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Breaking News: Moments ago we filed a lawsuit against the FBI that will compel the release of William O’Neal’s FBI file, O’Neal was an FBI informant who provided the FBI with a blueprint of Fred Hampton’s apartment. Below is the press release that just went out.
Defending Rights & Dissent has filed suit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeking to compel them to release the file of FBI informant William O’Neal. The lawsuit seeks to shed further light on the 1969 assassination of Fred Hampton. Hampton was murdered during a police raid while in bed. An autopsy revealed Hampton to have been drugged. Although police initially claimed to have acted in self-defense, subsequent investigations quickly exposed this to be a lie. Police not only fired first, but they fired as many as 90 shots. O’Neal infiltrated the Illinois Black Panther Party and provided the FBI with a map of Hampton’s apartment. The map was used to plan the raid during which Chicago Police killed Hampton and fellow Black Panther, Mark Clark.
Although Senate investigators, a federal grand jury, and a wrongful death suit exposed the FBI’s role in Hampton and Clark’s deaths, O’Neal’s file has never been made public. In December 2020, the FBI, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by historian Aaron Leonrad, released for the first time the personnel file of O’Neal’s FBI handler. Concealed from the public for five decades, the file raised new questions about J. Edgar Hoover’s personal involvement in the events that led to Hampton’s and Clark’s deaths.
Following this new release of files, seven members of Congress, led by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to release all remaining files about the assassination of Hampton. Defending Rights & Dissent organized a letter signed by 11 civil society groups and another letter signed by over 200 historians, journalists and other experts on the FBI’s abuses of power in support of the Congressional effort.
Defending Rights & Dissent also filed a Freedom of Information Act request. To date, the FBI has failed to comply with its legal obligations under FOIA, forcing Defending Rights & Dissent to file legal action.
“Even in one of the darkest periods of the FBI’s sordid history, the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark sticks out as a particularly egregious crime. Five decades later, it is well past time the public learns the full truth about what happened. The FBI should have heeded the call of Congress, historians, and civil society. It should never have taken a lawsuit to release these files,” said Chip Gibbons, Defending Rights & Dissent Policy Director.
Attorneys Jeffrey Haas and Flint Taylor, who first exposed the FBI’s involvement in the Hampton assassination are eager to see the additional documents. “We fully support the Defending Rights and Dissent’s important continuing effort to make public the full scope of the FBI’s Cointelpro conspiracy to assassinate Fred Hampton and to destroy the Black Panther Party,” they said.
Defending Rights & Dissent is represented by David Sobel. Sobel has twice represented Defending Rights & Dissent Policy Director in FOIA suits against the FBI. These cases resulted in the liberation of thousands of files, some of them formerly classified, documenting the FBI’s abuse of counterterrorism powers to spy political activists.