Wednesday, March 18, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Conclusion

SNCC Worker Ralph Featherstone with Attorney Bill Kunstler
Revisiting March 8, 1970 Attack on Black Panther Party Office in Philadelphia

Coincidentally, less than 48 hours after Upper West Side Movement organizer and 1967-68 Columbia SDS vice-chair Ted Gold was killed, and on the same day Ted’s body was identified, a firebomb exploded in the office of the Black Panther Party’s Philadelphia chapter, at 47th and Walnut St. in Philadelphia. According to a March 8, 1970 Liberation News Service article:

“A firebomb exploded in the Black Panther Party office…early Sunday morning, March 8 [1970]. It was the fourth attack against the office in recent months.

“A bystander reported he saw smoke and flames pouring out of the first floor Panther office about 2 a.m., Sunday. He observed the plate glass window of the office was broken as if an object had been thrown through it. He called the police and fire department and went to get the residents of the upper floors out of the building. It took the police 25 minutes to arrive. The fire department made it to the scene a few minutes after the police even though the nearest firehouse is only six blocks away.

“`Someone is out to get us,’ said a Panther spokesman at the office…Two days before the firebombing, the mimeograph (chain and all), a record player and an electric heater were stolen from the office.

“The Panther spokesman said, `This is part of the national attack against the Panthers.’”

How SNCC Staff Members Ralph Featherstone and “Che” Payne Were Killed 50 Years Ago

Just 3 days after the three explosions at 18 W.11th St. in Manhattan, on March 9, 1970, SNCC staffers Ralph Featherstone and William “Che” Payne “were driving along Route 1 in Maryland when a bomb exploded beneath the floorboard of their car,” according to the SNCC website; and, as the New York Times reported, “the explosion” that killed Ralph Featherstone and “Che” Payne “occurred two miles from the courthouse where pretrial hearings were being held for Mr. Featherstone’s close friend,” former SNCC chairperson “H. Rap Brown, who” was being “charged with arson and incitement to riot” (and who, after changing his name to Jamil Al-Amin, was later sentenced to life without parole in Georgia in 2000, in a different court case, despite maintaining his innocence).

Jet Magazine published an article about the explosion, that killed the two SNCC staff members 50 years ago in Bel Air, Maryland, in its March 26, 1970 issue, which noted that “Featherstone, a long-time friend of Brown’s and reportedly a key witness in Brown’s defense, was hurled 50 feet from the car he was driving when a blast ripped through the right side of his 1964 blue and white auto;” and “Blacks in predominantly white populated Bel Air insisted that Featherstone and Payne were murdered since they were returning to Washington [D.C.] when the blast occurred.”

Police in Maryland originally claimed that the two SNCC staff members were planning to bomb the courthouse where H. Rap Brown was being tried in Bel Air or a police station there. But as the website observed, “SNCC members and other supporters believe the two men were assassinated; killed by a car bomb placed in or on their vehicle” and “even the police” later admitted “that Featherstone and Payne were driving back to Washington at the time of the explosion, thus casting doubts on the original claim of them planning on bombing the courthouse.” In addition, a community leader from Baltimore, former Urban Coalition of Baltimore Director Walter Lively, told the Jet Magazine reporter 50 years ago that “we don’t want the police to push the idea that here were two fools, who were expert with explosives who just blew themselves up,” according to the March 26, 1970 Jet Magazine article.

An article in the March 11, 1970 issue of the New York Times also reported that the then-attorney for H. Rap Brown, antiwar and Civil Rights Movement attorney William Kunstler, “who also visited the wreckage at the state police barracks, rejected any inference that Mr. Featherstone had knowingly transported "explosives." According to the same article:

“He said he had known Featherstone for years adding `I don’t think that sort of thing was Ralph Featherstone’s bag.’ Besides, he said, Featherstone’s car was heading away from Bel Air…`Why should they be leaving town if they came here to blow something up’ Mr. Kunstler asked…” 

Following Ralph Featherstone’s death, SNCC also released a statement to the press asserting that “he was murdered by the powerful forces in America that in their fear have decided to behead the Black militant movement” and “they are blaming the victim for the crime, still acting as if they can blot out ugly truth by destroying the people who speak it.”

In an article that appeared in the March 23, 1970 issue of Hard Times magazine (that was included in Harold Jacobs’ late 1970 Weatherman book), Andrew Kopkind noted that “in the months before he was blown to bits by a bomb in Bel Air, Maryland, Featherstone and several others were running a book store, a publishing house and a school in Washington” and “Featherstone and his companion, Che Payne, were most probably murdered by persons who believed that Rap Brown was in their car.” According to Kopkind, “Featherstone had gone to Bel Air on the eve of Brown’s scheduled appearance at the trial to make security arrangements” since the former SNCC chairperson “had good reason to fear for his safety in that red neck of the woods;” and “no one who knew the kind of politics Featherstone was practicing, or the mission he was on in Bel Air, or the quality of his judgment, believes that he was transporting a bomb—in the front seat of a car, leaving Bel Air, at midnight, in hostile territory with police everywhere.”

According to a March 14, 1970 Liberation News Service article, “the explosion happened two miles from the courthouse where…Rap Brown was to go on trial for having made speeches which `caused’ the 1967 rebellion of Cambridge, Maryland’s black community;” and “before Payne’s badly mangled body was identified there had been speculation that Rap might have been the second passenger in the exploded car.” The same article also noted:

“Bel Air police, worried about the reaction of Black communities in Baltimore, Washington and around the country, almost immediately put forward to the press the idea that the two young black men must have blown themselves up in an inept attempt to blow up some police station or something. Maryland’s governor Marvin Mandel put the National Guard on alert, and the prosecuting attorney in Rap’s case showed up at the site of the explosion to proclaim that the police theory seemed like a good one to him.

