View Full Version : Richard Aoki: Man who armed Black Panthers was FBI informant, records show

Magda Hassan
08-20-2012, 10:41 PM
Man who armed Black Panthers was FBI informant, records show

Aug 20, 2012

Seth Rosenfeld (http://cironline.org/person/seth-rosenfeld)

Video: Ariane Wu
Read full transcript (http://cironline.org/reports/video-man-who-armed-panthers-3754)

The man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training – which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s – was an undercover FBI informer, according to a former bureau agent and an FBI report.
One of the Bay Area’s most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Legislature.
Aoki went on to work for 25 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator at the Peralta Community College District, and after his suicide in 2009, he was revered as a fearless radical.
But unbeknownst to his fellow activists, Aoki had served as an FBI intelligence informant, covertly filing reports on a wide range of Bay Area political groups, according to the bureau agent who recruited him.
That agent, Burney Threadgill Jr., recalled that he approached Aoki in the late 1950s, about the time Aoki was graduating from Berkeley High School. He asked Aoki if he would join left-wing groups and report to the FBI.
http://cironline.org/sites/default/files/styles/inline-medium/public/coverpagec-600px.jpgAoki is listed in an FBI report on the Black Panther Party as an “informant” with the code number “T-2.”

“He was my informant. I developed him,” Threadgill said in an interview. “He was one of the best sources we had.”
The former agent said he asked Aoki how he felt about the Soviet Union, and the young man replied that he had no interest in communism.
“I said, ‘Well, why don’t you just go to some of the meetings and tell me who’s there and what they talked about?’ Very pleasant little guy. He always wore dark glasses,” Threadgill recalled.
Aoki’s work for the FBI, which has never been reported, was uncovered and verified during research for the book, “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power.” The book, based on research spanning three decades, will be published tomorrow by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
In a tape-recorded interview for the book in 2007, two years before he committed suicide, Aoki was asked if he had been an FBI informant. Aoki’s first response was a long silence. He then replied, “ ‘Oh,’ is all I can say.”
Later during the same interview, Aoki contended the information wasn’t true.
Asked if this reporter was mistaken that Aoki had been an informant, Aoki said, “I think you are,” but added: “People change. It is complex. Layer upon layer.”
However, the FBI later released records about Aoki in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. A Nov. 16, 1967, intelligence report on the Black Panthers lists Aoki as an “informant” with the code number “T-2.”
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on Aoki, citing litigation seeking additional records about him under the Freedom of Information Act.
Since his death – Aoki shot himself at his Berkeley home after a long illness – his legend has grown. In a 2009 feature-length documentary film, “Aoki,” and a 2012 biography, “Samurai Among Panthers,” he is portrayed as a militant radical leader. Neither mentions that he had worked with the FBI.
Harvey Dong, who was a fellow activist and close friend, said last week that he had never heard that Aoki was an informant.
“It’s definitely something that is shocking to hear,” said Dong, who was the executor of Aoki’s estate. “I mean, that’s a big surprise to me.”
Dong recalled that Aoki tended to “compartmentalize” the different parts of his life. Before he shot himself, Dong said, Aoki had laid out in his apartment two neatly pressed uniforms: One was the black leather jacket, beret and dark trousers of the Black Panthers. The other was his U.S. Army regimental.
In Berkeley in the late 1960s, Aoki wore slicked-back hair, sported sunglasses even at night and spoke with a ghetto patois. His fierce demeanor intimidated even his fellow radicals, several of them have said.
“He had swagger up to the moon,” former Berkeley activist Victoria Wong recalled at his memorial.
From gangs to the military
Aoki was born in San Leandro in 1938, the first of two sons. He was 4 when his family was interned at Topaz, Utah, with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II.
After the war, Aoki grew up in West Oakland, in an area that had been known as Little Yokohama before becoming a low-income black community. He joined a gang and became a tough street fighter who as an adult would boast, “I was the baddest Oriental come out of West Oakland.”
He shoplifted, burgled homes and stole car parts for “the midnight auto supply business,” he told Berkeley’s KPFA radio in a 2006 interview. Oakland police repeatedly arrested him for “mostly petty-type stuff,” he said in the 2007 interview. Still, he graduated from Herbert Hoover Junior High School as co-valedictorian.
But the internment during World War II had shattered his family, Aoki had said. His father became a gangster and abandoned his family, and his mother won custody of her sons and moved them to Berkeley. Aoki did well academically at Berkeley High School and became president of the Stamp and Coin Club. However, he assaulted another student in the hallway and, as he recalled, “beat him half to death.”
http://cironline.org/sites/default/files/styles/inline-medium/public/aokiarmy-600px.jpgAoki was an avid firearms collector and military enthusiast. After high school, he joined the Army and later was a reservist.
Credit: Courtesy of Harvey Dong

