Why J. Edgar Hoover Was Right to Spy on Martin Luther King, Jr.

New revelations from secret FBI files show that the civil rights icon had the morals of a goat – and that he had a troubling relationship with Kremlin agents.

Few stories are guaranteed to get liberals in a greater lather than the 1960s surveillance of Martin Luther King, Jr. by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That the FBI, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover – the notorious micromanager who was possibly gay and maybe even partly black himself – conducted years of secret surveillance on the civil rights icon has been a sore point with progressives for decades.

What the Bureau reputedly discovered about King, especially his extramarital activities with a string of lovers, hardly seemed to comport with the clergyman’s saintly public image. Neither was it exactly a secret that MLK’s private life verged on the sordid, since members of the martyred minister’s inner circle have previously gone on record about his weakness for women.

Nevertheless, what David Garrow published this week has produced great gnashing of teeth, not least because the author is an esteemed left-liberal historian and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for a celebrated biography of King. If Professor Garrow has an ideological motive, it’s hardly anti-King, which only makes his findings more painful.

First, let it be noted that Garrow ran his explosive piece in Standpoint, a center-right British magazine, after it was turned down by several mainstream media outlets which didn’t want to touch a story this hot. And hot indeed it is, including details of King’s cavorting with north of 40 women not his wife, as well as seductions of parishioners, full-blown orgies, plus an apparent illegitimate daughter. Worst of all, King reportedly watched and cracked jokes while witnessing the rape of a church-going lady by a friend and fellow man of the cloth. In any age this is shocking stuff, and never more than in the #MeToo era.

Garrow uncovered this unpleasant account in FBI files while diligently researching in the National Archives. In 1977, a Federal court ordered the Bureau’s wiretap recordings of King to be held under seal for 50 years, but some transcripts, once classified, wound up in the archives, thanks to post-Cold War declassifications, where Garrow found them while digging in the files – something which previous historians failed to do.

There can be no doubt of their authenticity. Garrow’s opponents are now coming out of the woodwork and smearing him for telling unpalatable truths, attempting to cast doubt on the archives. The notion that veteran FBI agents would fabricate secret wiretap transcripts which they knew were likely to wind up on the desk of the obsessively detailed-oriented Mr. Hoover is patently absurd.

While King’s revolting sexual conduct is getting all the media attention, that’s not the important part of this story, historically speaking. Garrow’s report includes details about the FBI’s infamous Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which in the 1960s and early 1970s surveilled and employed dirty tricks against radical groups which Hoover assessed as threats to national security. These FBI operations against student radicals and various minority groups like the Black Panthers have generated a great deal of polemical literature. That COINTELPRO’s greatest success was breaking the back of the Ku Klux Klan is less frequently noted.

The FBI has long been criticized for surveilling King, who over the half-century since his assassination has become a secular saint complete with his own Federal holiday (an honor bestowed on no other American). On the Left, it’s an article of faith that Hoover’s motivation for spying on MLK was prejudice, even racism, pure and simple.

Garrow’s account makes clear that was not the case. Hoover’s reason for ordering the Bureau to closely watch King beginning in 1963 was fear of Kremlin influence on the civil rights leader. The essence of this story has been known for decades. Hoover worried about Stanley Levison, a left-wing attorney who entered King’s orbit in late 1956, quickly becoming MLK’s closest confidant. Levison served as all-purpose consigliere to King and authored some of the civil rights leader’s most famous speeches.

Hoover fretted about the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) infiltrating the civil rights movement, particularly because the FBI knew that the party had secret members, known only to CPUSA leadership, who were employed to clandestinely influence non-communist groups. Worse, the Bureau knew that Stanley Levison was one such secret CPUSA member.

They knew this thanks to Jack and Morris Childs, two brothers who joined the party as youths and rose high up, including serving as Soviet spies (any line between the CPUSA and Soviet intelligence existed in theory, not in fact). However, by the 1950s the Childs brothers had flipped and become FBI moles inside the party, passing the Bureau reams of information about the CPUSA’s inner workings as the cornerstone of Operation SOLO, which became one of the FBI’s great Cold War successes.