“`All those who have known Ralph Featherstone know that the brother would not have been carrying incendiary devices in his car’ said a close friend and fellow worker of Featherstone’s. A SNCC spokesman said, `Nobody who knows Maryland and nobody in the black community believes they were carrying that bomb themselves, but that it was planted or thrown into the car specifically for the murder of Rap Brown. 

“`The people who are spreading the story that they blew themselves up are trying to build a panic, a bomb scare, to crush all public opinion against the repression that they’re building up,’ the SNCC spokesman continued. `They’re laying the groundwork for revitalizing the McCarran Act, for “Operation Dragnet” to round up all dissidents.’

“`You’d have to be a fool to ride to Rap Brown’s trial in a well known movement car knowing you’re being watched and followed, and carrying a bomb with you,’ another movement veteran remarked.

“Black movement people in Maryland are convinced that Featherstone and Williams, who were in Maryland trying to prepare a safe entry for Brown into Bel Air, were killed by KKK or John Birch Society forces, both of which are active in the area, or by some of the more official right-wingers often closely associated with them. `It is significant to note that the car that was driven and destroyed had been used over the past five years throughout the black belt of the South,’ a movement leaflet here explains. `The car was well known to state and federal authorities, Ralph and William’s presence in Bel Air was almost certainly known. A bomb must have been planted at some point during the night under the right front seat of the car.’

“Featherstone, a former SNCC National Programs Secretary, was [nearly] 31 years old at the time of his death…Che Payne was [around] 29 at the time of his death…”

But as Sue Thrasher observed in another March 14, 1970 Liberation News Service article, “the authorities in Maryland, or nationally for that matter, are not interested in finding out who is responsible for the death of Ralph Featherstone and William Payne” because “it is too easy to exploit their deaths in such a way as to make further repression even easier” and “to try to make sure that the left in this country is intimidated and destroyed.” 

Time to Re-Investigate Featherstone-Payne Deaths and Fully Release FBI’s “Townhouse Papers”?

So perhaps there needs to be a new official investigation into how Ralph Featherstone and Che Payne were killed 50 years ago on a highway in Bel Air, Maryland launched in 2020? And 50 years after the deaths of former Columbia SDS vice-chair Ted Gold, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins on W. 11th Street in Downtown Manhattan, perhaps any remaining still-restricted pages in the National Archives related to the FBI’s investigation of what happened there on March 6, 1970 should be deposited on the Upper West Side in Columbia University’s Butler Library in 2020?

(end of article)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Part 7

1967-68 Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold
Fifty years after the death of Columbia SDS’s 1967-1968 vice-chairperson Ted Gold, it’s still difficult to ascertain to what degree Ted and the other New Left antiwar Movement radicals meeting in the 18 W.11th St. townhouse were under FBI, NYPD and/or CIA surveillance between Feb. 24, 1970 and high noon on March 6, 1970. One reason might be because no FBI documents containing references to Ted that were produced by FBI informants or FBI agents between Feb. 16, 1970 and March 9, 1970 were apparently released to 2003 Family Circle book author Susan Braudy, after Ted’s FBI file was de-classified.

Another reason might be that although “all FBI documents” related to its surveillance of Weatherman organization members “can be found in the National Archives under Record Group 60, Department of Justice File 177-160-33,” as late as 46 years after Ted’s death there were still “thousands of still-restricted pages concerning the FBI investigation of the March 6, 1970 New York explosion,” according to Professor Arthur Eckstein’s 2016 Bad Moon Rising book. But, as Bryan Burrough noted in his 2015 Days of Rage book, after NYPD Detective Albert Seedman “set up a command post in a basement across the street” from the burning site of the collapsed townhouse, the command post was “soon filled with…a milling squadron of clean-cut FBI men…”

What Happened Before, During and After First Explosion 50 Years Ago On W. 11th St.?

As J. Kirk Sale indicated in his Apr. 13, 1970 Nation magazine article, “the details of what happened in this tragic explosion” that killed Ted, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins “are still murky”—even 50 years after Ted’s death. According to Newsweek’s March 23, 1970 “The House on 11th Street” article, after the first of three explosions that demolished the townhouse, “neighbors helped two young men over a backyard fence and saw a third escape by the same route.” And in his 1973 book SDS, Sale also noted that “out through the back garden …at least three people…made their way over the walls into adjoining gardens” and “they immediately disappeared and were never identified.”

In addition, according to footnote 3 on page 260 of Professor Eckstein’s 2016 Bad Moon Rising book, “Nina Herrick, who in March 1970 lived at 19 West 10th Street, and whose small backyard thus backs on the small backyard of the Wilkerson townhouse” told Eckstein in a Feb. 8, 2016 interview that “she and her husband heard the explosion and saw three people…running from the back of the townhouse and west toward Sixth Avenue.” Yet Herrick also told Eckstein that “neither she nor any of her neighbors on West 10th Street were ever interviewed by the New York Police Department or the FBI;” although, according to the same book, “as for the townhouse explosion,” the FBI’s New York office “had sent an initial report to” then-FBI Director J. Edgar “Hoover on March 13” in 1970, Hoover “had ordered a vigorous `correlative’ investigation,” and “the order from Hoover to begin conducting a specific investigation on the townhouse explosion went out on April 2” in 1970.

