Cover image for There's something happening here : the New Left, the Klan, and FBI counterintelligence
There's something happening here : the New Left, the Klan, and FBI counterintelligence
Cunningham, David, 1970-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xvi, 366 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Counterintelligence activities and the FBI -- The movements -- The organization of the FBI : constructing white hate and new left threats -- Acting against the white hate and new left threats -- Wing tips in their midst : the impact of COINTELPRO -- Beyond COINTELPRO -- The future is now : counter/intelligence activities in the age of global terrorism.
Reading Level:
1800 Lexile.
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
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HV8144.F43 C85 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Using over twelve thousand previously classified documents made available through the Freedom of Information Act, David Cunningham uncovers the riveting inside story of the FBI's attempts to neutralize political targets on both the Right and the Left during the 1960s. Examining the FBI's infamous counterintelligence programs (COINTELPROs) against suspected communists, civil rights and black power advocates, Klan adherents, and antiwar activists, he questions whether such actions were aberrations or are evidence of the bureau's ongoing mission to restrict citizens' right to engage in legal forms of political dissent. At a time of heightened concerns about domestic security, with the FBI's license to spy on U.S. citizens expanded to a historic degree, the question becomes an urgent one. This book supplies readers with insights and information vital to a meaningful assessment of the current situation.

There's Something Happening Here looks inside the FBI's COINTELPROs against white hate groups and the New Left to explore how agents dealt with the hundreds of individuals and organizations labeled as subversive threats. Rather than reducing these activities to a product of the idiosyncratic concerns of longtime director J. Edgar Hoover, Cunningham focuses on the complex organizational dynamics that generated literally thousands of COINTELPRO actions. His account shows how--and why--the inner workings of the programs led to outcomes that often seemed to lack any overriding logic; it also examines the impact the bureau's massive campaign of repression had on its targets. The lessons of this era have considerable relevance today, and Cunningham extends his analysis to the FBI's often controversial recent actions to map the influence of the COINTELPRO legacy on contemporary debates over national security and civil liberties.

Author Notes

David Cunningham is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Cunningham analyzes the counterintelligence program of the FBI that was discovered in the early 1970s and formally stopped as an illegal operation in violation of the target's civil rights. Illegal surveillance was conducted with a broad range of groups from the New Left to civil rights groups to the Ku Klux Klan and related hate groups. Cunningham asserts that while the formal COINTELPRO was outlawed, many of its practices have continued because they are rooted in the strong anti-communist era when the FBI's activities went far beyond mere surveillance. Cunningham reflects on both the similar and distinctly different treatment of the New Left, which FBI director J. Edgar Hoover considered to be unpatriotic, and the Klan, which was viewed as patriotic but prone to violence. Cunningham draws connections between structural deficiencies of the agency from the 1970s until today, and their impact on the agency's inability to detect the activities of the 9/11 terrorists. This is an absorbing book for readers interested in the balance between our government's questionable surveillance practices and concerns about national security. --Vernon Ford Copyright 2004 Booklist

Choice Review

Cunningham (Brandeis Univ.) has examined over 12,000 government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, including FBI memos and correspondence, to organize a thorough, well-documented look at the FBI's far-reaching counterintelligence activities during the turbulent period of the 1960s and 1970s. His research focuses on surveillance and disruption of so-called New Left groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party; civil rights organizations such as the American Indian Movement and Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference; as well as white racist outfits like the Ku Klux Klan and George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party. Some of the FBI's counterintelligence capers seem at times to have been poorly thought out, or even downright contradictory. With thirty-some years of hindsight, more than a few could be cast in a humorous light, but Cunningham is a serious chronicler and researcher, and not a storyteller. His dry, matter-of-fact presentation will excite professionals, but dissuade others. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. S. K. Hauser Marquette University

Table of Contents

Tables and Figuresp. ix
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1. Counterintelligence Activities and the FBIp. 15
2. The Movementsp. 42
3. The Organization of the FBI: Constructing White Hate and New Left Threatsp. 79
4. Acting against the White Hate and New Left Threatsp. 109
5. Wing Tips in Their Midst: The Impact of COINTELPROp. 146
6. Beyond COINTELPROp. 181
7. The Future Is Now: Counter/Intelligence Activities in the Age of Global Terrorismp. 217
Appendix A. A Typology of COINTELPRO Actionsp. 233
Appendix B. Organizational Processes and COINTELPRO Outcomesp. 252
Appendix C. COINTELPRO Targetsp. 273
Notesp. 285
Referencesp. 343
Indexp. 357