Charles Brennan supervised COINTELPRO operations as Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Brennan was a protege of William Sullivan, the architect of COINTELPRO under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. COINTELPRO was a massive, clandestine counterintelligence program targeted against political activists with its most lethal secret operations directed against the Black Panther Party.
The Omaha Two, Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice), were leaders of a Black Panther affiliate chapter, the National Committee to Combat Fascisim when an Omaha police officer was killed by a booby-trap bomb. Hoover wanted the two men convicted for the murder and a plan was hatched the day of the bombing, August 17, 1970, to withhold a FBI Laboratory report on the identity of the annonymous 911 caller that lured Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr. to his death.
A dictabelt copy of the 911 recording was sent to J. Edgar Hoover to forward to the FBI Laboratory by Omaha Special Agent in-Charge Paul Young, however, a formal laboratory report was not requested. A memorandum prepared by the Administrative Division that supervised the FBI Laboratory outlined the crime and scheme to withhold a lab report. Fifteen year-old Duane Peak, who confessed to planting the bomb, claimed he made the phone call upon instructions from Ed Poindexter.
The reason the FBI wanted no report issued was that the 911 caller had a deep, gravelly voice while Peak had a soft, higher-pitched voice. Peak’s credibity was at issue and according to an October 1970 memorandum to Hoover from Omaha, the tape would be “prejudicial” to the prosecution of Poindexter and Mondo.
Charles Brennan was in command of the Domestic Intelligence Division and oversaw all COINTELPRO actions. Brennan was on the distribution list of the memorandum to Laboratory Director Ivan Willard Conrad and initialled the memo beside his name indicating he read and approved the document. Brennan had earned a reputation as an aggressive administrator and had received commendation letters from Hoover for number of counterintelligence operations.
Brennan, one of Hoover’s most dedicated henchmen, was demoted to the field after Hoover’s death, and had been the Special Agent in-Charge of the Alexandria, Virginia FBI office five weeks when a local policeman was killed in a bank robbery. Brennan jumped on the Octoer 25, 1972 murder of Patrolman Israel Gonzalez and worked the case closely, a sharp contrast to the flawed investigation and withheld information of Patroman Larry Minard’s murder.
An Internal FBI memorandum described the case: “Investigation from inception and throughout was conducted jointly by the FBI and ACPD. Information obtained throughout was exchanged freely and fully on a daily basis.”
Brennan was disciplined with a letter of censure by Acting FBI Director Mark Felt, an old foe, for the release of an investigative report to an Alexandria County detective. “Bureau instructions are explicict regarding such matters and you are hereby censured for failing to adhere to prescribed procedures in this instance. I will expect you to be more alert to your responsibilities in discharging your future functions so that there will be no repetition of a dereliction of this nature.”
A memo outlined the rationale for punishment of Brennan: “We should not permit the action by the SAC, Alexandria to go unchallenged, for to do so, would give tacit approval to field offices to disseminate FBI reports to their local departments. The potential scope of such dissemination is beyond estimation, since in nearly all of our criminal investigations, local agencies have concurrnet interests. If FBI reports were indiscriminately funished to police departments, they could very possibly become parts of police records which are made available to members of the press, and there is no end to speculation as to what use could be mde of informaiton from such reports. It is also pointed out that FBI reports, if allowed to be given to police agencies, would be available to local prosecutors, many of whom are politically oriented and would be very happy to quote FBI information for whatever purpose best suited them.”
Charles Brennan got transferred to the Salt Lake City FBI office in Utah where he served several months before resigning with one week notice. The glory days were over for the man who once ran counterintelliegence operations.
In April 1975, Charles Brennan was interviewed by staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Church Committee, about COINTELPRO. Brennan did not have much to say. A FBI report on the interiew summarized the exchange.
“Relative to the COINTELPRO, Brennan advised the Staff Members he couldn’t be very specific regarding COINTELPRO inasmuch as he did not pay too much attention to it. They questioned him about this statement and Brennan stated that when you would compare COINTELPRO to such activities as the Bay of Pigs and the Glomar Explorer, COINTELPRO was “peanuts.” Brennan was asked why he didn’t recommend COINTELPRO be discontinued to which he replied “If City Hall wants it, you give them what they want.”
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were convicted in April 1971 in a controversial trial. The jury never heard the 911 tape of a killer’s voice and never learned that Duane Peak had made a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony. Peak was found guilty of juvenille deliquency and walked free when he became an adult. The Omaha Two remain incarcerated at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary where they continue to proclaim their innocence.