Thesis controversy spurred purge at United Kingdom Freedom of Information website What Do They Know

Public announcement by What Do They Know (credit: screenshot)

The long-running controversy over Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s 1983 PhD thesis, submitted to the London School of Economics Library in June 2019, thirty-five years late, spurred a never-before mass purge at the What Do They Know website. The website, designed to help the public with Freedom of Information requests, has done a backwards somersault and purged citizen activists from its data base.

The purge, announced in March, ousted over one hundred accounts, cancelled three hundred FOI requests, and deleted 1,600 posts. The purge was announced by Senior Developer Gareth Rees in behalf of the management team which is operated by a group called MySociety.

MySociety now operates in forty countries where they brag, “We help people be active citizens with technology, research and data that individuals, journalists, and civil society can use, openly and for free.”

MySociety claims to want to “empower citizens to take their first steps towards greater civic participation.” The purge of citizens, many Taiwanese, seeking information from either the University of London or the London School of Economics is contrary to the stated mission of MySociety.

Spokesman Rees said that instead of representing a strong public interest in the validity of President Tsai’s PhD degree, the many requests represent something more sinister emanating from the People’s Republic of China. MySociety’s public announcement provides details.

“We recently became aware of extensive misuse of our Freedom of Information site WhatDoTheyKnow, in connection with the academic status of Taiwanese politician Dr Tsai Ing-wen.”

“This activity became apparent through a very large quantity of correspondence being sent through the site, all focusing on the validity of Dr Ing-wen’s qualification from the London School of Economics and Political Science.”

“The majority of this material was repeating the same or very similar FOI requests, and some were not valid requests at all. We also saw mass posting of annotations, some on completely unrelated requests, and new requests which copied the titles of unrelated existing requests in an apparent attempt to evade our attention.”

“We robustly contest unjustified requests to remove material from our service, and will only remove any substantive Freedom of Information requests and responses if we absolutely have to.”

“We initially treated this misuse assuming good faith, putting significant effort into removing problematic material from correspondence while continuing to publish elements which could have amounted to a valid Freedom of Information request.”

“Several users took the time to report the misuse of our service to us, for which we are thankful. As a matter of course, we review all material reported to us and assess it before making a decision on what to do. It took our small team of staff and volunteers a significant amount of time to respond to the number of reports made in this case.”

“While rejecting one FOI request on this subject as vexatious, LSE raised the possibility that people in China could be making requests to benefit from the country’s citizen evaluation system, stating:

“We have been made aware that there is the possibility that the LSE has been added to a list of targets to gain social credits in China. As such we believe that your request and the others we received in this time period have not been made for just the purpose of receiving information but for personal gain.”

“With this information in hand, we were confident to treat the issue as mass misuse, more akin to spam or even a disinformation attack than to people making misguided requests.”

“During the course of this situation, we have banned 108 user accounts, most of which have been created to circumnavigate previous bans and to post inappropriate material to our site. We removed more than 300 requests from the site and 1,640 comments from pages.”

“To put this in context, we only banned 126 newly created user accounts in the whole of 2021, mainly for spamming.”

“When we are alerted to correspondence on the subject in question, we will not be taking our usual approach of trying to preserve any valid FOI request contained within broader correspondence. We will instead make a very quick assessment of whether it appears to be a genuine request for information or part of the concerted misuse campaign, in which case the request will be hidden.”

“The users making these requests will then be banned without warning or notification. The same will apply to any comments being made on existing requests. It will be up to any users that are banned in this process to make a case to us that they are making genuine FOI requests.”

“We may never fully understand what exact circumstances instigated this wave of misuse, but it has been instructive, and has helped us formulate new ways to tackle the always surprising means by which our work – to help citizens make valid requests for information in public – can be temporarily derailed.”

“We believe that transparency matters because it discourages bad governance, helps citizens to understand how power is wielded, and can be used by citizens to exert power over public and private bodies.”

“We aim to bring transparency to the operation of Freedom of Information laws by by public bodies.”

What the 108 users that were banned are likely wondering is how did their being purged from the website help bring transparency to the operation of the law? One of the so-called misusers of What Do They Know is a respected Taiwanese-American professor, Hwan Lin, who travelled to London in 2019 to examine first-hand President Tsai’s thesis Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions. Lin was doing follow-up research to his on-site examination of the thesis when he made use of What Do They Know. Lin, a PhD himself, wants to know how the purge of academic inquiries to universities helps citizens obtain accountability.

“I made an FOIA request to LSE in January 2022 and another two FOIA requests to the University of London in February 2022. They are all about the controversies of Ing-wen Tsai’s doctoral thesis and degree. The January request has long been overdue, while the two February requests were labelled as vexatious for no legitimate reasons. Even more absurd was the ensuing suspension of my What Do They Know account, ridding me of rights to information from public authorities.”

President Tsai keeps the thesis controversy alive by steadfastly refusing to release the viva examination report which purportedly approved her thesis. The London School of Economics recently added to the mystery by admitting the identity of Tsai’s examiners was “unclear” and that the school “cannot be sure” who the examiners were.

President Tsai’s disregard for the interest of the public, expecially in Taiwan, about her tardy thesis and refusal to release her viva oral examination report has compromised her credibility according to critics.

MySociety, in listening to “several users” have shut out over one hundred people seeking information about the credibility of a government leader and in doing so has likewise now compromised its own mission.

London School of Economics ‘unclear’ and ‘cannot be sure’ who Tsai Ing-wen thesis examiners were in latest internal review

The controversial PhD thesis of Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen and Louise Nadal, Secretary of the Board of the London School of Economics and Political Science. (credits: Hwan Lin/LSE)

Despite a public announcement upholding the award of a PhD degree to Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen, the London School of Economics and Political Science is “unclear” and “cannot be sure” of the identity of the examiners who purportedly approved her 1983 thesis. Louise Nadal, Secretary of the LSE Board, announced the school’s uncertainty after conducting a second internal review of Tsai’s student file.

Previously, LSE “Head of Legal Team” Kevin Haynes identified Michael Elliott, Tsai’s LSE advisor, and Leonard Leigh, a LSE professor, as Tsai’s thesis examiners. However, Haynes was corrected by his subordinate, Rachael Maguire, the LSE Information Manager. Maguire doubts the accuracy of her boss saying that Haynes conducted a “hurried view” of Tsai’s student file. Now Nadal supports the statement of Maguire over that of Haynes.

“You stated that the School is required to confirm or deny whether the information is held. As you will be aware from the School’s response to the Information Commissioner earlier this year and from which you quoted in your internal review request, the position is unclear. In the absence of certainty that information is accurate, the School cannot be sure whether it is held.”

The school’s uncertainty has not stopped them from declaring President Tsai’s degree valid, making a special public announcement confirming the validity of the PhD award. The reason for the special announcement was caused by the controversy that arose when Tsai filed a tardy thesis entitled Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions with the LSE Library in June 2019, thirty-five years late. Tsai refuses to release the viva report of the examiners although she has bragged that they were so impressed they told her she deserved a degree and a half.

Nadal said not only was the school uncertain of who President Tsai’s examiners were but that whoever they were, they needed to be protected from a hostile campaign.

“You have argued in your request for an internal review that the public interest outweighs the need to keep this information confidential. I have considered this carefully. You have expressed scepticism that the disclosure of the identity of the examiners would result in them being subject to ‘immense pressure’ and have cited an example of a previously provided name as evidence that this would not be the case. While I appreciate the level of public interest in this case, I am less convinced that your scepticism is well placed. The volume of enquiries and correspondence the School has received on this matter in recent years, often of a hostile nature, does not persuade me that any disclosure would prevent those named from being subject to similar attention as part of a campaign.”

One of the reasons for the internal review was the pronouncement by Rachael Maguire that the examiners’ identity was kept secret to prevent them from being pressured to change marks. The internal review was to examine the mark-changing pressure from a distance of thirty-nine years later but Nadal says the passage of time does not matter.

“I note that you are not persuaded by the School’s explanation that the names of examiners are kept confidential to prevent pressure from being applied to alter marks. While this is a principle which you consider inapplicable to this matter, it remains the case that examiners have a reasonable expectation that their identity will not being [sic] disclosed to students or others. This principle applies irrespective of the time which has elapsed since the examining work was undertaken and whether they have signed a contract to undertake the work of examining.”

“I have therefore assessed whether the decision to exempt this information on the grounds of it being personal data is reasonable as this is a qualified exemption. In reaching this decision I have taken account of the fact that to disclose any information relating to the identity of the examiners has the potential to breach the first data protection principle regarding fairness and could cause them damage or distress. I do not believe that any data subject in this position would consider it fair or reasonable to release information about them. In this particular case, I agree that as the viva took place almost 40 years ago, the issue of applying pressure to individuals with the purpose of changing marks is less of an issue. However, the principle of maintaining anonymity remains.”

“You have also compared the School’s response adversely to that of the University of Oxford, suggesting it does not reflect a modern approach. I do not think the two cases bear any particularly close similarity – at the University of Oxford, the student claimed an award which does not reflect that given and the University provided a formal clarification. In the case of Tsai Ing-wen, the University of London has not issued any correction or statement questioning the nature of the award made.”

“On balance I feel the exemption applied by the School is justified on the basis that the public interest in making this information available is outweighed by the disclosure being to the potential detriment of the individuals concerned.”

Nadal said quite a bit more in this internal review than she did in her first one in May 2021. At that time Nadal denied the LSE held any examiner information. Nadal’s newest internal review was conducted subsequent to order by Information Review Tribunal Judge Allison McKenna. The judge found that Nadal was in error and that the LSE actually had names of three possible examiners. Judge McKenna ordered the LSE to reconsider the Freedom of Information request for the examiner identity. The next step will be a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office where there are already a half-dozen pending complaints from various members of the public concerning President Tsai’s thesis.

“The Omaha Police Department has instituted a harassment campaign”

Special Agent in Charge Paul Young conducted COINTELPRO operations against the Omaha Two, Edward Poindexter and David Rice [Wopashitwe Eyen Mondo we Langa] (credits:
Omaha World-Herald/Federal Bureau of Investigation)

This is Chapter 5 of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the Omaha Two story, a tale of injustice and two innocent men, Edward Poindexter and David Rice, sentenced to life in prison because they were leaders of a Black Panthers affiliate chapter. Special Agent in Charge Paul Young plotted three clandestine COINTELPRO operations against the two men.

