Detroit Free Press publishes proof that shows FBI gave a heads up to KKK leadership about Freedom Rider buses headed to Birmingham.
1978 (Aug 20)
The Detroit Free Press published details of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that showed that the FBI passed along information about two Freedom Rider buses to a Birmingham, Alabama, police sergeant who was a known Ku Klux Klan agent in 1961. The actual documents consisted of approximately three thousand pages of letters, memoranda, and teletype. The documents indicated that the FBI knew that Sgt. Thomas Cook of the Birmingham Police Department's intelligence unit was passing the information that the Bureau gave him to the "top leadership" of the Ku Klux Klan. The papers also showed that the chief of the FBI office in Birmingham called Cook to inform him of the progress the buses were "making through the racially tense" South and when they arrived at terminals in Birmingham. They further revealed a plan under which the Birmingham police agreed to get to the terminals fifteen or twenty minutes after the arrival of the buses in order to give Klansmen enough time to attack Freedom Riders. The documents were released to ACLU attorneys for Walter Bergman, aged seventy-eight, a former professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who had filed suit against the FBI alleging that he was partially paralyzed from a beating he suffered at the hands of Ku Klux Klansmen when they intercepted a Freedom Riders' bus in Anniston, Alabama (fifty miles east of Birmingham). On the same day, a similar Klan assault occurred in Birmingham. In commenting on the documents, Howard Simon, executive director of the Michigan ACLU, said that they showed that the FBI's "failure to provide protection provoked” the assaults on the Freedom Riders.