Skip to main content

tv   Book TV  CSPAN  October 20, 2012 11:00am-12:30pm EDT

11:00 am
to teach students to be critical thinkers. historian frederick pugsley provides air history of native american accidents in this indian country:american indian activists. look for these titles and others this coming week and watch for the authors in the near future on booktv and on booktv.org. >> next seth rosenfeld report on the fbi's covert actions at the
11:01 am
university of california berkeley in the 1960s. the of the reports the j. edgar oeuvre lead agency attempted to weaken activist student groups including the free-speech movement. this is about an hour and a half. >> my name is low bergman. i am the david logan distinguished prof. of investigative reporting at the graduate school of journalism at the university. on behalf of the journalism school, i want to invite all of you to what i think is an extraordinary special event especially for me personally. tonight we have the honor of having seth rosenfeld here. and went on to enjoy a long career as an executive career at the san francisco chronicle, and
11:02 am
i stayed in touch with him all those years. going on for years. for all that time, seth was involved in his own personal quest for the question of what was really going on here at berkeley in the 1960s one of those events were taking place. the result is this book, "subversives: the fbi's war on student radicals, and reagan's rise to power". it is an extraordinary book. when i read it, he was written primarily from the perspective of the fbi. a voice we rarely hear in public. it does not sure what to think until we see their documents.
11:03 am
some of which we have seen, and some of which you are going to see tonight, and if you have never seen an fbi document, you might close your eyes when you see it. looking in the audience, how many remembered j. edgar hoover? and what was going on. and for 45 minutes. this is -- i realize this book is very heavy. it is 504 pages long of
11:04 am
narrative based on document. and get a glance with the daunting process was that seth went through when he was trying to put this together. to give you an idea of his accomplishment here, take a look at the review. narrative nonfiction at its best, that is 250,000 documents. in case you have forgone or too young to know, the 1960s was the template for today's political diverse of this. seth rosenfeld chronicles how the of this form and his book is crucial history and also a warning, says the christian science monitor and even the wall street journal says that even though they were prepared to hear all kinds of things in
11:05 am
their review, seth's work provides an unusual insight into what actually happens in america. hopefully we have time at the end of this, i will reflect on what i myself think is going on and we will look at my fbi file before we get done. we have a lot of ground to cover. we will hear a 45 minute discussion and we will have time for questions. there are microphones in the audience. i do ask two things, identify yourself when you ask questions, no speeches please, and also seth will be signing books when we are done. with that, start with a question. tell us what was going on and give us a sense of what this book is all about.
11:06 am
>> thank you for the wonderful introduction. >> this is a book of the history of the 16s, a secret history, for the history of the secret of the fbi secret activities concerning the university of california during the cold war. mostly during the 16s. the book tells that story by examining the fbi's activities in regard to three main characters, mario savio, clark kerr who turned out to the in a great dispute with mario and other students, and ronald reagan, who was running for governor at this time and made campus protests a major issue in his campaign and who was at odds
11:07 am
with clark kerr and mario savio. what you can see in the book is that behind the scenes of many of these well-known events, the fbi was deeply involved with these people and the university of california and was secretly tampering with history trying to influence public policy behind-the-scenes. >> why not give a little background. how did you start this? i remember you as the young undergraduate. >> those were the days. , i was a reporter for the daily california, my editor asked if i was interested interested in what the daily cow had gotten
11:08 am
under the freedom of information act. i knew the fbi had been deeply involved in domestic surveillance elsewhere as a result of hearings before the, i knew berkeley had been and i was intrigued to know what the fbi was up to behind-the-scenes at berkeley so i looked at these documents and consulted a role, and the vietnam committee, researching those stories, i realize there was much more there. there were many more fbi files that had yet to be released, and i submitted a much expanded freedom of information act request, information on 100 different organizations and
11:09 am
individuals, very specifically requesting categories of records. i thought i would get these records in a year or so and finish the project and move on to the next story. i had no idea i was embarking on five lawsuit against the fbi and force the bureau to release 300 pages of records even those the fbi spent $1 million in taxpayer funds trying to suppress those records. >> where does the story began in terms of their interest in berkeley and what they ultimately did? >> the fbi had been interested in berkeley and student protests dating from before world war ii but where i started is right after world war ii when the fbi was investigating soviet espionage in berkeley at the
11:10 am
