Warning: Racist Violence, FBI
After the January 6th coup attempt, there has been a lot of cheering, in liberal circles, for the FBI’s apparent crackdown on the insurgents. It’s one thing to arrest and charge the hundred most obviously stupid of several thousand, but it’s another thing entirely to make the charges stick – especially to the sneakier ones. Or, to the FBI’s informants.
The FBI has a disturbing history, to put it mildly, of embedding agents provocateurs in movements. Those informants or agents-in-place aren’t just compromised by being involved with crimes, but they’re proof that the FBI knew, in advance, what was happening. The whole premise of why they want to have a man in the movement is so they can gain advance intelligence, right? Otherwise, why do it at all – just start arresting people and sweating them until they flip. The FBI has been loud and proud about their abilities in that regard, in the past and you’ve got to admit it’d really be a sledgehammer between the eyes for some proud boy in an interrogation room to be told, “Enrique’s one of ours.”
As I said before [stderr] it raises the question “given such great intelligence why did you, ummmm…. not do anything?” That applies to the insurgency on Jan 6, 2021 as well as to other, similar, situations [stderr]. One that’s near to my career was the FBI’s running Javier Montsegur (AKA “Sabu”) as an agent-in-place while Sabu led a hacking spree against foreign governments. You know, that thing the US complains foreign governments do to us? That thing. There’s a problem with the logic of running agents in place, which is that by definition they’re part of an organization with crappy operational security, and they’re the kind of people who are easy to flip – so there’s no reason to run them in place when you can just roll up the whole organization. It’s as if the FBI wants to slow down its investigations long enough to be sure that they won’t accidentally net an ex-president along with a Jeffrey Epstein, or some conspiracy theory like that. There is an issue in international espionage investigations like Sabu’s actions, for which the trade term is “deconfliction” – the FBI needs to make sure that their operation is not going to run afoul of the CIA or Mossad or MI-6, before it acts. But that’s not an issue in domestic law enforcement, like the 1/6/2021 coup attempt – unless it turns out there was KGB involvement. [If the Russians were directly involved, I suspect it would have been run better]
I’m going to assume you’re familiar with COINTELPRO, if you’re reading this blog. That was another case where the FBI was revealed to have agents in place like Larry Grathwohl within radical groups such as The Weather Underground. [wik] I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade, or anything, but the FBI’s investigation of the Weathermen was not particularly effective; it mostly amounted to sitting back and collecting them when they fucked up. By the way, Grathwohl was inside the Weathermen from 1969 to 1970 – right during the most active period of the organization in which it committed multiple bombings. It’s a bit amazing, to me, that the FBI didn’t act more effectively on Grathwohl’s information before the bombings; people could and did get hurt.
What’s going on with the FBI? Are they incompetent, malicious, or both? I lean toward the latter; you can’t sit around wringing your hands about how “we warned people there was going to be a created riot on 1/6/21” but also “we knew about it months ahead and made a few phone calls, and established a cover of plausible deniability for our inside man, Tarrio, and that’s it.”
Those facts got me wondering about the FBI’s legendary (according to them) crackdown on the KKK. I remembered a few things from history, that generally the government didn’t do anything about the KKK until Hoover was ordered to crack down on it, and the FBI geared up, compromised the organization, and took out a few of the worst examples of humanity it contained. At the time, the FBI’s strategy appeared to be to establish such deep penetration that the members of the organization could no longer trust eachother, significantly degrading its ability to act in a concerted manner. Arguably, it was the fear (or awareness of) FBI penetration operations that has driven anti-government extremists to adopt “stochastic terrorism” or “lone wolf operations” as a response: there is no organization that can be penetrated if there is no organization. I say “arguably” because the other factor driving stochastic operations is the awareness of the existence of the retro-scope: you will get caught and your friends and family will be demolished by the state in retaliation. What else can we call it when Anwar Al Awlaki and his children were murdered by drone-strikes as payback for his involvement in the 2009 Ft Hood shootings?
