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Claims Richard Aoki was an informant denied by friend, biographer

Frank Ho knew Richard Aoki from the late 90’s until his death. The “news” that Aoki was an informant rubbed him wrong, and he lists why below:

1. The written FBI documents are very vague and much is redacted. The T-2 identification has Richard Aoki’s middle name incorrectly listed. All other identities of other informants are redacted. Why? Why was only Aoki “revealed”? This is the only real factual evidence that Rosenfeld has to offer. The rest is supposition and surmise.

2. Scott Kurashige asserts in his contextualization and weak challenge to Rosenfeld that perhaps Aoki during the 1950s had agreed to be an FBI informant during a period in Aoki’s life when he wasn’t interested in politics or “communism.” But that later, in the ‘60s, when Aoki, as so many of that generation got radicalized, that he couldn’t admit to what he had done earlier as it would have cast huge aspersion and suspicion around him among the Panthers who were quick to be intolerant and unwilling to accept such past mistakes. However, Kurashige falls short here. Even if this were the case, that Richard had naively agreed to be an informant in his youth, prior to being radicalized, and couldn’t admit to it later, what is impossible to reconcile is that the entire 50 year arc of Richard’s life and work has helped the Movement far more than hindered or harmed it.

3. If Richard was a FBI agent, how did he help the FBI? By training the Panthers in Marxist ideology, socialism? By leading drill classes at 7am daily and instilling iron-discipline in their ranks? By being one of the leaders to bring about Ethnic (Third World) Studies in the U.S.? Other questions that aren’t answered by Rosenfeld: How much was Aoki paid if he was an agent? What did Aoki get out of it? How long was he an agent for? There is no evidence that Aoki sabotaged, foment divisions, incited violence, etc. The over-emphasis upon Aoki providing the Panthers their first firearms is sensationalist fodder. What is conveniently ignored is what he contributed most to the Panthers and to the legacy of the U.S. revolutionary movement: promoting revolutionary study, ideology and disciplined organization. That’s why he was Field Marshall because the cat could organize and tolerated no indiscipline and lack of seriousness.

4. How does a FBI agent acquire the super-Jason Bourne-equivalent ideological skills to influence so many radicals both of the Sixties and continuously to his death, including myself? There is no Cliff Notes or Crash Course FBI Training Academy 101 on Revolutionary Ideology on the nuances of debates on “peaceful transition to socialism as revisionism”, or “liberal multi-culturalism as the neo-colonialism within U.S. Third World communities,” etc. You get the picture. Richard Aoki intellectually had the brilliance that surpassed any professor of radicalism at any university or college. Could a FBI agent really be this? We see from the FBI agent who helped in the assassination of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, that he was paid around $200, that he was primarily head of security for the slain Panther leader Fred Hampton, and that he committed suicide ostensibly for the guilt that he had over his role in the murder of Hampton and Clark. There is no evidence of this for Aoki, in fact, Aoki remained a committed revolutionary to the end.

5. The supposed admission that Rosenfeld has on tape, shown on the link: http://californiawatch.org/public-safety/man-who-armed-black-panthers-was-fbi-informant-records-show-17634 is typical Aoki humor in answering “Oh.” The subtext, as Aoki knew he was talking to a reporter, is really: “Oh, you motherfucker, so that’s what he said, well, stupid, then it must be true!” Rosenfeld notes that Aoki laughs (which is laughing AT Rosenfeld!). Anyone who really knew Richard Aoki knows that he used humor often to turn someone’s stupid questions back at them, saying to the effect: well if you are stupid to think that, then it must be true for you!

6. The corroboration offered by former FBI agent, now turned squealer, Wes Swearingen, is not evidence. Swearingen only thinks that it is likely Aoki was an informer for the FBI because he was Japanese! How stupid! Would fierce black nationalists accept someone more easily because he was Japanese? If that were so, there would have been more Asians in the Panthers! Yes, Richard personally knew many of the founding Panther members, including Seale and Newton, precisely because these hardcore guys truly trusted Richard because Richard could do the do! Again, the question must be asked, what benefits did the FBI get from having Aoki as an informant to lend credibility to this assertion? At best, Swearingen can only offer speculation and surmise, as he can’t testify that he actually KNEW Aoki to be an agent or witnessed FBI encounters with Aoki.

7. The one FBI agent who might have actually encountered Aoki, an agent named Threadgill, is now (conveniently) deceased, who claimed in mid-1965 he was Aoki’s handler. We have no way of verifying this except relying upon Rosenfeld’s claims. When Rosenfeld asked Aoki point blank if he knew this guy, Threadgill, Aoki flatly denies knowing such a person and jokes about it (again, in the Aoki style: “Oh, if that’s what he claims, and you think it so, then it must be so, stupid!”)