university of california, soviet intelligence agencies were trying to get nuclear secrets through members of the communist party in the bay area. j. edgar hoover ordered a massive investigation into this in an effort to find out who these soviet spies were but what you see in the documents is in the years following that, the fbi veered from this important national security mission and instead came to focus on professors and students who were involved in dissent and the fbi went beyond gathering information and try to to get certain professors who were deemed too radical fired from the university of california. >> they did, using wiretaps, pick up people in oakland who were conspiring to get secrets. >> this is true. the fbi did find evidence of
11:11 am
soviet espionage in berkeley directed at the nuclear labs and there was an important national security mission. more than the fbi properly should be doing but the files make it abundantly clear that the fbi veered from that mission and came through to focus on people involved in first amendment activities, unlawful to send. >> they did their investigation using surveillance and the electronic surveillance but used in former's and informants, maybe to make it clear to everybody as we go through this and some of the documents, what is the difference between and in former and an informant? >> it is a term of art. and in former would be anyone who provides information to the fbi and informant would be somebody with a more formal relationship with the fbi who was probably paid, in most cases
11:12 am
would be paid but not necessarily, who was somebody the fbi believed to be under their control and their direction in gathering information on political organizations. >> the startling part of your book is to me having written about ronald reagan and covered ronald reagan, to see documents that say ronald reagan is and in former, not an informant but and in former. maybe you could show us how you could determine that. >> that began in hollywood right after world war ii. one night in 1946 fbi agents knocked on ronald reagan's door and told him of that there were communists and liberal groups he was involved in and as reagan rose in his memoir, these fbi agents opened my eyes to a good
11:13 am
many things. what documents show is what reagan only hinted at, that reagan -- provided information about fellow actors and his opponents and the screen actors guild, and j. edgar hoover repaid those favors. here is one document here is one document about reagan and the fbi. >> can you read that out there. >> i will summarize and then go to the pertinent part. this is a document from august 4th, 1947, and is a report on the fbi's investigation into hollywood. one of the areas the fbi was looking at was alleged communist
11:14 am
infiltration of labor unions. one of the main unions is the screen actors guild, you can see here this is the index, and the screen actors guild. how i -- i will fast forward to that part, what this document says on april 10th, 1947, interviewed ronald reagan and his wife jane wyman at their homeland reagan at this time president of the screen actors guild. and jane wasn actors guild. and jane was active in the guild. reagan and why men had requested they be interviewed by the early agents that they might furnish information information and some members of the guilt they suspected were carrying out
11:15 am
communist party work. the document goes on to say, he provides background information about them. and another actress, he claimed on all questions of policy that confront the gtion ild, they fo the communist party line. reagan stated they do not appear to be particularly close but whenever an occasion arises necessitating the appointment of some member to a committee or an office the two clicks they had, invariably nominate or support the same individual. reagan and one goes on to list several more actors and actresses including alexander knox and howard siloff and hume
11:16 am
cronyn, dorothy tree, allen chamberlain, selena royal. reagan also mentions larry parks. this document struck me for several reasons. reagan had said several times including in his memccr that he never pointed the finger at anybody. what you can see is clearly the secretly did that. there are other documents in which reagan names people, sometimes on the skandia search of evidencey and i believe this information shows a different side of reagan, different from the popular, avuncular, easygoing, president takes a kindly view of
11:17 am
pe ottherey you see reagan naming people, his opponents in the gills, benefiting personally by bringing his opponents to the attention of the fbi, what is significant is he offers no evidence, he is just saying they seem to follow the communist party line, and -- >> he became a favorite of hoover? >> he did. reagan is president of the screen actors guild. and under his tenure the fbi had wide access to build records on dozens of actors and actressess who had no idea the president of the gtion ild was making this information available to the fbi. initially j. edgar hoover was suspicious of ronald reagan because he had been involved in some liberal groups but but more reagan cooperated with the fbi's
11:18 am
investigation the more hoover came to trust him and certain documents say that reagan and the fbi have a close and cooperative relationship. in later years hoover repaid these favors. in 1960 -- >> he is not getting paid money or anything like that. >> no. no evidence that ronald reagan was a paid informant or under the control of the fbi. the documents suggest reagan was operating not for peculiar reasons but out of personal and political motives. >> he got some favorites. the favorites are pretty interesting. >> yes. one favor occurred in 1960. reagan and his by then former wife were very concerned about their eldest daughter who had gone to live in wa eaington d.c. she was 19 years old and they heard that eae was living with
11:19 am
an older married policeman but rather than call her up and apl about this, they turned to the fbi through a mutual friend. hoover personally authorauted a investigation of maureen reagan's romantic life even though he acknowledged in fbi records this was the on the bureau's erisdiction. in short order one fbi agent posed as an insurance salesman and interviqueed neighbors and another when interviewed the cleaning lady and maureen reagan's rooming house and talked to some other police ontiicers about this officer an confirmed she was in fact living with this older married policeman and confidentially furnished information to the reagans who agreed to keeicea secret. it is unclear how they use this information or health their relation eaip with their daughtr
