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COLOR OF SURVEILLANCE

What the FBI actually learned from spying on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ethan Chiel (http://fusion.net/author/ethan-chiel/)


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Ethan Chiel (http://fusion.net/author/ethan-chiel/)


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On Friday, Georgetown University’s law school hosted ‘The Color of Surveillance


(https://www.law.georgetown.edu/academics/centers-institutes/privacy-technology/events/index.cfm),’ a conference
about government monitoring of black Americans. Two of the most anticipated speakers were James A. Baker, the FBI’s
general counsel, and David Garrow, an MLK biographer who has documented the FBI’s unlawful surveillance of Martin
Luther King, Jr. (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/07/the-fbi-and-martin-luther-king/302537/) and
other black Americans. The conversation, and the room, were somewhat tense: Baker was cautious and Garrow sharp-
tongued, though the latter emphasized that the FBI of the 60s was the primary focus of his ire.

In the 1960s, the FBI used wiretaps, bugs, and informants to dig deeply into King’s personal life, because the United States
In the 1960s, the FBI used wiretaps, bugs, and informants to dig deeply into King’s personal life, because the United States
government felt that his peaceful activism for civil liberties was threatening. Garrow said that much of the information
gleaned from that government spying on King remains unavailable, including the informants used. Garrow said he had
even been threatened with violating the Espionage Act in the early 1980s (when he €rst started researching the FBI’s
surveillance of MLK) “because of the informant identities [he] had managed to discover.”

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What the FBI actually learned from spying on Martin Luther King, Jr.
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(http://fusion.net/story/287227/famous-
presidents-shell-companies-trove/) GeorgetownLaw/YouTube
From left: FBI General Counsel James Baker, Prof. Alvaro Bedoya, Prof. David Garrow
Here are the famous politicos in ‘the
Garrow
Wikileaks said
of the that the FBI at that time had “an organizational culture of surveillance and of political control,” and that it
mega-rich’
(http://fusion.net/story/287227/famous-
wasn’t limited to the FBI’s founding director J. Edgar Hoover, who remained its head until his death in 1972 and is
presidents-shell-companies-trove/)
notorious for his abuses of power (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/02/13/j-edgar-hoover-and-the-fbi-s-war-
on-americans-civil-liberties.html). There were attempts at blackmail and encouragement of suicide
(http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/magazine/what-an-uncensored-letter-to-mlk-reveals.html?_r=0). “There is only one
thing left for you to do. You know what it is,” wrote an FBI agent in a letter to King that detailed knowledge of his
extramarital sexual activity. The FBI also leaked the gossip to the press (http://www.poynter.org/2014/how-the-southern-
press-foiled-fbis-smear-of-mlk/304233/), but it declined to report it.

(http://fusion.net/story/284589/brussels-
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boxing-gym-isis-attacks/)

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boxers to ISIS, but is saving thousands
more
(http://fusion.net/story/284589/brussels-
boxing-gym-isis-attacks/)

(http://fusion.net/story/284160/isis-
䃏ꅓghter-belgium-brussels-interview/)

We talked to an ex-ISIS €ghter in


Belgium, and what he said was chilling
(http://fusion.net/story/284160/isis-
€ghter-belgium-brussels-interview/)

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( H T T P S : // T W I T T E R . C O M / S H A R E ? ( H T T P S : // W W W . FA C E B O O K . C O M / S H A R E R / S H A R E R . P H P ?

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Burglar Who Stole FBI Secrets in 1971 Calls Snowden a ‘Hero’
BAKER-FBI-COLOR-OF- BAKER-FBI-COLOR-OF-
(http://fusion.net/story/5309/burglar-who-stole-fbi-secrets-in-1971-calls-snowden-a-hero/)
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EMAIL
Baker, who has been the FBI’s general counsel for a little over two years (https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-
( M A I LT O : ?
releases/james-a.-baker-appointed-as-fbis-general-counsel), didn’t defend the agency’s actions in the 60s. He agreed with
S U B Garrow
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on the government’s authority to engage in national security surveillance.” He repeated a story that FBI director James
BAKER-FBI-COLOR-OF-
Comey told The Guardian last year (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/12/fbi-director-racism-police-james-
S U R V E I L L A N C E % 2 F % 3 F U T M _ S O U R C E % 3 D E M A I L S H A R E % 2 6 U T M _ M E D I U M % 3 D E M A I L % 2 6 U T M _ C A M PA I G N % 3 D S O C I A L S H A R E % 2 6 U T M _ C O N T E N T % 3 D T H
comey-cultural-inheritance), about the director keeping attorney general Robert Kennedy’s approval of the wiretap order
for King on his desk as a reminder of the agency’s mistakes.

So what the FBI really learned from spying on MLK is that it is capable of making terrible mistakes and going too far when
it comes to surveillance. Baker, who teaches law school courses, said that the MLK example is one he has used for the last
decade as an example of the agency’s overreach.

“You can’t understand the statutory framework in which [the FBI] operates today…if you don’t understand the King case,”
he said. He referred speci€cally to Congressional oversight committees and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
[FISA] and the courts set up under it (http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/17/politics/surveillance-court/) to govern domestic
surveillance, which were a response to the Church Committee’s
(http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/contents.htm) €ndings on the surveillance of King and others.

