Saw the documentary movie "The Weather Underground" on Netflix last night (made in 2002). Netflix has that nifty "Play now" feature where you dont have to wait for a DVD to come in the mail. Interesting movie that reminded me that 9/11 didn't change everything, that there was white terrorism in the 1960's and 1970's, and that the times in that era were seriously, for a lot of people, about revolution against a corrupt government, played against the Vietnam War. What I wanted to know, though, specifically, was why so many of the people who set bombs were not in jail? I read a comment the other day that said maybe William Ayers father had pull or that it might have been a case of a really good attorney. But, leaving any other consideration about Weather Underground , which had its start as a split from SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and terrorism aside, and focusing on why these people were giving interviews for a movie, here's why they were not convicted.
To put it simply, it's because the FBI was using illegal tactics not only to surveill the Weather Underground and groups like it, but was also violating the 4th amendment.
In April 1971, The "Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI" broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. The group stole files with several hundred pages, 98% of the files targeted left wing individuals and groups.
Not condoning the breakin, but had they not done this and stolen FBI files, the FBI would have continued to act illegally. And of course, the FBI was doing their own breakins and black jobs, without warrants.
By the end of April, the FBI offices were to terminate all files dealing with leftist groups. The files were a part of an FBI program called COINTELPRO. However, after COINTELPRO was dissolved in 1971 by J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI continued its counterintelligence on groups like the Weather Underground. In 1973, the FBI established the 'Special Target Information Development' program, where agents were sent undercover to penetrate the Weather Underground. Due to the illegal tactics of FBI agents involved with the program, government attorneys requested all weapons- and bomb-related charges be dropped against the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground was no longer a fugitive organization and could turn themselves in with minimal charges against them.
Let's be a little more specific about what exactly the FBI was doing that was illegal.
In Los Angeles, the FBI worked with the police department to support Ron Karenga, the leader of a black nationalist organization that was feuding with the Panthers. Two Panther activists were killed in a shootout at UCLA in 1969, for which five Karenga supporters were subsequently indicted, and three convicted. Louis Tackwood, an LAPD agent-provocateur who went public in 1971, says that the LAPD gave Karenga money, guns, narcotics, and encouragement.
In Seattle, FBI agent Louis Harris recruited David Sannes in 1970, a patriotic veteran who was willing to help them catch some bombers. Sannes worked with explosives expert Jeffrey Paul Desmond and FBI agent Bert Carter. Their instructions were to find people interested in bombing. "For a few of the members it was a matter of many weeks of persuasion to actually have them carry through with the bombing projects," said Sannes. When Carter made it clear that he planned to have one bomber die in a booby-trapped explosion, Sannes dropped his FBI work and went public. "My own knowledge is that the FBI along with other Federal law enforcement agencies has been involved in a campaign of bombing, arson and terrorism in order to create in the mass public mind a connection between political dissidence of whatever stripe and revolutionaries of whatever violent tendencies," Sannes reported in an interview on WBAI radio.
Get that? The FBI was involved in bombings THEMSELVES. If you are doing the bombing, TOO, your case against others who are bombing is shredded. Especially ironic when the FBI is and was supposed to be upholding law and order.
The situation in Seattle is merely one of many examples of the FBI's campaign against the New Left. Two agents, W. Mark Felt and Edward Miller, admitted to a grand jury that they had authorized illegal break-ins and burglaries against friends and relatives of Weather Underground fugitives.
Mark Felt. Wasn't he Deep Throat? No wonder he knew about the Nixon illegal breakins, etc.
A 25-year FBI veteran, M. Wesley Swearingen, claimed that the FBI routinely lied to Congress about the number of break-ins and wiretaps: "I myself actually participated in more than 238 while assigned to the Chicago office, [which] conducted thousands of bag jobs." Swearingen charged that agents had lied to a Washington grand jury about the number, locations, and duration of illegal practices in pursuit of the Weather Underground. FBI director William Webster disciplined only six of the 68 agents referred to him by the Justice Department. Felt and Miller were convicted in 1980, and a few months later were pardoned by President Reagan. Today the FBI can still use these same techniques, simply by mislabeling their targets as foreign agents or terrorists.
Back to Wikipedia.