Three days after graduating from high school in January 1957, Aoki reported for duty at Fort Ord, near Monterey. He had enlisted in the U.S. Army the prior year, at age 17. He acknowledged in the 2007 interview that he had “cut a deal” in which military authorities arranged for his criminal record to be sealed.
Aoki said he had hoped to become the army’s first Asian American general, but he served only about a year on active duty and seven more in the reserves before being honorably discharged as a sergeant.
Although he saw no combat, he became a firearms expert. “I got to play with all the toys I wanted to play with when I was growing up,” he told KPFA. “Pistols, rifles, machine guns, mortars, rocket launchers.”
Being in the reserves left Aoki a lot of free time, and he became deeply involved in left-wing political organizations at the behest of the FBI, retired FBI agent Threadgill said during a series of interviews before his death in 2005.
“The activities that he got involved in was because of us using him as an informant,” he said.
Threadgill recalled that he first approached Aoki after a bureau wiretap on the home phone of Saul and Billie Wachter, local members of the Communist Party, picked up Aoki talking to fellow Berkeley High classmate Doug Wachter.
At first, Aoki gathered information about the Communist Party, Threadgill said. But Aoki soon focused on the Socialist Workers Party and its youth affiliate, the Young Socialist Alliance, also targets of an intensive FBI domestic security investigation.
By spring 1962, Aoki had been elected to the Berkeley Young Socialist Alliance’s executive council, FBI records show. That December, he became a member of the Oakland-Berkeley branch of the Socialist Workers Party, where he served as the representative to Bay Area civil rights groups. He also was on the steering committee of the Committee to Uphold the Right to Travel.
In 1965, Aoki joined the Vietnam Day Committee, an influential anti-war group based in Berkeley, and worked on its international committee as liaison to foreign anti-war activists.
All along, Aoki met regularly with his FBI handler. Aoki also filed reports by phone, Threadgill said.
“I’d call him and say, ‘When do you want to get together?’ ” Threadgill recalled. “I’d say, ‘I’ll meet you on the street corner at so-and-so and so on.’ I would park a couple of blocks away and get out and go and sit down and talk to him.”
Arming the Black Panthers
Threadgill worked with Aoki through mid-1965, when he moved to another FBI office and turned Aoki over to a fellow agent. Aoki was well positioned to inform on a wide range of political activists.
Aoki attended Merritt College in Oakland, where he met Huey Newton, a pre-law student, and Bobby Seale, an engineering student, who were in a political group called the Soul Students Advisory Council.
In fall 1966, Aoki transferred to UC Berkeley as a junior in sociology. That October, Seale and Newton took a draft of their 10-point program for what would become the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense to Aoki’s Berkeley apartment and discussed it over drinks. The platform called for improved housing, education, full employment, the release of incarcerated black men, a halt to “the robbery by the capitalists of our black community” and an “immediate end to police brutality.”
Soon after, Aoki gave the Panthers some of their first guns. As Seale recalled in his memoir, “Seize the Time:”
http://cironline.org/sites/default/files/styles/inline-medium/public/aokicalprotest-600px.jpgAoki (left) represented the UC Berkeley Asian American community as part of the Third World Liberation Front.
Credit: Courtesy of Nancy Park

“Late in November 1966, we went to a Third World brother we knew, a Japanese radical cat. He had guns … .357 Magnums, 22’s, 9mm’s, what have you. … We told him that if he was a real revolutionary he better go on and give them up to us because we needed them now to begin educating the people to wage a revolutionary struggle. So he gave us an M-1 and a 9mm.”
In early 1967, Aoki joined the Black Panther Party and gave them more guns, Seale wrote. Aoki also gave Panther recruits weapons training, he said in the 2007 interview.
“I had a little collection, and Bobby and Huey knew about it, and so when the party was formed, I decided to turn it over to the group,” Aoki said in the interview. “And so when you see the guys out there marching and everything, I’m somewhat responsible for the military slant to the organization’s public image.”
In early 1967, the Panthers displayed guns during their “community patrols” of Oakland police and also that May 2, when they visited the state Legislature to protest a bill.
Although carrying weapons was legal at the time, there is little doubt their presence contributed to fatal confrontations between the Panthers and the police.
On Oct. 28, 1967, Newton was in a shootout that wounded Oakland Officer Herbert Heanes and killed Officer John Frey. On April 6, 1968, Eldridge Cleaver and five other Panthers were involved in a firefight with Oakland police. Cleaver and two officers were wounded, and Panther Bobby Hutton was killed.
During the period Aoki was arming the Panthers, he also was informing for the FBI. The FBI report that lists him as informant T-2 says that in May 1967, he reported on the Panthers.
None of the released FBI reports mention that Aoki gave guns to the Panthers.
http://cironline.org/sites/default/files/styles/inline-medium/public/wesswearingen-600px.jpgRetired FBI agent Wes Swearingen worked closely on counterintelligence operations and surveillance of radical groups, including the Black Panthers.
Credit: Josiah Hooper/Center for Investigative Reporting

FBI’s reliance on informants
M. Wesley Swearingen, a retired FBI agent who has criticized unlawful bureau surveillance activities under the late Director J. Edgar Hoover, reviewed some of the FBI's records. He concluded in a sworn declaration – filed in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records on Aoki – that Aoki had been an informant.
Swearingen served in the FBI from 1951 to 1977, and worked on a squad that investigated the Panthers.
“Someone like Aoki is perfect to be in a Black Panther Party, because I understand he is Japanese,” he said. “Hey, nobody is going to guess – he’s in the Black Panther Party; nobody is going to guess that he might be an informant.”
Swearingen also said the FBI certainly must have additional records concerning Aoki, including special informant files.
“Aoki wouldn't even have to be a member of the party. If he just knew Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, if he went out to lunch with them every day, they would have a main file,” he said. “But to say they don’t have a main file is ludicrous.”
In the 1990s, testimony from Swearingen helped to vacate the murder conviction of Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, a Black Panther leader in Los Angeles. Evidence showed that the FBI and Los Angeles Police Department had failed to disclose that a key witness against Pratt was a longtime FBI informant named Julius C. Butler. Pratt later won a civil suit for wrongful imprisonment, with the City of Los Angeles paying Pratt $2.75 million and the FBI paying him $1.75 million.
During the late ’60s and early ’70s, the FBI sought to disrupt and “neutralize” the Black Panthers under COINTELPRO, the bureau’s secret counterintelligence program to stifle dissent, according to reports by the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.
As part of COINTELPRO, the committee found, the FBI used informants to gather intelligence leading to the weapons arrests of Panthers in Chicago, Detroit, San Diego and Washington. By the end of 1969, at least 28 Panthers had been killed in gunfights with police and many more arrested on weapons charges, according to news accounts.
Hoover declared in late 1968 that the Panthers, who by now had chapters across the nation, posed “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” He cited their radical philosophy and armed confrontations with police.
http://cironline.org/sites/default/files/styles/inline-medium/public/o1aoki2-600px.jpgA young Richard Aoki is involved in a 1969 protest at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way near the UC Berkeley campus.
Credit: Courtesy of the Oakland Tribune

Although Aoki later would boast of his role with the Panthers, he was secretive about his relations with them at the time, explaining in the 2007 interview that he feared being expelled from UC Berkeley if his activities were known.
In early 1969, Aoki emerged as a leader of the Third World Liberation Front strike at UC Berkeley, which demanded more ethnic studies courses. He advocated violent tactics, according to interviews with him and Manuel Delgado, another strike leader.
Scores of students and police were injured during the three-month confrontation, which became the campus’s most violent strike to date. Gov. Ronald Reagan declared a state of emergency and sent the National Guard to quell the violence.
At a memorial service for Aoki at Wheeler Hall in May 2009, Seale, of the Black Panthers, and other activists hailed Aoki as a “fearless leader and servant of the people.” In a phone conversation last week, Seale expressed surprise at hearing that Aoki was an informant and declined to comment further.
Seth Rosenfeld was an investigative reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle and has won the George Polk Award and other journalism honors. He can be reached atseth@sethrosenfeld.com. This story was edited by Robert Salladay and copy edited by Nikki Frick.

