Dear Director Comey: Open the FBI Special File Room
By James Harmon, John Van Lindt and Randy Jurgensen
Dear FBI Director James Comey:
We are retired law-enforcement professionals with great respect for the work of the FBI. But we’re calling on you to right a grievous wrong and make one last effort to find justice for a slain police officer.
Open the FBI “special file room” and conduct a comprehensive search of all FBI files for information related to the so-called “Harlem Mosque Incident.”
As The Boston Globe reported, the FBI special file room is “where the bureau stowed documents more embarrassing than classified, including its history of illegal spying on domestic political organizations.”
This includes files on so-called black-nationalist extremists and an “extremely sensitive counterintelligence technique” to sow conflict within targeted groups.
Forty-three years ago, NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo was mortally wounded in a shooting inside the Nation of Islam’s Mosque #7 in Harlem.
No one has ever been convicted of the crime. A suspect, Lewis 17X Dupree, was arrested. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, and he was acquitted at a second trial.
This week, reports in The New York Post and on the Judicial Watch website raised important questions about the FBI’s role in the case.
According to investigative reporter Micah Morrison, the NYPD Major Case Squad launched a new probe into the Cardillo killing in 2006.
A letter from the NYPD to the FBI notes the probe was begun “to determine if there is evidence of a conspiracy in 1972” to kill Cardillo.
But Morrison reports that there has been “no genuine cooperation from the FBI” in the probe, which has dragged on for nine years.
And while there is a lot of evidence that the FBI kept a close watch on Dupree and the Nation of Islam, very little of it reached detectives and prosecutors handling the case at the time.
We know this, because we are those detectives and prosecutors.
Two of us, James Harmon and John Van Lindt, were lead prosecutors in the Dupree case. And two of us, Randy Jurgensen and one detective who wishes to remain anonymous, were NYPD detectives working the case. Key documents, witnesses and informants were withheld from us, Morrison reports.
We now know, for example, that at the time the FBI was shutting down the notorious COINTELPRO operation, President Richard Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in May 1971 launched a secret new program against cop killers in New York, Operation Newkill. Hoover’s only condition? Total secrecy.
We also know the FBI targeted the Nation of Islam with surveillance and disruption tactics. We know the bureau had high-level informants inside the organization and Dupree was known as a driver for Louis Farrakhan, the minister in charge of Mosque #7.
An FBI memo notes that Dupree attended 181 mosque meetings in The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens between 1965 and 1971. But, tellingly, the memo does not note Dupree’s attendence at any meetings at Mosque #7 in Harlem, where he was a member.
And the memo, written months after the mosque incident, ends its chronology four months before the shooting.
We also know of three reports of Dupree and FBI agents together on the day of the shooting: in a precinct house, where he was held for assaulting police officers at the mosque; in Harlem Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries; and in the backseat of a police car. The FBI presence in all these instances is highly unusual and remains unexplained.
We believe there is one last chance to hold accountable all those responsible for killing Patrolman Cardillo. The FBI should search all its records for information related to the case.
In particular, the FBI should conduct a thorough search of its special file room for all documents pertaining to the Nation of Islam and COINTELPRO, Operation Newkill, the Harlem Mosque Incident and Phillip Cardillo. It should focus on informant, wiretap and electronic-surveillance records.
The documents should be provided to the Manhattan DA and made public. Justice however long delayed is still justice.
James Harmon recently retired from a corporate-investigations practice. John Van Lindt is a private attorney. Randy Jurgensen wrote a book on the Cardillo case, “Circle of Six.” First published in the New York Post, April 23, 2015.