Ted’s body was found by NYPD officers “crushed in the rubble with his mouth wide open” at “around 7” p.m. on Friday, March 6, 1970, according to Bryan Burrough’s 2015 Days of Rage book; and “police found” Ted’s “body beneath the collapsed front wall” of the townhouse and “an autopsy showed” that he “had died from asphyxia compression,” according to a March 10, 1970 Columbia Daily Spectator article. A de-classified FBI document, dated March 26, 1970 (contained in Ted’s de-classified FBI file), stated that Ted’s death was “caused by a crushed chest.” And, coincidentally, the Associated Press reported that, on the same evening when Ted’s body was found at 18 W.11th St in Manhattan, a speech by Chicago 8 Trial Defendant Jerry Rubin at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey was “delayed by a bomb scare.”

 But it wasn’t until Sunday evening on March 8, 1970 that the body “crushed in the rubble” was identified as Ted’s body. According to a de-classified March 9, 1970 teletype document marked “urgent” (also contained in Ted’s de-classified FBI file), “as of March eight seventy cause of explosion had not been determined by NYCPD Bomb Squad” and “Identification Division of FBI on March Eight Seventy identified fingerprints of dead man found at site of explosions as Theodore Gold aka Ted Gold, BuFile One hundred-four five zero six seven eight, NY File one hundred one six one six-eight three.” The same de-classified teletype also noted that “Gold was a key activist” and “Gold had been characterized as head of WF of SDS in NYC.” In addition, an article by Linda Charlton that appeared in the March 9, 1970 issue of the New York Times noted that “”the identification of” Ted “as the former Columbia student was made at the morgue” by “a New York Times reporter and morgue personnel on the basis of photographs.”

The same March 9, 1970 New York Times article also initially reported that “Mr. Gold, according to a news editor at” WCAU-TV in the Philadelphia area, “was a founder of a New York City group calling itself the Mad Dogs.” But a March 11, 1970 Village Voice article noted that “a Times story implying that Gold was one of the founders of the Mad Dogs, a Columbia SDS faction, was said to be `absolutely incorrect’ by someone who knew Gold.”

In a 2007 book, titled Flying Close To The Sun: My Life and Times As A Weatherman (that was published 37 years after Ted’s death and 32 years after Dave Dellinger’s 1975 More Power Than We Know book), Cathy Wilkerson (who, with Kathy Boudin, was soon named as one of the two identified Weatherman group members who escaped from the front of the destroyed townhouse) wrote that after a second explosion, “I was barely able to notice another explosion as I concentrated on climbing, still holding on to Kathy and both of us barefoot, out through the hole and over more debris onto the sidewalk,” “Teddy had left the house I thought” and “it never occurred to me that Teddy had still been in the house.”

And in a 2001 book, titled Fugitive Days (that was published 31 years after Ted’s death and 26 years after Dellinger’s 1975 book), former Weatherman faction leader Bill Ayers wrote that “I met with two of the comrades who’d come out of the explosion alive, burned and bleeding” and “we talked about time before the blast, and I pressed for details, but they didn’t know a thing beyond speculation about what had gone on in the last hour.”

But in a 2012 book, Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, The Weather Underground and Beyond (that was published 42 years after Ted’s death and 37 years after Dellinger’s 1975 book), the still-imprisoned co-founder of Columbia SDS and former Weatherman, Dave Gilbert, wrote that his Weatherman collective in Denver, Colorado received a telephone call in “the middle of the night” (apparently on either March 6 or March 7, 1970) in which the caller stated:

“Three of our people, including Teddy, were killed in an explosion yesterday. I can’t go into details on the phone, but we think the police did it.”

Dave also recalled that “while I knew Teddy was in New York City, I had no idea who was in his collective or what they were doing;” and “in the context of what was being done to the Panthers,” the “`police attack’ version was entirely credible…and in Denver we were under intense surveillance.” (end of part 7)

Monday, March 16, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Part 6

1967-68 Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold
Was Ted under FBI, CIA or NYPD Surveillance during His Last Three Weeks Alive?

In the month before 1967-68 Columbia SDS vice-chairperson Ted Gold's death, two underground collectives of the Weatherman faction of SDS were apparently operating in Manhattan. According to Bryan Burrough’s 2015 Days of Rage book, “one…was headquartered in a Chinatown apartment under [former Columbia SDS member and Weatherman] J.J.’s supervision” where Mark purportedly also “took a bed there;” and “the second underground Weatherman faction collective active in Manhattan in February 1970 apparently included a “dozen or so members” who “were initially spread across several” other “Manhattan and Brooklyn apartments,” according to the same book.

Ted apparently only first visited the 18 W.11th St. townhouse, on the street where he was killed, on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 1970 (just 10 days before his death), according to the 2015 Days of Rage book; and by “the following day,” Ted and four other members of the Weatherman collective he was in “had moved” into the townhouse, according to the same book. But the Days of Rage book also claims that 9 days before Ted’s death “at least a half-dozen members of the collective” still “lived elsewhere.”

On Feb. 21, 1970, three days before Ted first visited the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse, the Weatherman collective “cell” he was in apparently had “set off three fire bombs at the home of Judge John Murtagh, then presiding over the case of the New York `Panther Twenty-0ne’” (that a jury later found innocent of then-Manhattan D.A. and Columbia University Trustee Frank Hogan’s trumped-up Apr. 2, 1969 charge that these arrested members of the Black Panther Party’s New York City chapter were about to “bomb” department stores and public places in New York City), according to J. Kirkpatrick Sale’s SDS book. And in its Feb. 24, 1970 issue, the Columbia Daily Spectator student newspaper also reported that “detectives at the 26th Precinct” had “found shreds of glass on the floor of the burned room” of the Columbia Law School Building’s International Law Library and believed “the fire was set off by Molotov cocktails.” In addition, Spectator noted that “the same night as the fire at the Law School, three bombs were detonated at the home of State Supreme Court Justice…Murtagh” but “police officials declined to speculate a possible connection between the two incidents.”