Timeline: Richard Aoki (http://cironline.org/timeline-informant-history-3756)


Peter Lemkin
08-21-2012, 06:01 AM
Jail Aoki and throw away the key...and all of his superiors! The destruction of the Black Panthers is one of the ugliest episodes in a whole encyclopedia of ugly episodes of infiltrations and destruction of the Progressive Movements in the 60s and 70s - and ongoing still. The bastards won't stop until we have a neo-fascist police state - unless WE stop them and punish them. This article is NO surprise to me, only the details are. It makes me very angry to be proven right again...but, watch, will the FBI be taken to task or their current similar programs stopped? - not a chance! Will Obama even comment...I strongly doubt it. They [USG] murdered most of the progressive movement. Those they didn't murder, the jailed. After going to Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington I stopped 'saluting the flag'....but they killed him too, didn't they. Revolting - demanding a revolution of values and ideas. America can not continue as it has - it and the World will not survive!

Peter Lemkin
08-21-2012, 06:34 AM
Filmmakers Mike Gray and Howard Alk arrived a few hours later to shoot film footage of the crime scene that was later used to contradict news reports and police testimony.

“You can jail the revolutionary, but you can’t jail the revolution…You might murder a freedom fighter like Bobby Hunton, but you can’t murder freedom fighting.” – Fred Hampton.

Recently restored and reworked by Gray, The Murder of Fred Hampton is a chilling slice of American history.

The entire documentary here. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-murder-of-fred-hampton/

Magda Hassan
08-21-2012, 07:18 AM
Jail Aoki and throw away the key...and all of his superiors!
He shot himself in 2009. At first they said he died from kidney failure, he had been on dialysis. And while it is not uncommon for people with terminal (was it terminal?) illness to take their own life I do now wonder if it was to avoid the exposure of being an informant. Rosenfeld did interview him and asked directly if he was an informant.

Peter Lemkin
08-21-2012, 08:38 AM
Jail Aoki and throw away the key...and all of his superiors!
He shot himself in 2009. At first they said he died from kidney failure, he had been on dialysis. And while it is not uncommon for people with terminal (was it terminal?) illness to take their own life I do now wonder if it was to avoid the exposure of being an informant. Rosenfeld did interview him and asked directly if he was an informant.

Thanks for the correction. Well, if facing death he was about to tell about his past, he may have been 'helped' with his demise by those who had a reason to keep the secrets and lies secrets and lies.....just sayin'. Maybe his death needs a closer look.

Peter Lemkin
08-21-2012, 01:15 PM
Great 90 page pdf by Ward Churchill here (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=fbi+destruction+black+panthers&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&ved=0CDYQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fpropagandhi.com%2Fwp-content%2Fempires%2FWard_Churchill.pdf&ei=wogzUPCGA4btsgbLmIHQCg&usg=AFQjCNEgKW9LHwIUAzEQoy8EYF6ow3bc9Q) on the destruction of the Black Leaders and Movements by the FBI and others.

“To Disrupt, Discredit and Destroy”
The FBI’s Secret War against the Black Panther Party
by Ward Churchill

Keith Millea
08-21-2012, 03:29 PM
He shot himself in 2009. At first they said he died from kidney failure, he had been on dialysis. And while it is not uncommon for people with terminal (was it terminal?) illness to take their own life I do now wonder if it was to avoid the exposure of being an informant. Rosenfeld did interview him and asked directly if he was an informant.

If he was on dialysis,then I can understand him killing himself.Dialysis is nothing more than a purgatory for people too old to get a kidney transplant.You're just waiting around to die basically.

It always interests me how good informants seem to work their way into top positions in most all dissident movements(Fred Hampton's bodyguard).It never fails.Who you gonna trust?????????

Dawn Meredith
08-21-2012, 05:36 PM
Inciting actual violence is always a key to who's who in any movement. For me at least. The feds always use violence to discredit the group.

I'm still waiting for someone to show that Dohrn and Ayers were agents.

I can't be the only person with this "theory". I recall Phil Dragoo having some additional info on this.


Jan Klimkowski
08-21-2012, 07:07 PM
Keith - please take a look at the the news piece (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1891&dat=19851028&id=vrgfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=stcEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1210,5353433) about Frank Camper.

If you are willing to share your informed impressions, please go right ahead.

Magda Hassan
08-21-2012, 10:19 PM
Inciting actual violence is always a key to who's who in any movement. For me at least. The feds always use violence to discredit the group.

I'm still waiting for someone to show that Dohrn and Ayers were agents.

I can't be the only person with this "theory". I recall Phil Dragoo having some additional info on this.

I remeber posting some thing by Jared Israel about just that. He was in the SDS with them.
Here is the link (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/showthread.php?391-Obama-Ayers-Dohrn-the-SDS-the-Weather-Underground-the-media-and-more.&highlight=Jared)

Keith Millea
08-22-2012, 04:47 PM
Keith - please take a look at the the news piece (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1891&dat=19851028&id=vrgfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=stcEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1210,5353433)about Frank Camper.

If you are willing to share your informed impressions, please go right ahead.

Informed Impression:

Another snake selling books!


I can't pin this man down at all.It seems everything goes around in circles,which is probably what he wants.

An example:

One minute I'll be convinced he was a LRRP (long range recon patrol) in Vietnam,and then he'll say something like we didn't carry weapons...WTF.Now,LRRP's are sent out to observe,and are not to make contact with the enemy.But,to say he carried no weapon is just a stupid lie.Why he would say this is confounding but fits his MO of making wild claims.

Have you done any research on Frank Camper Jan?How about his MKULTRA claims?

Interesting guy for sure........

Jan Klimkowski
08-22-2012, 09:38 PM
Keith - in the mid 1990s I met and interviewed Frank Camper in Birmingham, Alabama.

Camper talks here (http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/crime-justice/the-air-india-investigation/frank-campers-commando-training-school.html) about his Commando Training School in Alabama, and the murder of 331 people on an Air India plane in Canadian airspace in 1985.