8. Lastly, what is to be gained by this accusation of Aoki as FBI informant, a day before Rosenfeld’s book hits the bookstores? To sell books via this hype and sensationalism. Aoki did more to build the student movement in the Bay Area than many others. Let’s ask the question, how much was Rosenfeld paid for his book deal? We should ask that same question about the late Manning Marable, whose supposition-filled and sloppy “scholarly” account of Malcolm X is equally reprehensible. Besides the obvious gain to Rosenfeld directly of hoping to increase book sales and his wallet, we must ask the larger political question, how does this accusation against the deceased Aoki affect the larger politics of today?

Well, here’s how: it fuels doubt on so many levels to building radical politics, sowing dissension between Black nationalists and Asian American radicals, distrust of our revolutionary leaders of past and present, fear for the police-state and its power to extend itself into the core leadership of revolutionary movements, and as witnessed by Scott Kurashige’s capitulation to the reformist politics of non-violence, to elevating Martin Luther King, Jr. above the Black Liberationists (Kurashige calls for a re-look and re-examination of MLK, implying this is safer and more amenable than the “violence” advocated by Aoki and the Panthers). And this is simply the tip of an iceberg building to stave off the growth of radicalism generated by the Occupy, eco-socialist and anti-globalization movements both in the U.S. and across the planet.

Frank Ho is not the only one, either. Diane Fujino is a professor and chair of Asian American studies at UC Santa Barbara, and has published a book about Aoki and his politics. She, too, finds the accusations extremely suspect for several reasons;

As a scholar, I insist on seeing evidence before concluding any “truth.” But as I read Rosenfeld’s work and cross-checked sources from my biography on Aoki, I realized Rosenfeld had not met the burden of proof. He made definitive conclusions based on inconclusive evidence.

If Aoki was an informant, when was he informing? How did he help the FBI disrupt political movements? What were his motivations?

I also questioned Rosenfeld’s motives. Rosenfeld’s piece, published the day before the release of his own book, gained him widespread media and public attention that surely will augment sales.

Rosenfeld offers four pieces of evidence against Aoki.

First, Rosenfeld cites only one FBI document, a Nov. 16, 1967, report. It states: “A supplementary T symbol (SF T-2) was designated for” - but the name was deleted. Following the now-blank space was the name Richard Matsui Aoki in parenthesis, and then the phrase “for the limited purpose of describing his connections with the organization and characterizing [Aoki].”

In the FBI pages released to me, only brief background material on Aoki is linked to T-2. Moreover, T symbols are used to refer to informants or technical sources of information (microphones, wiretaps). So was Aoki the informer or the one being observed?

Second, FBI agent Burney Threadgill Jr. said he recruited Aoki in the late 1950s, but we have no substantial evidence other than Rosenfeld’s reports, and Threadgill has since died.

Third, FBI agent M. Wesley Swearingen's statement, as quoted by Rosenfeld, is hardly compelling: “Someone like Aoki is perfect to be in a Black Panther Party, because I understand he is Japanese. Hey, nobody is going to guess - he’s in the Black Panther Party; nobody is going to guess that he might be an informant.” But more logically, Aoki’s racial difference made him stand out and aroused suspicion. Are we asked to simply trust authority figures?

Fourth, Aoki’s remarks, as seen in the video, are open to multiple interpretations, and Aoki denies the allegation. Anyone familiar with Aoki knows that he spoke with wit, humor, allusion and caution. Where’s the conclusive evidence?

I don’t see enough evidence to draw a conclusion here, which is a shame because after Seth Rosenfeld’s announcement that Aoki was an informant, it appears that his accusation was accepted without question by numerous parties.

Filed under Aoki FBI Activism Socialism Black Panthers

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FBI informants seduce, bribe, and trick people into cooperating, then claim to have "thwarted" terror plots

Craig Monteilh says he did not balk when his FBI handlers gave him the OK to have sex with the Muslim women his undercover operation was targeting. Nor, at the time, did he shy away from recording their pillow talk.

"They said, if it would enhance the intelligence, go ahead and have sex. So I did," Monteilh told the Guardian as he described his year as a confidential FBI informant sent on a secret mission to infiltrate southern Californian mosques…

Monteilh was involved in one of the most controversial tactics: the use of “confidential informants” in so-called entrapment cases. This is when suspects carry out or plot fake terrorist “attacks” at the request or under the close supervision of an FBI undercover operation using secret informants. Often those informants have serious criminal records or are supplied with a financial motivation to net suspects.