According to Professor Eckstein’s 2016 Bad Moon Rising book, on Monday, March 2, 1970 (4 days before Ted was killed) then-U.S. President Richard Nixon next “ordered” his White House Chief of Staff H.R. “Haldeman to begin a nationwide campaign to politically isolate the antiwar radicals;” and “Richard Nixon in early March [1970]—before the townhouse explosion—was urging the FBI to use investigatory and surveillance techniques against the New Left which the FBI itself thought were dangerous,” “Nixon was impatient with any hesitation on grounds of legality regarding methods for going after the radicals” and he “offered to give political cover to the FBI.” And on Monday evening on March 2, 1970, Nixon “spoke at 9:47 p.m. at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, at a dinner given in honor of” then-French “President Pompidou,” in which then-Columbia University and Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA] trustee and CBS board member “William A.M. Burden…presided at the dinner,” according to the Public Papers of Richard Nixon 1970 book.

In addition, Professor Eckstein’s 2016 Bad Moon Rising book observed, for example, that a March 2, 1970 memo from Nixon stated that “from now on we are going to take a very `militant’ position against these people,” “I consider this new direction being of the highest priority” and “I want absolutely no deviation from it.”  Jeremy Varon’s 2004 Bringing the War Home book also noted that “a month before the explosion” in which Ted was killed “FBI Director Hoover had” apparently “characterized Weatherman as the `most violent, persistent and pernicious of revolutionary groups.’”

On Tuesday, March 3, 1970 (the day after Nixon wrote his March 2, 1970 memo), “neighbors” of the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse that Weatherman faction member Cathy Wilkerson’s father owned “on 11th Street” apparently “watched” as Ted “supervised the unloading of crates from a van” (3 days before he was killed), according to Bryan Burrough’s 2015 Days of Rage book. And a member of an FBI surveillance team on W. 11th St. may have also been possibly watching Ted both supervising the unloading of crates from a van on March 3, 1970 and at the moment when Ted was killed at the front of the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse, at around noon on Friday, March 6, 1970. For, as Susan Braudy noted in her 2003 Family Circle book:

“In front of the burning house, an FBI agent who had been part of the surveillance team keeping watch on the young radicals quickly snapped pictures of the house’s crumpling brick Greek-revival façade. Since the buildings on the block were of significant design interest, he had been posing as an architectural historian.”

Yet if "an FBI agent who had been part of the surveillance team keeping watch on the young radicals" was present on the W.11th Street block on the day Ted was killed, why did the FBI's surveillance team apparently allow, according to Kirkpatrick Sale's 1973 SDS book, "a white station wagon" to double-park" in front of the Town House "while several heavy boxes were unloaded" and "carried into the cellar" by the young radicals on the morning of March 6, 1970, where there were "perhaps a hundred other sticks of dynamite" and "a number of already constructed pipe bombs," without at least questioning the young radicals who were under surveillance on that morning?

According to an article by James A. Naughton, titled “U.S. To Tighten Surveillance of Radicals”, that appeared in the Apr. 12, 1970 issue of the New York Times, “a Nixon aide who is aware of the Justice Departments intelligence operations” also “said that `We knew of the New York bomb factory in a Greenwich Village townhouse, but only just before it exploded on March 6 [1970].’”

On Wednesday, March 4, 1970, Columbia SDS’s former chairperson, Mark Rudd, was apparently first told by the leader of the Weatherman collective holding meetings inside the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse, Terry Robbins, “what his group was planning;” and that same day (while the townhouse was apparently under FBI surveillance) Mark “dropped Terry off at 18 W.11th St.” without going inside, according to Mark’s 2009 Underground book.

In his 2015 Days of Rage book, Bryan Burrough wrote that one of his unidentified sources purportedly claimed that the following incident occurred inside the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse the night before Ted was killed:

“There was…at least one naysayer. He will be called James. He was one of the Columbia alumni; he had been J.J.’s roommate at one point. James was a member of the collective who did not live in the townhouse. According to a longtime friend, `the target had been bothering him for days. Finally, right at the end, he went nuts. This was the night before. He just went crazy, crying and screaming. “What are we doing? What are we doing?” And you know what Teddy Gold told him? [He said] `James, you have been my best friend for 10 years. But you gotta calm down. I wouldn’t want to kill you.’ And he was serious.”

Yet at least one of the Columbia alumni who was one of Ted’s best friends for many years denies that he “had ever been J.J.’s roommate,” denies that he “was ever a member of the” Weatherman “collective who did not live in in the townhouse” and denies that Ted allegedly “told him” that “I wouldn’t want to kill you” on “the night before” Ted, himself, was killed. (end of part 6)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Part 5

1967-68 Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold
Ted’s January 1970 Political Activity and Arrest in Pennsylvania 

In January 1970, 1967-1968 Columbia SDS Vice-Chairperson Ted Gold apparently “was among those who argued shortly after Flint against putting a picture of” Charlie “Manson on the cover of” an early 1970 issue of the Weatherman group’s FIRE! newspaper because “he felt, and most concurred, that there was ultimately nothing progressive or even political about Manson’s violence,” according to the New School University Professor Jeremy Varon's 2004 Bringing the War Home book.  That same month Ted “was arrested along with seven other Weathermen” for protesting at “a Philadelphia television station” on Jan. 10, 1970, “after it broadcast what they called a `slanderous’ TV documentary on the Black Panthers,” according to an article that appeared in the Apr.13, 1970 issue of The Nation magazine. Ted and the other arrested Weathermen explained the reason for their protest action at CBS’s WCAU-TV station, according to an article that appeared in the Jan. 12, 1970 issue of the Philadelphia Free Press newspaper, in a leaflet which stated the following:

“On Tuesday, January 6, Pig AmeriKKKa escalated its brutal attack on the black liberation struggle by means of a slanderous TV documentary about the Black Panther Party. Behind the façade of liberalism, CBS henchman Mike Wallace accused the party of wanton violence, the desire to be martyrs, and even of corrupting little children’s minds about the good things in AmeriKKKa…We want Channel 10 in Philadelphia to publicly refute these lies, since they spread them in Philly…”

During January 1970, Ted had (according to March 1968 to September 1968 Columbia SDS chairperson Mark Rudd’s 2009 book Underground) apparently also “argued for keeping the” SDS National Office in Chicago “open and maintaining some presence on campus” in the 1970’s, “even as part of” the Weatherman “organization went underground.” 