Paul Young’s quarterly counterintelligence report alerted J. Edgar Hoover to two Black Panther groups in the Omaha district. “Black Nationalist organizations have become active in the Omaha area, namely the Black Panther Party in Omaha, Nebraska, and Black Panther Organization, Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa. The Omaha group consists of approximately 20-25 members and to date its activity has been limited to twice weekly meetings. The Des Moines group filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Iowa on July 18, 1968, at which time it listed the identities of twelve directors. To date, this group is not known to have had regular meeting and its major effort to date has been an attempt to obtain anti-poverty funds for the purpose of financing an Afro-American Festival in Des Moines.”

“It is anticipated that in the near future [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] might be targets of counter intelligence action as well as the organizations of which they are leaders. The Black Panther group in Omaha has vaguely discussed in general terms creating violence, however, it has taken no positive action in this regard to date.”i

“It should be pointed out that the Omaha Police Department has instituted a harassment campaign against BPP members by stopping vehicles registered to them [illegible] at every opportunity.”ii

Young soon followed up with three counterintelligence proposals to Hoover. However, Young needed to do more work and Hoover laid down the rules. “Omaha made three recommendations, one of which was to furnish derogatory information concerning the BPP to responsible Negro leaders. The second was to furnish the same information to government agencies funding the BPP and the third was to have sources and informants start gossip in the ghetto area concerning the extremist nature of the BPP. Although these recommendations have merit, they are so broad and nonspecific that authority is not being granted at this time to implement them. Omaha is being instructed to submit specific recommendations after which an independent decision can be made at the Bureau as to whether or not they should be authorized.”

“In those instances where you desire to furnish information from your files concerning background, revolutionary and criminal data of the BPP to individuals outside the Bureau, you must fully identify the proposed recipient of the information and furnish pertinent information concerning him. This information should include an indices review, statement concerning past cooperation with the Bureau and reason you believe he will not breach Bureau confidence.”

“The utilization of your sources and informants to spread gossip in the ghetto area concerning BPP leaders and members must be done on a selective basis so as to preclude tracing the origin of the gossip to the FBI. This is an effective but risky maneuver and you must insure that your informants are not compromised. Prior to undertaking such maneuvers, you must identify the informants you intend to use in this program and the rumors they will spread. Spell out tangible results you expect to obtain from spreading the rumor or rumors you recommend.”iii

Four days later, George Moore sent William Sullivan a memorandum urging counterintelligence actions against the Black Panther Party be accelerated. “The information we are receiving from our sources concerning activities of the BPP clearly indicates that more violence can be expected from this organization in the immediate future. It therefore, is essential that we not only accelerate our investigations of this organization, and increase our informants in the organization but that we take action under the counterintelligence program to disrupt the group. Our counterintelligence program may bring about results which could lead to prosecution of these violence-prone leaders and active members, thereby thwarting their efforts to perpetrate violence in the United States.”iv

In December, Paul Young reported to J. Edgar Hoover the Black Panthers in Des Moines had dissolved and only operated as a “loose-knit” group. Young also commented, “In view of the present status of the BPP in the Omaha Division, it is not felt that intelligent recommendations can be made at this time regarding counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP.”v

Meanwhile, the San Francisco FBI office informed Hoover on developments involving Eldridge Cleaver and mentioned Cleaver’s trip to Omaha in August 1968 to establish a chapter of the Black Panthers in the Midwestern city and a FBI effort to exploit the trip.

“Also, with Bureau concurrence, an anonymous letter was sent to BPP Headquarters via Omaha, where [Cleaver] was in August, 1968, organizing a new BPP branch, and where he had temporarily been detained and interviewed by police, suggesting that the brothers in Omaha were suspicious of [Cleaver], who had easily gotten out of jail on a local charge.”

“It is believed that the BPP is becoming sensitive to the possibility of informers. This office will try to ascertain those Panthers who have been arrested and who BPP thinks might start to talk. We would then formulate some plan to cast suspicion on the man. We must bear in mind that if the plan is successful, a gang-type murder may be the result.”vi

Although the FBI’s counterintelligence operations often used local police, the danger of discovery was increased when expanded outside the Bureau. In mid-December, the FBI Training Division hosted a “Police Training Session” on guidelines for field offices in communicating with local police departments on counterintelligence mattersvii

Paul Young’s last report of the year to J. Edgar Hoover was apologetic for the lack of action and assured the FBI director that Young was going to come up with a counterintelligence proposal.viii

A week later, Young had some news for Hoover. Young wrote about an interview with an unnamed member of the Omaha chapter but the memorandum is so heavily redacted by FBI censors there is no clue what Young had learned. Young did report that Omaha was calm and presented no danger. “None of the known members of the BPP in Omaha Office are considered to have a propensity for violence.”ix

At FBI headquarters, J. Edgar Hoover was pleased with the San Diego FBI office and sent the Special Agent in Charge a complimentary memorandum. The memo reveals what Hoover expected from agents. “You are encouraged to continue your aggressive attacks against the leaders of the Black Panther Party.”x

The Los Angeles FBI office’s quarterly COINTELPRO report to Hoover hinted at future counterintelligence proposals that could include lethal outcomes. “Friction continues between the BPP and “US” in the Los Angeles area and members of the BPP have made attempts to assassinate “US” members in retaliation for the slaying of two BPP members by “US” members….This situation will be followed closely by the Los Angeles Office for any counterintelligence possibilities.”xi

In Omaha, Paul Young continued to report to J. Edgar Hoover of no activity. Young said the Black Panthers were dormant and stated “a former lieutenant in the Omaha chapter of the BPP considered this chapter to be almost out of existence.”xii

At the end of March 1969, the Omaha World-Herald reported on Mondo’s new job as a neighborhood outreach worker for Greater Omaha Community Action agency. The daily newspaper noted that Mondo wrote for “underground” newspapers. “His articles have frequently been critical of Omaha police, schools and city officials.xiii

Kenneth Shearer, GOCA executive director, said he cautioned Mondo that he had to avoid newspapers “generally known as partisan from a political standpoint.”

Later, in the trial for his life, Mondo described his new employment. “I was a neighborhood worker and my basic job, as I saw it, was to inform just plain old common people about the situation under which they live, their problems and so forth, to try to get them together at meetings to be able to express themselves and do things like go down to City Council meetings and make requests for things that were necessary in the communities.”

“I worked with different youth in trying to establish programs for youth that would be meaningful, and a major part of my work was tied up in trying to assist people in emergency situations where they were hungry or where their utilities had been cut off or their homes had been broken into, a lot of my work was investigatory and so forth, and I guess emergency oriented.”xiv

Mondo worked closely with members of the clergy. Mondo acted as a community consultant to the ministers and they in turn helped with obtaining food for needy persons identified by Mondo when other community resources were unavailable.

“I was working at the 24th and Grant Street GOCA office and that was in the area in which there was all kinds of difficulties all the time and I began to meet some individuals who were members of what I actually discovered to be a defunct Panther party at that time and I began to associate about that period of time.”xv

“I had known for quite some time I was being watched by the police and probably the FBI.”

“One of the main things that the police would use on me would be traffic stops. I remember one time I was on Capitol Avenue, close to Central High, and I got pulled over. I look and there is like a half-dozen cruisers and a couple of unmarked cars, all of them red lights flashing….This cop walks around my car and says there is no wheel tax sticker. It was pure harassment.”

“Another time I was at the GOCA office….One of the women at the office tells me, “There has been a couple of cars parked outside, I suspect they are police or FBI, they’ve been out there the last couple hours.”

“About a half-hour later police came rushing in….They put me under arrest. And they scared the hell out of people. I step outside, cruisers up and down the street. People gawking. What had happened was they put me under arrest for failing to appear in court on a traffic ticket. It may have been on that no wheel tax sticker thing, I’m not sure. It turned out the wrong date was on the ticket.”

“How much of that was Omaha police and how much of that was with the FBI, I don’t know. I assume they were probably working together. It wasn’t just me. Ed and Frank [Peak] and other members of the Party, they had to go through different kinds of harassment also. All kinds of things were done throughout the country and we shouldn’t expect Omaha was any different.”xvi

In April, Paul Young submitted his quarterly counterintelligence report to J. Edgar Hoover that the Omaha Black Panthers were “very inactive” but the Des Moines chapter was active. “In connection with the BPP in Des Moines, information was recently received that there is a power struggle under way in the Des Moines black community involving three elements, the BPP, a local street gang, and the legitimate United Black Federation, the later composed of Negro civic and business leaders. A source has stated that the street gang is very upset with the BPP as [REDACTED] and the BPP have brought much police “heat” into the ghetto causing problems for the street gang.”

“It is felt that the Black Panther Party in Des Moines has a propensity for violence….At the present none of the known members of the BPP in Omaha are considered to have a propensity for violence.”xvii

FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, & the Omaha Two story is available at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at Patrons of the Omaha Public Library also enjoy free access.

i FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 3, p. 51, September 6, 1968

ii “Area Panthers on FBI’s Target List,” Mary Kay Quinlan, Omaha World-Herald, p. 30, December 6, 1977

iii J. Edgar Hoover to Paul Young, October 23, 1968, Black Nationalist Hate Group, Reel 2 microfilm, 1978

iv George Moore to William Sullivan, October 27, 1968, Black Nationalist Hate Group, Reel 2 microfilm, 1978

v FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 5, p. 65, December 2, 1968

vi FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 5, p. 26-27, December 2, 1968

vii FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 6, p. 58, December 17, 1968

viii FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 6, p. 102, December 30, 1968

ix FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 6, p. 181-182, January 8, 1969

x FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 7, p. 107, February 19, 1969

xi FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 7, p. 29, February 26, 1969

xii FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 8, p. 98, March 10, 1969

xiii “Civil Rights Writer Gets GOCA Post,” Omaha World-Herald, March 29, 1969

xiv Trial Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1047, April 13, 1971

xv Trial Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1048, April 13, 1971

xvi Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007

xvii FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 9, p. 90-91, April 21, 1969

“Incidents of violence by Negroes took place in Omaha”

George Wallace’s campaign for President triggered a March 4, 1968 riot in Omaha, Nebraska. (credit: campaign button)

This is Chapter 4 of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the Omaha Two story, a tale of injustice and two innocent men sentenced to life in prison because they were leaders of a Black Panthers affiliate chapter. George Wallace triggered rioting in Omaha. Hoover launched COINTELPRO against “Black Nationalist Hate Groups” in Omaha. This is the fourth weekly installment of FRAMED, free to the public.