I'll PM you.

Nathaniel Heidenheimer
08-23-2012, 12:42 PM
There is a necessary listening show on Democracy Now this morning. It is about a famous Black Panther who is accused of being an FBI informant in a new book. Fascinating show regardless of what it is doing.

This can be USED as a Snag for young and ESPECIALLY MEDIA DISINFO TARGETED MCLEFTISTS to introduce them to real stuff.

Magda Hassan
08-23-2012, 01:06 PM
Is this about Richard Aoki?

Dawn Meredith
08-23-2012, 03:00 PM
Inciting actual violence is always a key to who's who in any movement. For me at least. The feds always use violence to discredit the group.

I'm still waiting for someone to show that Dohrn and Ayers were agents.

I can't be the only person with this "theory". I recall Phil Dragoo having some additional info on this.

I remeber posting some thing by Jared Israel about just that. He was in the SDS with them.
Here is the link (https://deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/showthread.php?391-Obama-Ayers-Dohrn-the-SDS-the-Weather-Underground-the-media-and-more.&highlight=Jared)

Thanks Magda. I must have somehow missed this back in 08. I wish I could have convinced my long time friend Carl Oglesby to go there in his SDS book, Ravens in the Strom. By the time of its completion I had convinced him that his old pal Bernadine was not who she pretended to be but he could not bring himself to write that he had come to believe she was an agent provocateur.


Peter Lemkin
08-23-2012, 03:05 PM
Is this about Richard Aoki?
Yes, it is primarily [also about Mario Savio and the book that exposes this all] - I think this should be merged with https://deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/showthread.php?10598-Richard-Aoki-Man-who-armed-Black-Panthers-was-FBI-informant-records-show
DN also has a big archive on the same subject going back decades. The FBI is our main Crime Agency - causing it - not preventing it.

Peter Lemkin
08-23-2012, 04:34 PM
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with explosive new allegations that the man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training was an undercover FBI informant in California. Richard Aoki was an early member of the Panthers and the only Asian American to have a formal position in the party. He was also a member of the Asian American Political Alliance that was involved in the Third World Liberation Front student strike.

The claim that Aoki informed on his colleagues is based on statments made by a former agent of the FBI in a report obtained by investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld, author of the new book, Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. Over the last 30 years, Rosenfeld sued the FBI five times to obtain confidential records. He eventually compelled the agency to release more than 250,000 pages from their files.

In this video produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting, Rosenfeld explains how he first stumbled across information about Richard Aoki.

SETH ROSENFELD: A former FBI agent had heard that I was doing research, and he contacted me. His name was Burney Threadgill. And he says, "Hey, I know that guy." And he said, "Aoki was my informant. I developed him."

BURNEY THREADGILL JR.: Oh, yeah, he was a character. He said, "I don’t have any interest in communism." And I said, "Well, why don’t you just go to some of the meetings and tell me who’s there and what they talked about?" So, one thing led to another, and he became a real good informant.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Seth Rosenfeld reports that Aoki may have been covertly filing reports on a wide range of Bay Area political groups, according to the bureau agent who recruited him. He interviewed Aoki twice in 2007 about those allegations. Here’s a clip from their phone conversations, which was recorded with Aoki’s permission. After you hear Rosenfeld and Aoki, you will hear a comment from former FBI agent, Wesley Swearingen.

SETH ROSENFELD: I’m wondering if you remember a guy named Burney Threadgill.

RICHARD AOKI: Burney Threadgill?


RICHARD AOKI: No, I don’t think so.

SETH ROSENFELD: What I—I was told in my research that during this period of time you actually worked for the FBI.

RICHARD AOKI: They tell you that?

SETH ROSENFELD: Burney told me that.



RICHARD AOKI: Oh. That’s interesting.

WESLEY SWEARINGEN: Informants were used when I was in the FBI. An informant would report on the inner workings of an organization. They can keep you up to date on the thinking of the leadership of the organization, whether it’s going this way, that way. Someone like Aoki is perfect to be in the Black Panther Party, because they understand he’s Japanese. Hey, nobody’s going to guess—he’s in the Black Panther Party. Nobody’s going to guess that he might be an informant.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former FBI agent Wesley Swearingen speaking to reporter Seth Rosenfeld. Many of Richard Aoki’s friends and colleagues have expressed shock and disbelief about the claim. We’ll talk more about this debate in a minute, but first I want to play one more excerpt from Seth Rosenfeld’s interview with Aoki in 2007.


RICHARD AOKI: I think you are.

SETH ROSENFELD: Yeah. So, would you say it’s untrue that you ever worked with the FBI or got paid by the FBI?

RICHARD AOKI: I would say it.

SETH ROSENFELD: Yeah. And I’m trying to understand the complexities about it, and I—and I think—

RICHARD AOKI: It is complex.

SETH ROSENFELD: I believe it is. And—

RICHARD AOKI: Layer upon layer.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Aoki, speaking in 2007, two years before he committed suicide.

Well, for more about these revelations and what they may mean, we’re joined by two guests. In San Fransisco, Seth Rosenfeld is with us, author of Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. The 734-page book was released Tuesday and took three decades to complete. Rosenfeld is a reporter—was a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle for almost 25 years, a winner of the George Polk Award.

We’ll discuss the rest of his book later, but right now we’re also joined from Santa Barbara, California, by Diane Fujino, Aoki’s biographer and a professor and chair of the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s the author of the recent book, Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance, and a Paradoxical Life. Her article, "Where’s the Evidence Aoki Was an FBI Informant?" appears in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Seth Rosenfeld, let’s begin with you. Where is the evidence?

SETH ROSENFELD: Good morning.

Well, the evidence takes—there’s basically four pieces of evidence, which I’ve detailed in my book. The first evidence came when I interviewed Burney Threadgill in around 2002, 2003. I had met Burney while I was doing research for my book. As you mentioned, I had obtained thousands of pages of documents from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act. And as part of my research, I was contacting former FBI agents and reviewing the records with them—excuse me—and reviewing the records with them to make sure that I understood the records and to elicit further information. So I had met with Burney several times for over a period of several months and reviewed many documents with him. And then, one day we were looking at some documents, and Burney said something like, "Hey, I know that guy. He was my informant." Burney had recognized Richard Aoki’s name in an FBI document. So Burney proceeded to tell me how he met Richard Aoki and how he developed him as an FBI informant and how Richard Aoki became, according to Burney, one of the best political informants that the FBI had in Northern California in the early 1960s.

