As early as 1981 the FBI had begun to spy on CISPES, and later Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests revealed that it had become a major surveillance operation by 1985, spinning off into 178 separate investigations involving all 59 FBI field offices probing 1,330 organizations.
The large domestic spying operation had the goal of â€œbreakingâ€ CISPES. Agents infiltrated committee meetings, spied on demonstrations, and harassed people at their fulltime, non-CISPES, jobs. Break-ins and thefts targeted offices and the cars and homes of activists. The names of more than 100,000 activists ended up in the Bureauâ€™s â€˜terrorist databankâ€™. Paid spy Frank Varelli infiltrated Dallas CISPES, under instructions to de-legitimize CISPES by seducing the nuns who were lead organizers in the committee.
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