But – back to the KKK. I realized that I only had the big picture about the FBI’s operation, so I did a bit of research, which is how I learned about Gary Thomas Rowe. This is all stuff originating in the FBI of the 1930s, the time when Heinrich Himmler looked up to the FBI as the paragon example of how a government’s secret police should operate, and sought to emulate them in the new national police force he was establishing. Quotes are from [wik]
Gary Thomas Rowe Jr. (August 13, 1933 – May 25, 1998), known in Witness Protection as Thomas Neil Moore, was a paid informant and agent provocateur for the FBI. As an informant, he infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan to monitor and disrupt it, and incited violence as part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO project. Rowe was accused of participating in and helping to plan violent Klan activity against African Americans and civil rights groups.
Oh… Uh oh. That starts out bad and is heading for worse. You may want to stop here, because if you continue, it gets unimaginably worse. And, then, it takes a nose-dive.
From 1965 until his death, Rowe was a figure of recurring controversy after he testified against fellow Klansmen who were accused of killing Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a civil rights volunteer. He was accused of being an accessory to the murder. Other violent acts that he was accused of, and at times admitted to planning and perpetrating, include the attack on the Freedom Riders and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. He was given immunity by the FBI and he was never convicted of any wrongdoing.
He was not only given immunity, he was put in the witness protection program, so that his former fellow KKK members weren’t able to inflict revenge. Though, from where I sit it doesn’t sound like he did very much to harm the organization. other than a bit of testimony. Nowadays the FBI would use “parallel construction” [wik] and avoid blowing his cover.
Rowe was recruited by FBI Special Agent Barrett G. Kemp in April 1960. The FBI discovered that the Klan was attempting to recruit Rowe, a man known for his work with the ATF and who was seeking a career in law enforcement. The FBI decided that what made him a good candidate for the Klan also made him a good candidate to be an informant against the Klan for the FBI.
In today’s practice, the FBI would find someone like “Sabu”/Montsegur, grab them and present them with evidence collected against them, then flip them and send them back as a double agent. But Rowe was recruited from the beginning to be a double agent.
Let me see if I can cudgel that idea into my brain: this guy was an FBI agent who was recruited to join the KKK then participated in beatings and bombings. That’s hardly acting along and playing a part, that’s actually being a KKK racist goon.
In 1961, Gary Thomas Rowe helped plan and lead a violent mob attack against the Freedom Riders in Anniston, Alabama. He worked together with the Birmingham Police Commissioner, Bull Connor, and Police Sergeant Tom Cook (an avid Ku Klux Klan supporter) to organize violence against the Freedom Riders with local Ku Klux Klan chapters. They assured Rowe that the mob would have 15 minutes to attack the bus before any arrests were made.
Rowe admitted to using a baseball bat during the attack, in which the mob attacked the Greyhound bus carrying the Freedom Riders at a bus station in Anniston, Alabama on May 14, Mothers Day. They slashed the tires and set the bus on fire with the Freedom Riders still inside. The mob held the doors shut, intending to let the peaceful civil rights group burn alive, but a small explosion scared them back from the door. As the Freedom Riders exited the bus, they were badly beaten by the mob and many had to be taken to hospitals which refused to treat them.
So the FBI had a representative who knew what was going to happen, yet did nothing except help plan it and didn’t lift a finger to help prosecute the Birmingham police commissioner, or a corrupt KKK member-cop, but he did grab a baseball bat and beat some protesters? Does it make you wonder if any FBI agents were there on 1/6/2021, perhaps knocking the back of a cop’s skull in, or preparing to hang Mike Pence? You know, just to maintain their cover.
It gets worse:
Even though Gary Thomas Rowe informed the FBI three weeks prior that the attack on Freedom Riders would happen, they decided not to intervene but only to ask what had happened to Genevieve Hughes, who was one of the injured Freedom Riders, with her only stating, “When I woke up the nurse asked me if I could talk with the FBI. The FBI man did not care about us, but only the bombing”.
3 weeks. No time for the FBI to do anything, because maybe someone was on vacation or something? I’m kidding: that would have come directly from the top, because Hoover was a micro-manager par excellence and would have never allowed inaction like that to happen without his approving it.
