years, the courts still won't correct the wrongs of the past. In
November 2003, the United
States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that
'Much of the
government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its
prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government
withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."
court claimed it lacked power to address this issue. We believe that
a congressional inquiry on the misconduct in this case is long
overdue," said Barry Bachrach, lead counsel for American Indian
activist Leonard Peltier.
Bachrach and other
members of Peltier's legal team this week submitted a formal request
to the U.S. Congress for an investigation into the Justice
Department's actions against Peltier and the American Indian Movement
(AIM) during the 1970s. The strife between the government and AIM
culminated in the June 26, 1975, shooting deaths of two agents of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Peltier, who still maintains
his innocence, was convicted of the killings and sentenced to two
consecutive life terms. He is currently imprisoned at the U.S.
penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.
organizations worldwide have long called for hearings into the use of
the criminal justice system by the FBI for political purposes.
Amnesty International, convinced that Peltier has repeatedly been
denied a fair trial and other fair consideration for either parole or
Executive Clemency, has called for his immediate release on the
grounds that he no longer has adequate recourse to justice.
repeated calls for congressional hearings by the U.S. Civil Rights
Commission, Amnesty International and individual members of Congress,
no congressional committee has yet had the courage to investigate the
FBI’s counterintelligence activities against AIM or the
misconduct in the Peltier case. We believe Indians must be heard on
these matters. All Americans have the right to know the truth about
what occurred during that turbulent era."
The request to
Congress calls on legislators to fully investigate the FBI’s
role in the politically motivated violence on the Pine Ridge Indian
reservation in South Dakota from 1973 to 1976, and the now documented
official misconduct against members of AIM during that period. In the case
of Peltier, the FBI's own documents show that the government
illegally obtained his extradition from Canada; as well as withheld
critical evidence, presented fabricated evidence, and intimidated
witnesses into providing false testimony at trial.
Congress to finish the work the Church Committee began nearly 30
years ago. Uncover the COINTELPRO tactics employed against AIM. They
are not any less egregious than the tactics used against other
activists of the time – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example."
As discovered by
the Church Committee and reported in 1976, the goals of the COunter
INTELligence PROgrams of the period from 1956 to the mid-1970s were
to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise
neutralize" those persons or organizations that the FBI decided
were "enemies of the State." Presidential candidate and
military veteran John Kerry was even placed under surveillance for
exercising his free speech rights in opposition to the Vietnam War.
The FBI’s COINTELPRO activities officially ended in 1971, but
there have been examples of counterintelligence-type operations
against political dissidents since.
On May 30, 2002,
Attorney General Ashcroft effectively abolished the restrictions that
were first imposed in 1976 on FBI surveillance of Americans' everyday
lives. These regulations, a direct result of the Church Committee's
inquiries, were specifically developed to counter the COINTELPRO
domestic spying program that had led to massive civil rights era
abuses during the 1960s and 1970s.
abuses are not a thing of the past. To understand the present, we
have to examine the past," Bachrach said.
government misconduct against our citizens cannot be tolerated, not
by a society purporting to be founded on the principles of justice
and freedom. We trust that this inquiry will again lead to
congressional oversight of FBI domestic security investigations, as
well as legislation designed to better protect Americans' fundamental rights."
Bachrach, Esquire; Bowditch & Dewey, LLP
311 Main Street,
Worcester, MA 01615-0156