|Archives||The 1960s & COINTELPRO: In Defense of Paranoia|
|From NameBase NewsLine No. 10, July-September 1995 (reposting permitted by PIR and the author):
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The 1960s and COINTELPRO: In Defense of Paranoia
by Daniel Brandt
It was just six months ago that Bill Clinton began casting about for an enemy to rally Americans behind his dim leadership. Ronald had his Evil Empire and George his Adolf Saddam, but poor Bill has yet to find a hook on world events. Either Clinton becomes presidential within the next year, or his second term is sunk.
The fishing in post-Cold War waters has not been good; six months ago it seemed that only international terrorists and narcotics smugglers might be netted from the 1990s political stew. And the drug issue is sometimes inconvenient: Mexico, soiling her new suit of Spun-in-USA hype, now looks like a basket case, or even like a Cali shark in NAFTA-pinup clothing. Organized crime gets messy too, as it can involve powerful people with banking connections, who might backfire at politicians on occasion. That leaves only international terrorism, the sole example of which in the U.S. in recent memory — if one ignores the CIA ties of the perpetrators — is the World Trade Center bombing.
The fishing is lousy, but fish he must. Clinton’s string-pullers are not happy. With 52 percent of Americans believing that “the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses a threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens,” Clinton needs a threat that’s too big for mere state and local governments. Out trots Warren Christopher on January 20, 1995, to unveil a broad plan for expanded wiretapping, denial of visas, working with other governments on money laundering and seizing assets, and expanding the use of current laws prohibiting fund- raising for terrorist organizations. “International terrorists, criminals and drug traffickers pose direct threats to our people and to our nation’s interests,” Christopher explained to anyone who hadn’t heard it before.
The bombing in Oklahoma City happened three months later. It was accompanied by 100 times more footage about dead children than the same media mustered for Waco two years earlier — or for that matter, bombed children in Vietnam during the 1960s. They deftly dropped the word “international” from all references to “terrorism,” and “anti-terrorism” moved to the fast track. The president’s popularity went up as Bill and Hillary staged a session with some children in front of the cameras, promising the toddlers that they’d do their best against the bad guys. They didn’t take questions. A few days later Clinton sent a $1.5 billion anti-terrorism bill to Congress. Here we go again, for those old enough to remember the sixties.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had bigger fish to fry. Even though the connection between the bombing and militia groups was more imaginary than real, the copy-starved media grabbed whatever crumbs they were offered by these two axe-grinding groups. The militias hit the front pages everywhere. On June 7, with the support of the ADL, the Senate passed a sweeping $2 billion anti-terrorism measure by a vote of 91-to-8. It took a pair of gloves at the O.J. trial to slap our media back to their usual fare. And by then the House was already reporting a similar bill out of committee.
Clinton’s rush to capitalize on an isolated incident seems misguided to the American Civil Liberties Union. Unlike the ADL, with their agenda of short-term gain against their perceived enemies, the ACLU believes that reasonable people should defer to the long-range interests of democracy as expressed in the Bill of Rights. But Clinton is neither a power-grabber nor a libertarian; he’s a gofer. His handlers are dismayed over what they see as the failure of the New World Order in Bosnia. These globalists want an end to nationalism when it doesn’t serve their interests. Bosnia is one example, and the isolationism of the populists and patriots in America is another.
The masters of the global plantation need serfs who are willing to donate their first-born to assorted foreign military adventures. Otherwise, nationalism — which is often a response to oppression, both perceived and real — cannot be suppressed. And that means markets cannot be exploited. Since the war in Vietnam, all is not well back at the Republic. Real folks are watching real earnings decline, at the same time that Wall Street gushes over the corporate downsizing that has stock prices soaring. “Losing your job is good for us,” they’re basically saying.
Even militia members now salute the anti-war protesters of the sixties, and regret that they weren’t listening at the time. “Look at that McNamara coming forward now with his brand-new book, telling us that the patriot movement of thirty years ago was absolutely right, and that the war was a lying, fraudulent, disgusting thing,” says Bob Fletcher, a spokesman for the Militia of Montana.
