Mar 15, 2024 - News

Demand to declassify Latino files

A three-pane, greyscale photo showing two men and one woman.

Latino civil rights advocates Dolores Huerta, Héctor P. García and Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales. Photos: Cathy Murphy/Getty Images and Denver Post via Getty Images

Two U.S. House members want the FBI and CIA to declassify all documents related to the surveillance and harassment of Latino civil rights leaders from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Why it matters: It's widely known that the FBI's COINTELPRO and CIA's Operation Chaos sought to disrupt the civil rights activities of Black Americans, but how those programs affected Latino activists is largely unknown, Axios Latino's Russell Contreras writes.

Zoom in: U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) this week sent a letter to CIA Director William Burns and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking them to release all documents connected to the surveillance of the Latino civil rights movement.

  • It's unknown if the FBI or CIA "tried to sabotage or disrupt" the Latino civil rights movement, as the FBI did with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts, so newly released documents should clear the record, they said.

At a hearing Tuesday of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Castro asked Burns and Wray about looking into releasing the documents.

  • They promised to look into it and work with Castro.

Background: The FBI's COINTELPRO, short for Counterintelligence Program, was created in the 1950s allegedly to disrupt communist activities, but routinely monitored the activities of King and Malcolm X, planting informants while trying to disrupt planned demonstrations and fights against racism.

Between the lines: Historians in recent years have uncovered quite a bit about FBI surveillance of Latino leaders through open records requests, Brian Behnken, an Iowa State University history professor, tells Axios.

The intrigue: Castro's mother and former temporary San Antonio city councilmember Rosie Castro, was monitored by the FBI for her activities in the Chicano Movement, files show.

  • An FBI informant noted that Rosie Castro "was observed buying two small posters of Angela Davis for 50 cents each, which were mentioned by Rosie Castro as having been printed in Cuba," the San Antonio Express-News reports.

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