COINTELPRO and the Omaha Two

An Interview with Michael Richardson

In 2007, veteran journalist, Michael Richardson, began writing a series of articles for about Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, who are two Black Panther political prisoners known as the Omaha Two. Richardson argues that they were framed for the 1970 murder of a policeman as part of the FBI’s notorious counterintelligence program, dubbed “COINTELPRO.” This top-secret and illegal operation was a dirty war on the entire US Left, including the civil rights & Black liberation movements.

Illustrating this program’s intent, a March 3, 1968 COINTELPRO memo discussed the need to stop “the beginning of a true black revolution,” and to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement… Through counterintelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them.” Another stated goal was “to prevent the long-range growth of militant black nationalist organizations, especially among youth. Specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed.” One specific tactical approach was expressed in an April 3, 1968 communiqué arguing that “The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.”

In terms of scale, the FBI’s war of repression against the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s was greatest against the Black Panthers. Many Panthers, like Chicago leader, Fred Hampton, were assassinated outright, while others were framed for murders they did not commit. A few of these Panthers, like Geronimo Ji Jaga and Dhoruba Bin Wahad, had their convictions overturned and were released, but many of the COINTELPRO survivors remain in prison today.

In addressing why the Panthers were targeted so intensely by COINTELPRO, Noam Chomsky wrote in 1973: “A top secret Special Report for the president in June 1970 gives some insight into the motivations for the actions undertaken by the government to destroy the Black Panther Party. The report describes the party as ‘the most active and dangerous black extremist group in the United States.’ Its ‘hard core members’ were estimated at 800, but ‘a recent poll indicates that approximately 25 percent of the black population has a great respect for the BPP, including 43 percent of blacks under 21 years of age.’ On the basis of such estimates of the potential of the party, the repressive apparatus of the state proceeded against it to ensure that it did not succeed in organizing as a substantial social or political force.”

Michael Richardson is now working on a book about the Omaha Two and an archive of his definitive series about the case is available. This year, he began a new series of articles at, exploring the broader history of COINTELPRO, along with a continued focus on the Omaha Two, viewable here.

Angola 3 News: Please tell us about who the Omaha Two are.

Michael Richardson:  Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) were two leaders of the Black Panther affiliate chapter in Omaha, Nebraska, and targets of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Operation COINTELPRO. Both men are serving life sentences at the Nebraska State Penitentiary for the 1970 bombing murder of an Omaha policeman and have been imprisoned forty years. The former Panther leaders have come to be known as the Omaha Two.

A3N: As a journalist at the time, how did you first react to news of their arrests?

MR: I didn’t know Poindexter, but Mondo, then called David, was a friend of mine I met at Omaha City Council meetings. I knew Mondo was the sharpest critic of Omaha police around and that he was constantly being harassed, so I wasn’t surprised he became a prime suspect. I didn’t think he did it though, and I followed the case in the news and attended part of his trial the next year. I never got to speak to Mondo after his arrest and I moved from Nebraska within a year of his trial.

My first published article was a report on the trial that appeared in the Omaha Star, but it only reported the surface story as the true facts of the case remained hidden.

Over the years I have wondered if Mondo was guilty, as there seemed to be so much evidence of his involvement. Finally, after over 35 years of doubt I began corresponding with Mondo and started research on the case. I reviewed portions of the voluminous court file, interviewed people familiar with the case, including the two current attorneys, read old newspaper accounts, studied formerly secret COINTELPRO files, and visited with both men at the prison where they are held.

I am now convinced Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa did not get a fair trial and were framed by overzealous police and prosecutors who ended up letting the real killers get away to put the Panther leaders in jail.

A3N: Can you briefly explain the charges against the Omaha Two, and what evidence was used to convict them?

MR: On August 17, 1970, an anonymous 911 caller reported a woman screaming at a vacant house. Police arrived to an ambush instead, in which 29 year-old Officer Larry Minard was killed. A recording of the killer’s voice was sent to the FBI crime laboratory for analysis but before Minard was even buried, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had ordered the crime lab to withhold a report on the tape.

A 15 year-old, Duane Peak, was soon charged with the murder and after six different versions of the crime, he implicated Ed and Mondo in exchange for his own freedom.

Dynamite was allegedly found in Mondo’s basement only to have two different detectives both claim they were each the one that found the explosives.

The 911 tape was withheld from the jury. The conflicting police dynamite testimony was also unknown to the jury, as was the deal that allowed Peak his freedom. The jury was never informed that the defendants were COINTELPRO targets.

After five days of deliberation, the jury convicted Ed and Mondo of murder but spared their lives from the electric chair. The two men have been in prison ever since.