The establishment response to populists and patriots is two-fold. On the one hand, they demonize the movement as neo-fascist, racist, and anti-Semitic. This is the line of ADL and SPLC, whose spokesmen grossly exaggerate the connections between today’s patriots, and an earlier generation of white survivalists. In this view, ADL and SPLC are anti- racist and liberal, while the patriots are nothing more than extreme-right hate groups posing as populists. This analysis is definitely declining. ADL’s police-state methods, and SPLC’s questionable fund-raising practices, have both taken their toll. But the primary reason for the decline is that the left vs. right scenario held dear by ADL and SPLC has lost its power to explain what’s happening in America.
Plan B becomes important once it’s apparent that the old paradigm can’t do the job. This new interpretation is best articulated in an article by Michael Kelly in the June 19, 1995 issue of The New Yorker, titled “The Road to Paranoia.” Kelly describes “views that have long been shared by both the far right and the far left, and that in recent years have come together, in a weird meeting of the minds, to become one, and to permeate the mainstream of American politics and popular culture. You could call it fusion paranoia.”
Kelly uses psychologism to avoid examining the evidence. Recent events in American history, from the October Surprise to Iran-contra to Mena, Arkansas, are all examples of “conspiracist appeal.” They should be appreciated not for what they might tell us about American society and politics, but only for what they tell us about those who find them compelling. Kelly is doing nothing new here. In 1969, a conservative scholar by the name of Lewis S. Feuer produced a fat book titled “The Conflict of Generations,” which explained the student movement in terms of an Oedipal impulse that student activists have toward their fathers. No messy Vietnam war, with forced conscription and napalmed babies, had much of anything to do with it. Similarly, Kelly and The New Yorker are spared the trouble of dealing with the issues that have awakened so many in America’s heartland. Freud is out of favor by now, but the ridicule of paranoia works just as well.
The term “fusion paranoia” could only have been coined by someone who did not experience the surveillance and repression of the 1960s. At the time, anti-war activists didn’t realize the extent to which the authorities were destroying their movement from within by using agents provocateurs and informants, and from the outside by using trumped-up charges, anonymous denunciations and snitch jackets, and stories planted in the media. Almost thirty years later, the deja vu is getting stronger with each new headline.
It wasn’t until the decade following the sixties that the bulk of the documentation surfaced. Mostly this was the result of a Freedom of Information Act that was given new teeth in December, 1974, over President Ford’s veto. The Church Committee in the Senate, and the Pike Committee in the House, were looking into CIA misdeeds. J. Edgar Hoover came to a timely end in 1972, allowing congressional and Government Accounting Office investigators to put at least one foot into the FBI’s cabinets. And our national media, in the wake of Watergate, were in a rare mood to report what the files showed.
The revelations were almost more than the system could bear. President Reagan’s Executive Order 12356, issued in 1982, slowed down the declassification process. In 1986 a revision of the Freedom of Information Act gave agencies the authority to refuse to confirm or deny that certain records existed at all. The effect of these changes, along with the decline in investigative journalism and the rise of infotainment, meant that the window of opportunity for the public’s right to know was slammed shut.
In 1978, for example, with a few intimations that the University of Southern California had something to hide (former CIA director John McCone was a trustee), I successfully urged the campus library to file a request for the CIA’s files on USC. Almost three years later the library received 50 documents, portions of which were blacked out, and were denied another 34 documents. All search fees were waived in the public interest, and the library made the files available for photocopying.
If I tried the same thing today, first the library would want to know why I’m making trouble. Then the CIA would tell the library to take a hike. If I took the CIA’s letter to the campus newspaper editor, she’d want to know why I think mere citizens should be privy to the CIA’s secrets — the real story, she’d explain, is the problem of discrimination against women in the Directorate of Operations.
One yearns for the good old days, when issues were big, women didn’t want to be imperial spies, and idealism and ethical indignation were accepted from nonvictims. In 1977 the CIA notified eighty academic institutions that they had unwittingly been involved in — surprise! — mind-control research. But this and similar tidbits are consigned to pre-digital oblivion these days. Anything that isn’t available through campus terminals or journalists’ modems is never discussed anymore. That means anything predating the early 1980s.