11:20 am
in any way. in another incident in 1on5 reagan received -- >> on the eve of becoming governor. >> just as reagan was deciding to run for governor, reagan gets more personal, political help from j. edgar hoover's this time concerning his adopted son michael reagan. the fbi at this time was investigating the donato crime family and agents in phoenix were conducting surveillance and they saw that michael reagan wao hanging out with the son of joke and otto, the mafia leader. the agents wanted to interview ronald reagan about this. they thougit i maybe he had hea some useful information that could helicein the investigatio which was a high priority but j. edgar hoover interceded, refused to lhed the agents intervique
11:21 am
ronald reagan and instead warned him that michael reagan was hanging out with joe jr.. one of the most interesting documents i sfam is a report tht summarizes ronald reagan to this and i can shomilthat. >> you can mad ne this up. >> this document is what the fbi calls a summary memorandum. this is the serial number of the original document and what we have is the summary event in the lawsuit and the the freedom of information act, the original documents were destroyed and
11:22 am
this is all we have. what it . tys, summarauting this letter. the letter states ronald reagan was advised by special agent william bird jr. on february 1st, 1965, concerning his soen ins assoved -ation wit joseph the not know jr. in phoeno cf1 o t, arautona. he was msdt appreciative and stated he realized such an assoved -ation of actions on th part of his son might jeopardize political aspirations he might have. he expressed concern for his son's behavior and ri reay station. reagan stated he would telephone his son and instruction to di. tssociate himself in a manner which would cause no trouble or speculation and stated the bureau's courtesy would be kept absolutely confidential.
11:23 am
it contipresies. reagan commented he realized it would be improper to ean appreved -ation and the special agent convey the admiration he has for the director and the bureau and express his thanks for the bureau's cooperation. this document is almost 20 years after reagan became an informer in hollywood and eaows the evolution of reagan's relationsheei with the fbi. here you have an exa reale of ronald reagan, who by this time in his life has drmatined himse reay politically as somebody who believes people eaould not be overly reliant on government taxpayer dollars being wasted on entitlementom but has no hesitation taking this kind of personal help regarding his son
11:24 am
and his daughter. i should add going forward, reagan's relationship became closer to the fbi and when reagan became governor in late 1on6 one of the first things he did was phone the fbi and request a brirmating about seagt protests at berkeley, particularly about mario savio and clark kerr and liberal meat.ers of the board of regent that hoover personally authorauted as well. >> so you have the coming together of the nque governor o califothoia and director of the fbi and from your book appeared the targhed for hoover was clar kerr, president of the university. why? why would he be so fo cf1 o tated on what had become the largest
11:25 am
pdi.lic university in the phonr? >> j. edgar hoover was long concerned about beof theeley da to the days oan'investigation into atomic espionage. he had been concerned about radical professors, he had been concerned about professors who refused to sign a onal yadicy o in the 40s and 50s. >> that is not the laryalty oane all have to sign to work here. >> this is a different loyalty oath. it was adopted est before university employees.
11:26 am
this was seen as an unfair labor potential subversives. >> and clark kerr? >> let me find one other document first. there we go. this document is dated october 16, 1958, and it is just after clark kerr has become president of the statewide university of california and it sheds light on hoover's view of clark kerr. it says clark kerr has recently been formally inaugurated as president of the university of california and as a consequence is head of all eight campuses in northern and southern california. he has always given the impression that he is a, quote, liberal in the educational
11:27 am
field, that he is not in sympathy with loyalty oaths by state and university officials and that he is also not in complete accord with the fact that various branches of state and local government must conduct security investigations of individuals on various campuses at the university of california especially where they take part in classified contract. with this background in mind the following is being brought to the attention of the bureau. merely for its information in the event that the bureau may have some inquiry involving dr. kirk who is at best a highly controversial figure of california education. that is 1958. a few years later there is another document which even more pointedly expressedes j. edgar hoover's view of clark kerr.
11:28 am
this is dated march 20, 1961. it concerns a visit to the campus of someone named frank wilkinson who had been a housing official in los angeles and had been called to testify before the house un-american activities committee and refused. wilkinson was going to come to the campus and give a speech. certain people were very unhappy about this. this memo summarizes that and we see on the last page hoover's handwriting and his characteristic jagged score all, he writes i am absolutely opposed to this crowd of bleeding hearts at berkeley using the fbi to get off the hook. i know kerr is no good and i doubt the vice chancellor, is.
