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J. Edgar Hover Ordered Bureau to Hide That Witnesses to Malcolm X’s Assassination Were FBI Informants

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at his desk. Photo: FBI

By Steve Neavling

FBI informants witnessed Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination and were told not to reveal their work with the bureau when talking with police and prosecutors, according to a prosecutor. 

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance made the disclosure on Thursday when asking a judge to throw out the convictions of two of the three men convicted in the civil rights murder, The New York Times reports.

“We now have reports revealing that on orders from director J. Edgar Hoover himself, the F.B.I. ordered multiple witnesses not to tell police or prosecutors that they were in fact F.B.I. informants,” Vance said in court.

Based on the prosecutor’s motion to vacate the convictions, Judge Ellen Biben exonerated Muhammad A. Aziz, 83, and Khalil Islam, who died in 2009. Thomas Hagan, who also was convicted in the murder, confessed to the killing during his trial but was adamant that the two other men were not involved. His conviction stands. 

The only men who said they witnessed Aziz and Islam participate in the killing were FBI informants, Vance said. The bureau never revealed that information to the defense.  

A nearly two-year investigation by prosecutors and the Innocence Project found that FBI documents also showed that a description of the assassins did not match Aziz or Islam.

“In short, it is unknown whether the identification procedures used in this case were properly conducted,” the motion to vacate stated, ABC News reports.

In a letter to the bureau’s office in New York one year before the assassination, Hoover asked agents to “do something about Malcolm X,” according to previously disclosed documents. 


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