After the Church Committee revealed the FBI's illegal activities, many agents were investigated. In 1976, former FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt publicly stated he had ordered break-ins and that individual agents were merely obeying orders and should not be punished for it. Felt also stated that acting Director L. Patrick Gray had also authorized the break-ins, but Gray denied this. Felt said on the CBS television program Face the Nation that he would probably be a "scapegoat" for the Bureau's work. "I think this is justified and I'd do it again tomorrow", he said on the program. While admitting the break-ins were "extralegal", he justified it as protecting the "greater good". Felt said:
To not take action against these people and know of a bombing in advance would simply be to stick your fingers in your ears and protect your eardrums when the explosion went off and then start the investigation.
So it's a little odd that he's the one that supposedly blew the whistle on the illegal activities of the Nixon administration, n'est-ce pas? (Here's a link to the Church Committee Reports)
The Attorney General in the new Carter administration, Griffin B. Bell, investigated, and on April 10, 1978, a federal grand jury charged Felt, Miller and Gray with conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens by searching their homes without warrants, though Gray's case did not go to trial and was dropped by the government for lack of evidence on December 11, 1980.
Remind you of anything? The Bush administration has been illegally spying on Americans, without warrants, since before 9/11 and also on the basis of terrorism. In other words, nothing has changed, and the constitution continues to be ignored, except that for one brief moment in the 70's, the people involved in breaking the law were brought to trial and convicted. Does it mean that the terorrists, any terorrists, shoudl have been let off? No, but that's how we work in our system of law and order. We expect that all will obey the law and a case is damaged when the people on the prosecution side themseves are proven lawbreakers.
In the late 1970s, the Weatherman group further split into two factions — the "May 19 Coalition" and the "Prairie Fire Collective" — with Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers in the latter. The Prairie Fire Collective favored coming out of hiding, with members facing the criminal charges against them, while the May 19 Coalition continued in hiding. A decisive factor in Dohrn's coming out of hiding were her concerns about her children . The Prairie Fire Collective started to surrender to the authorities from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The remaining Weatherman Underground members continued to violently attack US institutions.
Now, I don't condone the actions of the Weather Underground. I seem to remember an instance in which one of the bombs they set in NYC contained nails. Horrendous. I also don't condone the actions that the United States took in the Vietnam war of carpet-bombing and napalming innocent Vietnamese. I think terrorism in any form is wrong, no matter what the race or nationality doing it, and no matter if it's a people living in a country or a government exercising terrorism through military force. And, frankly, Bill Ayers looked like a wimp in the documentary, a wimp who was in the control of a strong-minded wife, Bernadette Dorn.
P.S. As long as we're on the Vietnam era, though, talking about Vietnam era breakins and violent extremists, must ask why John McCain is friends with G Gordon Liddy, who was another violent political extremist, except on the right. From the Chicago Tribune.
I was quoted in Saturday's New York Times story criticizing Barack Obama's long association with someone he should shun: former Weather Underground bomber William Ayers. John McCain and Sarah Palin have good reason to fault Obama for overlooking Ayers' indefensible past. But while they're at it, they should also explain to the American people why McCain has been friends with another violent political extremist: Gordon Liddy.
Liddy, who worked for President Nixon's campaign, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for multiple crimes in burglarizing the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate building--part of a broader plot to steal the 1972 election through sabotage, illegal spying and other dirty tricks. He even planned the murder of a journalist, though that idea was overruled. Bombings? He proposed the firebombing of a liberal think tank.
Liddy, now a conservative radio host, has never expressed regret for this attempt to subvert the Constitution. Nor has he developed any respect for the law. After the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, he endorsed the shooting of federal agents: "Kill the sons of bitches."
Yet none of this bothers McCain. Liddy has contributed thousands of dollars to his campaigns, held a fundraiser for McCain at his home and hosted the senator on his radio show, where McCain said, "I'm proud of you." Exactly which part of Liddy's record is McCain proud of?
And even more than that, if you just scrape the surface of a whole lot of people who are in positions of power, you'll find war criminals and law breakers. You don't even have to look very far. Most recently, Scooter Libby was found lying to a grand jury and thus obstructing justice-what happened to him? His case was commuted by Bush and he'll probably receive a full pardon as Bush scurries from office. Or take Henry Kissinger.. Even, on a lesser level, remember that Cindy McCain robbed her own charity for drugs and was not convicted.
Again, I"m not trying to make a case for terrorism. It's wrong. But you can't be law breakers yourself and rail against those who are breaking the law. And you can't claim to be a country that has a vibrant, valid constitution that you live by while trampling on it and ignoring what it says. And, in the Weather Underground case, you can't be the FBI running around setting bombs yourself and not ruin your case.