A3N: Can you please explain what COINTELPRO was? How do the Omaha 2 fit into the story of COINTELPRO?

MR: Operation COINTELRO was a vast, illegal campaign by the FBI in the 60’s and 70’s to “disrupt” domestic political activity that J. Edgar Hoover deemed dangerous. The clandestine program was national in scope, targeted thousands of individuals and groups and broke a number of laws dwarfing Watergate in magnitude.

The Black Panthers were the primary target of Hoover’s law enforcement conspiracy. Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa had been COINTELPRO targets for at least a year prior to their arrests. Hoover had sent several memos to the Omaha FBI office complaining about a lack of results and urged the Omaha agents to be “imaginative” with counterintelligence actions.

Poindexter had been the subject of a secret FBI smear campaign with forged letters and anonymous phone calls while Mondo was targeted for an ambush while distributing Black Panther newspapers. It was the death of Minard, however, that gave the FBI an opportunity to put the Omaha Two behind bars.

At the time of the trial, the jury had no idea that COINTELPRO manipulation of evidence had occurred. The secret program was officially disbanded a week after the trial ended making Ed and Mondo the last COINTELPRO victims.

The COINTELPRO withholding of evidence did not surface until years later following Freedom of Information requests for COINTELPRO documents.

A3N: Have all the COINTELPRO documents been released?

MR: No. Key documents identifying informants and providing evidentiary details have been destroyed, withheld, or remain heavily redacted.

In the mid 70’s when the Church Committee of the U.S. Senate investigated COINTELPRO, much of the Omaha case remained hidden and so the full story of the FBI duplicity in Omaha remains unknown and will likely never be fully disclosed.

Five different members of the Omaha Police Department ended up making perjured or false statements about the case in court proceedings, to the media, and in congressional testimony.

No official or agent of the FBI ever was publicly disciplined for the COINTELPRO misconduct in the Omaha case.

A3N: What are the Omaha Two doing today to challenge the convictions and imprisonment?

MR: Both Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa have habeas corpus petitions pending in the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and petitions for hearings pending in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska.

Both appeals address the conflicting police testimony on dynamite and new scientific testing of the 911 tape that establishes Duane Peak did not make the deadly phone call as he had claimed.

Poindexter asked the Nebraska courts for review and in 2008 was told by the Douglas County District Court that it didn’t matter where the dynamite was found or who found it. Last year the Nebraska Supreme Court told Ed that it didn’t matter who made the 911 call.

A3N: How has the mainstream media done with reporting on the Omaha Two?

MR: Poorly. The national media has largely ignored the case and the regional media has failed to explore the COINTELPRO aspect of the prosecution. Almost all Nebraska media accounts of the Omaha Two contain factual errors of some sort and glaring omissions of relevant facts. Anyone relying on the mainstream media about this COINTELPRO case is sadly both misinformed and under-informed.

Racism and the stigma against the Black Panthers is partially to blame, while COINTELPRO media manipulation was another factor in early reporting on the case. Why the media continues to ignore this important case today is a mystery to me.

A3N: What upcoming articles are you working on?

MR: Now that internet newspaper has named me the COINTELPRO Examiner, the opportunity to report on the Omaha Two is part of my beat. I intend on revisiting, in serial form, the long convoluted history of the case as well as report on current developments.

My research on the FBI and COINTELPRO has led me to understand that Ed and Mondo are not alone and that each COINTELPRO conviction needs a fresh new look. COINTELPRO was the largest, most systematic attack on our legal system in U.S. history. It is our responsibility today to carefully review the cases of remaining COINTELPRO targets because of the strong possibility of tampering with evidence.

A3N: Having written about the Angola 3, why do you think their case is important?

MR: Any case coming out of the 1970’s involving the Black Panthers is important because of the COINTELPRO abuses. The Angola 3 case is somewhat different than others since its genesis is inside a Louisiana prison. It may have not been technically a J.-Edgar-Hoover-authorized COINTELPRO prosecution but some of the trial tactics, including deals with informers, are the same.

The severity of the punishment, decades in solitary confinement, calls out for review and is itself an injustice.

A3N: Any closing thoughts?

MR: Larry Minard, the father of five young children, was buried on what would have been his 30th birthday. He was a police officer responding to the call of a woman screaming. Larry Minard’s killers walk free today.

The named supplier of the dynamite, a suspected police informant, was never charged with the crime and only spent one night in jail.

The anonymous 911 caller was not properly identified and has never been charged in the case.

Duane Peak, the confessed bomber, was released after less then 3 years in juvenile detention.

