It's 1969, and the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party is led by 21-year-old Fred Hampton. Hampton is beloved by his supporters, and hated beyond measure by J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI. Hoover is determined to stamp out this potential 'Black Messiah' - and he'll stop at nothing to do so. Join Sophia Di Martino and Civil Rights lawyer Jeffrey Haas for the first instalment in a two-part exploration of a shameful chapter in FBI history - COINTELPRO.
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True Spies Ep. 156 - COINTELPRO, Part 1: The Black Panther Plot

NARRATOR: This is True Spies, the podcast that takes you deep inside the greatest secret missions of all time. Week by week, you’ll hear the true stories behind the operations that have shaped the world we live in. You’ll meet the people who live life undercover. What do they know? What are their skills? And what would you do in their position?

JEFF HAAS: Fred said, “Okay, now everybody stand up.” I stood up. And then Fred said, “Raise your right hand.” And I did like everybody else. And he says, “Now raise your right hand and repeat, ‘I am a revolutionary.’” 

NARRATOR: I’m Sophia Di Martino, and this is True Spies from SPYSCAPE Studios. COINTELPRO, Part 1: The Black Panther Plot. Have you ever had a feeling of deep, inexplicable knowing? Not just a worry, not just a prediction, but a sense in your bones that something is inevitable? Sometimes there’s no evidence for it. Sometimes that feeling is too disturbing to acknowledge. But sometimes it spurs us to take action.

JEFF HAAS: I heard him speak when he came out of jail in 1969 and he said something like, “Well, I'm going to if you're asked to make a commitment at the age of 20 and you say, ‘I'm too young to die’ then you're dead already because I'm going to say ‘Freedom to you if you're willing to fight for it’.”

NARRATOR: In 1969, Fred Hampton was the 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. He was one of those people who seemed to have a tireless ability to fight. His spirit was infectious. His speeches roused people of all races, bringing them out into the streets to demand respect. Dignity. Equal opportunity. But in spite of his boundless energy and his optimism in the face of brutality, Fred Hampton seemed to know that he was being threatened by something in the shadows.

JEFF HAAS: COINTELPRO was a clandestine program that J. Edgar Hoover had started, and it targeted all the movements, but in particular the black movement. But Hoover had a particular thing for the Panthers, who he said were the greatest threat to the security of the US.

NARRATOR: COINTELPRO - short for Counterintelligence Program. It was launched by the FBI in 1956. But as the revolutionary atmosphere of the US came to a simmer in the 1960s, so, too, did the FBI’s covert surveillance of activist groups.

JEFF HAAS: It was not public, but in all cities that had Panther offices, all the heads of the offices were directed to come up with hard-hitting programs against the attacking the Panthers. And the motive was to disrupt, destroy and neutralize the Panthers by any means necessary, and prevent the unity of black nationalist groups. And there was one other COINTELPRO objective that was specifically an order from Hoover to the FBI offices: prevent the rise of a messiah who could unify and electrify the black masses.

NARRATOR: For the FBI, one potential messiah seemed to demand scrutiny.

JEFF HAAS: This clandestine FBI program was actually monitoring Fred and the Panthers very closely from the day they opened their doors.

NARRATOR: Fred was a protagonist in one of the most shameful chapters in American history. You’ll learn all the unsavory details here in this two-part series, with the help of two people instrumental in bringing the truth into the light. 

JEFF HAAS: My name is Jeff Haas and I have been a civil rights attorney for about 50 years.

NARRATOR: Your guide this week, Jeffrey Haas, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Fred Hampton at the height of his fame. Born in 1942 in Atlanta, Georgia, he got his law degree in Chicago, where this story begins, in the mid-1960s. Jeff, a newly minted lawyer, was coming of age personally and professionally in the midst of a national sea change.

JEFF HAAS: The Vietnam War was escalating. Dr. King came to Chicago. He made his first speech against the war in Chicago. Then you had the Democratic Convention in 1968.

NARRATOR: Jeff was supportive of the changes going on around him, but - initially - he was mostly an observer. 

JEFF HAAS: I think I was open, but sort of liberal and pretty naive, even when I started law school.

NARRATOR: Let’s see. Twenty-something. Fledgling lawyer. Liberal. Chicago. Probably not likely to sit on the sidelines for long.

JEFF HAAS: One of my classmates in law school and who continues to be a friend is Bernardine Dohrn, who was one of the leaders of the Weather Underground.

