The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Twitter account put out a post Tuesday afternoon paying tribute to Martin Luther King. Jr on the 49th anniversary of his assassination, prompting a backlash from tweeters who were quick to remind the FBI of their long history of surveillance against the historic civil rights leader and his family.
The tweet contained a picture of King and a quote from his famous speech made five days before his murder in which he declared that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Today, on the anniversary of his assassination, the FBI honors the life, work, & commitment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to justice. pic.twitter.com/WZInYKQx2g
— FBI (@FBI) April 4, 2017
Replies to the comment were quick to point out that starting in 1955, the FBI engaged in covert operations against King, with Robert Kennedy authorizing wiretaps of King’s home and the offices of his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The wiretap operation was ostensibly an attempt to expose potential ties between King and communist sympathizers, but ended up being used in an attempt to discredit King by making allegations of adultery against him.
In 2014, The New York Times published a letter found in the National Archives and revealed to have been sent by the FBI to King in attempt to push him out of the civil rights movement. Some believe the letter was sent with the aim to get King to commit suicide, resulting in the letter becoming known as the “suicide letter.”
The letter threatens to use King’s alleged affairs to ruin his image, calling him an “evil, abnormal beast,” his alleged lovers “filthy, dirty, evil companions,” and accusing him of “sexual orgies,” “adulterous acts” and “immoral conduct.”
“There is only one thing left for you to do,” the letter concludes. “You know what it is.”
— brian feldman (@bafeldman) April 4, 2017
— Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) April 4, 2017
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) April 4, 2017
@FBI You shld have protected Civil Rights leaders, instead of running COINTELPRO smear campaign. Evers, X, King might still be alive if you had
— Kyle Linhares (@KyleLinhares) April 4, 2017
.@FBI I’d sit this one out if I were you.
— Zach Martin (@zamartin) April 4, 2017
— Tricia S. (@latricialicious) April 4, 2017
A Senate investigation into surveillance tactics against King confirmed in 1976 that the letter was originally from the FBI. According to the New York Times article on the “suicide letter,” current FBI Chairman James Comey keeps a copy of the wiretap request against King on his desk as a reminder of the damage his organization is capable of.