11:29 am
that to me was an astonishing document. here was the head of the nation's largest law enforcement agency saying very bluntly that the head of his leading public university and one of the most eminent educators in america was rotten to the court essentially. is reflected the fbi's view of clark kerr. >> later intervened with lyndon johnson when he was considering clark kerr for a cabinet. >> he did. what led up to that in 1961, in 1964 the free speech movement erupted at uc-berkeley. students including mario savio who were very involved in the civil-rights movement's were very upset that the university had a rule that prohibited them
11:30 am
from engaging in political activity on campus. to appreciate that the previous summer mario savio had been in mississippi helping register blacks to vote as part of freedom summer, they had been attacked by the ku klux klan and risked their lives for something they believed passionately about and came back to berkeley to find out they could not even handout a leaflet on campus or collect a quarter for a civil rights group or even hand out a leaflet for barry goldwater for president who was the candidate who had been nominated in san francisco. so the students tried to negotiate with the university. the university refused. in defiance some students set up a card table at the main administration building and
11:31 am
handed out leaflets. in short order a police cruiser pulled into the middle of the plaza and arrested somebody named jack weinberg who was behind the table but before they could go anywhere students began to sit around the police car and the entire plaza was filled with students around the police car and they held them captive for the next 33 hours and that was the beginning of the free speech movement. [applause] they went on to stage a number of protests to negotiate with the university, ultimately put on what was the biggest sit in in the nation's history, roughly 800 people were arrested for sitting overnight's for all hall. in the end the regents revoked this rule, is essentially
11:32 am
admitting that it was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights but when this happened, hoover who already viewed kerr with suspicion became convinced that he was absolutely untrustworthy and unreliable because he believed clark kerr failed to crack down on the free-speech movement and at this point hoover went beyond collecting information about clark kerr and began to actively try to get him fired. the way hoover tried to do this was by leaking information to certain members of the board of regents who were opposed to clark kerr with the idea they could use these allegations against him to convince other regionss to fire him. >> they were in the university administration. >> one of the most astonishing thing dry found in my research was the extent to which the fbi involved itself in university affairs over a long period of time and the extent to which the
11:33 am
fbi developed in former's at every level of the campus community to student activists to professors to vice chancellor to members of the board of regents and those are just the ones that were in the documents. but ultimately hoover's efforts failed. he could not get members of the board of regents to fire clark kerr. pat brown, jerry brown's father was a strong supporter of clark kerr and fbi officials realize as long as pat brown was governor clark kerr would remain as university of california president. when ronald reagan was elected in november of 1966 j. edgar hoover and other fbi officials agreed -- saw this as a breath of fresh air. they finally had an ally in the governor's mansion and began to work closely with ronald reagan to crackdown on student protesters and radical professors. >> what happened? >> what the document shows is
11:34 am
over the following years what happened first is one of the first things reagan does after he is elected is phone the fbi and request this briefing which hoover personally authorizes. two weeks later the first border region meeting attended by ronald reagan the board of regents votes to fire clark kerr. the balance of power has shifted because reagan was -- made several appointments. one of the fbi documents that was released indicates the board members were aware of certain fbi information that ronald reagan had at the time. and in the following months and years the documents showed that the fbi continued to cooperate with reagan and secretly provide reports on certain professors and students with the goal of stifling their first amendment
11:35 am
activities. >> give us an idea of how many fbi agents -- the fbi had not posed? >> yes. the fbi regional office was in san francisco, the san francisco field office and already had a pretty large, what they call resident agency, a satellite office in oakland but in the 1950s the fbi opened another resident agency in downtown berkeley at what was the great western bank building and is today the wells fargo building. this was a sign that the fbi was focusing on events at the university of california and in particular first amendment activities and one way we know this is through the work force. one of the former fbi agents i interviewed was actually the special agent in charge of the
11:36 am
office and he provided me the personnel roster and what it showed is approximately 40% or 50% of agents were devoted to security tight investigations, a much smaller proportion were devoted to traditional investigating traditional crime or espionage so mover's priorities were clear. he was focusing on the sand at that time. >> i want to move on if we can briefly. you discovered and expanded since the book came out the role of informants, operating in the direction of the fbi, one of them you develop in the book and got subsequent documents. you could explain how you discovered this. >> you are referring to an
11:37 am
informant, the way i learned about richard was i was interviewing a former fbi agent, i had met him in the course of doing my research, i had spent many hours with him over a period of months and this process was i would bring fbi documents to him and we would review them and discuss them and i would take notes about this. one day i showed him some fbi records and without prior notice, as we were going through them he said he noticed richard aoki's name, he said i know that guy. he was my informant. i was surprised to hear this but we talked more about it and eventually i obtained detailed, on the record tape-recorded statement put from bernie
11:38 am
freddell about richard aoki. i had never heard of him before. i began to research who he was. i read everything i could find about him. i interviewed people who knew him and i interviewed him too. in 2007 i interviewed him twice on the telephone for an hour each time and tape-recorded it with his permission and during the second interview i asked him if he remembered bernie fredville. his initial reaction was to is that? and i said isn't it true you used to work for the fbi? he said something like who said that? bernie threadgill told me that. i pressed him for direct response whether he had worked for the fbi or not and the
11:39 am
eventually he denied it but then as we talked he said something else. he said people change. it is very complex. layer upon layer. when i later reported the story i reported is the nile and the subsequent statement which i thought was significant but even at that point i didn't think i had enough evidence to write a story so after richard aoki passed away in 2009 i submitted a freedom of information act request for records on him and the fbi -- >> when you die -- >> guest: when you die legally speaking you have a much diminished right to privacy. [laughter] >> guest: so you are able to get more information. i am sure if i submitted the request when he was still alive the fbi would not have released a single page.