It was Nebraska’s primary election season and George Wallace was running for president. The Alabama ex-governor came to Omaha to conduct a convention for a place on the ballot. Wallace spoke in the morning of March 4, 1968, to the Omaha Athletic Club denouncing “pseudo-intellectuals” and communists bent on the destruction of American society. Wallace then spoke to a political science class at Omaha University which attracted two hundred and fifty protesters who surrounded his car. The scene was on the evening television news and helped swell attendance at the rally downtown at the Civic Auditorium to form the American Independent Party.

Meanwhile, the third day of a “Racial Conference” convened at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. Forty-one field offices were represented, including Special Agent in Charge Paul Young from Omaha. Led by George Moore and William Sullivan, the attending field office supervisors received counterintelligence directives from J. Edgar Hoover. Moore was head of the Racial Intelligence unit, and Sullivan, his boss, was in charge of the Domestic Intelligence Division.i

Five days earlier, in preparation for the conference, Moore had written to Sullivan urging an expanded counterintelligence effort against black nationalists. Moore warned of the “tremendous increase in black nationalist activity” and the approach of summer. Moore urged expanding the list of field offices from twenty-three to forty-one in the COINTELPRO program.ii

Copies of Hoover’s memorandum expanding the existing Black Nationalist counterintelligence program were distributed. The FBI had been conducting active clandestine operations, later dubbed COINTELPRO, against American citizens since 1956 when the Communist Party USA was the first target. In 1967, so-called Black Nationalists were added to the victim list. Paul Young now had new duties.

“The Counterintelligence Program is now being expanded to include 41 offices. Each of the offices added to this program should designate an Agent familiar with black nationalist activity, and interested in counterintelligence to coordinate this program.”iii

“For maximum effectiveness of the Counterintelligence Program, and to prevent wasted effort, long-range goals are being set:”

“1. Prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups…. An effective coalition of black nationalist groups might be the first step toward a real “Mau Mau” in America, the beginning of a true black revolution.”

“2. Prevent the rise of a “messiah” who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.”

“3. Prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups….Through counterintelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they exercise their potential for violence.”

“4. Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining respectability, by discrediting them.”iv

“5. A final goal should be to prevent the long-range growth of militant black nationalist organizations, especially among youth.”v

“Counterintelligence operations must be approved by the Bureau. Because of the nature of this program each operation must be designed to protect the Bureau’s interest so that there is no possibility of embarrassment to the Bureau.”vi

That night, a crowd of five hundred high school and university students gathered outside the Omaha Civic Auditorium to protest against George Wallace. A contingent led by John McCaslin of the Catholic Social Action Office arrived with a group of priests, nuns, and students from nearby Creighton University. McCaslin had been in Selma, Alabama in 1965 with civil rights marchers when they were attacked by police.vii [

Inside the auditorium, five thousand supporters gathered to place Wallace on the Nebraska ballot. Fifty black protesters were given delegate passes by Wallace’s security personnel and allowed onto the arena floor where they took up position standing in front of the podium, blocking the view of those seated in the front rows.

Wallace delayed his entrance for an hour while tension mounted between the protesters and the seated Wallace supporters. Jeers, shouts, and booing greeted Wallace from the protesters when he started to speak. Wallace snorted: “These are the free-speech folks you know. And these are the kind of folks the people in this country are sick and tired of.viii

The crowd roared in agreement while the demonstrators began tearing up their protest signs and throwing the bits of cardboard and stick at the podium. Police moved in on the group while Wallace crowed, “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to say that you ought to be thankful for the police of Omaha.”ix

Mondo was in front of the podium when the police assault began. Mondo was spotted by one of the policemen he regularly taunted. “We were up front sandwiched between the stage and the Wallace supporters. We were heckling, a good line of heckling. Then I saw Duane Pavel come out with a can of Mace and gets me right in the face. It knocked me out. Some people rushed me and picked me up and took me out of the auditorium. I could hear all hell breaking out but I didn’t know what was going on.”x

The Buffalo Chip, an Omaha alternative newspaper, described the frenzied scene. “The unarmed demonstrators turned to flee, and the police followed them, beating them on the back of the head as they ran. As the demonstrators tried to escape, people picked up folding chairs and beat them as they ran by, or threw chairs at them.”

“There was no attempt made by Wallace to calm the crowd or stop the police once it was clear that the demonstrators were leaving. Instead, his words incited the riot, and Mr. Wallace stood on the podium with a little smile on his face.”xi

The blood rage spilled out of the auditorium into the streets and turned to riot. Mayor A. V. Sorenson said in an interview that the police were quick to use their clubs. “Their procedure was to use their clubs at the slightest provocation.”xii

Reverend McCaslin was arrested for disorderly conduct. McCaslin later wrote about the police calling them “trigger-happy bigots” guilty of “petty police harassment and not so petty police brutality.”xiii

The next morning, activist Ernie Chambers prevented a disturbance by students at Horace Mann Junior High from escalating. Over fifty windows were smashed at the school before Chambers was able to calm the students. Central, Techincal, and North High Schools were at half-capacity as students boycotted classes. Police reported seventeen people were injured during rioting. Twenty-seven automobiles were vandalized, ten businesses looted, with six more vandalized. Central High School basketball star Dwaine Dillard was arrested with five others for possession of fire bombs and bricks.xiv

Mondo was out talking to angry black residents of the city. Mondo wrote an account of his own angst and the mood on the streets. “Outside, the police are cruising up and down streets and alleys. Some minutes ago I got back home from 24th Street….Many of us discussed the question of which area of the city should receive the bulk of our payment for “services” given us by the Omaha Police Department and their ignorant supporters Monday night. Others talked about looking forward to killing or beating hell out of whitey.”xv

“As I prepare to retire to the bed, I consider the animal activities of the Omaha Police Department, the unabashed lying of our news media, and the unlimited stupidity of Mayor Sorenson. And I hope that the metal Citizens’ Protection sticks, which I am passing out, will help the police get the kind of justice they have asked for.”xvi

J. Edgar Hoover updated the White House with a memorandum on the rioting in Omaha. “Inspector Monroe Coleman, Omaha, Nebraska, Police Department, advised yesterday that as an aftermath of the appearance of former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace at a political rally…several incidents of violence by Negroes took place in Omaha. Among these were the vandalizing of a pawnshop…and the subsequent fatal shooting of a 16-year-old Negro boy by an off-duty police officer during an attempt by the young Negro to loot the pawnshop. Several assaults by Negroes against white persons also occurred after the former Governor Wallace rally and two of the white persons reportedly were seriously injured. Public buses were stoned by Negroes as they passed through Omaha’s north side and yesterday morning Negro students of several Omaha high schools broke windows in business establishments while on their way to school. The students later caused minor damage in the schools by setting fires in wastebaskets in the restrooms and by throwing rocks through the windows of the schools.”xvii

Hoover soon after wrote to the architect of COINTELPRO, William Sullivan, about the annual inspection report of the Domestic Intelligence Division. “In no area am I more concerned than that involving racial matters. I note there has been a substantial increase in racial informants; however, there is a definite need for more coverage to assure that the Bureau is on top of developments in the racial field….You must provide effective personal leadership to assure that the Bureau fulfills its responsibility in the racial field.”xviii

Hoover followed with a memorandum to all FBI field offices on secret detention list investigations. Hoover reminded Special Agents in Charge that often anarchists do not join organizations, even subversive ones, because their nature is to not affiliate thus the need for vigilance.

“It should be borne in mind that even if a subject’s membership in a subversive organization cannot be proven, his inclusion in the Security Index may often be justified because of activities which establish his anarchistic tendencies….It is entirely possible, therefore, that a subject without any organizational affiliation can qualify for the Security Index by virtue of his public pronouncements and activities which establish his rejection of law and order and reveal him to be a potential threat to the security of the United States.”xix

For decades Hoover maintained a detention list of citizens who would be summarily arrested and held without judicial review in the event of a national emergency. In the 1940’s, Attorney General Francis Biddle forbid Hoover from keeping the list. To thwart the command, Hoover changed the list name from the original Dangerous Index to Security Index. After repeal of the Internal Security Act the name of Hoover’s detention list was changed again to the Aministrative Index. The FBI continued to keep a detention list of citizens until after the death of Hoover.

Hoover also kept a list of high priority counterintelligence targets called the Agitator Index. Paul Young’s first COINTELPRO report to J. Edgar Hoover noted the list. “ [REDACTED] is the only militant Black Nationalist carried on the Agitator Index of the Omaha office.”

“Omaha has no suggestions to offer at the present time regarding the over all Counterintelligence Program or administration of this program. It is felt, however, that this program can be very beneficial to the Bureau in helping to prevent the coalition of militant Black Nationalist Groups and violence on their part.”xx

In July 1968, nearly a dozen people were arrested on loitering charges after police cleared the Safeway parking lot at Twenty-fourth and Lake Streets in Omaha. Eddie Bolden and Mondo were among those arrested after a large crowd had gathered in the parking lot.xxi

When Bolden was arrested he informed police he was a Black Panther and that he was at the parking lot “helping cool down” the crowd. Mondo was identified in the daily newspaper by his association with the Asterick and Buffalo Chip newspapers.xxii

Chief of Police Richard Anderson said police believed thirty to forty shots from automatic weapons were fired. Mayor A. V. Sorensen was quoted that police reports suggested four or five snipers were involved. Witnesses reported that most of the purported shots were firecrackers. Police “exchanged gunfire” with the supposed snipers. One man was wounded during the shooting. It was a tense scene with many people standing around during the night.xxiii

Anderson said thirty officers were used to quell the disturbance and although none were shot, the snipers presented a serious problem. Two police cars were vandalized, one by a fire bomb.