“The Women’s Liberation Movement may be considered as subversive to the New Left and revolutionary movements as they have proven to be a divisive and factionalizing factor…. It could be well recommended as a counterintelligence movement to weaken the revolutionary movement.” This was from an August, 1969 report by the head of the San Francisco FBI office. Within several years, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations were pumping millions into women’s studies programs on campus.
At the same time, the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division had 62,000 subversives under investigation. Much of this effort was organized under COINTELPRO, or counterintelligence program. In 1956 COINTELPRO began against the Communist Party USA, in 1964 “white hate groups” were added, in 1967 “black nationalist-hate groups,” and in 1968 the “New Left.”
The existence of COINTELPRO was first revealed when every document in the Media, Pennsylvania office of the FBI was stolen by unknown persons on March 8, 1971. Some sixty documents were then mailed to selected publications, and others were sent directly to the people and groups named. These documents broke down as follows: 30 percent were manuals, routine forms, and similar procedural materials. Of the remainder, 40 percent were political surveillance and other investigation of political activity (2 were right-wing, 10 concerned immigrants, and over 200 were on left or liberal groups), 25 percent concerned bank robberies, 20 percent were murder, rape, and interstate theft, 7 percent were draft resistance, another 7 percent were military desertion, and 1 percent organized crime, mostly gambling.
Further evidence concerning COINTELPRO came after reporter Carl Stern from NBC, noticing a reference in the Media documents, filed an FOIA request and received additional files more than two years later. Additionally, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a Trotskyite group that was active in the anti-war movement, filed a suit in 1973 that was still in discovery three years later. The documents received by the SWP showed that specially-trained teams of agents burglarized their offices at least 92 times from 1960-1966, yielding a total of about 10,000 photographs of documents such as correspondence, records, minutes, letters, and other materials. The burglaries were still going on as late as 1975.
When Lori Paton, 15, wrote a letter to the Socialist Labor Party in 1973 and inadvertently addressed it to the SWP, she was looking for information for a high school project. Our fearless G-men nabbed this letter through a mail cover and swung into high gear, opening a “subversive activities” investigation on her. The FBI checked a credit bureau and the local police for information on Paton and her parents, and an agent interviewed her high school principal. “More interviews … are in order for plenty of reasons,” instructed one memo dated 16 September 1970, “chief of which are it will enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across that there is an FBI Agent behind every mailbox. In addition, some will be overcome by the overwhelming personalities of the contacting agent and volunteer to tell all — perhaps on a continuing basis.”
The Black Panther Party wasn’t treated so kindly. A 1970 FBI memo outlined a series of rather nasty steps that should be taken:
Xerox copies of true documents, documents subtly incorporating false information, and entirely fabricated documents would be periodically anonymously mailed to the residence of a key Panther leader…. An attempt would be made to give the Panther recipient the impression the documents were stolen from police files by a disgruntled police employee sympathetic to the Panthers…. Alleged police or FBI documents could be prepared pinpointing Panthers as police or FBI informants; … outlining fictitious plans for police raids or other counteractions; revealing misuse of Panther funds…. Effective implementation of this proposal logically could not help but disrupt and confuse Panther activities.
Such FBI tactics created the feud between the Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton factions of the Black Panther Party, according to a high bureau official. 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.
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. 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.
In 1971 Congress finally repealed the Internal Security Act of 1950, which provided for custodial detention of citizens whose names were on lists of “subversives” maintained by the FBI. Over the years these lists were expanded from Communist Party members, to all members of SDS and other “pro-Communist New Left-type groups,” and by 1970 even included members of every “commune” where individuals reside in one location and “share income and adhere to the philosophy of a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist oriented violent revolution.” Despite the repeal, the FBI simply changed the names of the Security Index and Reserve Index to the “Administrative Index,” with the excuse that they were preparing for possible future legislation. The FBI’s continuation of these lists was authorized by attorney general John Mitchell.