Well, I had never heard of Richard Aoki before. So, while I continued the research on my boat, I also began to research who was Richard Aoki, and I read everything I could find about him. I did public records research. I spoke with other people. And then, in 2007, I interviewed him on the telephone. With his permission, I tape-recorded it, and you’ve heard the comments he made. He denied being an FBI informant, but he also said, "It is complex, layer upon layer. People change." So, I interpreted that as, on the one hand, his denial, but on the other hand, an explanation, perhaps, of what I was asking him about.

I continued to work on the book, and I was also a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. But after Richard Aoki died in 2009, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking any and all records concerning him. The FBI released approximately 1,500 or 2,000 pages. One of the documents that was released was a 1967 FBI report on the Black Panthers. And this report identified Richard Aoki as an informant. It assigned him the code number, T-2, for that report. But I still wanted to find out more about it, so I spoke with a former FBI agent named Wesley Swearingen. Mr. Swearingen had been in the FBI for over 25 years. He had retired honorably. He had later become a critic of the FBI’s political surveillance, and particularly he had helped vacate the murder conviction of a Black Panther named Geronimo Pratt. So, Mr. Swearingen was very familiar with the FBI. He examined this record and other records I had, and he came to the same conclusion I did, which was that Richard Aoki had been an FBI informant in the 1960s.

I should add that I did further research in FBI records looking for anything that would be inconsistent, that would challenge my conclusion. And I couldn’t find anything that was inconsistent with it. And that’s how I reached my conclusion.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, Seth Rosenfeld, you also mention that you—that despite the fact that Richard Aoki was a very well-known political activist in the Third World community in the Bay Area, that there were no FBI files or reports on him as a political activist.

SETH ROSENFELD: Yes, that’s one of the remarkable things about the FBI records that were released on Richard Aoki. Here was a person who had been a member of the Young Socialist Alliance and then an officer in the Young Socialist Alliance. He had been a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He had been a member of the Black Panthers. He had given guns to the Black Panthers. He had been a prominent leader in the Third World strike at Berkeley. And yet, the FBI took the position that it had no files on Richard Aoki himself. The records that were released instead were only about various other organizations that he had been in, such as the Young Socialist Alliance or the Black Panthers. Based on my experience in reviewing many thousands of pages of FBI records over the years, I found it extraordinary that the FBI would have no main file, as they call it, on Richard Aoki.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, Diane Fujino, you have written a biography of Richard Aoki. And, of course, in the Bay Area and throughout California, he is known and revered by many in the progressive movement as a pioneering political activist and revolutionary in the Asian-American community. But your response to what—the revelations of Seth Rosenfeld?

DIANE FUJINO: I was very surprised. After I heard—read the San Francisco Chronicle article in Monday’s paper, I went—when the book was released on Tuesday, I went to the book. It’s a very thick book, 734 pages. There’s a tremendous amount of research. And I had expected to find a lot more information detailing this accusation that Aoki was an FBI informant. But when I read the book, I was very surprised that there was little more than what’s already been said, than what was said already just this morning on this show. And in my mind as a scholar, I remain open to whatever truth is there, but the evidence needs to be substantial, that needs to meet a certain burden of proof, and it did not in this case.

One of the things that Rosenfeld said he has is this one FBI document. I have the same document, also retrieved under the Freedom of Information Act, the 1967 document, and it is the only FBI document that Rosenfeld cites in, you know, multiple pages. I had 150-plus pages of documents released to me from the FBI. And in it, it says that "A supplementary T symbol (SF T-2) was designated for" — but the name was left blank. And after that, it is followed in parenthesis by Richard Matsui—which is not his middle name—Aoki. But it says after that, "for the limited purpose of describing his connections with the organization and characterizing him." And later on, that same page, it talks about character—for the "characterization of Richard M. Aoki." So it’s unclear whether Aoki is the informant in this case. T symbols are used to refer to informants and also to technical sources of information, like wiretaps and microphones. And it’s not clear in this case whether Aoki was the informant or whether he was the one being, you know, observed.


DIANE FUJINO: The second thing—

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, go ahead.

DIANE FUJINO: —is that—

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead, Diane.

DIANE FUJINO: The second thing—yeah, I wanted to go through the four pieces of information that Rosenfeld cites. And all of this is cited in a single footnote in the back. There’s no other elaboration beyond this.

He says that the former FBI agent, Burney Threadgill, was the person who gave him this information. But the same bits of information from Threadgill are recited by Rosenfeld, and there’s nothing else elaborated upon this. And he—Threadgill says that he approached Aoki in the late '50s at a time when Aoki wasn't even political. And he approached Aoki because Aoki—he overheard Aoki’s conversation with a high-school classmate, and that classmate’s parents were in the Communist Party, apparently, and were under wiretapping surveillance. And it made me think, did this former agent interview or talk to or approach many of this classmate’s friends who talked to him on the phone, or was there something about this conversation? And there’s just a lot of questions not answered.

Swearingen, another former FBI agent, the only evidence—the only piece of information he has, besides saying Aoki might be an informant, is this idea that because Aoki was Japanese American in the Panthers, that was a perfect place to be an informant. And this makes no sense to me, and to many people, because being Japanese American in the Panthers made one stand out, and it aroused suspicion. And it seems the least likely person to be an informant within the Panthers. And that just isn’t something that makes sense to me.

And the final piece of evidence that Rosenfeld uses is Aoki’s own response in the interview. And I think that’s ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations. And if you know Aoki, that was classic Aoki in terms of the way he speaks, with allusion, with caution, with—you didn’t see a lot of his wit and humor, but there’s a lot of that, as well. And I think that it’s inconclusive, and yet very definitive statements were drawn from this inconclusive evidence.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Fujino, he said—Aoki said, in response to Seth Rosenfeld’s question about whether he worked for the FBI, Aoki responded, "It’s complex, layer upon layer." Is there a chance he started out with the FBI and changed? Or do you see this in a very different way?