In the case of the Newburgh Four – where four men were convicted for a fake terror attack on Jewish targets in the Bronx – a confidential informant offered $250,000, a free holiday and a car to one suspect for help with the attack.

Ask yourself: why is entrapment illegal? What qualities of entrapment make it immoral and dangerous for the government to be able to do, but do not fit this situation? There is no answer, because this is wrong for the exact same reason we don’t allow evidence acquired by entrapment to be admissible. Of course, with due process existing only in US history books, with war profiteering at an all time high, with the rule of law being subverted at every turn, most of the liberties and rights we held dear have been stripped of us.

Filed under War on Terror Entrapment law enforcement FBI civil rights civil liberties

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FBI lied in court after FOIA request

In 2005, a group of California Muslims called “The Shura Council of South California” took notice of the FBI’s racially discriminatory investigations and sued them. During the course of the lawsuit, they filed a request for some documents involved in the FBI’s investigation, using the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA for short. They got some documents, but the FBI said most of the documents didn’t exist (and redacted most of the information in the ones that did exist in the name of “National Security”.

Well, a few years later The Shura Council filed another FOIA request for the same documents- this time, the documents existed, but were still redacted. Here’s the smoking gun: the information redacted and the documents that the FBI falsely stated did not exist had nothing to do with national security. The FBI lied to the court about the documents, both by saying they didn’t exist and redacting non-sensitive information. EFF has more:

After court ordered the FBI to submit full versions of the records in camera, along with a new declaration about the agency’s search, the FBI revealed for the first time that it had materially and fundamentally mislead the court in its earlier filings. The unaltered versions of the documents showed that the information the agency had withheld as “outside the scope” was actually well within the scope of the plaintiffs’ FOIA request. The government also admitted it had a large number of additional responsive documents that it hadn’t told the plaintiffs or the court about. Id. at 7-8.

If these revelations weren’t bad enough, the FBI also argued FOIA allows it to mislead the court where it believes revealing information would “compromise national security.” Id. at 9. The FBI also argued, that “its initial representations to the Court were not technically false” because although the information might have been “factually” responsive to the plaintiffs’ FOIA request, it was “legally nonresponsive.” Id. at 9, n. 4 (emphasis added).

The court noted, this “argument is indefensible,” id. at 9-10, and held, “the FOIA does not permit the government to withhold responsive information from the court”… “The Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court.”

This is nothing new (the FBI has been deceiving the courts and public for years), but both the public admonition from the courts and the public revelation about the deception are both important steps in turning our FBI from a racially motivated group that disenfranchises poor minorities into an actual bureau of investigation.

Filed under FBI abuse of power lies deception Government Corruption

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FBI collecting and using information on non-criminal citizens through 'community outreach' programs

The FBI, in true Big Brother fashion, is secretly and deliberately collecting information about innocent Americans for its intelligence files, and illegally recording information about their speech, beliefs, and First Amendment-protected activities. This is bad enough. But to make it worse, the FBI is doing this intelligence collection through community outreach programs — programs that are supposed to build trust and rapport with the public — without telling community groups or their members what it is doing.

The proof is in the FBI’s own documents. Today, the ACLU issued our latest Eye on the FBI Alert as part of our Mapping the FBI campaign. The alert highlights FBI documents from San Francisco and Sacramento showing that the FBI issystematically storing in intelligence files memos containing the names, identifying information, and opinions of people who attend FBI outreach programs; the expressive activities of community groups; the names and positions of group leaders; and the racial, ethnic, and national origin of group members. A few examples:

  • After a 2008 meeting with a Pakistani community group, an FBI agent recorded the group leaders’ names and identified them with the First Amendment-protected activities of the group — and sent this information to an intelligence file.
  • After attending a Ramadan Iftar dinner in 2008, an FBI agent collected and documented individuals’ contact information and their First Amendment-protected opinions and associations, and “disseminated” this information “outside the FBI,” presumably to other law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

The FBI records described above and others also violate the Privacy Act, which prohibits the government from compiling records about individuals’ First Amendment-protected activities in federal databases, absent special circumstances that don’t exist here.

These protections exist for good reason. The Privacy Act was passed in 1974 in response to revelations that the FBI was engaged in pervasive and abusive data collection about people involved in peaceful civil rights and anti-war groups simply because of what they thought and believed, or the people with whom they associated. The FBI records we’ve identified open the door to this happening again. And Congress also expressly passed the Privacy Act to prevent government records about people that are obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for another without their consent. Yet, this is exactly what the FBI is doing now.

From an outside perspective, it looks like the FBI hasn’t changed significantly since it hounded MLK and ignored Southern lawmen in favor of Jim Crow opponents.

Filed under FBI communities crime