The FBI also waged a war against the underground press. As early as 1968 they assigned three informants to penetrate the Liberation News Service (LNS), while nine others reported on it from the outside. These reports were shared with the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Branch, the Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Navy, the Air Force, and the CIA. The FBI set up Pacific International News Service in San Francisco and New York Press Service on the east coast. When NYPS director Louis Salzberg blew his cover by appearing as a government witness at the Chicago Seven trial, the FBI’s New York office tried to swing this in their favor by preparing an anonymous letter denouncing LNS as a government front as well. Other underground newspapers were handled more gently by the FBI, by getting record companies to pull ads from their pages.
Other federal agencies were also active in the war against dissent. In response to pressure from the Nixon White House, in 1969 the Internal Revenue Service began investigating radicals. Former FBI agent Robert N. Wall blew the whistle on this unit in 1972. He wrote about his visit to the IRS to investigate a radical:
When I went to the IRS I found it had secretly set up a special squad of men to investigate the tax records of “known militants and activists.” I was sent to a locked, sound-proofed room in the basement of the IRS headquarters in Washington, where I found a file on my subject, among hundreds of others piled on a long table.
The CIA was able to obtain IRS information under the table, through IRS liaison personnel that handled the taxes for CIA proprietary companies. When the CIA found out that Ramparts magazine planned to expose their funding of the National Student Association, Richard Ober met with top IRS officials Thomas Terry, Leon Green, and John Barber on February 1, 1967. Ober recommended that Ramparts’ corporate returns be examined, along with the personal returns of any financial supporters of Ramparts. The CIA also obtained the personal returns of Ramparts publisher Edward Keating.
The CIA’s domestic operations were first exposed by Seymour Hersh in the New York Times on December 22, 1974. Within two weeks President Ford created the Rockefeller Commission to look into the matter, and their report was issued the following June. It detailed the CIA’s mail intercept program for mail to and from the Soviet Union, described Operation CHAOS (the CIA’s domestic spying program that was headed by Richard Ober), also described a separate domestic spying program run by the CIA’s Office of Security called Project Resistance, and mentioned an Office of Security program that gave seminars and training on lock-picking and surveillance to a number of local police departments.
The Rockefeller report stated that “during six years [1967-1972], the Operation [CHAOS] compiled some 13,000 different files, including files on 7,200 American citizens. The documents in these files and related materials included the names of more than 300,000 persons and organizations, which were entered into a computerized index.” This compares to the CIA’s index of some 7 million names of all nationalities maintained by the Directorate of Operations, an estimated 115,000 of which are believed to be American citizens. But the numbers may be on the low side; CHAOS was tightly compartmented within the CIA and free from periodic internal review. For example, later reports of the number of state, local, and county police departments assisted by the CIA were put at 44, far more than the handful mentioned in the Rockefeller report.
The Center for National Security Studies, a late-1970s liberal watchdog group headed by Morton Halperin, obtained 450 documents that describe the CIA’s Project Resistance. These documents show that the purpose of this Security Office program was much more than an effort to protect CIA recruiters on campus by collecting newspaper clippings, as described in the Rockefeller report. The Security Office was authorized for the first time to assist the recruiting division “in any way possible,” and restrictions on contacting the FBI at local levels were dropped. Contacts were also developed with campus security officials, informants within the campus community, military intelligence, and state and local police. Special attention was paid to the underground press.
In 1976 the Church Committee received summaries from the CIA of the files of 400 American journalists who had being tasked by the CIA to collect intelligence abroad over the past 25 years. These included correspondents for the New York Times, CBS News, Time magazine, and many others. As sensitive as this issue was, it didn’t involve domestic operations (which are a violation of the CIA’s charter), except to the extent that planted stories would sometimes “blow back” as bona fide news for domestic consumption.
One case in particular, however, suggests that the CIA was busy sabotaging the underground press as well. Sal Ferrera was recruited by the CIA sometime around 1970. He worked with the Quicksilver Times in Washington DC, and covered numerous demonstrations for the College Press Service. (Seed money from the CIA helped establish CPS in the early 1960s, although most staffers did not know this.) Ferrera even worked with a debugging outfit in Washington, checking telephones of movement groups for taps.