DIANE FUJINO: Well, I mean, we—from what, you know, is out there on the FBI, it seems like there were many, many informants in the '60s. and anything is possible. But I don't know. The evidence isn’t there for me to be able to make any informed judgment on this. If he did start off as one, this is—this is what I would have liked to have seen before public charges made against somebody of this magnitude, is really specific evidence that goes beyond the things that have been said. What was said today, what was in the journal article—I mean, the San Francisco Chronicle article, is almost the sum total of what is in the book. There’s not much beyond that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to bring Seth Rosenfeld back in and respond to this—to Diane Fujino’s statement that this is really scant evidence. But I’d also like to ask you—because the interesting thing about police agents or FBI agents—and I’m familiar, having once been in the Young Lords Party, which was under much surveillance by the FBI—that agents tended to be the type of people who—or informants, informants tended to be the type of people who said very little but gathered information. And to that sense, Richard Aoki doesn’t fit that profile, because he was—he has—throughout his political career, was known as someone who advanced political theories, was actually very actively involved in shaping the political perspectives and views of the organizations that he was involved in. And to that degree, he doesn’t fit the profile of someone who’s basically gathering information.

DIANE FUJINO: Yes, and another way—

SETH ROSENFELD: Mm-hmm. Well, if I can respond to some points that Professor Fujino made, there were a couple misstatements there. What Burney had told me is that the FBI had a wiretap on the home of some people called the Wachters in the late ’50s. The Wachters were members of the Communist Party in the Bay Area at that time. And on that wiretap, they overheard a conversation between their son, Doug Wachter, and Richard Aoki. Doug Wachter and Richard Aoki had been classmates at Berkeley High. After hearing that information, the FBI agent, Burney Threadgill, approached Richard Aoki and asked him if he would be an informant.

Professor Fujino is correct in stating that, at that time in his life, Richard Aoki was not political. In fact, what Burney Threadgill told me was that Richard Aoki told him he had no interest in communism. And Burney further said that Richard Aoki became involved in political activities initially at the request of the FBI. Burney also said that he worked with Richard Aoki as his handler and met with him on a regular basis and received reports from him and paid him, that Richard Aoki provided information on specific groups, such as the socialist groups I mentioned, and that after Burney was transferred to another office in 1965, Richard Aoki was passed along as an informant to another agent.

And I should also clarify Wes Swearingen’s statement about Richard Aoki being accepted within radical circles perhaps partly because he was Japanese. That doesn’t seem particularly significant now, in modern times, but in the late '60s, somebody coming from a different ethnic background made them seem to be an outsider, and there would be less suspicion that an outsider like that would be working for the government, which in those days, certainly the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, was largely all white, almost totally white and male. So, I believe that's what Wes Swearingen was referring to.

In terms of Richard Aoki’s profile, as I mentioned, he starts out not being a political person. He starts attending these meetings. He becomes—he becomes gradually involved. And it’s only later in the ’60s that he begins to be more active in advocating different political things.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We’re speaking with Seth Rosenfeld. His book is published this week, Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. And Professor Diane Fujino, author of, Samurai Among Panthers. And I want, when we come back, Professor Fujino, to ask you about this term you use called "snitch-jacketing," the government’s casting suspicion on the most active activists. Stay with us.

[other half of this part being transcribed]......

Peter Lemkin
08-24-2012, 06:20 AM
AMY GOODMAN: We continue our conversation with our two guests today: Seth Rosenfeld, the reporter whose new book is out this week, Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power; we’re also joined by Professor Diane Fujino, who has written a book about Richard Aoki, who Seth Rosenfeld says he has found through getting information through the Freedom of Information Act, that is an—was an agent for the FBI. Diane Fujino, can you talk about who Richard Aoki was? Give us a brief thumbnail sketch of his life story.

DIANE FUJINO: Yeah. Richard Aoki was born in 1938. As a young child, only three-and-a-half years old, he and his family, along with 110,000 other West Coast Japanese Americans, were placed into concentration camps. And for Richard, that was very formative, because—and created—this kind of hurts of history created a major personal injury, because his parents separated inside the camps. And in a very unusual situation, he and his younger brother went to live with their father, both inside the camp barracks as well as upon their return to the Aoki family’s home in West Oakland.

Richard grew up homeschooled, which is quite unusual, and was very well read. He claims to have been going to the library back and forth and read 600 books in a single year. And while I have no proof of that, I do have many people talking about him, as an adult, as one of the most well-read people that they know. This includes a university professor friend of Richard who was saying this, that Richard is the most well-read person he knows. And Richard was very advanced theoretically, politically and theoretically.

Richard was—adopted the Cold War standards for masculinity and the military in the '50s, was eager to become—to join the Army and become the first Japanese-American general in the U.S. Army—that was his dream—and a fighter pilot. But, according to what Richard Aoki has told me, is that he—while he was in the Army Reserves in the late ’50s, he began to connect, through a series of working-class jobs, to labor organizers and socialist organizers. And they started to change, slowly and in an uneven way, his ideas about politics. And he joined the Socialist Workers Party, the Young Socialist Alliance, and then, in the mid-'60s, ’63, returned to Merritt college full time where he began—and he and others began a socialist discussion club.

And it was at Merritt College, which we know today as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, that he met the co-founders of the Black Panther Party, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. And they began to have political discussions and exchanges before the start of the Panthers. And when the Panthers formed, he was one of the earliest members. He says, and Bobby Seale confirms, that they would talk to Richard in very political discussions and that when they wrote their 10-point platform, they ran it by Richard to see what he thought about it.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a clip from the documentary film Aoki, which chronicles the life of Richard Aoki. In this excerpt, his friends and comrades explain how he helped bring weapons into the Black Panthers movement.

KATHLEEN CLEAVER: He had made guns available to Huey, very early on.

BOBBY SEALE: Huey says, "Look, Richard, you have to let us have some of those guns. You have a lot of guns here."

ELBERT "BIG MAN" HOWARD: Richard would come around and donate weapons to the organization, you know.

BOBBY SEALE: So he gave a M1 carbine and a .45. And this was all about us—we was going to patrol the police. Richard helped us teach the other brothers—the new, young seven, eight, 10 brothers in there—how to break these weapons down, how to clean the weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: From the documentary Aoki. Shaka At-Thinnin of the Black August Organizing Committee speaks about Richard Aoki’s commitment to the cause.