“There is much more signi€cant accountability and oversight constraints with regards to the FBI’s surveillance activities
than there were in the past,” said Baker.

REL ATED

Apple CEO Tim Cook says company won't build the FBI a backdoor for the iPhone
(http://fusion.net/story/269651/apple-letter-san-bernardino-shooter-iphone/)

But it would seem that the U.S. government as a whole hasn’t taken the King case to heart. Last year, The Intercept
revealed that the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring Black Lives Matter activists
revealed that the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring Black Lives Matter activists
(https://theintercept.com/2015/07/24/documents-show-department-homeland-security-monitoring-black-lives-matter-
since-ferguson/), sometimes at “gatherings that seem benign and even mundane.”

The FBI’s current most high-pro€le attempt to more easily investigate threats and peer into the lives of Americans is its
legal wrangling with Apple over the San Bernardino shooter’s encrypted iPhone in California and a drug dealer’s phone in
New York. After Apple refused to build a backdoor into the iPhone, the FBI managed to hack its way into the phone
(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/technology/fbi-lawyer-wont-say-if-data-from-unlocked-iphone-is-useful.html?
_r=0), though it’s still €ghting the New York case in court.

The recent legal €ght was on Baker’s mind Friday. “We love encryption. It helps us in so many ways as a society,” he said.
“But it has a cost. We need to think about it as a society: how will we deal with that cost?”

Sadly, the panel did not address the times that the constraints which grew out of King’s surveillance have been abused,
bypassed, or ignored. After 9/11, FISA courts were heavily abused by the NSA (http://www.wired.com/2008/06/att-
whistleblow/). The FBI has used tools like national security letters to circumvent FISA court decisions which go against
them (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20141224/14510929524/when-€sa-court-rejects-surveillance-request-fbi-just-
issues-national-security-letter-instead.shtml), which is incredibly rare in the €rst place
(http://www.npr.org/2013/06/13/191226106/€sa-court-appears-to-be-rubberstamp-for-government-requests). There’ve been
calls for change (https://www.brennancenter.org/press-release/new-report-€sa-court-needs-reform-protect-americans-
civil-liberties), but a FISA reform bill introduced in 2015 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-
bill/1469/text#toc-id6300BC46EB564B9AB690F4467E0ADC39) was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it
languished. (That bill’s co-sponsor, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is currently behind draft legislation that would effectively
outlaw encryption (http://www.wired.com/2016/04/senates-draft-encryption-bill-privacy-nightmare/).)

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Baker also held up the legal standard of “probable cause,” which FISA court applications must meet, as a bulwark against
abuse of surveillance. But as The Intercept and others have reported (https://theintercept.com/2014/07/09/under-
surveillance/), it’s impossible to tell how the courts interpret that standard because “only the Justice Department and the
FBI are permitted to attend its proceedings on domestic surveillance.”

As a lawyer for the Justice Department in the mid-2000s (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-


dyn/content/article/2006/02/08/AR2006020802511.html) who reportedly “shared…reservations and aided the judges”
concerned about NSA spying and its legality, Baker is certainly aware of the possibility for abuse. But now he’s more
concerned with information the FBI doesn’t have, saying electronic surveillance is becoming less effective because of
data being guarded by strong encryption, which “the laws today, generally speaking, do not enable us to get access to.”

“We think of ourselves as the servants of the American people. That we belong to you, you own us,” said Baker. “It’s our
obligation…to tell you how it’s going.”

How Americans feel it’s going is a little murky. A Pew Research Center survey on government surveillance
(http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/03/16/americans-views-on-government-surveillance-programs/#americans-are-
divided-in-their-concerns-about-government-surveillance-of-digital-communications) conducted last year found that
under 40% of adults were very concerned or somewhat concerned about government monitoring of search engine, cell
phone, and email activity. However, a majority said they had recently become less con€dent that government surveillance
was in the public interest, and they were about evenly split on the effectiveness of judicial oversight of surveillance. Not a
ringing endorsement.

Before the panel ended, someone watching online posed a €nal question to Baker, returning to the surveillance of black
Americans. They asked whether, given the disenfranchisement of minority populations, “isn’t it true that many of the
people who want this data are not the ones at risk of being surveilled?” Baker replied that it was “a question about the
nature of democracy that I’m not sure I can or should answer.”

You can watch the discussion, along with a transcript of the conversation between Baker, Garrow, and moderator Alvaro
Bedoya on C-Span. (http://www.c-span.org/video/?407901-101/government-surveillance-race-part-2&start=2189)

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Scoop Cavazos
the FBI managed to find out it was his "friends"­ a group of progressives, that set his house on fire and not white supremacists, and that they investigated him also by
urging of anti­communist pressure, there WERE communists infiltrating his organization hoping to latch on to his following. King soon got hip to their nonsense and
dropped them, ignoring the progressives offers of "help", the progressives blamed the fire on his "enemies" the evil whitey. I have a podcast of this, but searching the
internet for this documentation I became inundated with a lot of crap hits like subjective articles, theories, and editorials so if you or I find that documentation please post
it here.
Like · Reply · 18 hrs

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