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Burglary of FBI office did not stop COINTELPRO tampering of Omaha Two trial

A March 8, 1971 break-in at Media, Pennsylvania changed history
A March 8, 1971 break-in at Media, Pennsylvania changed history

The Media, Pennsylvania burglary of a FBI office and the theft of hundreds of pages of secret counterintelligence files by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI was not in time to help the Omaha Two. The January 7, 2014 disclosure of five of the eight burglars in a new book shows that the burglary team was trying to expose abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The group grabbed documents labelled COINTELPRO without knowing about the massive, clandestine counterintelligence operation.

The break-in was on March 8, 1971; the team of anti-war activists quickly fled with suitcases of documents and retreated to a farm house in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The activists poured over the FBI files for ten days deciding which to release and who would get the purloined pages.

Selected reporters and political figures received copies anonymously. The first of the stolen counterintelligence files to go public were disclosed in the Washington Post on March 23, 1971. The reporter, Betty Metsger, is now author of a new book on the break-in, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.

However, it would take years of litigation and political wrangling to pry loose COINTELPRO secrets that had not yet been shredded or destroyed. The trial of the Omaha Two, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) began on April 1, 1971, just a week after the first newspaper story. The pair were leaders of Omaha’s affiliate Black Panther chapter and had been targeted by COINTELPRO.

J. Edgar Hoover personally ordered the withholding of a FBI Laboratory report on the identity of an anonymous caller who lured a policeman to his death in order to make a case against the Omaha Two.

During the murder trial in Omaha, the stolen FBI documents continued to dominate news stories around the nation. But the jury that convicted Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa never knew of CONTELPRO and J. Edgar Hoover’s secret order to withhold information from them.

The men were convicted on April 17, 1971 and immediately transported to prison where they remain.

Ten days after the Omaha Two were convicted, a memorandum dated April 27, 1971, came to Hoover from one of his subordinates, Charles Brennan.

“To afford additional security to our sensitive techniques and operations, it is recommended the COINTELPROS operated by the Domestic Intelligence Division be discontinued.”

“These programs involve a variety of sensitive intelligence techniques and disruptive activities which are afforded close supervision at the Seat of Government. They have been carefully supervised will all actions being afforded prior Bureau approval and an effort has been made to avoid engaging in harassment. Although successful over the years, it is felt they should now be discontinued for security reasons because of their sensitivity.”

The secret manipulation of the Omaha jury by Hoover’s order was not known for years after the trial. When Hoover’s misdeed was finally discovered the Omaha Two were still denied a new trial. Both men continue to insist on their innocence.

J. Edgar Hoover died May 2, 1972, without ever publically admitting his role in tampering with the Omaha Two trial.

For more information see CRIME MAGAZINE

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