Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 22:27:25 -0800
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Subject: !*Retired Agents Say They Monitored King in Memphis
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 21:47:29 -0800 (PST)
From: Tom Burghardt <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Retired Agents Say The Monitored King in Memphis
Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (November 30, 1997 2:53 p.m. EST) -- Army intelligence agents monitored Martin Luther King Jr.'s public appearances in Memphis in the days before his murder in 1968, said retired agents speaking publicly for the first time.
The agents claim they had no foreknowledge of the assassination. They also said conspiracy theorists have misinterpreted and twisted the purpose of their Memphis mission.
They watched for outbreaks of violence during the city's volatile garbage workers' strike, the agents said, and the information collected was used to decide whether to send armed troops to Memphis.
We were never given any mission to keep King under
surveillance. Never, said retired Col. Edward McBride, who oversaw
the 111th Military Intelligence Group's Memphis operations from Fort
McPherson in Atlanta.
Newly declassified reports show at least four agents were in Memphis on April 4, 1968, when King was shot by a sniper while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
Overall, the 111th sent as many as 10 undercover agents to Memphis after a March 28, 1968, riot that erupted during a protest march King led in support of striking workers, according to reports obtained by The Commercial Appeal under the Freedom of Information Act.
Some of the 111th's Memphis visits in March and April 1968 coincided with King's arrivals and departures, the documents show.
We (took note) when he was in Memphis in his public moves. We knew
he was speaking at (Mason Temple the evening of April 3), we knew he
was going to march in the parade, said Jimmie Locke, who led the
Memphis operation and was in Memphis when King was shot.
We weren't particularly concerned except that he might be the
catalyst for an event of some kind, Locke said in an interview at
his home in San Antonio.
James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to King's murder in 1969, but recanted days later and has spent the past 29 years seeking a new trial. His efforts, and those of his lawyer William Pepper, have given new life to conspiracy theories about the assassination.
Speculation has swirled for years about the possible presence of Army intelligence agents and Special Forces troops in Memphis when King died.
King's family this year endorsed claims that the Army had stalked the civil rights leader and played a role in his murder.
But the former agents said they did not watch King's hotel, bug his room or follow him. Nor did they see any Special Forces troops, the armed guerrilla warfare soldiers popularly known as Green Berets.
That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard, McBride said.
Rather, the agents said, they simply monitored public gatherings, using civilians and sources in the Memphis Police Department and FBI to report when King and other activists attended rallies.
Senate hearings in 1971 explored abuses in an Army domestic surveillance program established under President Johnson after major riots in Los Angeles in 1965 and Newark, N.J., and Detroit in 1967.
The program, designed to provide the Pentagon with
warning of civil disturbances that might require federal troops,
involved sending Army agents to observe anti-war demonstrations, civil
rights rallies and other political gatherings.