The Childs told the FBI about Levison’s secret party ties, so the Bureau began watching Levison. They discovered that he was meeting with Viktor Lesiovsky, a Soviet diplomat assigned to the United Nations in New York, who rose to become special assistant to the UN secretary general, but the FBI knew that Lesiovsky was really a KGB officer.

This rang enough alarm bells within the Bureau that Hoover informed President John F. Kennedy about counterintelligence concerns regarding King’s inner circle; these concerns were endorsed by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the president’s brother. This led to a White House meeting on June 22, 1963, during which the president asked King to sever ties with Levison, whom Kennedy termed a “Kremlin agent.” This was the very height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union nearly had a nuclear war between each other a few months before, yet King ultimately refused to part with Levison, who remained MLK’s top adviser until his assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. It was King’s unwillingness to cut ties with Levison which led Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to authorize full FBI surveillance of the civil rights leader shortly before President Kennedy’s own assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Garrow adds important detail to this story, including the fact that the FBI was aware of Levison’s role as a major CPUSA bagman. Between 1957 and 1962, Bureau files reveal, Levison gave the party an astonishing $76,500 ($650,000 in 2019). Since Levison was not a wealthy man, this funding can be assumed to have come from the Kremlin in some fashion, since communist parties overseas were funded by the KGB through various clandestine methods.

More troubling still is Garrow’s revelation from FBI files that Levison gifted his new friend King with $10,000 in cash during 1957-58, an amount equivalent to $87,000 today. The Bureau learned of this donation from the IRS, leading Hoover to exasperation. Given Levison’s Kremlin connections, there is reasonable suspicion that this cash came from the KGB too. Which makes the FBI’s apparent failure to inform the White House about Levison’s role as CPUSA bagman, including payments to King, rather difficult to explain.

Garrow concludes his piece with the assessment that what he learned from FBI files about King “poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive review possible.” Given the vituperative criticism that Garrow has gotten for publishing his findings, there’s no reason to think that historians and journalists will be eager to dig deeper into the archives about King’s secret life. However, Garrow makes clear that J. Edgar Hoover was right to have grave counterintelligence concerns about the civil rights leader and his secret connections to the Soviet Union. Given high public interest in the clandestine role of Moscow’s spies in American politics, thanks to Donald J. Trump, the role of Stanley Levison, a known Kremlin agent, in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inner circle now merits dispassionate examination by experts, not partisans.


We Need to Stop Operation PERSIAN FREEDOM—And We Need to Stop It Right Now

Dodgy intelligence supports ramping up for war against a troublesome four-letter Middle Eastern country starting with ‘I’—what could possibly go wrong? If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, it’s because you have.

Today, Tehran announced its partial withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama’s diplomatic crown jewel. President Hassan Rouhani went on television to explain his country’s intent to back away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), faulting “hardliners” in the United States for the deal’s implosion.

Of course, Rouhani’s right here. President Donald Trump, despite warnings from our European allies, pulled America out of JCPOA already, denouncing it as “a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever have been made.” His administration then upped the ante by announcing its intent to destroy Iran’s already sanctions-hobbled economy by blocking Iranian oil sales abroad. This move is viewed as tantamount to a U.S. declaration of war by the mullah regime, while Americans ought to ponder just how much FDR moderated Japanese aggression with his oil embargo on Tokyo in August 1941.

Read the rest at The Observer …

The Full Story of Trump’s Russia Ties Will Come Out—But It’ll Take Time

The big problem with getting to the bottom of President Donald Trump’s Kremlin ties isn’t just secrecy and classification—it’s that practically nobody in Washington wants to know the messy and complex truth.

You need to shut up about what you can’t talk about, as Ludwig Wittgenstein memorably put it. It sounds more meticulous in the philosopher’s original German (Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen), but the point is the same: Some things just aren’t fit to be uttered in polite company.

Espionage is one of those things. The public likes the movie version of spying—fast cars, beguiling beauties and baccarat—but not the real-life kind, which bears no resemblance to the film version. Espionage in the real world is messy and difficult. Knowing who in Washington is in bed with foreign intelligence services can be unsettling. Counterintelligence is not a job for the faint-hearted, or anyone who likes justice dispensed quickly.

Read the rest at The Observer …

The fall of Paul John Manafort Jr.