When CPS sent Ferrera to Paris to report on the Vietnamese peace negotiations, he ended up befriending ex-CIA officer Philip Agee, who was writing his memoirs. Ferrera was exposed as a CIA agent in 1975 with the publication of Agee’s “Inside the Company: CIA Diary.” This bestseller featured the typewriter Ferrera gave Agee: in the cover photograph, the padding in the top of the typewriter case is peeled back to reveal a homing transmitter. That same year, Ferrera returned to the U.S. and legally changed his name.
Not to be outdone, U.S. military intelligence frequently used media cover to collect information during demonstrations. The U.S. Army’s “Midwest Audiovisual News” scooped up the only TV interview with Abbie Hoffman during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Their Counter- intelligence Analysis Branch (CIAB) compiled organizational files, personality files, mug books, and “black lists,” resulting in more than 117,000 documents. These were computer-indexed under a series of descriptive categories, which allowed access to a microfilm reel and frame at the push of a button.
There were other filing systems in other locations, maintained by other elements of the military intelligence bureaucracy. These were fed partly by overlapping data, as well as by other collection systems. The U.S. Intelligence Command (USAINTC), for example, had a network of 1500 agents stationed in over 300 posts scattered throughout the country. Some of these posts were stocked with communications equipment, tape recorders, cameras, lock-picking kits, lie detectors, and interview rooms with two- way mirrors. Agents were even given kits to forge identification for cover purposes. Former army intelligence captain Christopher Pyle blew the whistle on military surveillance in 1970, in the January and July issues of Washington Monthly. This led to hearings in 1971 by Senator Sam Ervin’s Constitutional Rights Subcommittee, at which Pyle, CIAB analyst Ralph Stein, and operative Richard Stahl testified.
Some of the military’s effort reflected their fondness for the “operations center” seen in movies, with direct lines to local police departments, teletype machines to field intelligence units, situation maps, closed-circuit television, and secure radio links. One 180-man command center was created in 1968 after the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King; by 1969 it was housed in a $2.7 million basement war room in the Pentagon. Nothing was too insignificant for this war room’s computer: one printout announced an “anti-war demo” at West Point, where Vassar “girl students will offer sex to cadets who sign an anti-war petition.” Apart from the coverage of demonstrations and similar events, the primary target of military intelligence was the nation’s university and college campuses.
The 117-year-old Posse Comitatus Act, which the current anti-terrorism legislation will amend, sharply curtails the rights of the military to get involved in domestic law enforcement. Nevertheless, in the late sixties the military was working closely with local and state police, as well as National Guard units, to coordinate scenarios for the implementation of martial law. The Ervin subcommittee came across a master plan called “Garden Plot,” which was too unspecific to raise Ervin’s eyebrows. Several years later a freelance journalist uncovered documents describing a sub-plan of Garden Plot. It went by the name of “Cable Splicer,” and involved California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona, under the command of the Sixth Army.
Cable Splicer was developed in a series of California meetings from 1968 to 1972, involving Sixth Army, Pentagon, and National Guard generals, police chiefs and sheriffs, military intelligence officers, defense contractors, and executives from the telephone company and utility companies. One meeting was kicked off by Governor Ronald Reagan:
You know, there are people in the state who, if they could see this gathering right now and my presence here, would decide that their worst fears and convictions had been realized — I was planning a military takeover.
The participants played war games using scenarios that began with racial, student, or labor unrest, and ended with the Army being called in to bail out the National Guard, usually by sweeping the area to confiscate private weapons and round up likely troublemakers. These games were conducted in secrecy, with military personnel dressed in civvies, and using non-military transportation. Although the documents on Cable Splicer covered only four Western states, Brig. Gen. J. L. Jelinek, senior Army officer in the Pentagon’s National Guard Bureau, knew of “no state that didn’t have some form of this [civil disturbance control] exercise within the last year” under different code names.