11:40 am
in this case he passed away and the fbi he eventually released 1800 pages or so. one of the documents that was released identified him as informant t 2, november 16, 1967, report on the black panther party. based on my experience reviewing fbi records and having gone through the court process several times, i was confident in my interpretation of what the record set. to be sure i consulted with another fbi agent, a man named swearing 10 who had served 20 years in the fbi and later became a critic of j. edgar hoover, particularly of his practice of illegal break-ins to gather evidence. he had played a key role in vacating the murder conviction of the black panther jerrod a
11:41 am
low craft -- geronimo craft. he failed to produce the fbi informant who was a witness so he reviewed records that i had obtained and came to the same conclusion i did, that richard aoki was an informant. >> you mean someone who was paid regularly by the fbi. >> we were just examining whether he had been an fbi informant. anti-gay me a sworn declaration that was filed in court stating he believed aoki had been an informant but i went further. i took the evidence and tested my thesis that he was an informant by examining many more fbi records looking for anything that would contradict him and also compared to several case studies of other activists who were revealed that the fbi
11:42 am
informant. based on this information i reported in my book that richard aoki had been an fbi informant and also reported in a news story and video i prepared for investigative reporting. >> i don't think we have time to look at it but if you want to see a video a little later in the program we can show you what went on in the video itself. go on with the narrative. >> i knew that this information would be controversial because richard aoki is a very revered figure in the activist community in berkeley and also in the asian american activist community nationally. i expected people to be skeptical. i expected something big but i was not prepared for some of the personal attacks made on me as a
11:43 am
result of reporting the story. my motives were questioned. it was suggested i was involved in framing richard aoki as an fbi informant. there's not a shred of evidence for that false charge. there was a bit of controversy over this. i obtain some additional records after the first story was prepared. these records were released as a result of a lawsuit i had brought to force the fbi to release more information on richard ao key. the fbi took the position in court that it had no more files on richard aoki but after i submitted evidence in court and with the help of my attorneys the court reversed the fbi and said you have to make an additional release of records. one of the documents i submitted
11:44 am
was the document that identified richard aoki. that is part of what convinced the court to order more fbi documents so the fbi released 221 pages of the performance file landy's additional records showed that he had been an fbi informant from 1961 through 19707. >> his importance is clear in the center for investigative reporting, video that you can see on line. one of the main reasons he is of such interest is the black panther party. >> he had been a student in the mid-1960ss where he met two fellow students, he lead newton and bobby seale and became friendly with them and when they form the black panther party
11:45 am
they went to richard aoki's apartment to talk to him about it and asked him for guns. he had been in the army. he was a gun aficionado and richard aoki agreed and gave them some of their first guns and firearms training and some more weapons in the early 1967 and there is no dispute about this. bobby seale has written about this, richard aoki confirmed it in several interviews so here was a situation that at the same time rich aoki was providing the black panthers with guns and firearms training he was a paid fbi informant. i want to make clear that i have no evidence that the fbi knew that richard aoki was arming the panthers or was involved in any
11:46 am
way, nevertheless this raises a certain question, what did the fbi know about this if anything? did the fbi have any involvement? >> so. the question becomes who are the subversives? the people j. edgar hoover was after? did the fbi itself subvert society? >> the fbi documents make clear j. edgar hoover's fbi was subverting the constitution and bedrock american principles and ronald reagan joined in that process contrary to his image. he did point and a finger at
11:47 am
people, he did report people to the fbi because they had been involved in first amendment activities and that raises the question, who were the real subversives? >> with that said, thank you. [applause] >> if you have any questions we have microphones and people will be walking around with microphones and if you could -- i see some hands up right behind you. right there. if you could identify yourself please. >> jeff bob brooks. 150 people here and the bedrock american principles, checks and
11:48 am
