Panthers in 'Omaha Two' case
by Michael Richardson
In the late 1960's and early 1970's there was a fierce, illegal, and
clandestine war being raged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
against the Black Panther Party. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had
ordered agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise
neutralize" the Black Panthers.
The full scope of misdeeds under Operation COINTELPRO will never be
known although some of the dirty tricks and actions have emerged
piecemeal through Freedom of Information requests. Political
Research Associates maintains one of the largest collections of
COINTELPRO documents and its copies of heavily redacted FBI memos
tell part of the story.
To keep the momentum of the secret operation going Hoover ordered
field offices to make written reports to him every two weeks. The
Omaha, Nebraska FBI office had drawn criticism in late 1969 from
Hoover for inaction against the leaders of Omaha's Panther chapter,
Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice).
On December 10, 1969, Hoover ordered the Omaha field office to "give
consideration to counterintelligence measures directed against these
leaders to weaken or destroy their positions." Hoover told Omaha
agents to make up a plan, "Evaluate your approach to this program and
insure that it is given the imaginative attention necessary to
produce effective results."
The Omaha Special-Agent-in-Charge responded to Hoover on December
29th with an update on the Panther group. "United Front Against
Fascism (UFAF) has been limited in activity to the sale of "The Black
Panther", the official Black Panther Party (BPP) newspaper, the
publication of a UFAF newsletter and making plans for starting a
liberation school at its Omaha Headquarters in the near future."
"Consideration is still being given by Omaha to some type of
counterintelligence activity directed against leaders of this
organization or aimed at the disruption of the UFAF newsletter or the
planned liberation school."
"Close attention will be afforded this matter in order to produce
effective results and proposals for counterintelligence activity will
be supplied to the Bureau by separate communications in the very near future."
Two weeks later on January 12, 1970, the Omaha FBI office informed
Hoover they were still working on his request. "Several
counterintelligence measures aimed at this organization are presently
under consideration and proposals for counterintelligence activities
aimed at disruption of this organization or directed against its
leaders will be submitted to the Bureau by separate communication in
the very near future."
The next two-week letter to Hoover from Omaha had a COINTELPRO plan
which was signed off on by the Racial Intelligence Section. The
COINTELPRO actions were conducted by field agents under the direction
William Cornelius Sullivan, head of Domestic Intelligence. The
proposals had to also secure the approval of George Moore of Racial
Intelligence and were reviewed by Mark Felt, an inspector better
known as 'Deep Throat' of Watergate infamy. Hoover, however, had the
final word and closely monitored COINTELPRO proposals each day.
The Omaha Special-Agent-in Charge advised Hoover of the progress
being made on his December order to be "imaginative" in crafting a
COINTELPRO action. On January 26, 1970, the Omaha office wrote to Hoover.
"The United Front Against Fascism (UFAF) is the only BPP affiliated
organization presently active within the Omaha Division. At present
the only known source of income of the UFAF is money derived through
the sale of the Black Panther newspaper which arrives in Omaha weekly
via United Airlines."
"Contact is presently being maintained with United Airlines to
ascertain if a regular pattern exists for the pickup of this
newspaper by [REDACTED] a known UFAF member to whom these papers are
consigned. As soon as this pattern is established, Omaha
contemplates initiating counterintelligence measures aimed at
disruption of the distribution of this newspaper."
The operational details were worked out for the "disruption" of the
newspaper distribution in a memo dated February 9, 1970, which is
missing from the PRA archive. However, the next regular report
provided an update of the secret plan to interfere with the group's
"As pointed out in re communication and prior letters in captioned
matter the only known source of income of the United Front Against
Fascism (UFAF) at the present time is money derived through the sale
of the Black Panther Newspaper, which prior to the last week of
January 1970, arrived on a weekly basis in Omaha via United Airlines
"Since BPP Headquarters has changed its policy concerning the
publishing of this newspaper to demanding that payment for these
newspapers be received at BPP Headquarters prior to the time the
newspaper goes to the printer, no papers have been received in Omaha
from the San Francisco area. In recent communications from San
Francisco, it appears that arrangements are being made to have
further shipments of the BPP Newspaper sent to Omaha and contact is
being maintained with United Airlines Air Freight so that the Omaha
office will be apprised when regular shipments of the newspaper to
Omaha are resumed."
"Once these shipments are resumed, United Airlines Air Freight will
be contacted on a continuing basis in order to determine if a regular
pattern is established for the pickup of these newspapers by UFAF
members. Once a pattern is established for the pickup of these
newspapers, counter intelligence measures will be aimed at disruption
of the distribution of these newspapers."
FBI efforts against the Panthers escalated through the summer of 1970
culminating in the arrest of Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa for the
August 17th murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard. Minard had
had been lured to his death by an anonymous caller on the newly
installed 911 emergency call system. A recording of the killer's
voice was captured on tape and presented a problem to the COINTELPRO plotters.
Omaha police sent the tape recording to the FBI Crime Laboratory for
analysis with the stipulation that no formal laboratory report be
issued. Ivan Willard Conrad, lab director, checked with Hoover about
withholding a lab report and noted on a COINTELPRO memorandum that on
August 19th Hoover said it was "OK to do". Conrad followed orders
and issued no report on the killer's voice.
The jury that convicted the two Panther leaders in April 1971 had no
idea of the FBI intrigue or of Hoover's direct order to withhold
evidence about Minard's killer. Poindexter and Langa were sentenced
to life imprisonment and remain confined at the maximum-security
Nebraska State Penitentiary where they continue to proclaim their innocence.
Poindexter has a new trial request pending before the Nebraska
Supreme Court over the withheld evidence and conflicting police
testimony. Oral argument in the case was in October 2008, no date
for a decision has been announced.