Games are one thing, while actual offensive operations are another. The Ervin subcommittee reported that military intelligence groups conducted offensive operations against anti-war and student groups, but the Pentagon refused to declassify the relevant records. Presumably they never reached the intensity of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations. The situation with respect to police departments was a different matter. Particularly in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, as well as in some other cities, the police “Red Squads” exceeded the zeal of the FBI.
In Los Angeles from 1977-1981, I worked with a citizens’ group to document the LAPD’s intelligence activities, which were still going strong even then. Our group uncovered at least eight LAPD agents in local organizations, some of whom had attended our own meetings. One was even reporting on city council meetings. After a series of similar revelations, the LAPD intelligence division was finally dissolved by the police commission in January, 1983.
The final straw for the police commission occurred two months earlier, when it was discovered that files previously ordered destroyed had been squirreled away by an intelligence officer, Jay Paul, with the approval of his superiors. Investigators with search warrants seized ninety cartons of files from his mobile home and other locations. Paul was in the process of feeding this data into the computers of Western Goals, a private organization headed by Congressman Larry McDonald, and was also involved with Research West, an operation founded by ex-FBI agents which sold information to corporations. Typical of the files in these cartons was a four-decade dossier on a state supreme court judge, compiled to assess his possible bias against police intelligence practices.
It’s the Chicago Police Department that holds the national record for dirty tricks, however. At times the intelligence unit swelled to 500, and in 1974, fearing a lawsuit, they destroyed files on 105,000 individuals and 1,300 organizations. Prominent citizens and civic groups were targeted as often as black nationalists. In 1967 a right-winger organized the Legion of Justice, which claimed five chapters in Chicago, each with forty to sixty members. These were essentially gangs, and they worked with the Chicago police to target left-wing groups. Many of their tactics were illegal, including burglaries to obtain files, bugging, harassment, and threats. Sometimes police staked out the scene to make sure the gang members weren’t interrupted.
Today officials in Chicago are involved in negotiations to ease the restrictions on police spying. These restrictions were imposed by a consent decree in 1982, after more than 60 organizations and individuals sued the city in 1974. Recently police superintendent Matt Rodriguez said that the limits on police spying are “keeping information from us that we should have with respect to potential criminal activity, potential terrorist activity that we could probably be investigating a lot more effectively.” His position is supported by Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose father was mayor in the 1960s and 1970s.
Despite the high incidence of civil unrest between 1963 and 1968, violence claimed no more than 220 lives and the victims were not the objects of protest but the protesters themselves: 20 civil rights workers and most of the rest ghetto-dwellers. During this period the civil strife death rate was 1.1 per million in this country, compared to a European rate of 2.4 per million. Nevertheless, many federal, state, and local agencies were willing to violate our civil rights, while others collected surveillance information with the expectation that it would be useful later, perhaps under martial law conditions. This suggests that our Constitution is much more fragile than most people assume.
The sixties were economic boom years, when a college degree, even in the humanities, seemed to promise a house and garden on Easy Street. There was a war in Vietnam that we could afford to lose: despite all the death and destruction, there were no essential American interests involved. And we had a war on poverty at home that raised consciousness and expectations, which a wealthy America could afford to win. But those who were not involved in either of the above, whether through support or opposition, must have comprised at least 80 percent of the population. The string-pullers know that this 80 percent tends to go along, in order to get along.
At the level of manipulation contemplated by the elites, there is no genuine left vs. right, no Democrat vs. Republican, no “women and people of color” vs. “angry white males.” These are imposed artificially. In normal times there’s a hodgepodge minority consisting of the elites, the suspicious, the desperate, the dispossessed, and those who think for themselves. Alongside this there’s a hackneyed majority that continues to pursue their own narrow interests. Without the time or inclination to seek out information for themselves, they subsist on what they are fed by a centralized mass media.
Increasingly, however, these are not normal times. Oklahoma and the pending anti-terrorism legislation are a test run of sorts, whether they started out that way or not. As the economy goes south, and the 80 percent begin to suspect that there’s something they aren’t being told, all bets for stability are off. This has important people worried.
