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How Big Brother who spied on blacks may spy on you.

The turbulent 1960s shaped a generation and so are still being played out in the 1990s. However, the 1990s also continue to shape the histories of decades past as we learn more of the massive government abuse and of the many ways U.S. government officials, in the name of "law and order," trashed constitutional and civil rights.

The hope, of course, is that today's revelation will steer us away from repeating past mistakes. With this in mind, we need to express gratitude to the Memphis, Tenn., Commercial Appeal for its investigation into decades of U.S. Army spying on African-Americans.

Among the revelations from the Appeal:

* Top secret, often illegal, intrusions into the lives of black Americans by the U.S. Army began more than 75 years ago and often focused on black churches in the South and on their ministers.

* The spying was born of a conviction by top Army intelligence officers "that black Americans were ripe for subversion -- first by agents of the German kaiser, then by communists, later by the Japanese and eventually by those opposed to the Vietnam War."

* As the civil rights movement merged with antiwar protests in the late 1960s, "some Army units began supplying sniper rifles and other weapons of war to civilian police departments."

* The Army's intelligence system "was keenly focused on [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] and desperately searching for a way to stop him." The Army portrayed King's plans for a "Poor People's march on Washington in 1967 as "a devastating civil disturbance whose sole purpose is to shut down the United States government." He was viewed as "a Negro who repeatedly has preached the message of Hanoi and Peking."

* Army spying on civilians expanded in the 1960s because the FBI and local police forces, in the Army's eyes, were found unreliable.

Remember, it can happen here; it did.
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Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 30, 1993
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