NARRATOR: The Weather Underground: the far-left group that so strongly opposed the war in Vietnam and what it called ‘US imperialism’ that it bombed the US Capitol and the Pentagon. With the exception of three of the group’s own members, no one was ever killed by any of their violent activities - they often issued warnings before their attacks. Nevertheless, Jeff’s friend Bernardine Dohrn spent three years on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.

JEFF HAAS: And she actually had me go and work in a civil rights firm my second year in law school. So I think I changed quite a bit during that period from being a liberal to being an activist.

NARRATOR: Jeff’s father was a lawyer, and Jeff could have easily gone to work for his firm after graduating from law school. Instead, he went to work in legal aid representing people, mostly in the black community, who were trying to construct low-income housing. At the time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was preaching a nonviolent approach to obtaining racial equality. But in the final years of Dr. King’s life, many black leaders who followed in his footsteps had begun to question whether Dr. King’s peaceful means went far enough. By the late ‘60s, the Black Power Movement had come to represent something more radical. Its members were willing to take whatever violent measures they deemed necessary to guarantee their equality. And that terrified a lot of white people who were scared of what change might mean for them.

JEFF HAAS: One of the things I can never forget is when Stokely Carmichael was in the South and came out with the term Black Power, he didn't anticipate the reaction that white people would feel, that they would automatically feel that that was a threat to their power, to their exclusive power, as opposed to a statement of what black people wanted, which was equal power, was equal recognition, was equal rights.

NARRATOR: The Black Panther Party was established beneath the umbrella of Black Power. They were motivated by Marxist ideals and a desire to put an end to police violence and class warfare. And they were willing to take up arms to get it. But they also carried out their own social initiatives, like a Free Breakfast for Children program. Fred Hampton was just 20 years old when he joined the Panthers. But his life experience had already given him an ideal résumé for a new member of the movement.

JEFF HAAS: Fred Hampton's mother and father had moved to Chicago in the ‘40s from Haynesville, Louisiana. They settled on the west side of Chicago, like many other immigrants, black immigrants from the South. Fred's mother had been a union steward, a very strong woman, and also Fred's father was less talkative but very firm.

NARRATOR: Fred grew up with some notable neighbors. His mother sometimes babysat Emmett Till. When Till was lynched at just 14 years old, his mother insisted on displaying his brutalized body at an open-casket funeral, sparking a national outcry in 1955.

JEFF HAAS: Fred had some kind of unusual and amazing qualities. They called him ‘Peanut Head’, and they used to make fun of him because he had a big head. And so he learned to respond and talk back to people. So later on, people said he had a mouth nobody wanted to take on. When he got to high school, Fred was a good student. He was a good athlete. He was popular but couldn't accept injustice anywhere. And the school wouldn't consider black girls - and it was a school that was about a third black at that time - they couldn't be considered for homecoming queen. And Fred led a walkout around that. And then he led another walkout around getting more black teachers and black administrators.

NARRATOR: Fred’s preternatural ability to organize got him noticed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP. They asked him if he’d be willing to start a youth chapter. Fred, who was in his mid-teens at the time, said yes. His charismatic leadership attracted more than 200 people to the group within a year. Fred’s go-getter personality was a valuable asset for the NAACP. But it also attracted some unwanted attention.

JEFF HAAS: They had no swimming pool in Maywood where he grew up. White kids could go to surrounding suburbs where they had pools, but they were segregated. So he took a demonstration to City Hall, and when they wouldn't let him in the police actually tear-gassed the group he was with. And so, some of the kids threw rocks and broke some windows. And then they charged Fred with mob action because he had led the demonstration, although he didn't have anything to do with the violence or the broken windows. That's when he got picked up and put on the rabble-rouser index of the FBI. So they started watching him then. 

NARRATOR: Other unusual things were happening, too. 

JEFF HAAS: Fred used to say he couldn't drive, he couldn't go four blocks in Maywood without getting stopped. So he actually quit driving and had other people drive him. So he was under the radar of the local police and the FBI pretty early.

NARRATOR: If the FBI was on the lookout for a potential ‘messiah’ for the black community, young Fred Hampton gave them a reason to sit up and take note. Anyone who was lucky enough to see him in person could have gotten swept up in his extraordinary ability to unite and ignite.