Without the “communists” to kick around anymore, some of those who once underwrote Wall Street’s global interests by donating their first- born, are now describing themselves as patriots and populists. Many of them have taken a fresh look at the international ruling class, and resurrected a long but gnarly tradition of anti-establishment, isolationist nationalism.
Much of the political thinking among these new patriots is immature, and is short on both research and scholarship. Even so, it still describes the world better than what’s left of the Left, with its self-interested insistence on multiculturalism and political correctness. The conspiracy theories peddled by patriots make more objective sense today, than the reasons they were given for our involvement in Vietnam did in the sixties. That’s progress of sorts.
These patriots and populists have shed most of the racism and anti-Semitism that characterized the earlier survivalists. Now they’re expressing their opinions by fax, radio, and Internet, they have an ear to the ground, and — it must be said — they spread lots of rumors. But two out of three isn’t bad.
The ruling class, to be sure, would prefer that they watch the O.J. trial.
1. “USA Has New Anti-Terror Plan,” Associated Press, 21 January 1995.
2. Michael Kelly, “The Road to Paranoia,” The New Yorker, 19 June 1995, p. 67.
3. Ibid., p. 62.
4. Frank Donner, The Age of Surveillance (New York: Vintage Books, 1981), p. 151.
5. “The Complete Collection of Political Documents Ripped-off from the FBI Office in Media PA, March 8, 1971,” Win Magazine, March 1972, pp. 1-82.
6. Donner, p. 131.
7. Aryeh Neier, Dossier: The Secret Files They Keep On You (New York: Stein and Day, 1975), p. 150.
8. Louis E. Tackwood, The Glass House Tapes (New York: Avon Books, 1973), pp. 105-7.
9. Ibid., pp. 158-9; Dave Dellinger, “Pre-Watergate Watergate,” Liberation, November 1973, pp. 26-9.
10. Anthony Summers, Official and Confidential (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993), pp. 115-6; Donner, The Age of Surveillance, p. 132.
11. Donner, The Age of Surveillance, pp. 162-7.
12. Angus Mackenzie, Sabotaging the Dissident Press (San Francisco: Center for Investigative Reporting, 1983), pp. 6, 9-11.
13. Robert Wall, “Special Agent for the FBI,” The New York Review of Books, 27 January 1972, p. 18.
14. Robert Burnham, A Law Unto Itself (New York: Random House, 1989), pp. 274-5.
15. The Nelson Rockefeller Report to the President by the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States, June 1975 (New York: Manor Books), 299 pages.
16. Ibid., p. 23, 41, 143.
17. Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), p. 87.
18. Mackenzie, pp. 9-10; Daniel Brandt, “The CIA on American Campuses,” Trojan Parallel, February-March 1979, p. 3.
19. Carl Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media,” Rolling Stone, 20 October 1977, pp. 55-67.
20. Philip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1975), pp. 575-6; Mackenzie, pp. 8-9.
21. Blanche Wiesen Cook, “Surveillance and Mind Control.” In Howard Frazier, ed., Uncloaking the CIA (New York: The Free Press, 1978), p. 178. See also Donner, The Age of Surveillance, p. 298.
22. Christopher Pyle’s two articles, with background, are reprinted in Charles Peters and Taylor Branch, eds., Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public Interest (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972), pp. 43-76.
23. Donner, The Age of Surveillance, pp. 287-320.
24. Ron Ridenhour with Arthur Lubow, “Bringing the War Home,” New Times, 28 November 1975, pp. 18-24.
25. Donner, The Age of Surveillance, p. 308.
26. Donner, Protectors of Privilege, pp. 245-89; Joel Sappell, “Jay Paul,” Los Angeles Times, 30 April 1984, Part II, pp. 1, 6.
27. Ibid., pp. 90-154; George O’Toole, The Private Sector (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), p. 139.
28. “Chicago Tries to Expand Police Spying,” Associated Press. In Washington Times, 14 June 1995, p. A4.
29. Quoted in Donner, The Age of Surveillance, p. 183, from Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, National commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (Government Printing Office, 1969).