Monday, December 15, 2008

"Suing the FBI for Spying, 1969-1980"

Dear Prof. John Fabian Witt:

I wish to present a paper at the ASLH conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Nov. 16-19, 2006, entitled, “Suing the FBI for Spying, 1969-1980,” which is drawn from my book in progress, Trouble Times.

Because of current large-scale government spying in its “War on Terror,” civil litigation against the FBI for rights violations is especially relevant. The materials I would present unearth the early history of resistance to spying, focusing on the years 1969 to 1980, the first period in which aggrieved individuals and groups initiated lawsuits to stop spying and to win damage awards. For this period, I have uncovered 34 lawsuits.

In analyzing this group of lawsuits, I study both the views and strategies of plaintiffs and the response of the Justice Department. I rely on declassified FBI files released to me under the FOIA; the published legal record; newspaper articles; as well as the historical scholarship on social movements, civil liberties, and government suppression.

The vast majority of lawsuits were won by plaintiffs, with the exception of several early 1970s cases featuring warrantless wiretapping. A few lawsuits were initiated after a single incident of alleged rights violations, while others lawsuits contest decades of intrusive surveillance. Typically, the government agreed to cease surveillance and seal their records. The largest monetary awards went to radicals associated with the Black Panther Party, who were victimized under the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program).

The plaintiffs who contest COINTLEPRO include Jane Fonda, William Albertson, Frank Wilkinson, Stew Albert, Judith Clavir, Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammed Kenyatta, David Dellinger, Dorian Weinberg, John Sinclair, Keith Forsyth, Abdeen M. Jabara, Julius Hobson, Richard Moore (Dhoruba Bin Wahad), Fred Hampton, Huey Newton, Elmer ji Jaga Pratt, Sara Blackburn, Lewis Cole, William A. Price, Deborah Offner, and Johanna Lewrenson. Organizations which sued include the Socialist Workers Party, National Lawyers Guild, Institute for Policy Studies, Philadelphia Resistance, Black Panther Party, Fifth Ave. Peace Parade, Republic of Africa, Honeywell Project, and the Jewish Defense League.

My perspective on these issues reflect my historical training and interest in the interaction of social and political processes. I received a Ph.D. in U.S. History in 1990 and have taught at the college level for 10 years. At present, I am an Independent Scholar.

A c.v. is attached. I can submit a draft paper in short time if you request it. I look forward to hearing from you.


Dr. Ivan Greenberg

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