JEFF HAAS: Another thing that was increasingly remarkable about Fred is he wasn't religious, but he did go to church with his parents. And he also memorized the speeches of Malcolm X and Dr. King. So Fred had many of the cadences and the power of the black preacher. So Fred did become a very strong spokesperson at the age of 18 or 19.

NARRATOR: And it wasn’t just Black Americans that Fred brought together.

JEFF HAAS: Fred could speak to welfare mothers, college law students, gang members. He actually went up and spoke to the Young Patriots, which was a group of young Appalachian whites, many of whom still had Confederate flags on their caps, and he was able to organize them around common issues of bad housing, police brutality, and slumlord-ism.

NARRATOR: He was also able to win the respect of a group called the Young Lords, a primarily Puerto Rican street gang-turned-civil rights group. Together with the Young Patriots, these movements formed the Rainbow Coalition, an alliance of people with seemingly disparate goals, united by their desire to champion progressive causes.

JEFF HAAS: Fred was the glue that put that group together. And I think in many ways, this is one of the reasons why Fred was so frightening - his ability to organize, his ability to bring people together.

NARRATOR: In 1968, Fred joined the Chicago arm of the Black Panther Party. By that time, the Panthers knew the FBI had their eyes on them. The Bureau wasn’t being subtle.

JEFF HAAS: There were numerous occasions where the police and the FBI actually attacked the Panther office and ransacked the Panther office. Fred came to Dennis Cunningham, a friend of mine, and said, “We need a people's law office in Chicago. We're getting busted every time we step out on the streets.” And so we started the People's Law Office in order to defend the movement, the Panthers, the Young Lords, the Patriots, the anti-war movement. And we opened our office in a sausage shop in the summer of 1969.

NARRATOR: In 1969, Jeff was a 27-year-old lawyer committed to defending his progressive values. But he wasn’t all bluster and youthful idealism. There were a lot of nerves in those early days in the sausage shop. In part because these young lawyers had secured some hot-button clients for themselves. Panther headquarters were being targeted. What if the People’s Law Office was, too? They decided to invest in some security measures. Nevertheless, it was a totally nonviolent incident that put Fred Hampton, now chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, on Jeff’s radar.

JEFF HAAS: Dennis and some of my partners were representing Fred. He got framed up for an ice cream truck heist. He gave out 71 bars of ice cream, according to the police, and they charged him with robbery.

NARRATOR: An ice cream truck heist. An almost comical charge, one that Fred always denied. But law enforcement had been keeping tabs on him and the incident gave them a reason as good as any to put him away. Fred received two-to-five years in prison. But with the help of Jeff’s colleagues at the People’s Law Office, he ended up serving less than five months before being released on an appeal bond.

JEFF HAAS: He came out of prison in the summer of 1969. And there was a huge greeting for him at the People's Church. I mean, we got there, it was almost full. We sat maybe two seats, maybe 10 rows back. It was quiet. Fred had been in prison in southern Illinois. So he came out dressed - not in the leather jacket, but in a sweater. And he was very young. I was 27 at that time. Maybe he just turned 21. And he had this youthful energy and jubilation about it. And he came out and people were yelling, “Free Fred Hampton.” And then he stepped up there and he started talking and he gave this speech about commitment.

NARRATOR: Fred said: “If you’re asked to make a commitment at the age of 20, and you say, ‘I don’t want to make a commitment at the age of 20, only because of the reason that I’m too young to die, I want to live a little longer,’ then you’re dead already. You have to understand that people have to pay a price for peace.”

JEFF HAAS: When Fred stood up and said, “I'm not going to die slipping on a piece of ice. I'm not going to die of a heart attack. I'm going to be fighting in the revolution, and all of you should be fighting in it.” It just had a remarkable power to it, enthusiasm to it, and also almost a fatalism to it, too.

NARRATOR: Sitting there in the church amidst hundreds of other people, Jeff was having something akin to a conversion experience.

JEFF HAAS: I was a lawyer at that time. I'd been out of law school for two years and we just started the People's Law Office. And Fred said, “Okay, now everybody stand up.” And I stood up. And then Fred said, “Raise your right hand.” And I did like everybody else. And most of the crowd was black. But there were people from other movements there, too. And he says, “Now raise your right hand and repeat, ‘I am…’” And I stood up and said, “I am…” And then he said, “a revolutionary.” And I couldn't say it. The words stuck in my throat. And he said it again, and I couldn't quite get it out. By the third time, I was whispering. But by the fifth or sixth time, I was yelling “a revolutionary” like everybody else there. And I think it was a threshold that he took me over and many other people so that I did not see myself as just a lawyer for political change or for the revolution, but more as an activist, as a revolutionary myself.

