FBI Laboratory Director Ivan Conrad withheld report on policeman’s murder

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FBI Laboratory Director Ivan Willard Conrad participated in COINTELPRO misdeeds (credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

The August 17, 1970 bomb murder of Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard was blamed on the Black Panthers. Two leaders of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, Edward Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) were convicted at a controversial trial marred by withheld evidence. Targets of a clandestine counterintelligence program code-named COINTELPRO, the two men were marked by J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for elimination. The day of Minard’s death, Special Agent in Charge Paul Young put in motion an internal FBI conspiracy to blame the crime on the two Panther leaders.

At FBI headquarters, William Bradley, a supervisor in the Administrative Division, sent a memorandum to Ivan Willard Conrad, the director of the the FBI Laboratory. Young’s plan required the cooperation of the lab to withhold a report on the identity of an anonymous 911 caller that lured Minard to his death.

“Omaha Office has advised that the Omaha Police Department has requested laboratory assistance in connection with a bombing which took place in Omaha 8/17/70. This bombing resulted in the death of one police officer and the injuring of six other officers and is apparently directly connected with a series of racial bombings which the Omaha Police have experienced. The Police were lured to the bomb site by a telephonic distress call from an unknown male.”

“[Glen Gates] of the Omaha Police has requested [REDACTED]”

“The SAC, Omaha strongly recommends that the examination requested by the Omaha Police Department be conducted.”

“If approved, the results of any examinations will be orally furnished the Police on an informal basis through the SAC, Omaha.”

A handwritten, initialed notation by Conrad stated, “Dir advised telephonically & said OK to do.”

J. Edgar Hoover was still on vacation when Conrad called Hoover by phone for instructions. Hoover conducted limited FBI business while on vacation and was only called on important matters, however Conrad understood the significance of letting a policeman’s killer get away with murder necessitated making the call.

In Washington, William Bradley sent a second memorandum to Ivan Willard Conrad at the FBI Laboratory about the Minard murder. “In referenced memorandum [8/19/70], the Director approved a request to assist the Omaha Police Department in captioned case through the use of [voice comparison examinations by the Laboratory.]”

“By telephonic communication 8/21/70, the SAC, Omaha has requested that a Laboratory Supervisor travel to Omaha for the purpose of furnishing technical guidance to the Omaha Police concerning the correct techniques in obtaining known [voice samples for comparison purposes and make recommendations as to what commercially available equipment can be used in making known voice recordings.]”

“[No Bureau equipment will be used in connection with obtaining the known voice recording samples.]”

“The SAC, Omaha, noted that he had been instructed by the Bureau to suggest steps of possible assistance to the Omaha Police in solving the bombings. He advised technical guidance of the type requested would provide maximum immediate assistance, particularly since the [existing recording of the false “bait” complaint to the police is the most important present tangible evidence in the possession of the police], and he recommended the Bureau send a Laboratory representative.”

“RECOMMENDATION: That a Laboratory Supervisor travel to Omaha and furnish the Omaha Police with technical guidance in [obtaining known voice samples for comparison purposes.]”

At the end of August, J. Edgar Hoover sent the Los Angeles FBI office the altered diary of a Progressive Labor Party officer to use in falsely identifying the individual as a government informant. Hoover outlined the action with a memorandum. “Laboratory was requested to make forged entries in the diary. These entries were phone numbers at Army and Secret Service, which when called would identify the agency. Other notations in the diary indicate that [REDACTED] has been furnishing information to these agencies. He would thusly be branded as an informant….Documents Section of the Laboratory Division was authorized to make the necessary alterations to above diary, following which LA Office authorized to anonymously mail the altered diary to PLP headquarters in NYC.”

At the end of August, J. Edgar Hoover sent the Los Angeles FBI office the altered diary of a Progressive Labor Party officer to use in falsely identifying the individual as a government informant. Hoover outlined the action with a memorandum. “Laboratory was requested to make forged entries in the diary. These entries were phone numbers at Army and Secret Service, which when called would identify the agency. Other notations in the diary indicate that [REDACTED] has been furnishing information to these agencies. He would thusly be branded as an informant….Documents Section of the Laboratory Division was authorized to make the necessary alterations to above diary, following which LA Office authorized to anonymously mail the altered diary to PLP headquarters in NYC.”

Hoover’s use of the FBI Laboratory in COINTELPRO and other counterintelligence operations with falsified documents and fixed results compromised what was boasted to be the world’s best forensic laboratory. When Hoover told Ivan Conrad to withhold a report on the identity of the 911 caller in the Minard case or forge a diary entry against a Progressive Labor Party leader Hoover betrayed his own claims of objectivity and scientific integrity by the laboratory. The record of FBI Laboratory misdeeds spans decades and extended beyond the termination of the COINTELPRO program. Conrad cast a long shadow over the laboratory.

Conrad’s direction of the FBI Laboratory led to mediocre work, sloppy science, and false reports. The mismanagement of the laboratory and participation in COINTELPRO assignments did not become known to the public until after Conrad’s retirement departure.

False forensic testimony by Special Agent Thomas Curran in a 1974 murder trial and other complaints finally led to a review of the FBI Laboratory’s procedures. Although an investigation by Special Agent Jay Cochran was focused on the work of Curran, the picture of a substandard laboratory emerged.

In 1976, after Ivan Conrad’s retirement, the Washington Post reported on a Justice Department investigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Conrad was found in possession of Bureau electronic equipment after a search of his McLean, Virginia home. The search yielded two station wagon loads of technical lab equipment.

Unnamed sources said that Conrad declared the equipment surplus so he could take it home where he reconditioned it before reselling the gadgets. Conrad was only a part of a “far-ranging probe of allegations of financial misconduct by FBI executives in the years preceding and immediately following Hoover’s death in May, 1972.”

The Justice Department investigation was triggered by charges made in 1975 to the House Intelligence Committee in a hearing about the U.S Recording Company and its large price mark-ups on FBI purchases. In 1978, the Department of Justice issued a formal report on the United States Recording Company scandal that included Conrad. According to the report, the retired FBI Laboratory director would not be prosecuted for taking $20,000 worth of equipment.

“Mr. Conrad took many pieces of electronic recording and amplifying equipment home with him and used them for his own benefit….The Department recovered all the equipment, and Mr. Conrad tendered a $1,500 cashier’s check to pay for his use of the equipment.”

“No further action has been taken against Mr. Conrad. Prosecution was barred, in the judgment of the Criminal Division, by the statute of limitations and because of the lack of evidence showing criminal intent on the part of Mr. Conrad.”

Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa died in March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary serving a life without parole sentence. Edward Poindexter remains imprisoned and continues to deny any role in the crime, forty-eight years behind bars.

The article is excerpted from my new book, FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.

Author: richardsonreports

Author of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two Story.

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