The trouble at Safeway followed a fight at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center where a crowd of two hundred youth had gathered. Police fired eight to ten shots in the air to disperse the group.xxiv

At FBI headquarters, J. Edgar Hoover sent a memorandum to field offices warning about violent New Left activity. Hoover continued to press his Special Agents in Charge to crack down. “There has been a marked increase in recent months of bombings and burnings of public buildings and other acts of terrorism which could logically have been perpetrated by extremist elements of the New Left.”

“I expect an immediate and aggressive response from you.”xxv

“I have reminded you time and again that the militancy of the New Left is escalating daily. Unless you recognize this and move in a more positive manner to identify subversive elements responsible so that appropriate prosecutive action, whether federally or locally initiated, can be taken…..I am going to hold each Special Agent in Charge personally responsible to insure that the Bureau’s responsibilities in this area are completely met and fulfilled.”

Back in Omaha, Municipal Judge D. E. Anderson dismissed loitering charges against ten people including Eddie Bolden and two other Black Panthers. Judge Anderson decided that police failed to adequately prove those arrested had failed to disperse. The charges stemmed from the Safeway parking lot incident.

Mondo, also arrested at the parking lot, did not fare as well in front of Municipal Judge John Clark. Mondo had pleaded not guilty to a charge of failure to disperse. Clark found Mondo guilty and charged him a twenty-five dollar fine.xxvi

In September, sixty people attended the Omaha City Council meeting to ask for the release of three reports on racial conditions in the city. Mayor Sorensen refused and said the reports were not very helpful. “Generally speaking, they add nothing to the reservoir of knowledge we already have about the problem. In substance, all three add up to the same thing: Omaha—like all other cities– has monumental problems in human relations.”xxvii

Before a week passed, a bomb was found against an outside wall of Omaha City Hall. The enamel paint on the hands of the alarm clock used to trigger the device prevented an electrical connection and the bomb did not explode. Police suspected the Black Panthers were responsible but no arrests were made. The unexploded time bomb was a like a metaphor for racial tensions in the city and foreshadowed lethal violence to come.xxviii

FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, & the Omaha Two story is available at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at Patrons of the Omaha Public Library also enjoy free access.

i FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 1, p. 65, March 4, 1968

iiChurch Committee, Vol. 6, p. 386, February 29, 1968. George Moore’s unit was renamed at the conference from Internal Security to Racial Intelligence. Black militants replaced communists as the Bureau’s main enemy.

iii FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 1, p. 68, March 4, 1968

iv FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 1, p. 69, March 4, 1968

v FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 1, p. 70, March 4, 1968

vi FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 1, p. 72, March 4, 1968

vii The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central, Steve Marantz, University of Nebraska Press, p. 142, 2011

viii Author’s recollection from attendance at rally.

ix Author’s recollection from attendance at rally.

xMondo, prison interview, undated. Duane Pavel was an Omaha policeman that Mondo mocked on several occasions.

xi Buffalo Chip, March 1968

xii The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central, Steve Marantz, University of Nebraska Press, p. 165, 2011

xiii The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central, Steve Marantz, University of Nebraska Press, p. 166, 2011

xiv The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central, Steve Marantz, p. 161, University of Nebraska Press, 2011. Dwaine Dillard gave several versions of the story to various people so his guilt is in question. Charges were dropped against Dillard two weeks later for lack of evidence he knew about the firebombs.

xv Buffalo Chip, March 1968.

xvi Buffalo Chip, March 1968

xvii “Selected Racial Developments and Disturbances” Confidential FBI memo to the President, p. 1, March 6, 1968. Declassified August 13, 2002.

xviii, FBI Domestic Intelligence Division-HQ, Vol. 1, p. 5, March 7, 1968

xix Church Committee, Vol. 6, p. 667, April 2, 1968

xx FBI Vault, Black Extremists, Sec. 4, p. 37, April 3, 1968

xxi “Judge Frees 3 Panthers,” Omaha World-Herald, August 8, 1968

xxii “Mayor Says Shoot Down Snipers,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 2, July 8, 1968

xxiii “Mayor Says Shoot Sniper, Stop Murder,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, July 8, 1968

xxiv “Mayor Says Shoot Down Snipers,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 2, July 8, 1968

xxv Church Committee, Vol. 6, p. 684, July 23, 1964

xxvi “Judge Frees 3 Panthers,” Omaha World-Herald, August 8, 1968

xxvii David Thompson, “Mayor Says Two Reports Confidential,” Omaha World-Herald, September 11, 1968

xxviii U.S. House Committee on Internal Security, Proceedings, p. 4882, Oct. 14, 1970

University of London thesis controversy before Upper Tribunal pits the Data Protection Act against Freedom of Information Act

(credits: Information Commission Office/National Archives)

While few were paying attention, a 1983 PhD thesis controversy in Taiwan has grown into a full legal battle in the United Kingdom where Upper Tribunal Judge Mark West next week will consider arguments pitting the Data Protection Act against the Freedom of Information Act.

The dispute involving the University of London has all the elements of a text-book case. The issue first arose in June 2019 when Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen filed her PhD thesis entitled Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions with the London School of Economics Library, thirty-five years late. Embers of the academic firestorm that ensued continue to glow red hot three years later as President Tsai stubbornly refuses to release the oral examination viva report upon which the UL awarded a degree to the former LSE student.

With President Tsai stonewalling, and the two schools claiming Data Protection Act secrecy, the public is left to wonder about the identity and qualifications of the thesis examiners. Three lawsuits have been filed, two at the Upper Tribunal and one at the Information Review Tribunal, concerning Tsai’s thesis examination. Further, there are at least three complaints against the schools pending before the Information Commissioner’s Office.

In Taiwan, President Tsai put a sharp edge to the matter by asking ROC prosecutors to imprison three critics for criminal defamation. Taipei District prosecutors dropped charges against two but decided to prosecute the most vocal, Dennis Peng, news anchor of the popular True Voice of Taiwan show. Peng is presently in self-exile in California to avoid imprisonment and continues to report regularly on the growing controversy. Tsai’s exiled Chinese government lacks an extradition treaty so she is unable to see Peng behind bars. Peng recently received a monetary human rights award in Canada, the Justice Star Award, for his defense of freedom of speech.

The legal battle between the DPA and the FOI laws arises over personal data. The DPA protection of personal data has been considered by the UL and the ICO as an absolute exclusion from the transparency mandate of the FOI. Over the course of litigation different rationales have been made. First, the information about President Tsai’s thesis examiners was her own personal information. Then the reason for secrecy shifted, the identity of the examiners was the personal information of the examiners. Next, the rationale shifted again with the LSE most recently arguing that secrecy is needed to prevent pressure on the examiners to change the marks. The public has been told President Tsai might have “distress” if the examiners’ identity was revealed. More recently, the public has been told the examiners could face “immense pressure” if their names were to be made public.

The DPA provides that “the Commissioner must have regard to the importance of securing an appropriate level of protection for personal data, taking account of the interests of data subjects, controllers and others and matters of general public interest.” Thus far the Information Commissioner has sided with the UL against the general public interest.

The UL approach to examiner identities, adopted by the ICO, is not universal in the United Kingdom academic world. The University of Edinburgh Handbook for External Examining of Research Degrees takes a different approach to examiners. Regulation 16.5 provides: “External Examiner reports and any correspondence engaged in by the External Examiner in connection with their External Examiner duties are disclosable in line with the University’s freedom of information obligations.”

Kevin Haynes, the LSE “Head of Legal Team” disagrees with the UL about examiner identity disclosure arguing that they are like other university employees carrying out a public duty. To make good on his view, Haynes gave two names of purported examiners to the ROC prosecutors in Dennis Peng’s case. One slight problem however, Haynes was “likely inaccurate” because of a “hurried view” according to his subordinate, LSE Information Manager Rachael Maguire.

The legal question of FOI exclusions for the examiners is one of first impression, meaning that Judge West will have little precedent to guide him in sorting out which law overrides the other. The facts of President Tsai’s case, with its tardy thesis, may well be distinguishing enough for a narrow court ruling that only covers Tsai’s case. However, if the Upper Tribunal finds that the larger matter of the necessity of verification of qualification is at issue, Tsai’s thesis case could have a widespread effect on the examination process for advanced degrees in all of the United Kingdom.

“What were we but strangers to the land where we were born”

David Rice [Wopashitwe Eyen Mondo we Langa] as a student, as a Black Panther, and as a prisoner. (credits: Creighton Prep yearbook/Omaha Police Department, Michael Richardson)

This is Chapter 3 of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the Omaha Two story, a tale of injustice and two innocent men sentenced to life in prison because they were leaders of a Black Panthers affiliate chapter. One of the men, David Rice [Wopashitwe Eyen Mondo we Langa] died at the maximum security Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016 serving a life sentence. This is the third weekly installment of FRAMED, free to the public.

David Lewis Andrew Rice was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the name Wopashitwe Eyen Mondo we Langa would come later in prison. An authobiographical ramble gives a sense of an evolving awareness of self.

“i, david, crept from between my mother’s thighs on may 21st, 1947. since then, i’ve been through any number of changes upon coming to my present self. i was born black, but i didn’t realize the implications of that, until after i had reached the alcohol age. in my lifetime, i’ve been a colored boy, an American who happened to be colored, a negro, now i am black (can’t get much blacker than that). i don’t have enough space here to really run down what factors brought about these different stages of my growing into meaningful manhood. but, for folks who really don’t know where i am (be coming from), i’ll say something about my present self. i am a black man, i am a poet, artist. i am a revolutionary. being all these things that i claim that i am, i hold to certain beliefs, certain truths….i see myself as only part of a universal body, and that universal body being a part of me.”i

Mond was educated in Catholic schools and was one of the few black students in class during high school. Mondo attended St. Benedict’s grade school and Creighton Preparatory High School. “While I was at Creighton Prep I did become aware of some things. I was a member of Young Christian Students that started to become aware of civil rights issues.”

Mondo asked a white girl from another school that was in his youth group to attend the homecoming dance. “That weekend she apparently told some friends. By the time I got to school on Monday it was all over Creighton Prep. Being naive and thinking I was one of the boys I’m not feeling it was a big deal but there were quite a few people at Prep that thought it was a big deal. People were talking about what they were going to do to me or to her. In one class they used the class time to talk about me. They were talking about bringing rifles and this kind of stuff. Eventually what happened was her parents told her if she went to the dance she would need to find new parents.”

