FBI spied on Nelson Mandela during 1990 US visit, files show
Newly released records reveal death threats against the South African leader
Friday 30 May 2014
The FBI spied on Nelson Mandela on his historic visit to the US months after his release from prison, newly released files have revealed.
When the South African leader arrived in June 1990, the agency already had tabs on his movements from an informant close to his entourage.
At the time, his party the African National Congress was still designated as a terrorist organisation by the US government but Mr Mandela received a rapturous welcome on his tour of eight cities.
He had just been released from prison after 27 years and had become an international icon for his struggle against apartheid.
Released memos show he was in contact with Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King’s widow, and had been asked to meet Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader that he did not see for another six years.
The partially redacted files, obtained Ryan Shapiro and shared with Al Jazeera, contain 334 pages of FBI records from June 1990.
Nelson Mandela raises his arms to acknowledge appaluse from members of the Senate and House of Representatives in Washington DC in June 1990. Mr Shapiro, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is involved in an ongoing legal battle with the National Security Agency, CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency for records on Mr Mandela.
He said: “Not only did the FBI heavily redact and withhold documents, but there’s virtually no discussion of U.S. intelligence community involvement prior to Mandela’s 1990 release from prison.”
One of the challenges for security services in the visit was keeping Mr Mandela safe in the wake of numerous death threats.
“Remember John F. Kennedy in Dallas?? Bring this black murderer to Houston and we will give him a welcome the world will not forget!!!” read a handwritten letter sent to the Houston Chronicle on 26 May.
There were also calls from people threatening to kill Mr Mandela to police and the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was due to appear.
One man claimed he and accomplices had “weapons and means” for the assassination and had received military training, according to an FBI report.
The State Department was concerned about the South African leader being a target for domestic terrorist activity and the threat level was classified as “high”.
The FBI logged threats from white supremacists, a neo-Nazi group, the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Knights of the Great Forest and other groups.
Although the FBI and police investigated, no arrests were made.
During Mr Mandela’s six-week tour of the US and Europe, he spoke against apartheid and urged foreign governments to maintain economic sanctions against the South African regime in place until democratic elections were held.
He was elected as South Africa’s President four years later but concerns over his safety abroad continued in 2000, when the State Department again predicted a threat from right-wing extremists on his visit to the US.
- 1 This is what the one in ten British men who pay for sex need to know
- 2 Lee Evans announces retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
- 3 These grandmas smoking weed for the first time are wonderful
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Angelina Jolie confuses everyone with 'ay up me duck' East Midland's greeting to Derby actor Jack O'Connell at awards show
Jeff Fletcher dead: Britpop guitarist is decapitated by lorry in horrific traffic accident
These grandmas smoking weed for the first time are wonderful
Jimmy Ruffin dead: Motown legend, who wrote 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted', dies aged 78
New York snowstorm: Five dead and state of emergency declared as 'wall of snow' buries Buffalo
Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'
G20 summit: David Cameron warns Vladimir Putin that Russia's relationship with the West is at a 'fork in the road' over Ukraine
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track
Coalition government has 'shifted money from poorest to better-off' through welfare cuts and tax reductions, study claims
Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...
Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...
£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...