SHAKA AT-THINNIN: If you have not won and you are still breathing, then that means you still have to fight. When I get to be 60 years old and like 70 years old and if I’m still breathing, I’m going to be still doing this. And I’m sure that’s the way Richard feels. I know he does, you know. I talk to him. It’s something that generates or emanates from him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Those were some of the tapes of various people who worked with Richard and members of the—former members of the Black Panther Party talking about him. Seth Rosenfeld, one of the things you raise in your book, that you question whether he was actually—whether Richard Aoki was actually donating weapons to the Panthers or helping to set them up.

SETH ROSENFELD: Yes. I’d like to first say, it’s important to be clear about what we know and what we don’t know. What we know is, according to former FBI agent Burney Threadgill and this FBI document, the opinion of Wesley Swearingen, as well, that Richard Aoki was an FBI informant during the same period that he was arming the Black Panthers and giving them weapons training. What we don’t know is whether the FBI was involved in any way with providing weapons or that it even knew that Richard Aoki was giving weapons to the Black Panthers. That’s the first thing I’d like to make clear.

The other thing I want to point out is that, in doing my reporting, I took extra efforts to be totally transparent about what my evidence was. Professor Fujino says there’s only one footnote in the book that addresses this. In fact, it’s a very lengthy footnote, and it lists each piece of evidence that I use. In the story that I did with of the Center for Investigative Reporting for the Chronicle, we were also very specific about what the evidence was. Not only did I say that I had interviewed FBI agent Burney Threadgill, but we played the tape, and we also played Richard’s comments, including his denial and also other statements which seem to be potentially suggestive explanations for his having been an informant.

DIANE FUJINO: I agree that Seth Rosenfeld’s book is well researched. If you look in the footnotes and the bibliography, there’s extensive research done, which is why I was so surprised that, after hearing the San Francisco [Chronicle] article, I expected to get more information in this thick book about evidence, and there wasn’t any. It was very slim. It’s the same things that are being said repeatedly.

I do want to say something that Juan González had mentioned about Richard not seeming to fit the profile because he was a more visible activist. And in another way, Richard Aoki does not fit the profile because many times, especially if they’re agent provocateurs or even infiltrators, they’re either low-key or they are people who try to get people to constantly engage in provocative and disruptive and risky behaviors. And Richard was a scholar. He’s known for giving—the things that he’s best known for—well, until this week—was giving the first guns to the Black Panther Party to support their police patrols to stop police brutality in the black neighborhoods. And Richard was a scholar also. He was advanced theoretically and could spar theoretically with anyone around him. And that is not a typical profile of an infiltrator.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Fujino, this term that you use, "snitch-jacketing," can you explain it?

DIANE FUJINO: Yeah, it’s a tactic used by the FBI to—through rumors, through manufacturing evidence and misinformation, to cast suspicions around legitimate activists so that people think that they might be informants. And so I question: is the evidence there, or might this be a snitch-jacket on Richard Aoki? I feel the evidence is not there and that more needs to be provided in order to have it meet the burden of proof.

AMY GOODMAN: Seth Rosenfeld, your response?

SETH ROSENFELD: Yes, snitch-jacketing was a technique that was used by the FBI against leftists and also sometimes in criminal cases. The purpose of it was to suggest that somebody was an informant and then leak that or make that known, and thereby cast suspicion on that person and discredit them. I don’t believe that that’s the case here. And there’s absolutely no evidence that that’s what was done here. There’s nothing in any FBI file that addresses that. That’s something that I thought about while I was doing the research. So I think that that supposition and allegation on the part of Professor Fujino is entirely unfounded.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to move on to talk about the rest of your book, Seth Rosenfeld, but I wanted to give Professor Diane Fujino one last final comment on this story that is coming out with the publication of Seth Rosenfeld’s book. Diane Fujino, again, wrote the book Samurai Among Panthers about Richard Aoki.

DIANE FUJINO: Yeah. People are saying, you know, if Richard — that’s a big "if" — if he was an informant, what did he inform on? When was he an informant? Seth Rosenfeld is claiming that he was in the late '60s based on this one 1967 document, which I argue is very unclear. It can be read in multiple ways. And, you know, so we want to know more information about this. But what people are saying is that Richard contributed so much to the movement. It's unclear if there was—if he was an informant, what kind of damage he did to undermine the movement is completely unclear. But what he did as a contribution to the movement is clear.

He was a leader of the Black Panther Party. He was one of the foremost architects of Afro-Asian unity. He was the second chair of the Asian American Political Alliance, which was one of the most influential youth groups of the Asian American movement and the group that’s credited with coining the very term "Asian Americans." He helped to start Asian American Studies at Berkeley, both as an activist and then, in late ’69, became one of the first instructors and an early coordinator of Asian American studies at Berkeley. And he went on to be a counselor and instructor at East Bay community colleges, where he supported ethnic studies and supported working-class students in their pursuits of higher education. And he made multiple contributions throughout his life, up through past his retirement, where he served as inspiration and a political mentor to many young people.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Diane Fujino, we want to thank you very much for being with us, professor and chair of the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her most recent book is called Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance, and a Paradoxical Life. We’ll come back to talk with Seth Rosenfeld about other angles of his book, Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power.

Peter Lemkin
08-24-2012, 06:20 AM
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We want to continue our conversation with Seth Rosenfeld, longtime investigative reporter and author of Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. Seth, we’ve had a long discussion on Richard Aoki, but he really is a small portion of your book. The large portion of it really deals, as the title says, with the FBI’s attempts to—through surveillance and repression of student radicals and university professors. You go into—in depth about the efforts of the agency against Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, and even against the president of the University of California system at the time, Clark Kerr. Could you talk a little bit about that?

SETH ROSENFELD: Yes. My book, Subversives, is a secret history of the '60s. It's the story of the FBI’s covert operations at the University of California at Berkeley and the surrounding campus community during the Cold War. It’s based on more than 250,000 pages of FBI documents. And one of the main parts of the book focuses on the Free Speech Movement of 1964 and Mario Savio.