“So there were things like that I had to learn about. You can turn back the hands of time on the clock but you can’t turn real life back. Sometimes I wish I had gone to a predominatelyAfrican high school but I didn’t and I had to learn some things. I had to deal with inner conflict, but my attitude is the things that you live bring you to where you are.”ii

“I was, I think a junior in high school when I began to truly see that racism and injustice generally might be more than just aberrations….I was convinced that the oppression of African people, and other people of color, in this country was no accident, no mere flaw in the system.”

“Police murder of African people—not including the countless questionable killings by police of unarmed African people—were common across the country.”iii

In March 1965, senior student Rice testified to the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska Senate opposing the sale of pornography to minors. Several students led by Mondo testified that it was easy to buy indecent literature. Mondo asked for action. “We sincerely hope you will no longer sit here and watch these things go by.” The committee adjourned pending further amendment to the bill.iv

Mondo’s political efforts soon went in another direction when he joined the Summer Action Corps after graduation from high school. The summer youth program operated out of Holy Family Church and only paid a stipend of ten dollars per week. Mondo worked with the “neighborhood needs” group and developed a playground out of a vacant lot at Eighteenth and Grace Streets Before work began on the playground the youths went door-to-door meeting the residents.v

Mondo’s work with Omaha’s poor and his volunteer activity quickly developed a social consciousness and an evolving political philosophy. “My early influences were Omowale, who most people refer to as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and not just the famous. Ernie Chambers, a bunch of folks. Not just people who had political ideas but people who were musicians, poets, and so forth. There were a lot of influences”vi

“There was an album called Let’s Be Candid by Eddie Harris. Some of the verses were trying to make it real. There was Richie Havens talking about freedom, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding talking about respect. You have Jimi Hendrix doing his version of the National Anthem. You didn’t have to be high, all you had do have was an appreciation for the music to hear the politics in that song. The violence and injustice, and tricks and so forth all tied up in this place we call America. People who are living now that were not around then don’t understand the excitement of what was going on. Not just politically, but socially, and culturally.”vii

As a performance artist, Mondo was a member of the counter-culture movement and has self-described himself as a “blippie” or black hippie. Mondo converted his living room into The Room of Many Colors dance floor where he would gyrate to the jazz of John Coltrane.

“I was not into the true-blue American, that kind of stuff, but what happened was just before I joined the Party, we are talking about 1968 or so, I was politically naïve so I had fallen for the propaganda. I was somebody who was 100% behind the idea of liberation, behind the idea of people being free and not being under other folk’s yoke so I had fallen for the propaganda that the North Vietnamese were trying to overrun the South Vietnamese and usurp authority and that the United States was there to help the South Vietnamese retain their freedom.”

“Of course, we would have discussions and I would listen, I wasn’t hard-headed, I would listen. But I guess I wasn’t getting the kind of information to change my mind. I didn’t know, for example, about the Viet Minh and the French and how that area of the world came to be split into North and South. I didn’t see the connection between that splitting and the splitting of Korea into the North and the South and the United States involvement in all that, so I didn’t have that kind of background information. But I would listen. Anyway, one day I was watching the news and at that time the United States was bombing Hanoi. The reporter asked the representative of North Vietnam, “What will you do by way of reciprocation if the United States agrees to stop the bombing of Hanoi?” His response was, “We will stop bombing Washington.” It stunned me. They were not bombing Washington and that was his point, “We are not bothering you, why are you bothering us?” It stunned me and I sat there and thought I have been a fool all this long.”

“I had gotten a letter saying I was supposed to appear for a pre-induction physical. Well, this is during the time I was still in favor of the war. When I say in favor, I mean not opposed to it. It’s probably a necessary evil and that kind of nonsense. When it came time for the pre-induction physical, I wasn’t there because I had forgotten it. By the time I got the next letter about the physical I had already changed my mind and I had decided I’m not having a part of this. I’m not taking someone else’s life and I’m not risking my own for the U.S. government to be exercising an adventure in imperialism. So when the time came for the pre-induction physical, I did not go.”

“Months passed. I’m not thinking any more about this now. One morning there is a knock on my door, I go to the door and there are two Europeans standing there wearing suits. I’m under arrest for refusing induction. They informed me that I’m facing five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, something like that. They take me down to the federal building, lock me upstairs in some kind of damn cage. I had a phone call so I called an attorney and he came down and had a meeting with the magistrate. They agreed to let me go on my own recognizance provided I would show up for this physical. It came down I was deemed unacceptable.”

“I’d have a job and I wouldn’t have a job and I would be trying to get another job. When you are involved in activity like I was involved with the public it is not the easiest thing in the world to get a job. There was a program at Creighton University called New Careers. I remember going up there one time to apply for this job. The person doing the interview was like myself, an African, older than me. He looked at my application and seemed relatively pleased. I’m thinking I got the job. Somehow he missed my name or something, he had the nerve to look at me and say, “I’m sorry, we don’t hire militants.”viii

Wally Provost, columnist for the Omaha World-Herald, wrote an essay about the Near-Northside. Provost made mention of “noisy bars, crowded pool halls, sauntering welfare recipients, late-hour muggings.”

“There also is the important reality of about 850 square blocks containing—or confining—more than 30 thousand Negroes, a majority of whom rise far above the stereotypes peddled so industriously by white racists.”

“In addition, the resentment of ugly oppression simmers deeply within some; in others, it boils near the surface.”

Provost reported about a public hearing by a city recreation study committee to improve the neighborhood. Mondo was one of those who testified. Provost wrote, “It was not the rock-throwers who appeared before the committee.”

“The positive recommendations of Dave Rice, Creighton University student, came forth with a dynamic ring. Rice also voiced hope that private enterprise might provide “someplace besides a bar where people can sit down and talk.”ix

Mondo’s growing social awareness turned to activism. “I was in the Young Christian Students Movement for a couple of years, Apostleship of Prayer, Sodality, Poster Club, track, football, and I began writing when I was about a junior or senior in high school and I was involved in a couple or three social actions or organizations and they were church-affiliated.”x

Mondo organized a music group to play at a guitar mass at St. John’s Catholic Church in Omaha. Priest Robert Purcell supervised the guitar masses and defended the innovation in the worship service saying “the use of modern music doesn’t change the meaning of the mass.”xi

Mondo was a regular at the Give and Take Coffee House. “Well, it began—about that time this ecumenism thing was big and I guess in certain, what you would call progressive circles, and people were involved in various phases and there were a lot of attempts to get Catholics and Protestant and Jews and so forth together to try to do some things for people and some interrelated church groups got together and formed the Give and Take coffee house and the main function of the coffee house was to educate people—my basic job was to establish the kind of discussions and so forth we were going to have and contact speakers and get out publicity so that we could discuss problems, and there were also people that came there with guitars, like on Saturday and Sunday nights and play and enjoy themselves.”xii

In 1967, Mondo and thirty-five ministers and church members traveled to Milwaukee to attend a peaceful demonstration in support of an open housing law.xiii

The trip was Mondo’s second visit to Milwaukee. Two years earlier, Mondo traveled to the Wisconsin city to march in a boycott against a major beer company which had discriminatory hiring practices.xiv

In September, Mondo led a group of priests, nuns and ministers in prayer at a courthouse pray-in to promote open housing. A group of one hundred and fifty gathered to pray in front of the Douglas County Courthouse. The pray-in was sponsored by an ad hoc group called the Underground Movement for Progressive Action with Mondo as its “fearless leader.” The pray-in,which was a local response following Mondo’s recent trip to Milwaukee, attracted a number of onlookers. Mondo told a reporter he would do “whatever it takes to bring open housing to Omaha.”xv

Mondo was almost too busy for school during his college days. “Well, during my freshman year at Creighton University I was involved with the Kellom Community Council, Lake-Charles Community Organization, Hamilton-Lake Community Organization and Franklin Community Council. Basically neighborhood organizations. Their purpose being to try to inform people in basically poor and basically black neighborhoods to get them aware of political situations and try to form self-help type programs so people begin to think and so forth on their own and begin to establish programs in their communities that would help them.”xvi

“I was in liberal arts. My intention was to be an English teacher and to eventually go into English literature but I got sidetracked because of money and during my first year at Creighton I was involved in a number of liturgical movements which was an attempt to make church, you know, the religion and that kind of thing more meaningful for people.”

“About this time I began writing extensively and was writing for a number of community newsletters and newspapers and so forth.”xvii

The Omaha World-Herald reported on the community newspapers and neighborhood newsletters and their drift toward militancy. Father John McCaslin was quoted praying for some Omaha citizens over “the anger and the hatred that they have in their hearts” from an article he wrote in the Lake-Hamilton Undercurrents newsletter. Mondo was also quoted from an article he wrote.