NARRATOR: This wasn’t just about elevating the position of black people in America. In the summer of 1969, the US was fighting many other battles, too - social and political. Battles that 27-year-old Jeff and many people around him believed were worthy of staking their lives on.

JEFF HAAS: We were still facing a great deal of racism. Of course, the Vietnam War had turned many of us against the government, and it seemed to be abominable that we could be part of a country that was napalming a people that were trying to be free. So I think in his own way, even though he was sort of predicting his own demise, he gave us a sense of being not vulnerable, of being powerful, of wanting to change society.

NARRATOR: To this day, Jeff credits that experience of seeing Fred Hampton speak as a defining moment in his life, as a lawyer and as an advocate.

JEFF HAAS: You look at the late ‘60s and there was a revolution going on around the world. There had been revolutions in China, Cuba, Africa, in South America. We also felt like we were very much a part of all those things that were happening. And why couldn't we try to make that happen here? So it was a very exuberant movement. And then, well, three months later, something very different happened. 

NARRATOR: It’s 1969 and 27-year-old lawyer Jeffrey Haas, spurred by the inspiring young Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, has transitioned from advocate to activist. He’s already co-founded the People’s Law Office. Now, through his work, he’s collaborating with the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party, a group that included some larger-than-life personalities. 

JEFF HAAS: One of the Panthers we knew was a man named William O'Neal. He was sort of half of a con man but very smart. He drove a good car. And at one point, he was actually Fred Hampton's bodyguard and was in charge of security in the Panthers. 

NARRATOR: William O’Neal was a braggadocious 20-year-old. And his security measures were unconventional, to say the least.

JEFF HAAS: He built an electric chair in the office of the Panthers. The idea of the electric chair was, if anybody is an informant, this will scare them and they won't they won't join the Panthers. And he also built what he said was a missile that could be fired from the Panther office and land in City Hall. 

NARRATOR: Fred asked him to dismantle the chair but kept him as part of the team. 

JEFF HAAS: So O'Neal was one of the Panthers that we knew. We knew, of course, Bobby Rush, who later became a congressman, and also a young student with Fred.

NARRATOR: Bobby Rush, the former Illinois politician who holds the title of being the only politician ever to have defeated Barack Obama in an election. He remained in the US Congress until early 2023. Fred’s successful appeal after his conviction in the ice cream heist put him back at the top of this live-wire group of activists. And it also heralded the start of a new chapter in Fred’s life as part of a growing family.

JEFF HAAS: Deborah Johnson was Fred's fiancée and she was pregnant. And they had gotten an apartment where they stayed together in Chicago. A couple of other Panthers would usually stay there as well and Fred would not be at the same place every night. In order to reach Fred, you had to call someone who had to reach Fred. So on the one hand, I think they were very aware that Fred was being followed and monitored. And he told people that he was fearful for his own life.

NARRATOR: Fred and Deborah’s apartment was only a block from the Black Panthers' office. And they weren’t safe there, either. In fact, police had attacked the headquarters so many times that their landlord was threatening to evict them. But rather than be kicked out, Fred decided to buy the building. Jeff would help draw up the papers.

JEFF HAAS: I'd done a little housing work at Legal Aid and he had raised the money. I was going to draw up the contract on December 2 and come back two days later on December 4 for him to sign it. And I just remember going up into the Panther office and he was in the back. And I remember him looking at me and giving the salute, “Power to the people.” And I said, “Power to the people.”

NARRATOR: December 2, 1969, was the last time Jeff ever saw Fred Hampton.

JEFF HAAS: Two days later, at 6 am, somebody knocked on my back door and it was my law partner, Skip Andrew, and I looked at him. He was already in a suit and tie. He said, “The chairman's been killed. The pigs vamped on his crib this morning.”

NARRATOR: For years, the American public would be denied the truth of what happened early on the morning of December 4. From the moment he heard the news, Jeff knew he had a role to play in getting the truth out.

JEFF HAAS: And I was like, “What can I do?” And he said, “Well, I'm going to go to the morgue with somebody from the Panthers and identify the body and then go to the apartment. There are some of the survivors. It was a police raid. Will you go to the police station and talk to those who weren't shot?” Because there were also people in the hospital.