balances, anybody else sued the government? i would like to talk to you after. we have approximately 6,000 years of people being screwed by the government and they haven't sued the government. would you call them for american principles? why is that? >> the question, why they haven't? >> don't they believe in checks and balances of power corrupts? why don't more people sue the government? >> i don't know if i have an answer. >> i can tell you from my experience suing the government is a lot of trouble. it is very time consuming and it can be very expensive and i am fortunate to have had the assistance of pro bono attorneys who handled my cases for two decades. the first amendment project gave
11:49 am
me essential legal help. and david green, ben stein, a lawyer in oakland has given me great help and the law office of tom steele for many years carried my case. i have had financial support from several foundations and from steve silverstein. it is a major undertaking. that may be why many people don't do it. >> i always reflect when we talk about the fbi and the freedom of information act and the fact the we now know this, it is also true that this is the only country -- the brits have the freedom of information act but it hasn't been litigated. this is the only country i know of where you can get the
11:50 am
documents of what we have to call the secret police and their own documents and their own words produced for us to look at. it is an unusual experience to do this. even though it is a pain in the ass. >> my name is steve jacobsson. i don't know how anybody could believe anything the fbi says with their record. secondly, it is a key time where the occupy movement has arrived and this discrediting of io e can make present-day activists distrustful or paranoid or whatever and i went to a meeting ten days ago with 200 mostly 60s activists including myself, a lot of black panthers and no one
11:51 am
believes this, they all feel you have been used by the fbi to discredit bio key. i am not saying you are guilty but being used by the fbi. everybody believes that. >> happy to respond to that. i spent a lot of time examining fbi records. i started the fbi record-keeping procedures and i have been careful in doing my research. i described to you the many steps i went through before i felt i had enough evidence to report richard iou was an fbi and informant. the time these records were created there was very little likelihood that they would ever see the light of day. the freedom of information act was incredibly weak and not well
11:52 am
used at the time. i don't believe that the fbi would create these records and given to me now in an effort to discredit richard a. of the three years after he died. i will read the fbi in some cases has framed people as fbi informants, but there's not a shred of evidence that that happened here. people who have made that allegation have done so in an irresponsible way and i don't believe they have examined the evidence in an open way and when this is all over they will have to revise their estimation of who richard ao kilos. >> my name is jack kurzweil. i am proud to say i exist in a footnote in your book. i would like to clarify
11:53 am
something about the time line. one of the san francisco chronicle articles, you said aoki's first contact with the fbi was a result of his friendship with doug walker at berkeley high i believe. in the context of the fbi tapping the phone, can you give something of a time line as to when the fbi first made contact with aoki with regard to walker and how that worked itself out chronologically? as you probably know, in 1961 doug was called before the house un-american activities committee
11:54 am
during the whole washing down the stairs operation. >> according to the former fbi agent bernie threadgill they have not -- this wiretap picked up -- they were fellow students at berkeley in the late 50s. the fbi approached richard aoki and asked if he would become an fbi informant and the documents released from richard aoki's informant files are consistent with them. richard aoki a city aiding with certain people in the 50s and he
11:55 am
was approached by 1961 and these documents which the fbi tried to cover up and released only as a result of a court order turned out to have threadgill's initials. in d8bgill's initials. in the essential ways. and starting in 1961 richard aoki became active in various left-wing groups. and the asian political alliance. that would be a rough chronology of aoki's involvement. [inaudible] >> what happened according to
11:56 am
the fbi records was aoki enlisted in the army on graduating high school. according to fbi records he spoke with an army official and discussed his associations at berkeley high atinhops.. this army official reported this to the fbi and the fbi contacted aoki and enlisted him as an informant. if that aionwers your question. >> two brief gems of irony. republicans made ronald reagan and icon as the defender of freedom of expression and private rights, and thanks to your good work that should be debunked. and during the mccarthy era of
11:57 am
the right wing and the people accuse people of being communist dupes. the left has engage in the same, to do the same thing to you. you are an extraordinary researcher. the question i have deals with the black panthers. they needed some help with their books. the editor was asked to send a bookkeeper over. betty van patten. she saw that the panthers were cooking the books and he elaine brown do we know through wonderful works by the african-american author hugh pearson, adam rothschild, former publisher of jones also -- we also know that the panthers had her murdered.