“Omaha takes first prize, gets the blue ribbon for phoniness on the part of the Negroes. And what is so pitiful is that Omaha does not have to be this way. All we have to do is get together and bust the sick system that hems us in like a pinching strap.”xviii

Mondo explored his creativity with activism in a variety of ways. “I believe somewhere in ’67 or ’68 I produced my first play which was put on at the Colony House and began writing songs and started playing guitar and other things….after I graduated from Creighton Prep I volunteered for the Summer Action Corps and I was quartered there [Holy Family Church] with nine or ten other men and I worked with community organizations, that type of thing.”xix

“I had met Rev. Jack McCaslin….by that time I had already got the guitar mass thing started at St. John’s and I asked if I could start something there to try to get some meaningful things going as far as people relating to Christ and all that kind of thing is concerned and so we instituted the guitar mass there and a lot of other things like having people give their own sermons and just trying to make it meaningful.”xx

“I was in Omaha all my life up until the time I got convicted and I had been involved in rights kinds of issues when I was in high school, probably seventeen, maybe a little younger and so by the time I was eighteen I had already started being watched by the police. And watched in the sense that Omowale or Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and others would have been watched. I had become accustomed to being occasionally followed, seeing cars and police cars go up and down in front of where I was staying. I had gotten really good at being able to identify those unmarked cars because there would be a certain way they’d be driven and they had certain colors. Colors that were supposed to be inconspicuous, but you know nobody in the neighborhood would actually buy a car that color, like a funny brown and brownish green and so forth, almost solid camouflage colors, gray. We knew who it was.”xxi

FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, & the Omaha Two story is available at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at Patrons of the Omaha Public Library also enjoy free access.

i “Intro to Poetry,” Mondo, Prison Writing, undated, circa 1975

ii Mondo, prison interview, undated

iii Can’t Jail the Spirit, Mondo, Prison Activist Resource Center, Fourth Edition, 1998

iv Don Shasteen, “Testimony Conflicts Over Bill That Bans Smut,” Omaha World-Herald, March 9, 1965

v Gerald Wade, “Summer Corps Stresses Middle Name—Action,” Omaha World-Herald, July 4, 1965

vi Mondo, prison interview, September 8, 2007

vii Mondo, prison interview, September 8, 2007

viii Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007

ix Wally Provost, “A Story of More Than One Street,” Omaha World-Herald, July 26, 1966

x Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1041, April 13, 1971

xi Titus Fisher, “Modern Beat Is Heard in Church,” Omaha World-Herald, May 6, 1967

xii Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1044, April 13, 1971

xiii “Courthouse Pray-in Held,” Omaha World-Herald, September 28, 1967

xiv “The Cases of David Rice and Edward Poindexter,” Group 489, Amnesty International, p. 2, April 7, 1980

xv “Courthouse Pray-in Held,” Omaha World-Herald, September 28, 1967

xvi Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1043-1044, April 13, 1971

xvii Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1042, April 13, 1971

xviii “Militant” Paper Tells Aim: To Stir Near North Action,” Omaha World-Herald, November 2. 1967

xix Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1045, April 13, 1971

xx Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 1046, April 13, 1971

xxi Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007

Activist Yang Chih-yuan held at Chinese detention facility for advocating Taiwan independence

Yang Chih-yuan advocating for Taiwan independence in 2019 is now a prisoner in the People’s Republic of China for his political activism. (credit: Radio Free Asia)

Yang Chih-yuan, arrested on August 3, in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, is now being held incommunicado in a Chinese detention facility. Yang was arrested for his advocacy for Taiwan independence as part of retaliation by the People’s Republic of China for the recent visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.

Yang is a political pawn in a battle between the PRC which has arrested him and the exiled Republic of China he has long advocated against. Prospects for an early release do not look promising as the PRC seems determined to make an example of Yang. The Chinese newspaper Global Times is an organ for government propaganda and its report on Yang’s arrest does not bode well for the Taiwanese activist. Yang is accused of “suspicion of engaging in separatist activities and endangering national security.”

“Yang has been poisoned by thoughts of “Taiwan independence” secessionism for a long time and in 2006, when he was in middle school, he started to be engaged in secessionist activities.”

“In 2008, Yang was chosen by the Democratic Progressive Party for cultivation as he was actively involved in the “Wild Strawberries Movement,” a protest movement in the island of Taiwan in November 2008 after the visit of Chen Yunlin, chairman of the mainland’s Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits, to the island. Yang was later appointed as the head of the DPP youth league in Taichung and became an important member of the secessionist forces in the island.”

“In 2011, Yang took part in forming “Taiwanese National Party” and actively schemed a series of secessionist activities in an attempt to “build a country through referendum.” In 2019, Yang took the position as the vice chairman of “Taiwanese National Party” and clamored to push “Taiwan independence” more hastily and aggressively.”

“Yang colluded with separatist forces to support Hong Kong secessionists and incited secessionist forces to work together, which were a provocation to China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The official Xinhua news agency said Yang had allegedly been attempting to establish “an illegal organization with the aim to push for Taiwan to become a sovereign state and join the United Nations.”

The Taiwan affairs ministry of the Chinese government has warned of punishing “die-hard Taiwan independence elements” who have “recklessly carried out separatist activities.”

“Their separatist acts and remarks are flagrant provocations against China’s national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the sanctity of law. They have also severely jeopardized the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

“Any individual or organization that…engages in activities jeopardizing national security shall be investigated…convicted and punished for secession.”

Yang, arrested for his advocacy against the ROC in Taiwan, is also seen as a threat by the PRC highlighting the confused international status of Taiwan. Most recent news reports on the PRC escalation against the ROC for control of Taiwan gloss over the lack of sovereignty by the ROC as the central issue in the dispute. It is as though the Chinese civil war never ended and now the Taiwanese public is trapped in a quagmire known as the “strategic ambiguity.” American offers of support talk about Taiwan, however mean the ROC. How eager the ROC government is to see a critic like Yang come home is unclear.

Yang Chih-yuan’s long advocacy for a Republic of Taiwan has now attracted an international audience with his arrest. Yang’s fight for Taiwan’s freedom is no longer waged with banners and flyers but with his most precious weapon, his freedom.

“My mother used to tell me to stay away from white people because they will hurt you”

Edward Poindexter as a high school student, as a Black Panther, and as a prisoner. (credits: North High yearbook/Omaha Police Department/Mary Loan)

This is Chapter 2 of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the Omaha Two story, a tale of injustice and two innocent men sentenced to life in prison because they were leaders of a Black Panthers affiliate chapter. Ed Poindexter is currently serving his life sentence at the maximum security Nebraska State Penitentiary. This is the second weekly installment of FRAMED, free for the public.

Edward Alan Poindexter was born November 1, 1944, in Omaha. Poindexter’s childhood years were confined to the the Near-Northside, an area of town commonly called the ghetto.

“I was born in the Logan Fontenelle Projects….It was rigidly segregated, and we had better not get caught south of Cumings, west of 30th Street, east of 20th Street.”

“My mother used to tell me to stay away from white people because they will hurt you. And she was right. But she also said to be careful of black people too. She was even more right. I still wonder if anyone is safe.”

The motherly warnings to young Ed went unheeded as he explored the neighborhood night life when he was supposed to be in bed. “I used to walk up and down the “Deuce” at night when I was able to sneak out of the house and past the festive juke joints from Sam Flax…as far north as The Oasis, and sometimes as far as 24th & Lake to the M&M Lounge and The Snake Pit.”

“Being only between six and nine, I got the biggest kick out of listening to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Mama Thornton, Faye Adams and Elvis Presley (later on) and Little Richard songs coming out of the speakers over the doors of the juke joints and spilling out into the street. I learned to play the blues bass guitar years later.”

“I also loved the real life character Singin’ Sam, the village wine-o who’d stagger up and down the Deuce day and night belting out his own brand of the blues. I thought he was a pretty good blues singer, second only to the Wolf. Really, this drunk was good.”

Ed’s father helped him learn to read. “I remember learning how to read by sitting on the floor between my father’s legs as he read the newspaper, and would point up to words and pictures that he would either read for me or explain what the photos were.”

“Daddy worked on the railroad. He must have really hated his job and the role he had to play for white folks because he would never talk about the job, and would always return at the end of the day so angry that we’d often clear the living room until Daddy had chilled out and read the papers.”

“One day I misread Daddy’s mood, and went to sit on the floor in front of him for my daily lesson in reading, but he slapped me up side of the head and yelled to leave him alone. I ran upstairs toward the bedroom crying and mumbling under my breath, “I hate you! I wish you were dead!”

“I think that was on a Friday, because the next morning was a Saturday when I awakened and went downstairs. There was that familiar but peculiar odor of grease-fried hair under a straightening comb. The living room was filled with neighbors, quiet and somber. They all spoke to me, but said nothing else. A couple of the women were crying.”

“I entered the kitchen for breakfast, and Aunt Alice was frying Mama’s hair. She did not mince words with me or sugar coat it with typical fairy tales, but instead told me directly, “Butch honey, your father’s dead. He drown at Carter Lake last night, and you are never going to see him again.”

“I was stunned. The searing pain and shock was unspeakable. I was only eight, and Daddy was just twenty-six, and I’d never see him again.”

“I’d wished him dead on Friday, and come Saturday morning he was dead. Actually, he drowned Friday evening late. I got my wish. I blamed myself for his death, and it took me nearly two years to come out of my guilt shell and begin acting like a normal kid again. It wasn’t until 1992 that I finally come to grips with the entire issue of my father’s untimely death that was probably driven by his alcoholism. What with all the white folk’s shit he had to eat at work every day, I think I would have attempted to wash the angst away with whiskey too.”

“My Uncle Bob would come to Omaha about once a year to check on us. I remember one visit Uncle Bob said he would buy me anything I wanted. I thought for a long time, kids want a lot of things, but I didn’t want anything. I just wanted my father back.”i

“Uncle Bob was a legend. He was the first convict to break the four minute mile barrier by running around the Ft. Madison, Iowa prison yard in the mid-1950s. Ebony magazine ran an article on the achievement when the then-world record holder, Roger Banister, from England visited Bob to congratulate him and study his training techniques, having done it all on prison grub.”ii

In 1958, Omaha police were called to Burt Street in Omaha where they found a bloody and injured thirteen year-old. Ed had a cut chin and back injury when he was thrown from his bike after his shoe got caught in the wheel. The rescue squad was called and Ed was transported to County Hospital.The favorable interaction with police planted a thought about a career as a policeman in the teen.iii

Poindexter’s first expedition for entertainment outside of the Near-Northside was as a teenager to a movie downtown at the Orpheum Theater. The outing was marred by white teens in the balcony who spit at Poindexter seated below. Ed remained isolated from the larger white community save for a few acquaintances at school.

In 1962, Poindexter decided to join the Army and volunteered within months of graduating from North High School where he was active in sports. “I went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood and my next duty station was Frankfurt, Germany, and then I came back to the States and I re-enlisted….I went to another school at Fort Lee, Virginia. And from there to Fort Lewis, Washington, for a couple of months and then to Vietnam….My next permanent duty station was Fort Benning, Georgia.”iv

Ed became politically conscious while serving in Vietnam where he spent time in the stockade for discipline issues. Poindexter’s sister mailed him an article on the Black Panther Party while he was in the Army and he was intrigued.v

In December 1968, Poindexter received an honorable discharge from the Army, found a job at the Post Office, lost his wife, and moved, all in a short period of time as he made his transition to civilian life. “Following my discharge from the Army I took a job for a few months at the post office in Atlanta, Georgia. Gloria had agreed to join me later after I got settled in. It never happened, as she began accusing me of having affairs and spending my money on drugs. She was right and we separated. I was at a crossroads in my life.”