NARRATOR: Before dawn on the morning of December 4, 1969, 14 police officers broke into Fred Hampton’s apartment, where Fred, his pregnant partner, Deborah Johnson, and several other Panthers were sleeping. One of the Panthers said afterward that he’d heard police identify Fred by name. Deborah climbed on top of Fred to try to protect him with her body. Police pushed her off him and into another room, handcuffed her, and told her and the others to look at the floor. Survivors heard gunshots from the bedroom. Then police dragged Fred’s bleeding body from the room and carried it out of the building through a door. A photo from the scene shows them smiling as they did this. In addition to Fred, one other Panther, Mark Clark, had been killed. Four Panthers had been wounded and were in the hospital. Three were being detained at the police station when Jeff arrived that morning.

JEFF HAAS: So I got in and I went into the Wood Street police station, and I sit in this little room and a few minutes later Deborah Johnson comes out - and she's in her nightgown and very pregnant. And I look at her. She's got tears and totally scared. And I said, “What happened?” And she said, “Well, the pigs came in firing and they kept shooting. I was in bed with Fred in the back bedroom.” And I said, “Well, what happened to Fred?” And she said, “Well, they came in and they pulled two other Panthers out of the room. Then they pulled me out and put me up against a wall.” And she said, “I tried to wake up Fred, but he wouldn't wake up. At one point, he rose up and then he put his head down like he was in a daze or something.” And she said, “Then I heard from the room, two police officers went in and one of them said, ‘Is he dead yet?’ And she said, “And then I heard two shots.” And then the other one said, “He's good and dead now.”

NARRATOR: Something had clearly already happened to Fred before the raid began - despite all the gunshots going off in the house around them, he hadn’t woken up.

JEFF HAAS: And I looked at her and I just said, “What can I do?” And I couldn't imagine. I couldn't bring Fred back to life.

NARRATOR: For Jeff, these weren’t typical legal clients. These were people with whom he’d formed an emotional bond - people who’d inspired him to get up off the sidelines and fight for what he thought was right. He had two choices. Surrender to the devastation of Fred’s death and the inevitable lies of law enforcement. Or act. Jeff chose the latter, put aside his emotions and went to work. 

JEFF HAAS: I also saw the two other Panthers who survived. And one of them told me that he heard the police talking and the police saying, “Well, we're going to raid Bobby Rush the next night.” Bobby Rush was the defense minister of the Panthers. So when I got out, I did warn Bobby Rush. And in fact, the police came to his apartment the next night, December 5. And of course, he wasn't home. They claim they found some marijuana there and a gun, which didn't make sense because he knew they were coming. So I think they were planted.

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, the police formed their own version of events.

JEFF HAAS: The police story was that the Panthers had fired on the police and that they in self-defense fired back. And it was in conflict with what Deborah and the other two Panthers told me about the Panthers coming in.

NARRATOR: How could the testimony of the surviving Black Panthers win out over the allegations of the police? Well, it didn’t take long before Jeff and his partners had gathered enough evidence to begin to expose the flaws in the police narrative. 

JEFF HAAS: That same morning, my law partner who had - I don't think I had this presence of mind - goes to the apartment. The police left it open and he goes with a filmmaker and a minister and they film the apartment: where the bullets are, where the bullet holes were. And we were able to gather the physical evidence and bring in an expert who put dowels in the wall. And very quickly, the physical evidence showed 90 shots coming in from the direction of the police, and the only possible shot outward was a shot that went through the front door into the hall ceiling, which we think came from Mark Clark's gun after he was already shot and was a reflex because it went up into the ceiling. So this was not a shootout. We learned it was a shoot-in.

NARRATOR: The raiders, Jeff and his partner learned, had been armed with handguns, shotguns, a machine gun, and a long gun called a carbine. They hadn’t announced themselves with a warrant that evening. They had come in, literally, guns blazing. They had arrived on the scene with intent to kill. And yet… 

JEFF HAAS: They charged the survivors with attempted murder. And so that was another thing that we had to defend them. We went to court for them. We took a gamble. Normally, defense lawyers keep their defense quiet until they have to. But we felt this case was going to be tried in that public opinion. It was on the front pages. So we came out with the Panther story - that the police came in shooting, and a lot of the bullets seemed to go toward the back bedroom where Fred and Deborah were, although it turned out Fred was murdered by two shots to the head at close range that were parallel. So the physical evidence backed up Deborah's story that she told me, that somebody went in there and shot him at close range. 