Today was supposed to be the big, final day in court for Paul John Manafort Jr., the once-flamboyant political maven and ostrich jacket-wearer turned convicted felon. For decades a controversial character in our nation’s capital, Manafort capped his career in politics as campaign manager for Donald J. Trump from March to August of 2016, the pivotal period when MAGA exploded and Trump seized the GOP’s nomination against the hopes and expectations of Republican elites. The rest, we know.

That capstone would prove to be Manafort’s downfall. It’s not like there weren’t portents of a grim ending ahead. Nobody had recently considered Manafort to be any sort of Republican A-lister. His last major campaign before Trump’s was Sen. Bob Dole’s doomed 1996 effort against President Bill Clinton. In Washington, DC, Manafort the lobbyist was known for his unsavory client list, which included various Third World strongmen, Pakistan’s sinister Inter-Service Intelligence, and several Eastern oligarchs. You went to Manafort not because you needed a lobbyist, but because nobody else in DC would take your call.

It all came crashing down in mid-August 2016, when the media noticed that Manafort’s Eastern factotum, Konstantin Kilimnik, who played a multipurpose role as translator, buddy, and all-around fixer, was formerly an officer of Russian military intelligence – that is, GRU. Robert S. Mueller, III, and his investigation of the Trump campaign later indicated that there was nothing ‘former’ about Kilimnik’s GRU affiliation.

Read the rest at The Spectator USA …

North Korea humiliates Trump before the world

No diplomats anywhere enjoy dealing with North Korea. Pyongyang is difficult, indeed obstreperous at the best of times, while the Kim dynasty and its emissaries are notorious worldwide for their aggressive and undiplomatic trash-talking when they are displeased. Which they frequently are.

Donald Trump’s quixotic effort to make nice with the world’s strangest regime was therefore always a long shot, while his desire to denuclearize North Korea in exchange for diplomatic normalization and economic development was based in what can be kindly called fantasy thinking.

That has just been made painfully evident in Hanoi, where the much-ballyhooed second summit between President Trump and the North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un fell apart with no deal of any kind. After investing a considerable amount of his personal prestige, and that of the United States, in building a relationship with Kim, Trump is flying back to Washington, DC, with nothing. His reality-TV-based notion of how to solve intractable diplomatic problems has been revealed as just another Trumpian sham, alongside Don’s vodka, his steaks, and his ‘university’.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

Who—or What—Was the FBI’s Mole at the Heart of the Trump Campaign?

Feds claim vaguely to know a lot about President Donald Trump’s secret Kremlin ties. What’s behind the spy mystery here? How much does the FBI know and how does it know it? At last, we have more than hints.

Ignominiously firing Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, on January 29, 2018, just 26 hours shy of his retirement, was one of Donald Trump’s more consequential missteps. Kicking the career G-Man out of the Bureau a day short of his pension guaranteed that McCabe would seek payback, and he has gotten it mightily.

McCabe’s memoir, out this month, has shot to the top of bestseller lists, thanks in part to President Trump’s public berating of the author. As is his custom, Trump’s hysterical tweets about the book have significantly boosted sales. Most recently, Trump’s insult that McCabe is a “poor man’s J. Edgar Hoover” got the reply, “I don’t even know what that means.” Really, none of us do at this point.

Trump seems unhinged by all the publicity McCabe’s been getting on his book tour, while the former FBI bigwig’s comments can’t sit well at the White House. McCabe has made clear that the Bureau investigated the president’s Kremlin connections because Trump so frequently parroted Russian propaganda in the Oval Office. In slightly more guarded language, McCabe stated, “I think it’s possible” when asked point-blank if President Trump might be an asset of Russian intelligence.

Read the rest at The Observer …


Trust me I’m a Russia hawk – the Democrats are going too far

If only President Richard Nixon could go to China, per the hoary Beltway cliché, perhaps only yours truly could write this column. Longer than just about anybody, I’ve warned the public about the threat to Western democracy posed by Vladimir Putin’s aggressive spies and weaponized lies.