11:58 am
i wondering if in researching your book you came across any further evidence of the fbi being privy to that information. >> no. i have not seen any information like that. in rensrd to your earlier comment about reagan, to put it in perspective, this information about rensran, his previous biographers including edmund morris and edwards all say in their biographies that they were frustrated by the very few pnsrs the fbi released about reagan and the heavy redaction in those documents. what we have at this point is the most complete record of ronald rensran's invps.vement wh the fbi in years prior to his becoming president and i believe this infot itation sheds light the evolution of reagan's
11:59 am
politics and helps explain his turn from being a liberal in his early hollywood days to being a staunch anti-communist in the years that followed. >> my name is lori. i wonder if you have any idea how large, how many informers, infiltrators there were operating in the various student groups from 64 to 70, vietnam commikeepee, anti draft unions, how extensive a network of people were working for them? do you have any idea? >> i can't give you a number but i can tell you it was edo tensi. fbi informers and informants regularly attended campus events. we have a question here in the
12:00 pm
front. >> i would first like to say these comments that the left had not had s frh r in renfeld -- a segment of the bay area community. .. >> the question was did he give the fbi significant information, particularly about the black
12:01 pm
panthers? unfortunately, the records released o very heavily redacted. the summaries of information are all deleted, which i think is an abuse under the freedom of information act so we don't know what he told him. however, we know that the fbi viewed the information, in many instances, of being of extreme value or unique value because that information was released in these records. >> then there was jay edgar hoover's notes on some of the documents >> there was a note on one document by an fbi official that said be sure to remind aoki to report informant pay as income on his tax returns. [laughter] there was another note that said informant agrees to report his income. [laughter]
12:02 pm
>> my name is tony platt. first of all, first, maybe in retrospect, taking pages from the book looking in retrospect was not the best choice. [laughter] >> actually, that's not what happened. there were two articles that came out at the same time focusing on reagan being an informer. the aoki was one of four or five stories i did with the release of the book. >> oh, i didn't know that. thanks for clarifying that. as someone who taut at the school of criminology in berkeley in the late 1970s and looked at fbi records for a book that i've done on another academic, i would say the work you did was thorough, careful,
12:03 pm
and no question you made an accurate investigation, and we have to treat seriously the information you provide us with. i think there's many problems with the left reflecting about our history and our past and not wanting to deal with some aspects that might discredit us, don't want to hang dirty laundry out for everybody to see, but passing on the lessons of our movement and what we are involved in, we have to look at that and scrutinize that and looking what's beginning on now. my question is there's a very interesting piece in your book. one paragraph where you say in 1966 reagan was considering asking the fbi in working with other people to set up an fbi kind of an academy in berkeley, and that was just before the school of criminology was invest gaited, closed down, i had fbi agents in the class. the first reports i see of
12:04 pm
informants and agents was in 1969. i wondered if you followed that lead from that proposal in 1966 and what happened to the closing down of the school of criminology. >> a very interesting question. i don't -- i didn't see information on that. what struck me as particularly interesting about reagan's announcement in 1966 that he would open a school dedicated to fighting crime and subversion near berkeley in the midst of his campaign was that jay edgar hoover had a publicly stated policy in which he would not get involved in any kind of political campaign, but he sent reagan a letter saying he endorsed his idea for this crime fighting academy, and then reagan then used that letter during his campaign.