J. Edgar Hoover let the killer of Larry Minard, the 911 caller, go free to make a case against the Omaha Two.

Justice has not been done in Nebraska.

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7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Deadbeat said on July 21st, 2010 at 3:20am #

    I find it interesting how there are folks here who feign ignorance of the Left. Well here’s an article that talks about and identifies real Leftist hero and nary a peek from the Max Shields, Hue Longer crowd.

    There was a time when there was a REAL Left in the U.S. such that these real heroes (not the phony ones that exist today who are well paid and tacitly pro-Capitalist and pro-Racist) were taken down by only by COINTELPRO.

    Perhaps when Amy Goodman and Noam Chomsky are FEARED like these heroes then maybe we’ll see a resurrection of the Left. But as we know the money is just too good.

  2. Hue Longer said on July 21st, 2010 at 6:08am #

  3. Max Shields said on July 21st, 2010 at 10:23am #

    Deadbeat be specific. In what way do you find Chomsky’s commentary analysis quoted above offensive?

  4. teafoe2 said on July 21st, 2010 at 12:04pm #

    Thank you Mr Shields, your timing is excellent, affording me the perfect straight line for this capper:

    The article is too long to post as a comment. Perhaps I or someone else will select some choice excerpts and post them here; I would hope that the DV editors will see the importance of the article and republish it in toto/verbatim.
    I would also hope that people as intelligent as Max, Hue Longer et al, upon reading these arguments and the facts on which they are based will realize that some adjustments in their political stances, as expressed here on DV , are necessary. At this point it is still not too late to get on the right side of the “Chomsky line”, better late than never, but every day of procrastination is a day wasted.

    I think this is a good time for me to clarify my own personal take on some of these “intra-troll” disputes involving Max, DB, Hue, Lichen and others including myself.

    On the subject of Chomsky and his role in defining the “progressive” Conventional Wisdom “correct line” on Pal/Iz, ME, and “antiwar” issues, my position is substantially identical to that expressed by Deadbeat.

    On some other matters, there is considerable disagreement. To me, Glen Ford’s willingness to stand up and tell the honest truth about Obama at a time when any criticism of OHB could get you physically attacked if you did it on the wrong street corner is worthy of the highest praise, no matter what errors of judgment Ford may have been guilty of four years earlier.

    Apparently, and I haven’t really studied the record on it, Ford displayed some really shameful naivete at one point, by speaking favorably of the disgusting Howard Dean. So to me it looks like then he was in some respect a little dumb? If so, he sure got smart in a hurry.

    To me, this idea that Ford should have been more “nuanced” makes no sense. I hope we don’t get hung up arguing about it. I regret that it ever came up.

    Regardless of who was right or wrong earlier, right now I think it is indisputable that Ford and his colleagues at Black Agenda Report are producing one of the very best online publications in existence.

    Let me just add that I think it was a mistake to try to base an argument on the proposition that Milton Friedman has ever been anything but a reactionary bastard. That’s my take; I don’t care to elaborate further and I hope his name never comes up again.

    Max, I can’t help noting your frustration, which makes you impatient with people who keep saying things that contradict the way you have things figured out. I confess I get impatient myself, especially when it seems to me somebody is aiming a smartass personal remark at me. Too often I yield to impulse and fire back; probably most of the time I’d be wiser to just ignore petty crap.

    Bottom line, I hope we all can stick to examining the rational content of the arguments of all sides, and forget the personal grudges & the desire to score points.

    Except when it comes to such as that asshole Jacob:)

  5. Max Shields said on July 21st, 2010 at 6:14pm #

    teafoe2, now you’re pissing me off. You post something 1) in response to something that was not addressed to you 2) totally irrelevant to my comment.

    My question had absolutely nothing to do with Israel/Palestine. It’s about the Black Panthers circa late 60s early 70s.

  6. Max Shields said on July 21st, 2010 at 6:16pm #

    In fact, you’ve taken on the mo of Deadbeat who instead of answer direct questions changes the subject entirely. Are you guys political operatives? The DNC and RNLC are looking for fresh new candidates to spin away.

  7. Hue Longer said on July 21st, 2010 at 8:40pm #

    As chairman for the Unknowing Zionist Configuration Connected By Not So Related Common Denominators (we think DB is full of shit….but have little else in common–UZCCBNSRCD for short) I have to again point to understanding ad hominem as being the the purest gift to our youngsters…as Max and Lichen could give a fuck what I decide for our counter counter propaganda propaganda, I resign in disgust and demand you stop using me when referencing them with me and the venerable Mr. Chomskyitis