The FBI monitored Nelson Mandela after his release from prison, according to new documents released under the United States Freedom of Information Act. The documents were obtained by Ryan Shapiro, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who went to court to demand their disclosure.
The first batch of papers were released last month, according to the Telegraph. They showed that Mandela, who passed away in December, was spied upon during his visit to the United States shortly after his release from prison in 1990.
While the documents were released freely by the U.S. courts, they do not show the U.S. and the FBI in a good light. The documents show that the FBI paid close attention to anti-apartheid groups in the country because of what it called the “communist associations” of supporters of a resolution in Congress calling for the activist’s release.
According to the papers, the FBI regarded the U.S.’ anti-apartheid movement as Communist-inspired and a potential threat to the country’s domestic security. As a result, the FBI also spied on meetings that Nelson Mandela had with foreign leaders in the early 1990s.
The Daily Dot notes that it was Nelson Mandela’s ties to communism that apparently led the United States to monitor his activities, even as he was recognized worldwide as one of the century’s most influential figures. Following Mandela’s death, the South African Communist Party revealed that the anti-apartheid leader was a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest in August 1962. The party previously denied that fact.
A number of American politicians viewed the ANC as a terrorist organization. While some members committed acts of violence, they were also subject to decades of state-sponsored violence, including church bombings ordered by former South African President P.W. Botha.
It wasn’t until 1986 that U.S. Congress considered sanctions against South Africa over the nation’s racist apartheid laws. The action was opposed by several conservative lawmakers and then-President Ronald Reagan attempted to stop the measures with a veto.
Shapiro compared the monitoring of Nelson Mandela to the FBI’s surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He stated of the latest documents, “Ultimately, what the documents reveal is the FBI’s unflagging conflation of social justice efforts with security threats, and the FBI’s cartoonish obsession with Communist Party subversion in the United States even as the Cold War itself crumbled into obsolescence.”
Shapiro is currently suing the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency for their records related to Nelson Mandela and the ANC.
[Image by tedeytan]