"From 1959 to at least 1974, the CIA used its domestic organizations to spy on thousands of US citizens whose only crime was disagreeing with their government's policies," writes Mark Zepezauer (The CIAs Greatest Hits). "This picked up speed when J. Edgar Hoover told President Johnson that nobody would be protesting his Vietnam war policies unless they were being directed to do so by some foreign power. Johnson ordered the CIA to investigate."
In response, the CIA vastly expanded its campus surveillance program and stepped up its liaisons with local police departments. It trained special intelligence units in major cities to carry out "black bag" jobs (break-ins, wiretaps, etc.) against US "radicals." �
In 1968, the CIA's various domestic programs were consolidated and expanded under the name Operation CHAOS. When Richard Nixon became president the following year, his administration drafted the Huston Plan, which called for even greater operations against "subversives," including wiretapping, break-ins, mail-opening, no-knock searches and "selective assassinations." Bureaucratic infighting tabled the plan, but much of it was implemented in other forms, not only by the CIA but also by the FBI and the Secret Service.
With the revelation of CIA and White House complicity in the Watergate break-in, light began to shine on Operation CHAOS. After a period of "reform," much of CHAOS's work was privatized, and right-wing groups and "former" CIA agents now provide the bulk of the CIA's domestic intelligence.
The FBI's concurrent program went by the name COINTELPRO, short for Counter Intelligence Program. COINTELPRO, the Church Committee explained, employed "techniques � adopted wholesale from wartime counterintelligence, and ranged from the trivial (mailing reprints of Reader's Digest articles to college administrators) to the degrading (sending anonymous poison-pen letters intended to break up marriages) and the dangerous (encouraging gang warfare and falsely labeling members of a violent group as police informers)�. Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that."
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