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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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."