Omaha Two story: Dec. 10, 1969
After the killing of Illinois Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 4th in Chicago in a pre-dawn raid, J. Edgar Hoover grew impatient with less effective measures to destroy the Black Panthers.
Before a week had passed since Hampton’s death, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a COINTELPRO memo to Paul Young, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Omaha FBI office complaining about a lack of action against the Black Panthers.
COINTELPRO was a secret, illegal operation that targeted political activists for counter-intelligence measures ordered by Hoover. The Black Panthers were Hoover’s primary target and considerable resources of the Bureau were used in the clandestine operation.
On December 10, 1969, Hoover sent Young a critical memorandum. Hoover wrote, “You stated…the United Front Against Fascism (UFAF), the successor to the Black Panther Party (BPP) in Omaha, is composed of approximately eight to twelve members, and their only activities have been to sell “The Black Panther”, BPP newspaper, and publication of a UFAF newsletter.”
Hoover continued: “While the activities appear to be limited in the Omaha area, it does not follow that effective counterintelligence measures cannot be taken. As long as there are BPP activities, you should be giving consideration that type of counterintelligence measure which would best disrupt existing activities. It would appear that some type of counterintelligence aimed at the distribution and publication of their literature would be in order.”
The FBI director told the Omaha office to target the leaders of the UFAF for counter-intelligence action. Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, then David Rice, had stepped up to lead the affiliate Black Panther chapter in the Nebraska city and were now the focus of Hoover’s attention.
Hoover wrote to the Special Agent-in-Charge: “It is also assumed that of eight to twelve members, one or two must certainly be in a position of leadership. You should give consideration to counterintelligence measures directed against these leaders in an effort to weaken or destroy their positions. Bureau has noted you have not submitted any concrete counterintelligence proposals in recent months. Evaluate your approach to this program and insure that it is given the imaginative attention necessary to produce effective results. Handle promptly and submit your proposals to the Bureau for approval.”
Paul Young got the message. Young replied to Hoover within days by registered mail promising to go after the UFAF newsletter and the leaders of the Omaha chapter. Young wrote to Hoover, “In addition to this information, indications are that the UFAF is planning to start a liberation school at its headquarters in Omaha in the near future.”
Young continued: “In response to the referenced Bureau letter, the identities of the UFAF leadership are known to the Omaha office. Omaha is presently giving consideration to some type of counter-intelligence activity aimed at disruption of the UFAF newsletter or its distribution and counter-intelligence measures directed against the leaders of this organization.”
Young said: “Close attention will be afforded this matter in order to produce effective results. Proposals for counter-intelligence activity will be submitted to the Bureau by appropriate communications in the very near future.”
While Paul Young scrambled to hatch a plot against the United Front Against Fascism in Omaha to please J. Edgar Hoover, other FBI offices around the country were in competition to curry Hoover’s favor with aggressive COINTELPRO actions. In January 1970, the San Diego FBI office would claim credit for instigating “shootings, beatings, and a high degree of unrest” within the Black Panthers. The San Francisco FBI office was one of the busiest in the country because the Panthers were headquartered in the Bay area counter-intelligence proposals were regularly sent to FBI headquarters. Field offices that were not producing results against the Black Panthers stood out against those with active COINTELPRO campaigns.
Paul Young knew he had to deliver results to Hoover or face the consequences for inaction.
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were faced with more local problems of building a chapter without many resources and under constant pressure from the Omaha police, leery of another outbreak of rioting in the Midwestern city that was rocked with rioting three times within three years.
Hoover’s directive to Young to be “imaginative” put the local FBI office hard at work scheming against the Omaha Two. A tragic event the following summer would give Young the opportunity to act.
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