FBI’s “Deep Throat” Mark Felt oversaw conspiracy against Omaha Black Panthers

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Watergate’s “Deep Throat” Mark Felt  (credit: U.S. Congress)

In August 1970 at FBI headquarters, William Bradley, a supervisor in the Administrative Division, sent a secret memorandum to Ivan Willard Conrad at the FBI Laboratory. Bradley forwarded a request from the Special Agent in Charge of the Omaha field office, Paul Young, to analyze a 911 recording for identification—but issue no laboratory report. Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard was killed by a bomb when lured to a vacant house by an anonymous 911 caller.

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.”

Paul Young, under pressure from Director J. Edgar Hoover, chose two Black Panther leaders, Edward Poindexter and David Rice, to be blamed for Minard’s death. The unknown 911 caller was a messy detail that threatened to frustrate Young’s plan. Young thought it better to let one of Minard’s killers get away with murder than risk upsetting a prosecution of the two Panther leaders, hence no laboratory report on the identity of the 911 caller.

Mark Felt, chief of the Inspections Division, and Hoover’s personal troubleshooter, is on the distribution list of the Bradley memo. Given the nature of Felt’s job duties he was aware of the Omaha conspiracy. Felt was no newcomer to dirty deeds and monitored counterintelligence operations including the infamous COINTELPRO operation that targeted the Black Panthers.

A feature article in the Salt Lake City Tribune revealed that Felt had extensive counterintelligence experience in a four-year stint with an espionage unit during World War II. “At one time his title was superintendent of counter intelligence operations.”

Although Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein relied on Felt as Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal and considered Felt to be a trustworthy source, Felt’s bold lies are well documented. Felt’s denial of the Deep Throat allegation, contained in his memoir told the world the complete opposite of the truth, as he would later admit. Felt went so far as to suggest the identity of Deep Throat, knowing the innocent man was not the leak.

Felt’s untruths extended to his wife’s death. In 1984, Audrey Felt shot herself in the head with Mark’s revolver and Felt kept the cause of death a secret, even from the couple’s daughter. To complete the deception, Felt noted Audrey’s death in her sleep from cardiac arrest in the family’s “Calendar of Events” he prepared.

Since Felt was a liar, his statements need to be viewed with skepticism. Nonetheless, Felt wrote that around the time of the Omaha bombing Hoover was getting tremendous pressure from Richard Nixon to take firm action on domestic bombings.

After Hoover’s death in May 1972, there was a shuffle at FBI headquarters and Mark Felt briefly rose to Acting Director. In December of that year, Felt censured Charles Brennan for sharing a FBI investigative report with the Alexandria County Police Department about the murder of a police officer.

The censure followed an internal Bureau memorandum that discussed disclosure of FBI reports to local police and Brennan’s action.

We should not permit the action by the SAC, Alexandria to go unchallenged, for to do so, would give tacit approval to field offices to disseminate FBI reports to their local departments. The potential scope of such dissemination is beyond estimation, since in nearly all of our criminal, local agencies have concurrent interests. If FBI reports were indiscriminately furnished to police departments, they could very possibly become parts of police records which are made available to members of the press, and there is no end to speculation as to what use could be made of information from such reports. It is also pointed out that FBI reports, if allowed to be given to police agencies, would be available to local prosecutors, many of who are politically oriented and would be very happy to quote FBI reports for whatever purpose best suited them. We should continue to adhere to the firm policy of requiring field offices to advise FBIHQ of all instances wherein dissemination of FBI information to local authorities is considered warranted.”

When Senator Frank Church lead a Senate investigation of COINTELPRO and other Federal Bureau of Investigation misdeeds, Felt’s division received close examination. The Church Committee final report on Felt’s unit was blunt about the degree of blame.

The Inspection Division attempted to ensure that standard procedures were being followed. The inspectors focused on two things: field office participation, and the mechanics of headquarters approval. However, the Inspection Division did not exercise oversight, in the sense of looking for wrongdoing. Rather, it was an active participant in COINTELPRO by attempting to make sure that it was being efficiently and enthusiastically conducted.”

In 1978, Mark Felt, L. Patrick Gray and Edward Miller were indicted by a federal grand jury for counterintelligence break-ins. Attorney General Griffin Bell made an official announcement about the FBI crimes. “Criminal prosecution should be brought to bear at the highest levels of authority and responsibility at which the evidence will support prosecution.”

When the trio was arraigned at the District of Columbia Courthouse a crowd of 1,200 FBI agents gathered outside the building to protest the prosecution of the three former FBI officials.

Following their conviction, President Ronald Reagan pardoned Mark Felt and Edward Miller for authorizing illegal break-ins to plant wiretaps. “During their long careers, Mark Felt and Edward Miller served the Federal Bureau of Investigation and our nation with great distinction. To punish them further—after three years of criminal prosecution proceedings—would not serve the ends of justice.”

“The record demonstrates that they acted not with criminal intent, but in belief they had grants of authority reaching to the highest levels of government.”

In July 2016, David Hardy, Chief of the FBI Record/Information Dissemination Section, completed a search for Felt’s annual inspection reports on the Omaha field office during Paul Young’s supervision. Hardy reported that inspection reports for the years 1967 to 1973 were missing. Hardy stated simply, “We were unable to locate records.”

Given the magnitude of the FBI involvement in the prosecution of the Omaha Two, the case would have been examined in painstaking detail and Felt’s reports, kept from the defense, may have included exculpatory information. The full truth of what went on in Omaha remains unknown.

The article contains excerpts 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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