NARRATOR: As the evidence mounted, it became increasingly clear that the police’s story was a total fabrication. But one detail remained a mystery: why didn’t Fred wake up in the middle of the raid?

JEFF HAAS: And so we had a second autopsy done and they discovered a large amount of secobarbital in Fred's system. Fred didn't take drugs. So the question was, was he drugged by somebody that night?

NARRATOR: As Jeff predicted, the conflicting versions of events were played out in press coverage of the case. But in the middle of the murder trial of the surviving Panther members, something shocking happened. The prosecution dropped all the charges. It was a major win for the Panthers and for Jeff. But it was baffling. Something truly rotten would have to be going on within the Chicago police for criminal charges to vanish, just like that. Only as time passed would Jeff learn exactly why things had unfolded the way they did. One Saturday morning in early 1973, Jeff was sitting at home, having a cup of coffee, reading The Chicago Tribune, when he came across a story about a familiar character.

JEFF HAAS: The newspapers came out with a story that William O'Neal, a person we'd known in the Panthers with another man, a Chicago policeman, was charged with kidnapping and murdering some drug dealers in northwest Indiana near Chicago.

NARRATOR: Remember William O’Neal? The Panther with the nice car who drove Fred and the others around? The one who made the electric chair?

JEFF HAAS: The newspaper story said William O'Neal had been an informant in the FBI ever since 1968.

NARRATOR: Imagine Jeff’s shock. O’Neal had been part of the team in the months leading up to Fred’s death. Jeff had gotten to know him. Not all that well, evidently. But Jeff had never suspected that there was anything suspicious about his involvement in the Panthers.

JEFF HAAS: We knew about informants. And here O'Neal was this flashy character and provocateur. My idea of an informant was somebody who's inconspicuous, who's quiet. Nobody quite knows who they are. But O'Neal was sort of the opposite of that. He was always talking. He was always sort of performing. He was always bragging about what he could do.

NARRATOR: It turns out, O’Neal had had a long history of showboating. And in his late teens, that tendency had landed him in the lap of law enforcement.

JEFF HAAS: He was arrested for a stolen car. The cops arrested him, the police. And he showed a phony FBI ID. And so they turned it over to the feds. And so this FBI agent, I guess, said, “Well, here's a young black guy who seems to want to be an FBI person or want to be in law enforcement or something.” So he told O'Neal, the FBI, that they would drop the charges against him if he would be an informant and join the Panthers.

NARRATOR: That morning, reading about O’Neal with his morning coffee, all the pieces started to come together for Jeff. He’d recently heard about a program the FBI had conducted and he started to wonder if O’Neal had somehow been involved. The details that emerged beginning in 1971 were jaw-dropping. And how those details made their way to the public - well, that was pretty extraordinary, too. It’s spring 1971, in the downtown offices of The Washington Post and a Tuesday. Twenty-nine-year-old reporter Betty Medsger had taken the previous day off and her post box was full of mail. But one parcel, in particular, caught her attention.

BETTY MEDSGER: There was a brown envelope. And the return address was Liberty Publications, Media, Pennsylvania. That meant nothing to me. And then I went to my desk and I opened it and there was a cover letter from the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, which I had not heard of, saying that we had been chosen because they had confidence that we would make this information public. And if we did so, we would receive more information from them in the future.

NARRATOR: Betty did make that information public. And what this mysterious commission would reveal - and what it would mean for Fred Hampton’s story - would be more devastating than she, or Jeff could possibly imagine.

BETTY MEDSGER: We started seeing what kinds of operations they actually were. And they ranged from cruel to crude to violent and, in at least one instance, to murderous.

NARRATOR: That’s next time on True Spies. I’m Sophia DiMartino. Join us next week to learn how Betty Medsger and her colleagues blew the lid off the FBI’s secret program to disrupt, destroy, and neutralize black leaders in the late 1960s.

Guest Bio

Jeff Haas is a founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago. He was, together with Flint Taylor, a lead lawyer in the landmark Fred Hampton and Mark Clark civil rights case, and was one of the main lawyers for the 17 Pontiac Brothers, wrongfully charged but acquitted in the capital murder trial for the Pontiac Prison Rebellion in 1978.

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