Former Columbia SDS Member and Weatherwoman Dionne Donghi’s February 1970 Arrest

According to an article, titled “Unsettled Accounts” that appeared in the Berkeley Tribe antiwar underground newspaper on Aug. 21, 1970 (and was republished in the late 1970-published Weatherman book that Harold Jacobs edited), a former Columbia SDS member and New York SDS regional office organizer (with whom Ted had both searched in late June 1969 for a house to rent in Queens for a Weatherman collective to move into and been, along with Ted, a member of the Weatherman group that returned from visiting Cuba in mid-August 1969), Dionne Donghi, “was busted by the FBI for interstate transportation of stolen weapons” in Chicago in February 1970. But, according to the same Aug. 21, 1970 Berkeley Tribe article, “the U.S. Attorney threw the case out, and told Dionne and her lawyer that the bust had been set up by an informer inside Weatherman.”

In his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives sub-committee on Oct. 18, 1974, the now-deceased FBI informant Larry Grathwohl claimed Dionne (whose father, a former CBS-TV News foreign assignment desk head in the 1950’s and early 1960’s named Frank Donghi, had also been NBC News’ Saigon Bureau Chief in Vietnam during the last six months of 1968, prior to later dying in California of an apparent overdose of sleeping tablets in March 1969) had been the “primary leadership person” of the Weatherman collective in Cincinnati in February 1970.  In addition, Grathwohl also testified that “when the collective was disbanded” that month, he sent a revolver to Dionne in Chicago “which the FBI turned over to the IRS, and she was arrested on that charge, but charges were dropped because the FBI would not let me testify.”

Yet during the same month that Dionne and her lawyer “were told in Chicago by the U.S. Attorney that Dionne’s arrest had been set up by an informer inside Weatherman,” Ted and Mark Rudd (according to Mark’s Underground book) apparently loaded together “a VW van full of New York” SDS “regional office files and mailing lists” and dumped “them onto a garbage barge at the sanitation department’s pier on West Fourteenth Street” in Manhattan. (end of part 5)

Friday, March 13, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Part 4

1967-68 Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold
Spying On Columbia SDS Members and Weathermen by NYPD, FBI or CIA Prior to Ted’s Death 

Professor Eckstein’s Bad Moon Rising book noted that less than 2 months before Fred Hampton’s early December 1969 assassination, “the FBI…in mid-October 1969…received word that” a Weatherman group member named “Brian Flanagan was” purportedly “threatening to lead his collective in an attempt to kill Richard Nixon;” and “the information had originated from Flanagan’s friend the journalist Dotson Rader (who unknowingly told an FBI informant).” According to Professor Eckstein’s book, “the threat was immediately sent to Nixon himself” since “Rader’s predictions of Weatherman actions had proven correct in the past.” A fourth former Weatherman faction member, however, characterizes Dotson Rader’s relationship to National SDS movement activists during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as friendly, personally supportive, and principled; and feels that Dotson never asked for anything nor engaged in any manipulative behavior in relationship to National SDS organizers during this same historical period.

In late October 1969, according to Professor Jeremy Varon’s 2004 Bringing the War Home book, the FBI had “alerted its field offices that New York City’s Weathermen were `going underground and forming commando-type units which will engage in terroristic acts, including bombings, arson, and assassinations;’” and “within days, it ordered all offices to `follow the activities of any Weatherman group in their respective areas.’” The same book also observed that in mid-November 1969, “twenty-three Boston Weathermen were arrested on spurious attempted murder charges after someone fired shots at a Cambridge police station” but “the charges were dropped when the only witness, a teenager, confessed that the police had coerced his false testimony.”  As a Dec. 1, 1969 article in the Harvard Crimson reported, “a 16-year-old ninth-grade dropout testified that the Cambridge police had forced him to sign a false statement that he had witnessed the Weathermen planning and executing the shooting;” and after he had signed the false statement, the twenty-three Weathermen were then arrested “in three separate raids on houses in Cambridge.”

And in a de-classified FBI document [on the subject “Theodore Gold, SM-SDS (Key Activist)”], dated Nov. 24, 1969 (contained in Ted’s de-classified FBI file) for example, the FBI labeled Ted a “Key Activist” and falsely accused him of participating in “terroristic acts” during the Nov. 14-15, 1969 antiwar protests in Washington, D.C. (which included a march on the Department of Justice in support of Bobby Seale, Dave Dellinger and the other Chicago 8 Trial defendants). In this same document it indicated why (according to a later Dec. 15, 1969 de-classified FBI document) the FBI secretly conducted a special investigation of Ted and his political activity between Nov. 19, 1969 and Dec. 11, 1969--three months before Ted was killed:

“At the recently held New Mobilization Committee demonstration in Washington D.C., 11/14-15/69, Gold was one of the principal tactical leaders for the Weatherman faction of SDS and participated in some of the terroristic acts this group was involved in.

