Friday, October 14, 2016

the last book I ever read (Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, excerpt two)

from Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson:

Rockefeller’s men were not the only ones interested in monitoring the response of grassroots and civil rights organizations to the Attica uprising. So was the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In fact, it was remarkable that federal agencies were so involved in what was happening in this one state prison in the middle of rural New York. Immediately, the FBI stepped up its already extensive surveillance of groups suspected to be sympathetic to prisoners and leaned on its informants in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco to gather information on the Attica rebels. Even more astoundingly, whatever intelligence the FBI gathered, credible or not, was then relayed to authorities at the highest levels of the United States government, including President Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, and U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell, as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Air Force, the Naval Investigative Service, the Secret Service, and the National Security Agency. The Albany office of the FBI alerted other bureau directors that Rockefeller’s right-hand man, Robert Douglass, also wanted to be kept apprised of any “information bearing on the Attica situation” that they gleaned from their “extremist informants.”

Troublingly, the various reports disseminated by the FBI were often misleading if not outright inaccurate. In one teletype sent to the director of the Domestic Intelligence Division of the FBI, as well as to the White House and the U.S. attorney general, at 11:58 p.m. on September 9, the Buffalo office reported that during the riot “the white were reportedly forced into the yard area by the blacks” and Black Power militants there were rounding up not just employee hostages but also all white prisoners, which was misleading in that it suggested a race riot was unfolding. More inflammatory still, the FBI’s Buffalo office stated that the prisoners “have threatened to kill one guard for every shot fired [at them]”; that they “have threatened to kill all hostages unless demands are met”; and that all of the hostages “are being made to stand at attention” out in D Yard. None of this proved to be the case.

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