The man who armed the Black Panthers turns out to have been an FBI informant.
FBI files, uncovered by journalist Seth Rosenfeld, reveal that Richard Aoki, a prominent activist in the 1960s who was the first to supply the Black Panthers with guns and weapons training, was also an undercover FBI source.
Aoki’s work for the FBI, which has never been reported, was uncovered and verified during research for the book, “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power.” The book, based on research spanning three decades, will be published tomorrow by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
In a tape-recorded interview for the book in 2007, two years before he committed suicide, Aoki was asked if he had been an FBI informant. Aoki’s first response was a long silence. He then replied, ” ‘Oh,’ is all I can say.”
Later during the same interview, Aoki contended the information wasn’t true.
Asked if this reporter was mistaken that Aoki had been an informant, Aoki said, “I think you are,” but added: “People change. It is complex. Layer upon layer.”
A Nov. 16, 1967, intelligence report on the Black Panthers obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request lists Aoki as an “informant” with the code number “T-2.”
Visit the Center for Investigative Reporting to view their interactive timeline that illustrates how Aoki became an informant.