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Movements vs. Saboteurs: A Reading of Suzie Dawson’s ‘Freeing Julian Assange Pt. 3’

It can be very frustrating to look into the history of dissident movements in the United States and other western nations, particularly the multitude of activist groups that were disrupted (through tactics up to and including murder) by the FBI, the CIA, military intelligence and local police forces during the upheavals of the 1960s.

During that period, it seems as if it were oh so easy for those state organizations to infiltrate and break apart nearly everything, from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to the Black Panthers and Young Lords to the Nation of Islam to even small international solidarity and antiwar groups. Not even nascent feminist and indigenous rights organizations were spared state saboteurs.

Although the most effective of that state sabotage, the FBI’s COINTELPRO, was partially dismantled in the wake of Congress’s Church Committee investigations and hearings in the mid-1970s, the state’s codified tactics of disruption have continued in the ensuing decades, severely blunting the positive impact of environmental, economic/civil/animal rights, government transparency and other movements large and small, fledgling and developed, through the 80s, 90s, 00’s and well through our current decade.

During all this time, I’ve consistently wondered why few groups have overtly addressed how to credibly beat back longstanding state programs designed to neuter movements. Recently, early-stage systemic change organization Black Socialists of America shot a video of discussions with longtime activists about COINTELPRO and how to recognize infiltration.


But, to date, I had not seen any material that was all that comprehensive about how to recognize the efforts of state intelligence to divert movements and how to effectively counter those efforts.

In Part 1 of her latest investigative journalistic opus “Freeing Julian Assange”, Suzie Dawson began an exploration of how intelligence agencies use rape smears to discredit activist leaders. You can listen to it here.

A few weeks ago, the ever-ambitious Dawson released “Freeing Julian Assange, Part 3” and this section of her work makes the genuine attempt at laying out how intelligence operatives and the agencies that employ them disrupt movements—and how activists can be savvy enough to game the gamers of the status quo. Whether you’re an activist or not, this is a work that stands on its own as something to be studied carefully and built upon as movements continue to spring up in the years to come.

For those that don’t have the time to go through the piece or simply find it easier to listen, I offer a recorded reading of it today.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

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Stephen Boni
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Stephen Boni

Stephen Boni is both Ghion Journal's current editor and a contributing writer. His main interest is in analyzing the workings of empire and exploring ways to dismantle and replace systems of oppression. A conflicted New Englander with an affinity for people, music and avoiding isms, he lives in Oakland, California with his wife and young daughter.
Stephen Boni
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