COINTELPRO and the
--An Interview with Michael Richardson
In 2007, veteran journalist Michael Richardson began writing a series of articles for OpEdNews.com about Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, who are two Black Panther political prisoners known as the Omaha Two.
Illustrating this program’s intent, a March 3, 1968 COINTELPRO memo discussed the need to stop "the beginning of a true black revolution," and to "prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement… Through counterintelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them." Another stated goal was "to prevent the long-range growth of militant black nationalist organizations, especially among youth. Specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed." One specific tactical approach was expressed in an April 3, 1968 communiqué arguing that "The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries."
In terms of scale, the FBI's war of repression against the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s was greatest against the Black Panthers. Many Panthers, like
In addressing why the Panthers were targeted so intensely by COINTELPRO, Noam Chomsky wrote in 1973: "A top secret Special Report for the president in June 1970 gives some insight into the motivations for the actions undertaken by the government to destroy the Black Panther Party. The report describes the party as 'the most active and dangerous black extremist group in the
Michael Richardson is now working on a book about the Omaha Two and an archive of his definitive OpEdNews.com series about the case is available here. This year, he began a new series of articles at Examiner.com, exploring the broader history of COINTELPRO, along with a continued focus on the Omaha Two, viewable here.
Ed Poindexter today.
(Photo by Michael Richardson)
Mondo we Langa today.
(Photo by Michael Richardson)
Michael Richardson: Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) were two leaders of the Black Panther affiliate chapter in
A3N: As a journalist at the time, how did you first react to news of their arrests?
MR: I didn’t know Poindexter, but Mondo, then called David, was a friend of mine I met at Omaha City Council meetings. I knew Mondo was the sharpest critic of
My first published article was a report on the trial that appeared in the Omaha Star, but it only reported the surface story as the true facts of the case remained hidden.
Over the years I have wondered if Mondo was guilty, as there seemed to be so much evidence of his involvement. Finally, after over 35 years of doubt I began corresponding with Mondo and started research on the case. I reviewed portions of the voluminous court file, interviewed people familiar with the case including the two current attorneys, read old newspaper accounts, studied formerly secret COINTELPRO files, and visited with both men at the prison where they are held.
I am now convinced Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa did not get a fair trial and were framed by overzealous police and prosecutors who ended up letting the real killers get away to put the Panther leaders in jail.
A3N: Can you briefly explain the charges against the
MR: On August 17, 1970, an anonymous 911 caller reported a woman screaming at a vacant house. Police arrived to an ambush instead, in which 29 year-old Officer Larry Minard was killed. A recording of the killer’s voice was sent to the FBI crime laboratory for analysis but before Minard was even buried, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had ordered the crime lab to withhold a report on the tape.
A 15 year-old,
Dynamite was allegedly found in Mondo’s basement only to have two different detectives both claim they were each the one that found the explosives.
The 911 tape was withheld from the jury. The conflicting police dynamite testimony was also unknown to the jury, as was the deal that allowed Peak his freedom. The jury was never informed that the defendants were COINTELPRO targets.
After five days of deliberation, the jury convicted Ed and Mondo of murder but spared their lives from the electric chair. The two men have been in prison ever since.
A3N: Can you please explain what COINTELPRO was? How do the
MR: Operation COINTELRO was a vast, illegal campaign by the FBI in the 60’s and 70’s to “disrupt” domestic political activity that J. Edgar Hoover deemed dangerous. The clandestine program was national in scope, targeted thousands of individuals and groups and broke a number of laws dwarfing Watergate in magnitude.
The Black Panthers were the primary target of
Poindexter had been the subject of a secret FBI smear campaign with forged letters and anonymous phone calls while Mondo was targeted for an ambush while distributing Black Panther newspapers. It was the death of Minard, however, that gave the FBI an opportunity to put the Omaha Two behind bars.
At the time of the trial, the jury had no idea that COINTELPRO manipulation of evidence had occurred. The secret program was officially disbanded a week after the trial ended making Ed and Mondo the last COINTELPRO victims.
The COINTELPRO withholding of evidence did not surface until years later following Freedom of Information requests for COINTELPRO documents.
A3N: Have all the COINTELPRO documents been released?
MR: No. Key documents identifying informants and providing evidentiary details have been destroyed, withheld, or remain heavily redacted.
In the mid 70’s when the Church Committee of the U.S. Senate investigated COINTELPRO, much of the
Five different members of the Omaha Police Department ended up making perjured or false statements about the case in court proceedings, to the media, and in congressional testimony.
No official or agent of the FBI ever was publicly disciplined for the COINTELPRO misconduct in the
A3N: What are the
MR: Both Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa have habeas corpus petitions pending in the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and petitions for hearings pending in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska.
Both appeals address the conflicting police testimony on dynamite and new scientific testing of the 911 tape that establishes
Poindexter asked the
A3N: How has the mainstream media done with reporting on the
MR: Poorly. The national media has largely ignored the case and the regional media has failed to explore the COINTELPRO aspect of the prosecution. Almost all
Racism and the stigma against the Black Panthers is partially to blame, while COINTELPRO media manipulation was another factor in early reporting on the case. Why the media continues to ignore this important case today is a mystery to me.
A3N: What upcoming articles are you working on?
MR: Now that internet newspaper Examiner.com has named me the COINTELPRO Examiner, the opportunity to report on the Omaha Two is part of my beat. I intend on revisiting, in serial form, the long convoluted history of the case as well as report on current developments.
My research on the FBI and COINTELPRO has led me to understand that Ed and Mondo are not alone and that each COINTELPRO conviction needs a fresh new look. COINTELPRO was the largest, most systematic attack on our legal system in
A3N: Having written about the Angola 3, why do you think their case is important?
MR: Any case coming out of the 1970’s involving the Black Panthers is important because of the COINTELPRO abuses. The
The severity of the punishment, decades in solitary confinement, calls out for review and is itself an injustice.
A3N: Any closing thoughts?
MR: Larry Minard, the father of five young children, was buried on what would have been his 30th birthday. He was a police officer responding to the call of a woman screaming. Larry Minard’s killers walk free today.
The named supplier of the dynamite, a suspected police informant, was never charged with the crime and only spent one night in jail.
The anonymous 911 caller was not properly identified and has never been charged in the case.
J. Edgar Hoover let the killer of Larry Minard, the 911 caller, go free to make a case against the Omaha Two.
Justice has not been done in
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