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 “breaking” 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 Bureau’s ‘terrorist databank’. 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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