As a counterintelligence officer for the National Security Agency, I was combating Russian propaganda, what they call Active Measures, two decades ago. When the NSA contractor Edward Snowden defected to Moscow in June 2013, I called him out as the Kremlin agent he is – as the Kremlin subsequently admitted – which won me few friends among the great and the good. Over the past six years, I’ve explained how Russian intelligence operations work in the real world, based on my professional experience, to any audience that will listen.

Now, however, it’s time to apply the brakes. While I will never cease denouncing Russian spy games that threaten the West, it’s past due to differentiate serious counterintelligence work from politically motivated hackery. Simply put, Russian clandestine support to Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the subject which Robert Mueller’s investigators are unraveling, has become nothing short of an obsession for many of President Trump’s political opponents.

Read the rest at Spectator USA…

Wokeness eats the Virginia Democrats

If there’s one word which symbolizes American progressivism in 2019 it’s wokeness. Asking what it means constitutes proof that one is not woke. Although wokeness can best be viewed as the pop-cult wing of the late-Marxist heresy called intersectionality by academics, it’s really more a cultivated posture than a coherent political program.

The challenge with wokeness is its fluidity. Its arbiters exist mainly on social media as an unelected Politburo of sorts, and their edicts can change without formal notice. What was sufficiently woke yesterday may not be deemed so today, with real-world costs for those eager to stay on the vaunted right side of history.

For politicians the hazards are real, as Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Democratic governor, discovered last week. No national figure until a few days ago, Northam burst to stardom on Wednesday when he gave an interview in which he discussed a bill before the Virginia legislature which proposes to ease access to third-trimester abortions. A pediatric neurologist by trade, Northam’s comments were a tad too clinical for some, and controversy ensued. While the Woke Brigade hailed Northam as a hero, many on the Right believed the governor had endorsed infanticide.

Read the rest at Spectator USA…

Inside the Spy Scandal at the Heart of Jeff Bezos’ War With the National Enquirer

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos rocked American politics yesterday by exposing an effort by his nemesis American Media Inc., publisher of The National Enquirer, to blackmail the multibillionaire mogul. By publicly taking on the country’s most notorious scandal sheet, Bezos opened the door to an espionage scandal that threatens to rock the nation’s capital and beyond.

Posting salacious accusations of criminality on the web is no routine matter, especially when it’s the world’s wealthiest man doing it, but that’s just what Bezos did by explaining that AMI  attempted to coerce him into stopping his investigation into The National Enquirer’s activities.

This sordid saga burst into public view last month, when The National Enquirer published a salacious account of Bezos’ extramarital affair, complete with images of private text messages of an amorous nature between the Amazon CEO and his mistress. Bezos and his wife of 25 years soon announced their intent to divorce.

Not surprisingly, Bezos wanted to know how AMI got hold of his private messages, and when you’re worth upwards of $130 billion you can hire top-notch investigators. That’s when things got interesting. The National Enquirer isn’t accustomed to being in the hot-seat when it comes to having secrets exposed, since their business model is based on being the exposer, not the one being exposed. AMI, whose acquaintance with journalistic ethics can charitably be termed fleeting, has secrets to hide in this high-profile case.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Donald Trump, the Kremlin and the ghost of Alger Hiss

Judging from the weekend’s ‘modern presidential’ tweets – always a decent metric of Donald Trump’s mood swings – the Special Counsel investigation into his Russian links is weighing heavily on our 45th president.

And no wonder. New reports indicate that Donald J. Trump may be in a lot hotter water than his MAGA legions want to believe. According to the New York Times, the FBI in the opening months of Trump’s administration opened a counterintelligence investigation into the new president to assess whether he is a pawn of the Kremlin, wittingly or otherwise.

Then the Washington Post reported that President Trump concealed the content of his one-on-one discussions with his Russian counterpart, even from senior administration officials and the US intelligence community. Whatever he and Vladimir Putin discussed is something President Trump doesn’t want known, even in classified channels of the government he heads. Calling this abnormal is being very charitable.

Airing of these troubling matters flummoxed the president, and during a softball interview with Fox News – whose nightly talkers fulfill a role in Trump’s Washington roughly analogous to KCNA’s in Pyongyang – Trump waffled a straight-up query, ‘Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia?’ The president replied in his customary word-salad fashion how ‘insulted’ he was by the Times’sreport, never answering the up-or-down question.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …