After more than a year of solid work, KHOU-TV in Houston and its investigative unit, 11 News Defenders, have obtained an exclusive first look at the FBI’s file on Coretta Scott and these files do not paint a rosy picture. They reveal a Hoover led FBI out of control, spying illegally on American citizens disrupting constitutionally protected activities.
Nearly 500 pages of documents reveal that FBI agents conducted secret surveillance of Coretta Scott King's activities, listened to phone conversations, intercepted her mail, and kept close track of public appearances, speeches and travels. This secret monitoring continued years after Martin Luther King's assassination in Memphis. Documents reveal that the FBI and other governmental officials were afraid that she might decide to complete Martin's work of linking the anti Vietnam War movement to the civil rights movement." But here is absolutely nothing in the historical record that would lead them to reach this conclusion. Except for serving on the Board of Directors for SCLC, Coretta have never held any other leadership position in the civil rights movement.
Strangely, the FBI shared reports on Coretta with various military intelligence organizations, including the 115 th M.I. of the U.S. Army, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and a number of military bases. They kept the White House in the loop on this surveillance. One Agent reported on then New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s phone call to Scott King after her husband’s death, offering his condolences and ongoing help. There are probably more documents that the FBI did not release, as Coretta received numerous calls from other politically important figures.
Another agent reported directly to the Nixon White House and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about what they had learned about Scott King. What in the world could Coretta’s activities have to do with Naval intelligence? This is an example of information on Coretta contained in a typical FBI report sent out to the various governmental and military offices:
On March 11, 1966, Lieutenant Charles Meyers advised that Mrs. King arrived at the Tampa Airport at 12:55 PM on March 10, 1966 and came directly to St. Petersburg, Florida. Her appearance in concert at the Pasenda Community Church on the night of March 10, 1966 and her stay at the Princess Martha Hotel were without incident.
So what sort of intelligence value does this kind of information have for Naval Intelligence?
So how did Coretta become a target in the first place? To answer this question we have to focus on FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who ruled the Bureau with a tight grip. Many people say that he was a racist, but we do know that he opposed the civil rights movement as being an “un-American” and “subversive cause” and even called Martin Luther King Jr. “the Black Messiah,” saying he was too powerful. In public statements Hoover also called the leader “immoral” and accused him of being influenced by the Communists. He considered King as the most dangerous man in America and did everything in his power to discredit him. The Black Messiah? This is a prime example of the kettle calling the pot black, as it was widely known that Hoover was homosexual, a cross dresser.
But as we now know, the Hoover led FBI did much more than spying. In one of the documents,an agent recommended that Ralph Abernathy, a close aide to Martin Luther King, be made aware of death threats against his life for the benefit of "the disruptive effect of confusing and worrying him. The document related to Abernathy appears to indicate that the FBI may have had an informant in the Atlanta Police Department who advised Abernathy of threats to his life. Again, nothing new. The FBI had numerous informants in the civil rights movement and used similar tactics against other leaders in the black community, including Dr. King, sending smear letters to newspapers to discredit him, sending tapes of extra-martial affairs to Coretta and to the news media. The “counter-intelligence” campaign of surveillance, bugging, and harassment by the FBI’s “Racial Intelligence Section” that centered on MLK, his relatives, and associates.
The secret monitoring of Coretta ended with the death of Hoover in 1972, but a lot of illegal activities ended with Hoover's death, for no American President was powerful enough to fire him. Rumor has it that Hoover's voluminous files are still missing. On November 30, 1972, in a letter sent from the Atlanta field office to the Acting Director of the FBI it was recommended that the case on Coretta Scott King be closed. During the many years in which she had been secretly monitored she did not show a propensity for violence or affiliate with subversive groups. So it took the FBI all these years to reach this conclusion! During her entire life, Coretta has never displayed a propensity for violence.
While I am not surprised by the secret surveillance of Coretta Scott King, I am surprised that it continued for so long after Dr. King’s assassination. However, the surveillance of Coretta and Dr. King does raise a number of unanswered questions regarding the FBI’s involvement in King’s assassination. How much did they know? Did they have previous knowledge that a hit was going to be made on his life? Do they have a file on James Earl Ray, the alleged assassin? We will have to wait until the next batch of classified documents are de-classified and made public.
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