“Uncle Irvin had been a postal worker ever since I could remember and arranged a job transfer for me in the spring of 1969. So I worked full time at Omaha’s main post office.”

Back in his hometown, Poindexter had an opportunity to explore Black Panther activism. “After hearing about a Black Panther Party chapter in Omaha, I decided it was time that I made my life count for something.”

“From the first Panther meeting I attended, I knew it was my calling to become a revolutionary black militant, because I never felt more of a sense of belonging or a sense of kinship with any real organization before. It’s difficult to explain, but I just knew I belonged.”vi

“I attended a Panther meeting when Eddie Bolden was the Deputy Chairman, and instantly fell in love with the concept of the Black Revolutionary Marxist, socialism and everything associated with it.”vii

“One of the important lessons I learned during my work with the Black Panther Party was how to communicate with people and how to resolve problems in a creative, intelligent manner. I was proud of myself, as I’d come a long way from the days when I’d bust someone in the mouth first, then talk later.”viii

Poindexter’s infatuation with the Black Panthers and the excitement of black power became obsessive to the Army veteran trying to reenter the civilian world. “I was once codependent, took a vow of poverty and owned exactly two pair of ragged trousers, two ragged shirts and one pair of shoes. My sole mission was to serve the “poor and oppressed masses” for they couldn’t live without me. My entire identity was wrapped up in serving them.”

“I couldn’t even keep a job or sustain a relationship with a woman because I didn’t have time, for my time belonged to the “people.” I was once ill with the flu and took a day off, but only worried myself into an even sicker state because I thought the community couldn’t survive a couple of days without me.”

“I believed I’d eventually become a “people’s martyr” by dying in a shootout with the police, and actually looked forward to it.”

“As long as I was busy trying to fix the community, I didn’t have to look inside myself and see a lonely young man with a void that I only knew how to fill by submerging myself in the “struggle,” totally ignoring my own needs because I was brainwashed to believe my needs were secondary to those of the people.”ix

FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, & the Omaha Two story is available at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at Patrons of the Omaha Public Library also enjoy free access.

i Edward Poindexter, prison interview, undated

ii Edward Poindexter, letter to author, March 24, 2008

iii “Police Calls,” Omaha World-Herald, April 11, 1958

iv Transcript, Vol. 6, p. 961-962, April 12, 1971

v “The Cases of David Rice and Edward Poindexter,” Group 489, Amnesty International, p. 2, April 7, 1980

vi Edward Poindexter, unpublished autobiography, p. 27, undated

vii Edward Poindexter, letter to author, March 24, 2008

viii Edward Poindexter, unpublished autobiography, p. 27, undated

ix Edward Poindexter, EsteemQuest, p. 24, undated

China arrests Taiwan independence advocate Yang Chih-yuan

Yang Chih-yuan under arrest in China for advocating Taiwan independence. Yang is former Vice-Chairman of the Taiwan National Party, a pro-independence party. (credits: CCTV/CNA)

After long years of confusion under the United States imposed “strategic ambiguity” the unresolved international status of Taiwan is in the news. Most of the talk is about missiles and trade bans in the dispute between the People’s Republic of China and the exiled Republic of China which governs Taiwan as a World War II occupation government which never left.

The battle for Taiwan between the two Chinas has moved into new territory with the August 3 arrest in Wenzhou, in the province of Zhejiang, of Yang Chih-yuan, an outspoken advocate for Taiwanese independence. The arrest is in apparent retaliation for the recent visit to Taiwan of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Yang traveled to China in January to pursue business and had stepped away from his Taiwan independence activism. However, the State Security Bureau was watching Yang. A Chinese media statement said Yang “has long engaged in Taiwan independence separatist activities and is suspected of endangering national security.”

In the wake of Yang’s detention, the Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan has urged Taiwanese residents to assess the risks of visiting China given the potential risks to their personal freedom and security. The arrest was announced on state-run China Central Television, although there was no official notification as required by the Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told a news conference that “die-hard Taiwanese separatists cannot escape severe punishment under national law.”

Yang was accused of being involved in the establishment of an “illegal organization with the goal of pushing for Taiwan to become a sovereign, independent nation, with the eventual aim of it joining the UN, among other separatist crimes.”

Yang was previously a member of the Taiwan Action Party Alliance — a pro-independence party founded by former president Chen Shui-bian that dissolved in 2020.

Yang was also active in the 2008 Wild Strawberries movement and had previously assisted a Chinese dissident seeking asylum in Taiwan. Ironically, although Yang has been arrested by the People’s Republic of China, most of his activism has been against rival Republic of China in-exile. Yang’s plight puts a tight focus on what the District of Columbia U. S. Court of Appeals has called Taiwan’s “political purgatory.”

Yang has not been permitted any visitors and is being held without bail.

Negro youths respond to the leadership of militant malcontents”

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered evidence withheld in the murder of Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard. (credit: White House)

This is Chapter 1 of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the Omaha Two story, a tale of injustice and two innocent men sentenced to life in prison because they were leaders of a Black Panthers affiliate chapter. This is the first weekly installment of the book, free for the public.

On a hot Sunday evening in August 1970, Larry Minard, Sr. had supper with his wife Karen and five children. It would be Larry’s last meal. Later that night Larry put on his uniform. The seven-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department worked the midnight shift on the Near-Northside. As he departed, Minard told his wife not to worry, his customary message to calm her fears about the dangers of his work. Karen never saw Larry alive again.

Minard’s bombing death would be blamed on the Black Panthers. Two leaders ended up with life sentences in prison. However, the true story was never told to the jury and has only emerged in bits and pieces over the years. J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for whom the FBI headquarters building is named, intervened in the criminal investigation and ordered a laboratory report on the identity of an unknown 911 caller to be withheld. Hoover let one of Minard’s killers get away with murder to frame a case against the two black leaders as part of his clandestine COINTELPRO operation. This is the story the jury never heard and the history behind that story, a tale of justice corrupted by the nation’s highest police official.

Omaha, Nebraska was settled by white pioneers and according to English poet Rudyard Kipling the prairie city was “populated entirely by Germans, Poles, Slavs, Hungarians, Croats, Magyars, and all the scum of the Eastern European States.”i

Early black residents of the city were lured from the South beginning in the 1880’s as strikebreakers by railroad companies and the meat packing industry. The competition for work did nothing to mitigate existing racial prejudices and black residents suffered from discrimination and white misconduct.

On October 9, 1891, George Smith, a black man accused of raping a five year-old white girl, was lynched by a frenzied mob of eight thousand that stormed the city jail. A journalist observed “that men began to look at each other in a strange way, and that something happened which it would be impossible to put into words.” Elia Peattie wrote, “It was the sudden growth of a terrible mental disease.”

“This fever raged in every vein and artery of the city.”ii

Smith was not properly identified as the culprit although that did not stop the lynching while racism stormed in the streets. The Omaha Bee described the brutal scene as Smith was hauled out a jail window into the hands of the bloodthirsty crowd. “The mob rushed upon him, kicking and jumping upon him as he was jerked down over the rough pavement, his clothing almost entirely torn from his body, and the skin and flesh bruised and bleeding in a shocking manner.”iii

The Great Migration of rural Southern sharecroppers to Northern cities following World War I helped swell Omaha’s black population but did little to reduce the racism and hatred festering in the heart of the Midwest. The so-called Red Summer of 1919 was difficult for black America and the nation was scarred by race riots and lynchings across the land. Omaha did not escape the white terror bloodshed.

On September 28, 1919, a newspaper-fueled hysteria swept Omaha and a crowd, estimated at 20,000 in one account, gathered at the Douglas County Courthouse where Will Brown, a black man accused of raping a white woman, was lynched. One member of the lynch mob expressed the mood of the others. “We are going to teach these negroes a lesson. The white people of this town are tired of putting up with them. If the courts don’t do justice, fire, guns and a rope will be a sufficient lesson.”iv

Professor Steven Willborn, of the University of Nebraska College of Law, has written about the riot and lynching. “Racial tensions were also high in Omaha as the newspapers competed to sensationalize Black crime, both real and imagined, especially when directed at White women.”v

An illustrated history of the riot, Omaha’s Riot in Story and Picture, later documented the violence of the frenzied scene. “The crowd wrested revolvers, badges and clubs from policemen. They chased and beat every colored person who ventured into the vicinity. White men, who attempted to rescue innocent negroes from unmerited punishment, were subjected to physical abuse. Law-abiding citizens became maniacal anarchists.”vi

“Fury was throbbing through the throngs in the streets.”vii

“Boys and young men placed firemen’s ladders against the building. They mounted to the second story. One man had a heavy coil of new rope on his back. Another had a shotgun. Together they climbed up the outside of the west wall of the court house. Grasping cornices andwindow ledges, they squirmed upward. Automobilists turned powerful searchlights on the building to light their perilous way. The mob applauded each nimble twist of the lithe bodies. Never, perhaps, in any mob scene was there such a spectacular sight.”viii

Fires were started in the courthouse and the sheriff gave up the terrified prisoner to the mob to save the other inmates. Brown was seized and beaten immediately, his clothes were torn off by the time he was taken from the building. With a roar from the crowd, Brown was dragged to a nearby lamp pole. A rope was placed around Brown’s neck and he was hoisted in the air, his body twisting as it was jerked upward. “Hundreds of revolvers and shotguns spat at the corpse as it dangled in mid-air. Then the rope was cut. Brown’s body was tied to the rear end of an automobile. It was dragged through the streets….It was burned. Members of the mob hauled the charred remains through the business district for several hours.”ix

Actor Henry Fonda was fourteen at the time of the lynching. Fonda’s father owned a printing plant across the street from the courthouse. Fonda watched the riot from the second floor window of his father’s print shop. “It was the most horrendous sight I’d ever seen…We locked the plant, went downstairs, and drove home in silence. My hands were wet and there were tears in my eyes. All I could think of was that young black man dangling at the end of a rope.”x

Omaha was placed under martial law and the U.S. Army was called in to end the riot, stationing troops to patrol city streets. Omaha was a city divided by color and wounded by hatred and fear.

