FBI should acknowledge complicity in the assassination of Malcolm X

May 14, 2000|By GREGORY KANE

"Farrakhan admits complicity in Malcolm X's murder to his daughter." So ran the headline of a story in Thursday's edition of The Sun, telling of a "60 Minutes" interview scheduled to run on CBS tonight.

If you just went by the headline you would think there was something startling and new in the article. But a reading reveals there's nothing new at all -- that all Farrakhan said was that, through his circa 1965 rhetoric, he helped contribute to the atmosphere of intolerance and hatred that culminated in Malcolm X dying in a broadside of assassins' bullets at the Audobon Ballroom.

Farrakhan admitted that several years ago, expressed contrition and asked forgiveness of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's widow, and his surviving family members. In the "60 Minutes" interview, Farrakhan says pretty much the same thing to Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X's oldest daughter. For the folks at CBS, this was a major news story worthy of being sent out on the wires. For those of us who've followed the Nation of Islam (NOI) for years, the news only inspires us to ask CBS and the rest of the media why they don't demand the FBI admit its complicity in Malcolm's murder.

And there's complicity aplenty to be admitted. The FBI has said -- bragged actually -- that its COINTELPRO operation of the 1960s and 1970s was instrumental in creating the Elijah Muhammad-Malcolm X feud that all but forced the latter out of the NOI. Karl Evanzz, author of "The Judas Factor: The Plot To Kill Malcolm X" and "The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad" contends FBI files reveal the agency had an informant placed so high in NOI's leadership ranks that as of January 1968, the person was second only to Elijah Muhammad's son Herbert Muhammad.

"According to the FBI," Evanzz wrote in "The Judas Factor," "Herbert was the only obstacle in the way of its high-level informant from taking control of the Nation of Islam."

Three years earlier, this informant was within the upper echelons of an NOI leadership that actively encouraged the death of Malcolm X. Evanzz says that FBI files show that as early as July 1964, the bureau knew of an NOI plot to kill Malcolm X. Rather than use its police or investigative powers to thwart an assassination attempt, the FBI continued to fan the flames of the NOI-Malcolm rift.

The FBI should release all files related to the NOI, Malcolm X and Farrakhan. And not one word, phrase or line should be redacted. The bureau should tell everything it knows, including the identity of the high-level informant. We need to know what, if any, role this person had in the assassination. For all we know, this person may be another Gary Thomas Rowe.

Anyone remember Rowe? He was a Ku Klux Klan member and also a paid FBI informant. On the night of March 25, 1965, Rowe was in a car with several other Klansmen on the Alabama road that connects Selma to Montgomery. One of the men in the car shot and killed Viola Liuzzo, a Detroit housewife who had come to Alabama to participate in the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march. Rowe identified a man named Collie Leroy Wilkins as the shooter. Wilkins was tried and acquitted. Author Mary Stanton, in her biography of Liuzzo, "From Selma to Sorrow," said that Wilkins and another man passed a polygraph test in which they were specifically asked if they shot Liuzzo. Birmingham police files showed Rowe admitted shooting Liuzzo the day after she was killed. Rowe also failed two polygraph tests in which he denied involvement in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four little girls and firebombing the home of black businessman A.G. Gaston the same year.

He was quite a piece of work, this Rowe. So, according to a 1980 Justice Department report, were his employers.

"In a 302-page report," Stanton wrote in her book, "the Justice Department confirmed that the FBI knew about and covered up Rowe's involvement in violent attacks on blacks, civil rights activists, and journalists. It further determined that Rowe was not merely a paid informant but a high-ranking decision-maker in the Eastview Klavern 13 while he was on the FBI payroll. Rowe had veto power over any violent activity contemplated by the Eastview Klavern 13."

The FBI has never admitted its complicity in the death of Viola Liuzzo. It's not likely to admit such in the assassination of Malcolm X. But at least the media can stop harping on Farrakhan's involvement and perhaps say what many of us have known for years: that in the matter of complicity in the death of one Malcolm Shabazz, the FBI's is deeper and more sinister than Louis Farrakhan's.

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