Malcolm X’s family to sue CIA, FBI and NYPD for his assassination. Why now, and what for?

By Mason Berlinka

Published Feb 22, 2023 at 01:31 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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Conspiracies and intrigue are never far away from conversations surrounding the CIA and the FBI. Particularly when you consider the fact that the American 60s were rife with political assassinations and nefarious dealings. From the CIA’s involvement in cocaine trafficking and the terrifying ordeals of mind control projects such as MKUltra, to the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO programme, it’s no surprise that the estate of Malcolm X are turning to these organisations for long overdue answers over the assassination of the activist on 21 February 1965.

In a heartfelt speech, the daughter of the black rights icon, Ilyasah Shabazz, announced that the family would be seeking litigation over the death of her father. The speech, shared by Sky News, took place in the same building where he was murdered, on the 58th anniversary of his death.

Shabazz accused the federal organisations, as well as the New York Police Department (NYPD), of conspiring and executing a “plan to assassinate Malcolm X.” She went on to say that the groups fraudulently concealed evidence to hide their culpability in the crime.

At the Malcolm X memorial, Shabazz continued: “For years, our family has fought for the truth to come to light concerning his murder.” Benjamin Crump, the family’s lawyer said at the conference that powerful figures in the US government had conspired to kill the outspoken activist, who was the subject of intense scrutiny and discussion during his lifetime.

Malcolm X was fiery and passionate in his activism, and initially supported black separatism as part of the Nation of Islam (NOI)—a black nationalist organisation founded in 1930, rooted in antisemitism. The civil rights leader quickly grew disillusioned with the group and left in 1964, becoming awoken to more progressive ideals after travelling through Africa and encountering Muslims and all races and backgrounds. He soon converted to the Sunni branch of Islam.

His trouble with the NOI escalated towards the end of his short life, being highly criticised by the organisation’s media, and leader, Elijah Muhammad. The human rights activist faced numerous death threats from the group. The general consensus was that the religious and political organisation was responsible for the assassination of Malcolm X but new evidence coming to light begins to reflect the American government’s involvement in the murder.

In 2021, two of the gunmen in prison for the murder of the civil rights icon were exonerated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The authorities claimed  that after an investigation it was discovered that prosecutors and law enforcement agencies withheld evidence that would have likely led to the pair’s acquittal.

Following this exoneration, it’s important to remember that the US government attempted to interfere with the civil rights movement with the aforementioned operation COINTELPRO. Short for ‘counter intelligence programme’, COINTELPRO saw the FBI attempt to disrupt the activities of groups gaining momentum in the 50s and 60s, like the Communist Party of the United States, the Black Panthers, and the NOI.

In addition, Earl Grant, a close associate of Malcolm X, wrote that in 1965, immediately after the shooting, the NYPD practically strolled in “at about the pace one would expect of them if they were patrolling a quiet park.” They were not “excited or concerned” over what had transpired, despite the commotion and shots fired.

As the door opens again on the mystery and subterfuge that surrounds the death of Malcolm X, it’s clear to see why his family have decided to seek reparations and justice from the US, given how involved the CIA and FBI were behind the scenes at the time, as well as the NYPD’s failure to protect and serve.

“It’s not about the triggerman,” said Crump during his speech. “It’s about those who conspired with the triggerman to do this dastardly deed.” Malcolm X’s family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $100 million (£82 million) in damages.

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