Interview with Jerris Leonard

Well, what about the methods of the FBI? You were talking about street agents making these decisions, I mean, with- within this program that was called COINTELPRO there were, there were memos talking about to disrupt and to neutralize and to prevent the rise of a Black messiah, could you, could you talk about--


Well, the, the, I think the role of the FBI has to be put in proper the perspective and context. To a great extent the re- the B- the FBI relies on reports and information that are coming from the very lowest level of FBI street agents. In many cases, the more newer agents. A lot of what surfaces to Washington and the Bureau itself comes from informants, it comes from newspaper reports, it comes from general discussions in the community, and that all gets mixed together. And I think in that period of time, that a lot of that mix was creating a, a fear that somehow the Panthers were going to overrun the United States. But, y- you can't, you can't stop the FBI from carrying out the function of the need to know. Law enforcement, the law enforcement community has a real need to know what's happening. That's good because it also keeps law enforcement from overreacting. As I said earlier, nobody at the top of the Justice Department ever believed that this country was in any danger of collapsing from these various radical groups. That's just, that, that's nonsense for anybody to think that, that, ah, any, anybody at the top level of the Justice Department believed that.