The Free Speech Movement was one of the first major student protests of the 1960s. It was nonviolent. It was inspired by the civil rights movement. And it was actually a protest against a campus rule that prohibited students from engaging in any kind of political activity on campus. So, for example, if students wanted to hand out a leaflet for the Republican National Convention, which in the summer of '64 was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, they were prohibited from doing that. If they wanted to hand out a leaflet saying, "Come to this civil rights demonstration," they couldn't do that, either. The students felt that this was an unconstitutional abridgment of their First Amendment rights. And that’s what the protest was about.

Mario Savio emerged as perhaps the most prominent spokesperson for the Free Speech Movement. Mario is a fascinating character. He was born in New York City in 1942. He was extremely bright, had a above genius-level IQ and, in high school, a 96.6 grade point average. He was raised in a very religious Catholic family. He was brought up to be a priest. And he, for much of his early life, thought he would become a priest. But as he went through high school, he began to have doubts about his faith. He began to question the dogma and became interested in philosophy and science. He began to look elsewhere to, as he put it—excuse me—as he put it, to do good in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, while you take a water break, I thought we would play a clip. UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza first drew national attention in 1964 when thousands of students struggled for their right to free speech on campus, led by, as you’re describing, student activist Mario Savio. This is a speech he delivered nearly half a century ago on the steps of Sproul Hall.

MARIO SAVIO: There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Mario Savio. Give us the context, as you continue with Mario Savio’s story, of this address.

SETH ROSENFELD: Yes. Mario actually had a very debilitating stutter when speaking in small groups of people. But when he was impassioned and speaking against what he believed was injustice, he spoke with divine fire. And that speech is an example of that. And people who were in that audience in the crowd on Sproul Plaza that day have said that that speech sent shivers down their backs. He moved people to participate. And as a result of his speech and all the work that the Free Speech Movement had done, more than a thousand people streamed into Sproul Hall and staged what was the nation’s largest sit-in to date, overnight, more than 800 people arrested the next day. And this was shocking that students would engage in this kind of behavior. At that time in our history, most campuses were characterized by a kind of complacency and conformity. The Free Speech Movement was a major break from that, and it was very shocking to people, particularly J. Edgar Hoover.

According to the FBI documents that I’ve reviewed, the FBI had special concerns about the University of California, starting at least in World War II. As you know, the University of California played a key role in developing the atomic bomb that was used to end World War II. And during the war and immediately thereafter, there were Soviet efforts to obtain, through espionage, using members of the Communist Party, secrets from the radiation lab. So, some of the records I look at document the FBI’s extensive investigation into Soviet espionage at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1940s.

But what you see in the following decades is the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, veers from that important national security mission to focus instead on professors engaged in dissent. And during the 1950s, the FBI had a secret program called the Responsibilities Program. And through this program, FBI agents secretly gave governors of nearly every state allegations against professors who were deemed to be too radical or too liberal. The governors would take this information secretly, pass it along to university officials and have them investigate and question and sometimes fire the professors. The professors never knew where these allegations came from. They never had the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses against them. Then, later—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Seth Rosenfeld, as you mention—


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As you mention in the book, often the allegations that the FBI passed on were wrong, were erroneous, and people were tarred just because they may have been—had met with somebody who was politically active in a left-wing movement, so that much of the information the FBI passed on was erroneous.

SETH ROSENFELD: Yes, that’s true. In a number of instances, I was able to document that, in the case of California, the governor at the time, Earl Warren, passed along these reports to the president of the university, Robert Gordon Sproul. And when the university investigated them, they found they were unsubstantiated. So—

AMY GOODMAN: And the role of—

SETH ROSENFELD: —that was an extensive program, and nearly a thousand professors around the country were forced from their jobs as a result of it in the early 1950s.

Then, in the very early 1960s, you see—late ’50s, early ’60s, you see the FBI shift its focus to students who are engaged in political dissent. The FBI starts to investigate them and creates—actually has a list call the "Security Index." This is a list of people who are deemed potential threats to national security in the event of a national emergency and who would be arrested without warrant and detained indefinitely during an emergency. And quite a few professors and students at Berkeley in the early ’60s were on this secret list. In fact, at that time, former agents told me that the FBI considered Berkeley to be one of the most radical cities in the United States, with the highest per capita number of people on the Security Index.

So, to come back to the Free Speech Movement, when that happens in 1964, J. Edgar Hoover and other FBI officials see this as further evidence of a subversive plot to disrupt the nation’s campuses, and they respond by intensively investigating it and going beyond investigating it with secret efforts to disrupt it and neutralize it in various ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Seth Rosenfeld, we don’t have much time. We have less than two minutes. But you’re following the trajectory of Ronald Reagan, who famously said in 1970, "If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement." He’s talking about the students. The role—how extensively Ronald Reagan was involved with the FBI, more than was previously known?

SETH ROSENFELD: Yes, he was much more involved with the FBI than previously known. And one of the arguments in my book is that his covert relationship with the FBI had a profound influence on his political development. This relationship begins in Hollywood in the years immediately after World War II, when FBI agents approached Ronald Reagan, and he becomes an informer. And he names other people in Hollywood, actors, who he suspects of subversive activity. And he names more people than we’ve previously known. Through my Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, I obtained more than 10,000 pages on Ronald Reagan during his pre-presidential years. This is the most extensive record of the FBI’s activities concerning him. When Reagan is president of the Screen Actors Guild, the FBI has wide access to information from Guild records about actors whom the FBI is investigating. And then, later, the FBI returns the favor to Reagan by doing personal and political help for him. During my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the FBI was withholding certain information, claiming it was law enforcement information. And I challenged that. I said the context suggests that this is actually personal and political help. And the court agreed and ordered the information released. And what those records show—

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.

SETH ROSENFELD: —is that in 1960, for example, the FBI, at the request of Ronald Reagan and his former wife, Jane Wyman, conducted an investigation into the romantic life of his daughter, Maureen Reagan. The Reagans had heard that she was living with—she was then 18, living in Washington, D.C., and they had heard that she was living with an older married policeman.

Peter Lemkin
08-24-2012, 06:25 AM
So one of the lessons of American History [no surprises here] is that you can get to be President by being an FBI or CIA fink or flunkee - little else will entitle one for the job....more so since both agencies offered some help in getting rid of independent-minded JFK. These are not the all powerful string-pullers; just the 'military' for the Oligarchy - who use them for some smaller missions and the real Military for most of the larger ones. They [FBI/CIA] clearly break the laws of the land many more fold than they uphold them.....bad as the laws are.