The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

FBI Cover-Up Exposed in Malcolm X Murder as Two Men Are Exonerated

Nov 22, 2021

A judge in New York recently exonerated two men, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, wrongly convicted for the assassination of Malcolm X. Malcolm was killed on February 21, 1965 while speaking in the Audubon Ballroom in Upper Manhattan. One man, Mujahid Abdul Halim, also known as Talmadge Hayer, was prevented by the crowd from leaving the scene and immediately arrested. Aziz and Islam were arrested within two weeks and indicted, along with Halim, for Malcolm’s murder.

During the trial in February 1966, Halim confessed to being involved in the killing, but testified the two others were innocent. There was no physical evidence tying Aziz and Islam to the killing and both men had alibis. Nevertheless, the jury convicted all three and they were sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

In 1977 and 1978, Halim filed two affidavits again stating that Aziz and Islam were innocent, giving details of how the killing was carried out, and gave partial names of four members of the Nation of Islam mosque in Newark, New Jersey, as his partners in the assassination. Despite Halim’s efforts, Aziz was only granted parole in 1985 after nearly 20 years in prison, and Islam in 1987 after two more years.

In 2011, a biography of Malcolm X by Manning Marable encouraged others to call for the U.S. Justice Department and the New York State attorney to re-investigate the assassination. Both refused to do so. But only last year, in February 2020, did Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. agree to review the case. He did so in large part thanks to the efforts of historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, who spent decades investigating the case. His documentary “Who Killed Malcolm X?” encouraged public support for re-opening the case and led lawyers from the Innocence Project to become involved.

The nearly two-year-long review by Vance and the Innocence Project proved people’s suspicions were quite justified. The review turned up dozens of reports from the FBI and the New York Police Department’s Bureau of Special investigations that showed witnesses to the killing could not identify Aziz and Islam as being involved and instead implicated other suspects. The reports show there were as many as nine undercover FBI informants in the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm X was killed, and some filed reports clearly describing the assassins, particularly one named William Bradley, who some experts believe used a shotgun in the killing. One of the FBI reports describes Bradley as a lieutenant in the Nation of Islam mosque in Newark, New Jersey, and that he had been a machine gunner in the Marine Corps.

The reports also showed that the FBI ordered witnesses not to tell police and prosecutors that they were FBI informants. Those orders came down directly from none other than longtime director, J. Edgar Hoover. None of these documents were provided to lawyers defending Aziz and Islam at the time of their trial.

Many in the black community have long suspected government involvement in the assassination of Malcolm X. It has been known for a long time that the FBI carried out a program of “counter-intelligence” toward leaders of the black movement, including Malcolm X, which included bugging his telephone and spying on him. They did the same to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but they were particularly concerned about the appeal of Malcolm X, due to his outspoken stance in favor of self-defense by black people against racist violence directed toward them.

There was also reason to suggest Nation of Islam involvement in the assassination of Malcolm X. He had become very popular as a spokesman for the NOI, but broke with it over Elijah Muhammad’s sexual involvement with several young female members. He was seen by some as dangerous to the organization and possibly even a competitor to replace Muhammad as its leader.

Clearly, however, the FBI was at least involved in the cover-up of Malcolm X’s true assassins. Its leader, J. Edgar Hoover, was implicated and hurried to close the inquiry by sending two innocent men to prison for decades. The newly exposed information that the FBI had informants present at the time of the killing certainly shows, at a minimum, their indifference to his death, if not their involvement in it.