Paul DeRienzo (by way of (MediaFilter)) on Sat, 28 Jun 1997 07:23:04 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> COINTELPRO and the legacy of Malcolm X

The following article was published in the Lower East Side based
underground newspaper the SHADOW in February 1995. The story investigates
the modern day COINTELPRO plot hatched against Qubilah Shabazz. Her son
Malcolm Shabazz jr. is being persecuted in the tragic death of his
grandmother, Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X. Hopefully these words
may contribute to understanding the terrible events of the past month.
-- Paul DeRienzo

                               By Paul DeRienzo

Informants are the stock in trade of the FBI when the bureau sets out to
destroy popular
movements. During the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the
FBI, under director J.
Edgar Hoover, launched their so-called COINTELPRO operation against black
radicals. The
stated purpose was to prevent the rise of what the bureau termed a "black
messiah" who Hoover
feared could unite African-American people against the United States government.

After COINTELPRO was exposed in the 1970's, the FBI claimed the operation
had been
discontinued and that reforms in the Bureau would prevent any similar
assault on American citizens'
right to peaceful protest. But the recent federal indictment in Minneapolis
of Qubilah Shabazz, a
daughter of Malcolm X, for allegedly plotting the assassination of Nation
of Islam leader Louis
Farrakhan seems to indicate the spirit of J. Edgar Hoover is alive and well
at the Federal Bureau of

At the heart of the government's case against Shabazz is a long time
informant for the FBI, Michael
Fitzpatrick, 34, who is currently facing charges for possession of cocaine
in Minneapolis.
Prosecutors say Fitzpatrick tipped off the FBI after Shabazz allegedly let
him in on her desire to kill
Farrakhan, a man suspected of having been involved in her father's
assassination in a fusillade of
bullets on February 21, 1965 in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom. Qubilah, her
mother Betty Shabazz,
and three of her sisters witnessed the slaying.

Among those who suspect Farrakhan's involvement is Betty Shabazz, who told
reporters last year of
her suspicion and added that it was "common knowledge." Her comments led to
an article in the
New York Post accusing Farrakhan of planning the assassination, prompting a
multi-billion dollar
libel lawsuit by the Nation of Islam against the Post. However, Farrakhan
does admit to helping
create a climate of hatred and hostility towards Malcolm X due to a bitter
feud between Malcolm
and Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, though he denies having had
any role in planning the
murder of Malcolm X.

The government's evidence against Shabazz, who has pleaded not guilty, is a
stack of 20 audiotapes
of conversation between her and Fitzpatrick and a 50 minute videotape that
Fitzpatrick secretly
made in a Minneapolis area motel room. According to reports in the
Minneapolis Star Tribune that
quote a federal official, on the videotape, Fitzpatrick does most of the
talking, encouraging Shabazz
to go along with the plot against Farrakhan, while she objects that
innocent people might be killed.

Who is Michael Fitzpatrick?
Michael Fitzpatrick began his political career as an informant while a
teenager attending the United
Nations International School in Manhattan, where Shabazz was also a
student. Fitzpatrick, the son
of an Irish union organizer and a Jewish businesswoman, joined the Jewish
Defense League and was
the chief government informant in a 1978 case in which two militant Jews
were convicted of plotting
to blow up Egyptian government offices in Manhattan. According to activist
attorney William
Kunstler, Fitzpatrick actually provided the dynamite that was supposed to
be used in the attack.

Fitzpatrick had become an informant when he was convicted in the 1977
bombing of the pro-Soviet
Four Continents bookstore in Manhattan. According to court documents, he
was paid about
$10,000 to inform on the two JDL members involved in the Egyptian bombing
plot, Bruce Berger
and Victor Vancier. Berger currently works for an organization that aids
Jewish immigrants in the
United States. Vancier resumed his militant Jewish activism since his 1991
release from prison after
a 5 year jail term for several unrelated bombing charges.

Vancier is the host of "Positively Jewish" and "The Jewish Task Force,"
public access cable
television shows in New York City. He has used the shows to denounce
blacks, Israeli leaders and
to praise Baruch Goldstein, the militant Israeli settler and former
Brooklynite who slaughtered 29
Muslims as they worshipped at a Hebron mosque last year.

According to another former JDL member, Stephen Rambam, Fitzpatrick was
also a part of SOIL,
or Save Our Israeli Land, a protest organization that included Vancier and
Dov Hikind, now a
Democratic State Assembly member from Brooklyn.

Another JDL member and associate of Fitzpatrick in the late 1970's was
Mordecai Levy. Levy says
despite his hatred of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, he firmly
believes Qubilah Shabazz
was set up by the FBI. Levy claims Fitzpatrick has a long history of
infiltrating various political
groups in order to set them up for arrest. One of the groups says Levy, was
the Revolutionary Youth
Movement, an arm of the former Communist Workers Party, whose members
Fitzpatrick reportedly
trained in the use of firearms.

According to Levy, the question to ask Fitzpatrick is why he continued as
an informant even after he
was already off the hook on the earlier bombing charges. Levy told the
SHADOW: "a lot of times
informants become addicted to the money, the glory, or the task. I think he
had all three. He was a
mercenary, a pirate, a freebooter, he enjoyed the work, he enjoyed putting
people away."