“In view of Gold’s leadership in the Weatherman faction of SDS he is being designated as a Key Activist. Promptly submit FD-122 placing him in Priority 1 of the Security Index. The last report submitted concerning Gold was dated 8/14/68. It is desired by 12/15/69 eight copies of a current report concerning Gold be furnished to the Bureau…”

In addition, in another de-classified FBI document, dated Dec. 19, 1969 (contained in Ted’s de-classified FBI file), “the Bureau noted that…positive steps must be taken to develop informant coverage…to insure that the Bureau is in a position to have advance knowledge of all plans and future activities…” So, not surprisingly, Professor Varon’s Bringing the War Home book also observed that the Weatherman organization’s late December 1969 “War Council” meeting in Flint, Michigan “also attracted the interest of the FBI, which just days before the meeting compiled its initial field reports on the Weathermen, identifying approximately 270 members, 85 of whom were already on its special `Security Index’;” and agents there apparently “diligently recorded the identities of most of the 300 or so people in attendance.” 
According to Professor Eckstein’s 2016 Bad Moon Rising book:

“The Bureau had a keen interest in the `War Council’ held in Flint, Michigan, at the end of December [1969]. The Flint police photographed every person who entered the dingy ballroom where the meeting took place, and the photos were sent directly to FBI headquarters in Washington; the informant Larry Grathwohl reported in detail on the meeting…”

In his testimony before an Oct. 18, 1974 U.S. House of Representatives sub-committee, the now-deceased Grathwohl (who was with the U.S. military’s 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam for a year, prior to working as a drill instructor at Fort Knox when he returned from Vietnam) stated that after he returned to his Weatherman collective in Cincinnati, Ohio following the Flint, Michigan meeting, the FBI then paid him “approximately $200 [equal to $1,322 in 2019] in the middle of January” 1970. At this same October 18, 1974 hearing, Grathwohl also testified:

“In February [1970], when the Weathermen went underground, the FBI said OK you are going to have to leave Cincinnati and go to various other cities wherever they want you to go, we will pay you and it will be either $100 [equal to  $661 in 2019] or $150 [equal to $991 in 2019] a week while you are gone. So that held up until the middle of March [1970]…I also was getting somewhere in the vicinity of $300 [equal to $1,983 in 2019] or $500 [equal to $3,306 in 2019] a month in expenses.”  (end of part 4)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Part 3

1967-68 Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold
Surveillance of Columbia SDS Members and Weathermen by NYPD, FBI or CIA Prior to Ted’s Death 

In his 2016 book, Bad Moon Rising, University of Maryland Professor Arthur Eckstein wrote that the assassination of the leader of Chicago’s Black Panther Party [BPP], Fred Hampton, and BPP member Mark Clark (that was both arranged and carried out by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies) on Dec. 4, 1969 “was shocking and prompted the relatively sober and cautious Ted Gold to opt for total armed struggle (and, eventually, death in the townhouse).” And in footnote 106 on page 281 of his book, Eckstein cited “Toni Hart (Wellman) interview 8/15/14” as his source for what the “Impact on Ted Gold” and Ted’s politics was, of Fred Hampton’s assassination.

The day after Professor Eckstein interviewed her, Toni, who was apparently also once a close woman friend of John “J.J.” Jacobs, (the now-deceased former Columbia SDS member and one of the Weatherman group’s pre-May 1970 leaders), posted on her blog the following text on Aug. 16, 2014:

“The man in the photograph above is James Jesus Angleton, the head of Counterintelligence in the CIA from 1954 until 1974. In 1967, he set up a secret organization inside the CIA called `Operation Chaos.’  Its purpose was to shut down left-wing groups such as the anti-war movement and Students for a Democratic Society (“SDS”). I was in the anti-war movement and SDS at Columbia University.  Jim Angleton was my uncle.

“I knew Jim was involved in the operations against us but I did not know the specifics. I do now. Very few people on the left understand Operation Chaos and how brilliant that operation and fellow operations by the FBI and the local police were in the 1960s. We on the left always believed that the intelligence groups were dumb, that they had no idea what we were doing, that they did not influence our activities at all. We were dead wrong. I believe that the CIA, the FBI and the Red Squad (NYPD) were so skilled at their intelligence-gathering they were able to infiltrate key left-wing groups, exacerbate conflicts and shut the student left down, in particular, SDS.

“In this piece, I tell that story.  I also tell the story of my uncle, Jim Angleton, because his story is the story of the CIA.  And I will add that I was in SDS and the anti-war movement until they became violent.  Then, I was gone…

“Jim Angleton was the handsomest man I have ever seen. I met him when I was a kid in Duluth…. Angleton went to work for the CIA when it was founded and, when Allen Dulles became the director in 1953, he appointed Jim head of Counterintelligence…Angleton set up Operation Chaos but he did not run it….OpChaos was set up to spy on, infiltrate and shut down the left…. It was difficult to infiltrate student groups. The operative had to be registered in the school, they had to be part of the radical movement on campus and they had to be believable. However, every group on the left that was not a student group was filled with informants…”

Yet according to a former New York City SDS regional office organizer who met up with Toni sometime before the late March 1968 SDS National Council meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, and worked together  with her on writing a position paper related to draft resistance organizing that he presented at that meeting, at that time Toni never mentioned anything about CIA kinships; despite the fact that the SDS chapter at Columbia University had been continually protesting against the Columbia University administration’s policy of allowing the CIA to recruit inside Columbia’s campus buildings since November 1966. 

