In the introduction, Churchill and Vander Wall trace the founding of the FBI in the mid-20's by J. Edgar Hoover, as he emerged from helping carry out the Justice department's anti-leftist terror campaigns during and in the years following World War One, to its official authorization by Franklin Roosevelt in the mid-30's as a full-fledged sophisticated political police with virtual impunity. They note that the FBI was grossly incompetent and unwilling at fighting serious criminals like the Mafia, prefering to go after the petty criminals of the Dillinger variety, car thieves, and so on to gain cheap publicity for the bureau and its director and that their chief function was and is to protect the economic and political status quo from threats by organized leftists and others. They note the immense propaganda machine constructed by the bureau to portray Hoover as a great crimefighting genius and hero, though he was nothing more than a crazed, reactionary and very cunning bureaucrat, and the effective techniques of making "friends of the bureau" in certain media outlets who would tell the public what the bureau wanted them to know and the techniques of intimidation against those media outlets or ex-bureau agents who wanted to come out with the truth about the FBI.
They move on to discuss Cointelpro, the greatly successful attempts at infiltration, disruption and weakening of dissident groups, extended from the usual Communist and Socialist party targets, to various leftist groups, people like Martin Luther King, but especially the Black Panther Party in the late 60's. Making massive use of declassified FBI documents and other sources, the authors note the FBI attempt to split the BPP, provoke violence between members or factions or with other militant black groups, to spread media disinformation about them and to drain their resources and mental stability by subjecting its leading members to repeated arrests on spurious charges. These objectives were accomplished by fabricating anonymous letters to particular prominent individuals within the party alleging that other party members or factions were plotting against or even planning to murder them, the use of infiltrators/provacateurs to further egg on the factional strife (e.g. the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton) and encourage violence between members (e.g. the murder of Fred Bennet by member Jimmie Carr who suspected Bennett of being a police informant, after being led to this impression by police informant Thomas Mosher; Carr himself was later murdered by two Panther members who suspected him of being a government agent) or between the BPP and the Ron Karenga's organization(e.g. the murder of BPP leaders Alprentice Carter and Jon Huggins), the use of "bad-jacketing" through infiltrators to spread the false idea that certain members of the party were government agents (e.g. which resulted in the murders of Huggins, Carter and Carr and which led to Stokely Carmichael's expulsion from the party by Huey Newton), the spreading of media disinformation about alleged financial impropriety and other crimes among certain party members to encourage mistrust and suspiscion within the party, and so on. Two particular cases examined are the murder by the Chicago police of Chicago Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in December 1969, using a detailed floor plan of Hampton's appartment that had been provided by FBI infiltrator and Hampton's bodygaurd William O'neal (for which the survivors of the attack and families of the victim were awared 1.8 million dollars by an arbitrator in 1983). They move on to analyze the spurious (mostly through the use of FBI informer Julius Butler and the efforts of infiltrator Melvin Cotton Smith) robbery/murder conviction of Los Angelas leader Geronimo Pratt in 1971, who had been subjected to much harrassment and arrests on spurious charges by the LA police before the 1969 murder of Caroline Olsen, and according to police infiltrator Louis Tackwood (who helped the FBI murder George Jackson) and "Cotton" smith, had specifically been designated to be "neutralized" the LAPD.
The bulk of the book is centered on the particularly severe Cointelpro operations (using many of the same operations as against the BPP, using such infiltrators as Douglass Durham and even possibly being involved in murder, as in the case of Ana Marie Aquash) directed against the American Indian Movement (AIM), particularly at the hub of its activity, on Pine Ridge reservation, Sioux territory, South Dakota, the center of great natural resources eagerly eyed by corporations, throughout the 1970's and beyond. The AIM had risen as a particularly effective organization to fight government violations of Indian treaty and civil rights (what little of those remained). The AIM organized "the trail of Broken Treaties" in 1972, a caravan of veichles that led thousands of Indians to Washington D.C. to hold protests. The authors document a patern of government lies and duplicty with regard to accomodating the protestors and other promises which led to the provoking of the AIM (along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs head in solidarity which got him fired afterward) taking over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington. The government blithely broke promises of non-prosecution of the BIA building incident, after the building had been released. On Pine Ridge, the government had been pouring funds into Dick Wilson's machine, who won the 1972 tribal presidency with considerable fraud, and proceeded to set up with FBI and Bureau of Indian affairs funds a paramilitary organization with the appropriate acronym of GOONS, who used terror against the inhabitants of Pine Ridge where AIM had widespread support. The next incident was the infamous "Siege of Wounded Knee," March-May 1973, the site where the army had massacred hundreds of Indian women and children in 1890, and where AIM leaders had gone to stage a press conference, only to find the Wounded Knee territory surrounded by FBI and Bureau of Indian Police, which AIM decided not to countenance, and they held down fort within Wounded Knee, gaining widespread international support and aid, with the FBI escalating the situation with its advanced weapons and other illegal Pentagon aid, with Dick Wilson's GOONS setting up illegal roadblocks and engaging in great violence with FBI support (but opposed by the U.S. Marshalls in this instance). After Wounded Knee, Dick Wilson's terrorists escalated their campaign, including murder, against AIM, with AIM members and traditional Indians filing innumerable complaints with the Justice Department and the FBI, which pleaded "lack of manpower" to deal with the situation, though their numbers continued to increase on the Pine Ridge reservation (in support of the Dick Wilson and theGOONS). Next came the "Oglala incident" near Pine Ridge in June 1975, with highly provocative FBI activity near the "Jumping Bull" compound in Oglala near Pine Ridge to "serve" a federal warrant for two youths who allegedly had gotten into a simple fist fight with a White boy shortly before. This resulted in a several day firefight with the Indians (most of whom carried weapons because of the climate of terror in the area) inside the "Jumping Bull" compound which resulted in the deaths of two FBI agents. The FBI proceeded to launch a reign of terror against Pine Ridge after the incident, looking for the murderers of the two agents, conducting innumerable warantless searches, ransacking houses, beating and threatening people. The authors examine the spurious charges brought against such AIM leaders as Richard Marshall (for murder and eventually released), Dennis Banks and Russel Means(both of whom suffered innumerable charges, including those for the incident at Wounded Knee, which judge Fred Nichol dismissed in 1975 on the grounds of gross FBI misconduct and fabrication), Bob Robideau and Dino Butler, and especially Leonard Peltier, who was alleged to have conducted the "execution" of the two FBI agents at the Oglala firefight. Peltier has become one of the international symbols of the American injustice system, promting widespread calls for his release and retrial, including from the Canadien government which originally extradited him back to the United States. For instance, a three judge panel in 1985, took note of the "improper conduct" of "some FBI agents" in Peltier's case, but ended their investigation there by saying that "we are reluctant to impute further improprieties to them."
The closing chapters deal with the FBI's increased attention on Cointelpro activities in Puerto Rico in the 1980's, including murder and burglary and harrassment. They continue with an account of large-scale burglary and harrassment operations against groups oppossing U.S. support for the Death squad regimes in Central America in the 1980's, particularly against the Committee in Solidarity with the people of El Salvador (CISPES). The FBI could never find any evidence that CISPES or