Former U.S. Rep. McKinney Completes PhD, Studied COINTELPRO
Much of her studies, including her dissertation, have been focused on the COINTELPRO program, the U.S. government’s counter-intelligence program.
“It’s been a tough road, but I made it. I’ve been in many different PhD programs. Finally, I found one that actually worked for me,” McKinney told Atlanta Progressive News.
McKinney’s dissertation was on “‘El No Murio, El Se Multiplico!’ Hugo Chavez: The Leadership and the Legacy on Race.”
Hugo Chavez was President of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013.
COINTELPRO was started by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in 1956 “to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States,” according to the FBI’s website.
“In the 1960s, it was expanded to include a number of other domestic groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Black Panther Party. All COINTELPRO operations were ended in 1971… COINTELPRO was later rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging first amendment rights and for other reasons,” the FBI’s website states.
“COINTELPRO is what I studied. Antioch allowed me to study COINTELPRO while there,” McKinney said.
McKinney’s interest in COINTELPRO goes back to her years at Congresswoman, where one of her Congressional staffers, John Judge–who recently passed away–researched several issues related to COINTELPRO.
“You’ll find students at Antioch were targeted by the FBI because they didn’t look ‘clean’ and were ‘spoiled brats,’ this is what was written in the documents, and ‘they deserved to be surveilled by the FBI,’ and… [they] were,” McKinney said.
“I got hooked on it. There’s so much information there,” McKinney said.
McKinney in writing her first draft relied on several documents published by Wikileaks; however, she had to remove all of the references to those documents after the U.S. Department of Justice went after Barrett Brown.
Brown is currently serving time in prison in connection with an FBI investigation of the 2012 Stratfor email leak, over five million emails published on the Wikileaks website. The emails are “internal emails between global intelligence company Stratfor’s employees and its clients,” according to Wikipedia.
“I had to go back and take everything out with Wikileaks in it,” she said.
“I couldn’t tell the full story,” she said. “But now of course there are publications that are interested in telling the full story because people want to know.”
“It took me eight months to write the first draft, all day every day,” she said.
“You can’t really talk about Hugo Chavez without talking about the context of his leadership. The context of his leadership was very much about the relationship between him and the U.S.,” she said.
McKinney cited a “great interplay that was going on between a democratically elected leader who was trying to preserve the sovereignty of his state and at the same time reignite the aspect of dignity that had been stripped from the indigent and African populations of Venezuela.”
“I learned in this paper… [about] the close relationship and the mutuality of the mission and vision of Libya and Venezuela,” which she said was part of a trend of South-South collaboration.
“Venezuela is being targeted, being destabilized, and Libya no longer exists as a sovereign entity,” McKinney said.
She noted that Coretta Scott King studied at Antioch College.
“When Coretta King was accepted into Antioch College, that was not when it was full-blown integrated,” in society, McKinney said.
“They admitted her, she was gonna have to do a practicum in the classroom. Black people weren’t allowed to teach kids in a desegregated setting. Antioch did that,” McKinney said.
“It’s like a little oasis in the middle of America. It reminds men of Berkley, it’s like a free speech spot in the middle of America,” she said.
“We tackled income inequality, we tackled race. They have a whole program just to deal with race. They are doing everything they can to allow us to become our best self,” McKinney said.
The school’s focus is on social justice and trying to change the world for the better, she said.
“I love being able to explore my curiosities,” she said, something Antioch allowed her to do.
Earning a PhD has been a long-time goal of her life that had been deferred. She entered politics, being elected to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives, at a young age.
“I never had time. I was always busy doing political stuff. I should have made the time. But helping other people, solving other people’s problems, that was more important, so I put myself on the backburner,” McKinney said.
The impetus for McKinney’s return to school was President Barack Obama’s decision to bomb Libya, she said.
“I knew I needed to step my game up because the challenges were becoming more challenging. The roads to accountability and responsibility were becoming more difficult. I needed to do things better, and I had to learn – I needed to put myself in a position to learn,” McKinney said.