Two weeks after the Omaha lynching, J. Edgar Hoover, a Bureau of Investigation supervisor, received a tip from the Bureau office in the Panama Canal Zone about Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Hoover, who spent World War I chasing immigrants and radicals, launched what would become a personal war against black leaders that he considered undesirable.

Hoover wrote to his superior. “Garvey is a West-Indian negro and in addition to his activities in endeavoring to establish the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation he has also been particularly active among the radical elements in New York City in agitating the negro movement. Unfortunately however, he has not as yet violated any federal law whereby he could be proceeded against on the grounds of being an undesirable alien, from the point of view of deportation. It occurs to me, however, from the attached clipping that there might be some proceeding against him for fraud in connection with his Black Star Line propaganda.”xi

Hoover hired four black undercover agents and went to work penetrating Marcus Garvey’s organization. As the investigation proceeded, Hoover began lining up witnesses against Garvey. In 1923, on New Years Day, a key witness was attacked and shot. Reverend J. W. H. Eason died in New Orleans following an after-church shooting. The murdered pastor, who had split with Garvey, was to be a leading witness in the Black Star Line mail fraud case. According to a Bureau of Investigation source, Garvey announced the shooting of Eason at Liberty Hall in New York just one hour after it occurred in New Orleans.xii

Hoover suspected Garvey of ordering Eason’s murder to silence his rival. Prosecution against Garvey was ruled out in New Orleans by local authorities who feared the expense of such an undertaking. Although Hoover saw Garvey imprisoned and then deported for mail fraud over his back to Africa promotion, Hoover’s inability to see Garvey prosecuted for murder was a source of lifelong frustration. The Garvey case shaped and influenced Hoover’s future counterintelligence directives, he would no longer play by the rules.

In Omaha,Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X, was born May 19, 1925, on the Near-Northside. Malcolm was not long a resident, moving early in life and never developing much regard for the city. Malcolm X commented briefly on the first page of his autobiography that a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to his home one night brandishing shotguns and rifles. Malcolm’s pregnant mother told them she was alone with her three small children and that her husband was away preaching in Milwaukee. The Klansmen shouted threats and warnings that the family get out of town because “the good Christian white people” were not going to stand for Malcolm’s father spreading trouble among the “good Negroes” of Omaha with the back to Africa preaching of Marcus Garvey.xiii

An increasingly aggressive J. Edgar Hoover was named to head the Bureau of Investigation and commanded a growing national police force. Senator George Norris came to view Hoover as a menace to good government. In 1940, Norris took the step that very few ever had the courage to take and called into question the leadership of Hoover. The Nebraska lawmaker wrote to Attorney General Robert Jackson about actions of FBI agents. “I have heard so many complaints of the activities of this Bureau that it has seemed to me I ought to write you regarding them.”

“I cannot help but reach the conclusion that there is some well-grounded fear that the activities of this Bureau are overstepping and over-reaching the legitimate objects for which it was created.”xiv

Norris portended a future that would come to pass. “I fear the activities of this Bureau, covering as they do the entire country, are going to bring into disrepute the methods of our entire system of jurisprudence.”xv

Meanwhile, life in Omaha for the residents of African descent was one of segregation, discrimination and deprivation. A Works Projects Administration publication, Negroes of Nebraska, told the story. “In Omaha, Lincoln, and Grand Island, and, to a lesser extent, in other cities of Nebraska, Negroes are concentrated in districts sometimes referred to as Negro Town….As a rule, these districts relegated to the Negroes are characterized by unpaved or poorly paved streets, inadequate street lighting, absence of playgrounds or other recreational facilities for children, and houses, many of them mere hovels, usually in dire need of repair.”xvi

“The span of human memory still overlaps the time when Negroes were illiterate slaves. Many white men still regard the Negro race as inferior to the white race, and many white men even hold Negroes in contempt.”xvii

Post-World War II conditions in Omaha had not improved much for the city’s black residents. Formal segregation at Peony Park was ended but there was still a great divide in the races. White Omaha paid little attention to the black community, hemmed in on the Near-Northside.

A sweltering Independence Day weekend in Omaha in 1966, with hundred-degree heat, turned ugly when rioting broke out. According to the Omaha World-Herald the trouble began when a “band of Negro youths”went along Twenty-fourth Street breaking windows and taunting police. The group had left a dance at the Music Box in downtown and grew in size as it headed northward.xviii

By 1:00 a.m. police had arrested twenty people. Vandalism, looting, and an attack on a police car and taxi cab led to a brawl between police and a crowd of two hundred in the Safeway parking lot at Twenty-fourth and Lake Streets. It took the police until 3:00 a.m. to clear the parking lot and arrest eight more individuals.xix

A month later, during more rioting, Paul Young began his duties as Special Agent in Charge of the Omaha FBI office, his first command. Young could not foresee the awful deed he would do four years later, allowing a policeman’s killer to get away with murder. Omaha’s explosive racial problems would soon come to dominate Young’s attention.

Director Hoover, unhappy with President Lyndon Johnson over civil rights legislation, made it a practice of flooding the White House staff with every racial incident in the country that came to the attention of the FBI network of field offices. Hoover submitted a written report to the White House of events in Omaha covering Young’s first day on the job.

“Approximately 50 Negro youths gathered in the Negro district of Omaha, Nebraska, during the early morning of July 31, 1966. The group became unruly and broke windows in several business establishments. Before any looting occurred, however, the Omaha Police Department arrived on the scene and arrested six individuals. The group was dispersed and order restored.”

“During the late evening of July 31, 1966, and early morning of August 1, 1966, Negro youths again took to similar activities. Seven stores were looted and at least four stores were the object of fire bombs. Fifty extra police officers were dispatched to the Negro area of Omaha where 17 individuals were arrested on suspicion of burglary and a crowd of about 150 individuals was dispersed. One Negro boy, aged 18, was struck by shotgun pellets as he left a liquor store that had been burglarized.”xx

In May 1967, Hoover sent a special report on racial problems in Omaha to President Johnson and warned of the prospects for summer rioting. “Informed sources consider the present situation tense and rate the possibility of racial violence “quite high” due to the ill feeling created by the past incidents and the rapidity with which Negro youths respond to the leadership of militant malcontents who are not associated with any civil rights groups. Informed sources agree that communications between law enforcement and city officials are open but are not as good as they were a year ago.”

“The prevailing mood in the city is one of impatience. Statements that the city will tolerate no more violence are creating greater hostility and tension. Negro leaders are criticizing the Police Department for inadequate protection against the rampaging youths, alleging that the police are reluctant to enter the Negro district and possibly precipitate an incident that could lead to further violence.”xxi

That summer, J. Edgar Hoover launched a new counterintelligence program against so-called Black Nationalists in a memorandum to twenty-three FBI field offices. “The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder. The activities of all such groups of intelligence interest to this Bureau must be followed on a continuous basis so we will be in a position to promptly take advantage of all opportunities for counterintelligence and to inspire action in instances where circumstances warrant.”xxii

“No opportunity should be missed to exploit through counterintelligence techniques the organizational and personal conflicts of the leadership of the groups and where possible an effort should be made to capitalize upon existing conflicts between competing black nationalist organizations.”

“Many individuals currently active in black nationalist organizations have backgrounds of immorality, subversive activity, and criminal records. Through your investigation of key agitators, you should endeavor to establish their unsavory backgrounds.”xxiii

“All Special Agent personnel responsible for the investigation of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and their memberships should be alerted to our counterintelligence interest and each such investigative Agent has a responsibility to call to the attention of the counterintelligence coordinator suggestions and possibilities for implementing the program. You are also cautioned that the nature of this new endeavor is such that under no circumstances should the existence of the program be made known outside the Bureau and appropriate within-office security should be afforded to sensitive operations and techniques considered under the program.”

“You are urged to take an enthusiastic and imaginative approach to this new counterintelligence endeavor and the Bureau will be pleased to entertain any suggestions or techniques you may recommend.”xxiv

Hoover’s secret war on black Americans was now official policy and considerable Bureau resources were directed to the clandestine program against unsuspecting citizens.

FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, & the Omaha Two story is available at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at Patrons of the Omaha Public Library also enjoy free access.

i “Omaha Between Trains,” Roundup: A Nebraska Reader, Virginia Faulkner, p. 168, 1957

ii Impertinences: Selected Writings of Elia Peattie, Susanne Bloomfield, p. 106, 2005

iiiA Dirty, Wicked Town: Tales of 19th Century Omaha, David Bristow, p. 251, 2000

iv“Death by Rope is Verdict of Mob,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, September 28, 1919

v “The Omaha Riot of 1919,” Steven L. Willborn , Nebraska Lawyer, p. 49, December 1999

viOmaha’s Riot in Story and Picture, Educational Publishing Company, p. 10, 1920

viiOmaha’s Riot in Story and Picture, Educational Publishing Company, p. 20, 1920

viiiOmaha’s Riot in Story and Picture, Educational Publishing Company, p. 22-24, 1920

ixOmaha’s Riot in Story and Picture, Educational Publishing Company, p. 22, 1920

x,“Racial Tensions in Omaha–A Horrible Lynching,” downloaded November 29, 2010

xi National Archives, RG 60, file 198940, October 11, 1919

xii FBI Vault, Marcus Garvey, Part 3, p. 56, January 6, 1923

xiii Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X, p. 1, 1965

xiv FBI Vault, George Norris, Part 3, p. 24, February 22, 1940

xv FBI Vault, George Norris, Part 3, p. 25, February 22, 1940

xvi The Negroes of Nebraska, Nebraska Writers Project, Works Project Administration, p. 19, 1940

xvii The Negroes of Nebraska, Nebraska Writers Project, Works Project Administration, p. 46, 1940

xviii “Window-Breaking Continues Second Night on North Side,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, July 4, 1966

xix . “Window-Breaking Continues Second Night on North Side,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 8, July 4, 1966

xx FBI memo from Hoover to White House, LBJ Library, p. 3, August 1, 1966

xxi “Racial Violence Potential In The United States This Summer,” Memorandum to White House, p. 38, May 23, 1967. Declassified on June 17, 2002.

xxii Church Committee, Vol. 6, p. 383, August 25, 1967

xxiii Church Committee, Vol. 6, p. 384, August 25, 1967

xxiv Church Committee, Vol. 6, p. 385, August 25, 1967