A photograph of Rowe and several others, including Eastview Klavern leader Hubert Page, beating George Webb on May 14, 1961, was taken by Tommy Langston of the Birmingham Post-Herald, who was also caught and beaten.
“This beating brought to you by the FBI.”
Rowe certainly went in for method acting:
In 1963, Gary Thomas Rowe may have helped perpetrate the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four young girls. One of the Klansman eventually convicted of the crime, Robert E. Chambliss, said that it was Rowe who bombed the church. Rowe, who was no stranger to dynamite, had twice failed polygraph tests when questioned as to his possible involvement in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, investigative records show. Because of this, the FBI and the prosecution did not use Rowe as a witness in Chambliss’s trial.
The FBI also said to believe that Rowe was supposedly involved with the bombing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s motel room at the Gaston Motel on May 11, 1963, as well as the bombing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s brothers house and parsonage. Through one of his African American informants, Rowe claimed that it was black Muslims who were responsible for placing the bombs there. Rowe was eventually arrested by Alabama police with several other Klansmen after being tipped off, in June 1963 for having a truck full of assorted firearms and explosives that were to be used at the University of Alabama to prevent the admission of James Hood and Vivian Malone. But was soon later released from jail with their weapons.
To me, it sounds like Rowe was not an FBI agent, at all. He was a KKK goon and the FBI just had his phone number. It’s hard for me to actually wrap my head around the idea that there was an FBI agent who participated in planning to bomb a church and, presumably, was telling his puppet-masters about their plans, and they stood around with their arms crossed while 4 black girls were blown up, then “broke the case” exceptionally efficiently, as the FBI is known to be a great bunch of investigators. Seriously, people, can you wrap your brain around that: the FBI had an inside man in the plot and they had to waffle around and pretend to not know what was going on: [wik]
Initially, investigators theorized that a bomb thrown from a passing car had caused the explosion at the 16th Street Baptist church. But by September 20, the FBI was able to confirm that the explosion had been caused by a device that was purposely planted beneath the steps to the church, close to the women’s lounge. A section of wire and remnants of red plastic were discovered here, which could have been part of a timing device. (The plastic remnants were later lost by investigators.
It took the FBI 5 days to figure out what it already knew. That’s some brilliant policing. It’s on par with figuring out that Enrique Tarrio and the proud boys were planning on starting fights at a protest in Washington that they had been emailing back and forth about for weeks, using social media platforms that are backdoor’d by the FBI and Tarrio is an informant. Or that water is wet. That’s the quality of police-work from the FBI, who still managed to stand around with their arms crossed and watch a bunch of shit go down. This is a long-term trend not a one-off: they stand around and let the bad things happen, then investigate them maybe.
The FBI completely skated past its involvement and mis-handling of these events, and responded such as it was, by throwing a few members of the KKK under the bus. The FBI was involved in the bombing – let that sink in. As I mentioned earlier, Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor didn’t suffer negative consequences – he lived a long and successful life in the public eye, dying slowly of a series of strokes. But, basically, none of the shit stuck to him. Why? Because the FBI, and the white citizens of Birmingham, were on Connor’s side to begin with.
In 1965, Rowe was involved in the murder of civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo as she was returning from the Selma to Montgomery marches with other activists. Rowe was in the car with three other Klansman as they chased Viola’s car after they saw a black man in the passenger seat. They pulled up next to her car and shot her dead. Rowe gave this testimony in court as he testified against the three other Klansman: Collie Leroy Wilkins Jr., William Orville Eaton, and Eugene Thomas.
The FBI attempted to downplay the situation and discredit Liuzzo by spreading rumors that Liuzzo was a member of the Communist Party, was a heroin addict, and had abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Or, as they’d say nowadays, “maybe he was Antifa.”
When Rowe went to testify, he was protected by FBI bodyguards. Four more bodyguards than the freedom riders ever got:
And from the “I can’t believe that the are not making this shit up” department, Rowe wore a face mask while giving testimony (for his protection)
Maybe it’s just me, but it looks like they just let him cut the bottom and top off his KKK hood. That would be about right.
I have to stop here because I want to throw up and there’s no FBI agent standing by for me to throw up on. How has that wretched organization been allowed to continue to exist?