The Final Call Online Edition


WEB POSTED 12-07-1999

Court documents reveal a 1998 FBI plot against Mayor Barry

by Rosalind D. Muhammad
and Nisa Islam Muhammad

WASHINGTON—A federal government plan to entrap former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry in a cash-for-job scheme backfired when the secret arrest of the informant the government was to use against Mr. Barry was leaked to the media, recently unsealed court documents reveal.

The revelation has renewed fears among Black leadership that the government targets Black elected officials more often than whites and that unscrupulous methods are used to bring Blacks down. The recent court documents bring back memories of Cointelpro, the notorious FBI program used against Black leaders and organizations under the late FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover.

"The FBI and federal government have a history of harassing Black public officials. It’s not just me. There is example after example. This is no surprise," said the former mayor in an interview with The Final Call. "I think they (government) never got past 1990 when they weren’t able to put me away in jail for a long time. They’re determined to find a way to harass me for doing something illegal. But that won’t happen," he said.

In 1990, Mr. Barry was videotaped using the drug crack. He was convicted of a drug charge in the case that was brought as a result of a government covert operation.

According to the court papers, the most recent operation went like this:

D.C. police lieutenant Yong H. Ahn, was arrested in February 1998 on charges that he accepted $8,000 in bribes from illegal massage parlor operators. FBI agents approached him about helping them to target Mr. Barry and enlisted the help of Mr. Ahn’s wife Azita. In the court papers Mrs. Ahn quotes a FBI agent as saying "they would get him (Barry) with a felony and he would never get away with this."

The court papers, released by U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan after Mr. Ahn’s trial, detail how Mr. Ahn and his wife agreed to work with investigators. The plan was for Mrs. Ahn to meet privately with Mr. Barry at the home of an acquaintance.

The FBI had prepared a phony resume for her to use to get a job with the city. Mrs. Ahn was to secretly videotape Mr. Barry receiving an envelope with $5,000 from her as down payment for a job. She then was to make him believe that he would receive another $5,000 once she was on the payroll.

According to Mrs. Ahn, the plan was targeted for April 1998 but fell apart when the arrest of Lt. Ahn was leaked to the news media.

As more information about the plot comes to light, law enforcement officials are trying to absolve themselves of responsibility. U.S. Attorney Wilma A. Lewis has said the sting would not have happened even if Mr. Ahn’s arrest had remained secret, saying she never authorized the operation.

However, the lead agent on the case, William H. Spivey Jr., a 16-year FBI veteran, said he had support from top supervisors and kept them informed along the way. "I don’t think anyone believes that just being an agent, I would be able to run or conduct an investigation of this nature on my own," he said.

That kind of cooperation for such an operation from top government brass is what has Black leaders worried.

"The fact that we are paranoid about the FBI doesn’t make us wrong," said retired U.S. Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Calif.). He pointed out that the investigation of a cover-up of government involvement in the Waco, Texas, fire that killed members of the Branch Dividians offers a "new opportunity to look into this web of deceit and corruption buried within the permanent bureaucracy of the Department of Justice (DOJ)."

A former California lieutenant governor, Mr. Dymally said he was once the target of successive, unsuccessful attempts by the FBI and DOJ to entrap him from 1974, when he was elected to the California State Senate, to 1992, when he retired from Congress. Mr. Dymally now heads his own consulting firm, Dymally International Group, Inc., in Inglewood, Calif.

His experiences with the FBI/DOJ apparatus included office burglaries, surveillances, media investigations that stemmed from "leaked" information, bugged telephones, public records stored by University of California archives removed by the FBI, and investigations by the California state attorney general and state grand jury.

Former FBI agent Dr. Tyrone Powers, a 10-year veteran of the bureau, quit in1994 in part to expose what he characterized as systemic racism within the bureau.

Now a full-time professor at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md., and author of the book "Eyes to My Soul: The Rise or Decline of a Black FBI Agent," Dr. Powers suggested that one would be naive to believe FBI denials about Operation Fruehmenschen, the alleged government operation that mirrors Cointelpro.

"When we conclude that an agency that has no problem burning white children (in Waco) will have no problem targeting Black people, their leaders, and their organizations, we will know that Cointelpro (Fruehmenschen) is alive," Dr. Powers said. "We keep looking for evidence that the FBI has shown they are experts at hiding. So we continue to be targeted and the FBI maintains their motto of ‘Admit Nothing, Deny Everything, and Use a Pencil.’ "

This isn’t to suggest that Black officials are incorruptible, those interviewed said.

"The problem is that when the government throws a fish net (under Fruehmenschen), it gets some very innocent sardines along with the occasional sharks," Mr. Dymally said.

Observers noted government stings such as Operation Incubator, where Michael Raymond, a convicted killer, was sent into Chicago to try to set-up Harold Washington, the city’s first Black elected mayor.

On January 27, 1988, Mr. Dymally, then chairman of the CBC, testified before Congress about a sworn affidavit given by attorney Hirsch Friedman, who had worked with the FBI in Atlanta. Mr. Friedman alleged that the FBI had an established official policy that initiates investigations of Black officials without probable cause. That policy was called "Operation Fruehmenschen", a German word for "early man."

Mr. Dymally said that while the affidavit offered "irrefutable proof" of government corruption, Congress took no action, which was one of the reasons he left Congress.

According to attorney Friedman, Fruehmenschen holds that Black politicians are inherently immoral, unethical and illiterate, to the extent that they can not lead people of a "high moral" order (Caucasians) and are incapable of high-level governing.

Patterns of harassment of Black officials usually begin with an interplay that takes place between the news media and law enforcement agencies, usually beginning with a rumor started by the FBI or by an ill-founded news report. This usually spirals into a "trial by media," criminal investigations and sometimes culminates in an indictment. The indictment typically results in acquittal, or in a conviction which is ultimately overturned on appeal.

"The reality is that both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney work hand and hand," Dr. Powers said. "If the FBI wants a case prosecuted the U.S. Attorney rubber stamps it."

Concerning Mayor Barry, Mr. Powers noted the bigger issue is why the FBI was even involved in the 1990 case against Mr. Barry since the offense was a misdemeanor crime.

"They never could have answered that question," he said. "That in and of itself is an indication of the continuation of Cointelpro."

In 1994, the FBI ended a five-year probe of alleged political corruption in the predominately Black city of Compton, Calif., that subsequently sent former U.S. Representative Walter R. Tucker III (the former mayor of Compton), and former City Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore to prison for extortion. Both have claimed that the government entrapped them.

"The FBI tried so many times to entrap me," said current Compton Mayor Omar Bradley, 42, whose harassment began six days after he was elected into office in 1993. "They bugged my house, hid transmitters under my cars. Everywhere I went, the same people would show up to try to bribe me."

In the past, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has called for a class action suit against the FBI/DOJ by all individuals and organizations that have been wrongfully targeted.

"Government is capable of the most wicked of criminal behavior against the masses of the people," Min. Farrakhan has stated. "I am not anti-government. I am anti-wicked-government."


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