by Brendan James
Tony Capaccio recalls the intense state surveillance brought down on MLK for his activism, his radicalism, and his socialism:
Initially approved in October 1963 by then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the FBI’s wiretap and hidden-microphone campaign against King lasted until his assassination in April 1968. It was initially justified to probe King’s suspected, unproven links to the Communist Party, morphing into a crusade to “neutralize” and discredit the civil rights leader. … At a time when the nation is absorbing revelations of telephone and e-mail surveillance by the National Security Agency, the FBI’s spying on King — which had no court authorization or oversight — stands as an example of domestic security gone to excess.
David Corn observes that King’s famous “Dream” speech (above) sent J. Edgar Hoover into a new stage of panic:
For years, Hoover had been worried—or obsessed—by King, viewing him as a profound threat to national security. … The August 1963 march, which captured the imagination of many Americans, further unhinged Hoover and his senior aides.
The day after the speech, William Sullivan, a top Hoover aide, noted in a memo, “In the light of King’s powerful demagogic speech… We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.” Six weeks later, pressured by Hoover, Bobby Kennedy authorized full electronic surveillance of King. FBI agents placed bugs in King’s hotel rooms; they tapped his phones; they bugged his private apartment in Atlanta.
Let’s not forget the anonymous letter the Bureau anonymously sent to King in November 1964, accompanied by audio tapes of his extramarital escapades. The letter implied that King should commit suicide:
King you are done.
The American public, the church organizations that have been helping — Protestant, Catholic and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. The American public, the church organizations that have been helping — Protestant, Catholic and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done.
King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do it (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.