A limited series podcast that does a deep dive into the history of FBI spying on protest movements and activists. Hosted by Defending Rights & Dissent policy director Chip Gibbons.
Our Story: Frank Wilkinson, the FBI, and the Origins of Defending Rights & Dissent
In our final episode, we explore the Defending Rights & Dissent’s own origins. Frank Wilkinson was a public housing advocate who was working on an integrated public housing project in Chavez Ravine, The FBI and HUAC working together, hounded him out of a job and Chavez Ravine became Dodgers Stadium as opposed to public housing. Frank went on to found an anti-HUAC, pro-civil liberties organization that would eventually become Defending Rights & Dissent. The FBI was less than thrilled with his career change.
To recount this history, host Chip Gibbons is joined by Kit Gage, the former director of the organization Frank founded and to which Defending Rights & Dissent traces its origins.
The Bureaucratic Heart of McCarthyism feat. Ellen Schrecker
The Second Red Scare may have been named after the demagogic Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, but no one was more central to it than J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Host Chip Gibbons is joined by renowned historian Ellen Schrecker to discuss what McCarthyism was, how the FBI was central to it, and why if “observers known in the 1950s what they learned since the 1970s when Freedom of Information Act opened the Bureau's files, 'McCarthyism' would probably have been called 'Hooverism.'”
Spying on Muslim & Arab Americans feat. Abdeen Jabara
Since 9/11, the FBI has subjected the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities to surveillance. Sending infiltrators and confidential informants into mosques and other community spaces absent any evidence of criminal wronging, it’s clear that for the FBI race, religion, and national origin are inherently suspicious in the War on Terror. However, the FBI’s history of targeting Muslim and Arab Americans goes back long before 9/11. As early as 1972, Richard Nixon had ordered mass surveillance of Arab Americans as part of “Operation Boulder.” To discuss this history, host Chip Gibbons is joined by Abdeen Jabara, a longtime civil rights attorney, past president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination,and former board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Jabara not only fought against surveillance and discrimination on behalf of others, he himself was spied on by the FBI and the NSA.
The FBI v. The Young Lords feat. Prof. Johanna Fernández
The Young Lords were a political organization led predominantly by poor and working-class Puerto Rican youth. They emerged as part of the larger New Left, but as advocates of Puerto Rican independence they were part of a much older lineage of resistance.
In the first segment, host Chip Gibbons discusses the history of FBI repression against both the New Left and the Puerto Rican independence movement. He is then joined by Prof. Johanna Fernández of Baruch College of the City University of New York who authored the book The Young Lords: A Radical History. While working on the book, she successfully fought to have the NYPD’s “Red Squad” files released.
The FBI's Man Inside the Klan feat. Mary Stanton
The FBI was ruthless in its pursuit of civil rights activists. At the same time, the Ku Klux Klan was engaged in a reign of terror. How did the FBI's attitude towards those fighting nonviolently for racial justice compare to its attitude towards those who wished to violently stop them? In this episode, we explore the career of the FBI's controversial Klan informant Gary Rowe. Rowe's identity was revealed after he was present when Klan members murdered civil rights activists Viola Liuzzo. How involved was really in her death and what other acts of violence may Rowe have been involved? To explore this, we talk to Mary Stanton a historian of social justice movements in the South and biographer of Liuzzo.
Exposing FBI Surveillance Today featuring Alice Speri
The FBI is still spying on dissent. But how do we know what they’re up to? On this episode, Alice Speri of The Intercept talks about the importance of the Freedom of Information Act and whistleblowers to journalists reporting on FBI surveillance. She also discusses the case of Terry Albury, an FBI whistleblower who was prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
Great historical context
I always look forward to Chip’s “Chip Chat” segments on the District Sentinel podcast, with his reports on the latest abuses of the US surveillance state.
The episodes here so far give a broader historical view, disproving the notion that this is an aberration, either unique to Trump or post-9/11 America.
The episode with professor Gerald Horne in particular was a joy to listen to; much wider-ranging than other interviews the prof has given recently.