Coincidentally, one reason U.S. government attorneys in October 1973 asked that the 1970 indictments against Weatherman group members be lifted, according to Professor Jeremy Varon’s 2004 Bringing the War Home book, was that “an FBI memo explained that prohibited forms of surveillance by `another government agency’ had been used in preparing the indictments, and that it was therefore `in the best interests of the national security’ not to pursue prosecutions.” The same book also noted that “it appeared that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the National Security Agency (responsible for the electronic intercept of foreign communications), or both, had conducted illegal investigations;” and “both agencies, barred from nearly all forms of domestic spying, did not want their operations exposed.” (end of part 3)

Saturday, March 7, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Part 2

1967-1968 Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold
Revisiting Feb. 14, 1970 Attack on U.S. Antiwar Movement’s Fort Dix Antiwar GI Coffeehouse

The planned attack on “a non-commissioned officers’ dance” at Fort Dix, which Weatherman Terry Robbins apparently pushed for prior to his own death on March 6, 1970, did not happen. But less than 3 weeks before 1967-1968 Columbia SDS Vice-Chairman Ted Gold’s death on that same day 50 years ago, there was an actual violent attack on the U.S. antiwar movement’s Fort Dix GI Coffeehouse in Wrightstown, New Jersey on Saturday, Feb. 14, 1970. As an article distributed by the then-Upper West Side-based Liberation News Service in February 1970, titled “Fort Dix Coffeehouse Fire-Bombed,” noted: 

“An incendiary bomb was thrown through the door of the Fort Dix GI-movement Coffee House at 8:45 Saturday evening, Feb. 14 [1970]. Some of the 30 GIs and civilians inside rushed toward the device and tried to kick it out the door. The bomb ignited and three GIs and one woman staff member were injured---sustaining burns and cuts. The most serious injury was to a GI who was cut around the eyes. He is presently in the Fort Dix hospital: his condition is described as satisfactory. Some of the GIs who ran out after the bomb throwers were shot at.

“When N.J. State Police Detectives Bureau agents came to investigate the bombing, they kicked all GIs and staff out of the building and proceeded to rip down posters, tear up GI papers, pull down boards that had been nailed up to fill cracks in the wall, and tamper with the heater (causing it to malfunction)…

“According to GI staff members, the bomb is of a military type. They suspect either members of the military or local right-wingers of carrying out the bombing.

“GI organizers explain that the bombing is only one in a long series of harassments by the military, local and state police, and right-wing groups in the area. The coffee house is already facing eviction this month as a result of pressure put on their landlord by the military and local businessmen. The bombing may have been intended, in part, as a warning to other Wrightstown property-owners not to rent to the anti-war GIs.

“Just a week before the bombing, an army captain and three sergeants came into the coffee house and started to push people around. They shoved one GI away from the telephone, where he was trying to make a call. Radical GIs eventually threw them out, but they threatened to come back with friends and equipment.

“The Fort Dix Coffee House has been the headquarters for dissident GI organizing against the war and against racism. The Fort Dix Soldiers Liberation Front and the Black Liberation Party both make their headquarters at the coffee house. The coffee house played a central role in the organizing of the Oct. 12 [1969] `invasion’ by 10,000 civilians who were demonstrating their support for the Fort Dix 38—participants in the Fort Dix stockade rebellion of June 1969.

“`We will defend ourselves against repression and use all our power to increase our struggle. Power to the people,’ said a spokesman for Fort Dix’s radical GIs.”

According to a Feb. 15, 1970 telephone call (the text of which can be found in a document from the G.I. Press Collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society that’s posted on the internet), a member of the Ford Dix Coffeehouse Collective also stated:

“The police came in and kicked everybody out and investigated the place. The next morning we came back and we found the place more ripped up and torn down than it was the previous night before we left. The police damaged the coffeehouse beyond what the bombing did. They tore Panther posters off the wall and ripped them up…We think it was a pretty well planned thing…This was a professional type bomb, it was not a homemade pipe type bomb…We feel that this is part of a plan to come down on all the [antiwar G.I.] coffeehouses of the country.”

Prior to the Fort Dix Coffehouse being firebombed in February 1970, according to a former New York City SDS regional office organizer involved in initiating the antiwar coffeehouse GI organizing project near Fort Dix, there were many instances of police and army harassment, as he and other antiwar organizers set up the coffeehouse and farm house where they lived outside of Wrightstown, New Jersey. For example, when he and another Movement organizer were pulled over by a New Jersey trooper and asked for an ID, the state trooper demanded that he show him his ID a second time; and when he said to the trooper, “I just gave it to you,” he was then handcuffed, busted for “not having ID,” and forced to spend a couple of nights in BCI-Burlington County Jail on charges that were thrown out subsequently. In addition, according to the same coffeehouse project organizer, in the months prior to the Feb. 14, 1970 attack that finally shut down the Fort Dix GI Coffeehouse, the army also tried to use some troubled GI’s “and lackeys” to plant heroin at the coffeehouse so they could have a pretext to close the antiwar coffeehouse down; but that never worked because they were all recognizable to the antiwar GI’s and Airmen there, and were tossed out before they could cause any problems.

Recalling the Feb. 16, 1970 NYPD Attack on Chicago 8 and Panther 21 Defendants’ Supporters 
Two days after the antiwar movement’s Fort Dix GI Coffeehouse was firebombed, however (on Monday afternoon, Feb. 16, 1970), “more than 3,500 supporters” of the  Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial defendants and Panther 21 Trial defendants still “marched on the Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre St” in Downtown Manhattan “to protest the contempt citations handed down” the previous week by “Judge Julius Hoffman at the Chicago conspiracy trial” (of Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale, Dave Dellinger and other U.S. antiwar movement organizers), according to a Feb. 17, 1970 Columbia Daily Spectator article by Cyndi Reinhart. But when the demonstrators reached the court house, “about twenty policemen, waving clubs, pushed back the chanting protesters” and “protesters remaining at the court house were herded off the street;” and the police “then charged into the radicals when they refused to leave the area” and “clubbed several protesters.” (end of part 2) 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

50th Anniversary of Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold's Death On W. 11th Street: Part 1

1967-68 Columbia SDS Vice-Chair Ted Gold  
A few minutes before noon on Friday, March 6, 1970, a blast was heard on W. 11th St. in the West Village that, according to Douglas Robinson’s March 7, 1970 New York Times article was “powerful enough to tear a hole in the front wall” of a townhouse at 18 W. 11th St.; and, according to the same article, “as firemen arrived at the scene, two” more “lighter blasts shook the building as gas lines burst.” Then, “flames quickly engulfed the townhouse and, a few minutes later, the entire front wall collapsed;” and a former vice-chair of Columbia University’s Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] chapter, Ted Gold, and two other members of the Weatherman faction of National SDS, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins, were killed.

