‘The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were crazy but we’re looking wilder.
On taking office in 1969 Mitchell had declared that he was ‘first and foremost a law-enforcement officer’.
The extent of the law-breaking — including murders — that that he and his cronies supervised against radicals – black militants and Democrats – is still coming to light.
We have known for decades that the FBI informant drugged the Black Panther Chicago leader Fred Hampton in December 1969 so that he was helpless to resist when two Chicago cops shot him in the head – in his bed – in the middle of the night.
We know of a host of dirty tricks the Bureau deployed to deepen paranoia and internecine warfare in the Black Panther Party – in the New Left and the women’s movement.
But much more was in the works.
Only recently has it been established – thanks to the labors of the historian Arthur M. Eckstein – that in 1970 high officials of the FBI proposed to Director J. Edgar Hoover that ‘a state of national emergency’ existed and that therefore preparations needed to be made to open internment camps — or rather reopen them – for these were the same camps that between 1942 and 1946 held almost 120,000 Japanese-American citizens.
This time they would house 11,000 radicals — what the FBI called ‘the Security Index’.
(I was one.)
Habeas corpus would have been abolished.
But the FBI was reluctant to commit.
In an early appearance of Steve Bannon’s ‘administrative state’ — the one he thinks must be ‘deconstructed’ — many among the 9,000 FBI agents of 1970 preferred fighting crime to keeping tabs on domestic radicals who had committed no crimes.
As the FBI dragged its feet they didn’t know — no one did — that the state of emergency was a hair’s-breadth from activation.