domestic intelligence operations 'better' in terms of authority to initiate operations, the result of operations, how operations are conducted, how intelligence is shared, and the oversight of such operations (1976, p. I).
Drabble describes the tactics of the FBI used in their campaign of discrediting the Klan; intelligence was shared with local leaders that opposed the Klan who used the information in public, discord was sown within the rank and file of the Klan to discredit leadership, the patriotism of the Klan was called into question,  and prosecution of Klan leaders for perjury was sought to publicly discredit their honesty.  “Klan activity was depicted as a ‘'transgression of domestic tranquility’“(Drabble, 2004, p. 320).  Drabble's findings are in alignment with my own understanding of COINTELPRO operations in general.
   The Comptroller General's report states that “there is a continuing need for Intelligence collection with responsible oversight but with sufficient flexibility to do a job adequate to respond to changing conditions and needs” (1976, p. 217).  The report further noted there was not a consistent view of what constituted subversion, as “There is no way to say with assurance that these terms had at all times the same meaning or that persons concerned with them understood them the same way” (1976, p. 199).  I am still researching this report, but what I have read so far does match my expectations.
Drabble's study could be used in propaganda operations, if such operations were currently legal under domestic intelligence situations.  I think that portions of the report to Congress were used to reform the guidelines that the FBI operated within, but I have not matched this reports recommendations to the Levi guidelines yet.
   Drabble used a primarily qualitative approach to his research, by using anecdotal evidence from government reports, histories, and news sources.  The report by the Comptroller General used a primarily quantitative-based method, as “The recommendations are based on GAO's analysis of 898 domestic intelligence cases randomly sampled from a universe of 19,659” (1976, p. I).
I will be able to use both studies to examine FBI operations;  Drabble's will give me a base to compare operations against the Klan with operations against the New Left.  In addition, the government report is useful to me in that it discusses the mission of the FBI and the history that FBI domestic operations evolved in.

Comptroller General of the United States. (1976). FBI domestic intelligence operations--Their purpose and scope: Issues that need to be resolved (No. GGD-76-50). Retrieved October 3, 2014 from http://www.gao.gov/assets/120/113988.pdf

Drabble, J. (2004). To ensure domestic tranquility: The FBI, COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE and political discourse, 1964–1971. Journal of American Studies, 38(2), 297-328. http://doi.org/10.1017/S002187580400845X

   COINTELPRO is an acronym for COounter INTELlligence Program. There were several such programs from the 1950's through the 1970's. Prior to the intelligence scandals of the early 1970's the intelligence community had more leeway in dealing with security threats in general, and one of the primary missions of the FBI was counter subversion. FDR had ordered investigations of the Nazi (National Socialist) movement in America as early as 1934 (O'Reilly, 1982, p. 646).
    The COINTELPRO operations were a set of discrete programs aimed at certain movements; mostly versus Leftist groups, but the Klan and other right-wing groups were targeted as well. COINTELPRO operations were intended to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, neutralize or otherwise eliminate" these movements. There is a great deal of misinformation about these programs; the common meme is that the government was trying to silence the anti-war movement (Nixon did institute an Operation CHAOS targeted at the anti-war movement run by CIA and the Army, however). The base of much of this misinformation is that much of the "research" done on COINTELPRO has been conducted by Ward Churchill, a leftist whose bias can be understood in his characterization of the victims of the 9/11 attacks as "little Eichmanns"
    One of the primary methods the FBI used in COINTELPRO was the discrediting of the targeted movements by providing derogatory information to journalists, which is one of the methods discussed in the Drabble article.

O’Reilly, K. (1982). A New Deal for the FBI: The Roosevelt Administration, crime control, and national security. The Journal of American History, 69(3), 638–658. http://doi.org/10.2307/1903141

I may be working with an incomplete understanding of the qualitative method.  Tewksbury states that “numerical descriptions of things and their relationships is not the focus of qualitative research” and contends that “Qualitative research methods provide more emphasis on interpretation and providing consumers with complete views, looking at contexts, environmental immersions and a depth of understanding of concepts (2009, p. 39).  My view of qualitative research is of the interpretive mode.

Drabble uses the case study mode as Hagan defines it.  “Case study methods are in-depth, qualitative studies of one or a few illustrative cases” (2010, p. 231).  Drabble gathers his cases to study from FBI reports, news stories, and histories.

If I were to operationalize the data that Drabble provides, I could assign each instance of FBI activity against the Klan with a “value”, but any measurement I chose to define the value by, other than nominal, would need to be interpreted as to the relations between each other.  For example, I could assign an FBI action in which confidential information was provided to the media for publication as an “A” type of activity, but if I were to assign a value for the damage caused to the target on a 1-10 scale, I would have to interpret that value as some of the damage caused may be non-objective as far as measuring it.  To illustrate that last point, suppose that the FBI targeted two separate Klanmen, and informed both of the wives that their husband was having an affair with the result that both Klansmen get divorces; if one was unhappy with his marriage while the other was not, the damage caused would be different in each case.

Hagan, F. (2010). Essentials of research methods for criminal justice, 3rd Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions.

Tewksbury, R. (2009). Qualitative versus quantitative methods: Understanding why qualitative methods are superior for criminology and criminal justice. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology, 1(1), 38–58.

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