Dave Dellinger’s 1975 Account

As the now-deceased longtime U.S. antiwar Movement organizer/activist and 1969-1970 Chicago 8 “Conspiracy” Trial defendant Dave Dellinger recalled in his 1975-published book, More Power Than We Know, “shortly after the event, a private message from one of my underground Weathermen friends told me that Ted Gold…was killed only because he had been traumatized by a sudden realization of the horror they were preparing for their enemies and had come back to the house to try to persuade his associates to abandon the project.”

In addition, in his 1993-published autobiography, From Yale to Jail, Dellinger also wrote that “the message explained that they were making an anti-personnel bomb in the townhouse” and “that was what had upset Gold.”

One former Weatherman’s view, however, is that Dellinger’s 1975 account was after-the-fact wishful thinking; and, although Ted was critical and one of the main doubters in the pre- March 6, 1970 meeting debates within the townhouse, that got transformed, for what might be called ideological reasons, into Dellinger’s story. According to this former Weatherman, the story he heard on March 7, 1970 was that Ted had gone out to a drug store to buy cotton to muffle the sound of the watch for the bomb they were making, but came back to ask Terry Robbins--the leader of the Weathermen inside the townhouse--if he should get balls or batts.

Although another former Weatherman also thinks it’s possible that whoever Dellinger’s contact was romanticized Ted as more fully opposed than he was, this second former Weatherman notes that there is good evidence that Ted felt conflicted about what Dellinger characterized in his 1975 book as “the horror they were preparing for their enemies.” But a third different veteran of the 1960’s New Left antiwar movement in Manhattan adamantly feels that Dellinger’s 1975 account was not historically accurate; and he greatly doubts that Ted was against whatever they were planning to do.

Did Columbia University Administration Receive False “Bomb Plot” Warnings Prior to Ted’s Death?
In an article titled “The House on 11th Street” that appeared in its March 23, 1970 issue, the then-Washington Post Company-owned Newsweek magazine initially claimed that “underground sources” had “told Newsweek’s Thomas Dotten” that the target of the Weatherman group’s project, was allegedly “buildings at Columbia University (and elsewhere);” and that “Columbia officials were relieved that the bomb plot against the university—about which they had received warnings—had failed.”

The same Newsweek article also initially claimed that “underground sources” told Dotten that, prior to Ted’s death 50 years ago, the Weatherman collective in the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse was allegedly planning “to blast” the buildings at Columbia “in conjunction with a planned protest on campus;” since “the new focus of their attention at Columbia was a demand by far leftists that the university admit its guilt as part of a `racist society’ by arranging the bail for the Black Panthers on trial in an alleged bombing conspiracy.”

What Was Actual Planned Target of Weatherman Collective in 18 W. 11th St. Prior to Ted’s Death?

Although, according to Newsweek, “Columbia officials” had “received warnings” prior to Ted’s death (presumably from either federal or local law enforcement agencies or informants) about a purported “bomb plot against the university,” in early March 1970 Columbia University’s buildings were apparently not actually being then targeted by the Weatherman collective in the 18 W.11th St. townhouse. As Dan Berger later observed in his 2006 book, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity, “the specific target” of the planned bombing project on March 6, 1970, “was a non-commissioned officers’ dance at” the Fort Dix “Army base” in New Jersey.

According to Bryan Burrough’s 2015 Days of Rage book, the decision. to target “the dance at Fort Dix” on Friday, March 6, 1970, was decided by and announced to the 18 W. 11th St. townhouse Weatherman collective members by its leader, Terry Robbins, on Tuesday, March 3, 1970—just 3 days before Ted was killed by the entrance to the townhouse; after “the collective” had “gathered to discuss” possible “targets” during the previous weekend. The same book also noted that “on Thursday, March 5”, 1970, the day before the former Columbia SDS vice-chair’s death at the age of 22, “Robbins chaired a final meeting in the townhouse kitchen going over details and assignments for the attack.”

In his 1975-published book, More Power Than We Know, Dave Dellinger, however, wrote that “a bitter argument had been raging for some days over the legitimacy of the enterprise” and “two days before the blast” that destroyed the townhouse and killed Ted, Terry Robbins and Diana Oughton, “Kathy Boudin…had told me her fears that they were losing contact with the revolutionary love that had motivated them to embark on their new course.” 

In his 2004-published book, Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies, New School University Professor Jeremy Varon noted that, when he interviewed the now-deceased former 1960’s Lower East Side antiwar Movement activist and Weatherman faction member Robin Palmer many years later, Palmer recalled that Terry “Robbins `scared the shit out of him’ when they first met in early March 1970;” and “listening to Robbins talk wildly, with an embarrassed” now-deceased former Columbia SDS member and pre-May 1970 Weatherman faction of National SDS leader “J. J. [John Jacobs] present, of plans to bomb an Army dance, Palmer responded, `I don’t agree with what you’re saying.’” In addition, according to Varon’s book, Palmer felt that Robbins’ proposed planned action “was `crazy.’” (end of part 1)