Levy doesn't hesitate to express his hatred of Louis Farrakhan, a man he
refers to as a "black
Hitler," but Levy told the SHADOW that despite the enmity he holds for the
Nation of Islam leader,
he's concerned that "this innocent girl, Malcolm X's daughter, not be
framed." Levy added that if the
FBI can use someone like Fitzpatrick to "set-up" Shabazz, "today its her,
tomorrow it could be a
Jewish group, it could be a legitimate African-American group, it could be
a gun club... If they can
get away with framing Malcolm X's daughter who has no track record of any
anti-semitic or
anti-white or anything activity -- [then] that's despicable."

After informing in the Egyptian offices bombing case, Fitzpatrick
disappeared into the federal
witness-protection program, which moved him into a Minneapolis suburb under
the name of Michael
Summers. In the 1980's, he drifted back and forth between New York and
Minneapolis before
settling there again four years ago. Chris Gunderson was a member of a
local anarchist collective
when Fitzpatrick became a regular at Backroom Anarchist Books, the group's
organizing center.

Gunderson told the SHADOW that it was at an October 16, 1986 demonstration
"Minneapolis is Revolting" targeting corporations involved with the
military-industrial complex in
Minneapolis that he first saw Fitzpatrick. A scuffle broke out with police
as protestors attempted to
take to the streets and Fitzpatrick was in the middle of the action.
Gunderson says that Fitzpatrick
"represented himself.. as having been a member of the Communist Workers
Party who had been
assigned to do youth work in the punk scene and that in the course of that
he had been won over to

Gunderson adds that Fitzpatrick suggested that one of the reasons he left
the Communist Workers
Party was because he felt the group had "chickened-out and not proven
themselves committed
to...militancy. And thereby set a standard for militancy that he wanted
everyone else to live up to.
That was one of his main ways of advancing the idea that people needed to
escalate their tactics in
ways that were quite clearly foolish and inappropriate. But at the time he
cut an impressive figure and
was able to influence people for a certain amount of time."

The web of deceit began to unravel after Fitzpatrick started bringing
weapons into the bookstore,
sparking suspicion among some of the anarchists. According to Gunderson,
Fitzpatrick brought a
can of "police-issue mace into the bookstore. The mace was then discovered
by the police when
they came into the bookstore shortly after he had left. [The police said]
they were looking for a
runaway at the time." Gunderson adds that the anarchists noticed "a pattern
of actions and
encouragement from him that seemed to us over time to constitute an effort
to set us up."

William Kunstler is co-counsel representing Qubilah Shabazz along with
Inner-City Broadcasting
founder Percy Sutton. Both attorneys represented Malcolm X during the
1960's and are still active
in progressive politics. Interviewed by the SHADOW, Kunstler said that "the
real purpose" behind
Fitzpatrick's attempt to "stimulate Qubilah Shabazz into a conspiracy to
assassinate Louis
Farrakhan" was to get Farrakhan killed, "not by her, but to stimulate that
enmity again between those
who loved Malcolm and those who followed Elijah Muhammad into an
internecine civil war that
resulted in so many deaths in the 60''s a dirty business engineered
by the prevent the
rise of what Hoover used to call a black Messiah."

Although Louis Farrakhan's racial rhetoric has aroused animosity among many
whites, he is still a
popular figure in the African-American community, in part because he's
perceived as standing up for
young black men. According to Kunstler, "Farrakhan for better or for worse
is the only national
black leader with that charisma. He can fill Yankee Stadium and they want
to cut him down."

At a packed assembly of Nation of Islam members in Chicago last month,
Farrakhan accused the
FBI of trying to create conflict and division between the Nation and the
family of Malcolm X.
Farrakhan also accused the FBI of lying to Nation of Islam leaders about
the plot. According to
Farrakhan's lawyer Ava Muhammad, the FBI had said that a Muslim extremist
group -- not a
Malcolm X family member -- had been involved in the plot to kill Farrakhan.

William Kunstler says he's interested in the role of the Clinton
Administration's Justice Department in
the Qubilah case. Kunstler told the SHADOW that "first the Attorney
General's office said we knew
nothing about this -- four days later, they said we knew all about it. It's
my suspicion they of course
knew all about it, but first they denied it which is very interesting."

Kunstler also addressed charges by Minneapolis prosecutors that Qubilah had
neglected her son,
Malcolm X's grandson, also named Malcolm. Kunstler said with a hint of
contempt that "prosecutors
announced someone said Qubilah had `liquor on her breath' -- that's a great
sin I guess." Kunstler
says the abuse charge was "dispelled totally because the authorities found
it was totally unfounded."

If convicted, Qubilah Shabazz faces up to 90 years in prison and more than
two million dollars in
fines. The trial has been postponed until May 1st and Kunstler says while
"the only fair trial would be
no trial at all, I have a suspicion there maybe no trial at all." According
to Kunstler, new information
may further undercut the government's case against Shabazz.

Former FBI agent Dan Scott held a press conference in Minneapolis to say he
had been the case
agent for Michael Fitzpatrick back in the late 1970's. Scott told reporters
that Fitzpatrick was an
idealistic and credible witness, but according to Kunstler, former agent
Dan Scott was himself
kicked out of the FBI for drunkenness and killing someone in a car accident.

Kunstler adds "there's a puppeteer pulling the strings and there are lots
of puppets out there." And
the strings attached to Michael Fitzpatrick run straight back to the FBI.

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