Paul DeRienzo (by way of (MediaFilter)) on Sat, 28 Jun 1997 07:24:13 +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 Investigation.

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

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

Gunderson told the SHADOW that it was at an
October 16, 1986 demonstration called
"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 anarchism."

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

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

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

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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