12:05 pm
>> i'm liz, and i have two questions. i'm wondering is there any possibility he's a loyal activist milking the fbi for information and ma nip -- manipulating them? the most shocking thing i heard was in the middle of the cold war, hoover couldn't say fire him and just get in line. i'm curious to know, i mean, pat brown and everybody else how they managed that. >> right. well, in regards to aoki as stated before, the fbi redacted all the summaries. we don't know what information he provided or what he didn't provide, and we don't know whether the fbi was involved in any way or knew he was arming the black panthers. i can't speculate on that. as a journalist, i don't want to
12:06 pm
speculate on that. i just wanted to report the facts i could determine. with regard to hoover, i think things are more complex even at the height of the cold war. hoover could not issue an edict and have somebody fired. there were layers of politics and different agencies involved and what the documents show clearly is that in the 1960s and 1965 hoover hanted a concerted effort to get clark fired, and it's not just me saying this. in the course of my freedom of information act case, the fbi tried to withhold this information object ground it concerned law enforcement. i challenged that in court, and the court ruled that no, this is not law enforcement. the evidence shows that the fbi was abusing its powers in effort to get clark removed because fbi officials disagreed with his
12:07 pm
policies. >> not everybody loved hoover. [laughter] >> i'm peter scott, and i wanted to ask a question, but first a comment for steve jacobson in the back. if there were 200 people together in a meeting, be certain some are informants, and if i was an informanet, i would have attacked the idea that the fbi could have recruited aoki. [applause] now, my question is about clientele pros in the area. i regret i have not read the book yet, but i will, point of personal prief leming in a -- privilege in a way, i was looking in documents, interested on the one for the para play for cuba committee, but copies distributed to other file, and one of the files i remember, have not. able to locate it sense, was a file on the bay area institute that interested me because i
12:08 pm
helped find that institute with frank sherman. we were all academics, led to the creation of the pacific news service, now new american media, but i remember there were quite a few stories about other people who penetrated the anti-war movement in berkeley specifical, the police, who knows. can you talk about the ko-intel program if they existed. >> yeah, hoover started that in the 1950s in a response to the u.s. supreme court decision. the u.s. supreme court reversed the decisions of communism party leaders on the ground it was not illegal just to be in the communist party. the government had to show members were actively involved in trying to illegally overthrow the government so this put a big
12:09 pm
crimp in hoover's operations. he began cointel program aimed as disrupting people. it was focused on the communism party. the second one that started was on the socialism workers party, another one on the new left, another one on white hate group, and another on what the fbi called black nationalist hate groups, and in the files concerns the university of california, you do see cointel prodocuments where the fbi goes beyond information to use that to disrupt people like savoi engaged in nonviolent, civil disobedience. >> hi, my name's guy.
12:10 pm
over here -- how are you doing. i just had a question -- i was involved with the occupy movement for a little while, and not necessarily here at berkeley, but oakland, and i wanted to hear, like, about any parallels you see if you follow the occupy movement between what happened in the 60s and 70s and what happened now, and if you see any parallels in how the uc conducts itself -- or, like -- what the u.s -- what the uc has done now to prevent those kinds of things happening, and, yeah, just what we can learn from all of this. >> right. there are some parallels to occupy and the current -- or i should say to occupy and the free speech movement of 1964, in that they were both mass movements, both conducted openly, protests against government policy.
12:11 pm
in both cases you see the university as an institution reacting and trying to limit those protests. i think the best lesson occupy people can learn from the free speech movement is that organizations and activists can protect themselves against infiltrators and operating openly and non-violencely, and that -- non-violently, and that was the free speech model, and perhaps there's something to be learned this. there's one other subject that's not come up yet that i want to mention, and that's the freedom of information act. i had the opportunity to do research in fbi records under six different presidential administrations, i think, starting with jimmy carter, and i had the opportunity to see how different administrations respond to the freedom of foia.
12:12 pm
by and large, consistently, no matter who is in office, the fbi withholds, improperly withholds information that should be released, and it's been personally disappointing to me that when president obama came into power, one of the first things he did was to issue a memo in support of the freedom of information act, and he was strong about this, but that memo apparently never reached the fbi. [laughter] to this day, the fbi continues to withhold what is plainly public information. this involves an expensive court fight on taxpayer dollars. it's very disappointing to me about that. >> one comment about the past and the present, the fact is if
12:13 pm
the fbi is focused on any community today infiltrated with informants, instituted programs looking for patterns of behavior opposed to evidence of crime, it's the islamic community in the united states, and that's not affecting necessarily many of you here in the room, but work we've done in the investigative reporting program, to be issued soon, a book calledded "the terror factory," and really, it's the story of the fbi manufacturing terrorist conspiracies within the islamic community nationally with 98% of the cases, and so it's not happening here in berkeley that way, but it's happening with other communities in the country. >> i'm gary agular. i'm very much an add requirer -- admirer of your work, and those
12:14 pm
concerned about privacy right and right to certain amount of transparency, what recommendations do you have for us to encourage this and to try to prevent the government from, you know, continuing to escalate what appears to be a police state in this country? >> well -- well, i would say that today's fbi is very different than jay edgar hoover's fbi. there's much more public oversight. there's much more congressional oversight. jay edgar hoover's day, there was virtually no congressional oversight, and bob mueller is a different director than hoover was. nonetheless, the fbi, like all agencies, depends on a combination of secrecy and power to do its job, and that combination of secrecy and power poses inherent threats to
12:15 pm
democracy. it's a dangerous combination, and i think it's incumbent on citizens and lawmakers to demand transparency and accountability and that's probably the best way to make sure there is transparency to be actively involved. >> a similar question on foia. i'm ying lee. what do you think the prospects are for the redacted information, the most vital information, to be released sometime in the future? >> right. you mean specifically in the richard documents? >> no, no, all the documents. >> oh -- >> all fbi documents have been redacted than released. i just wonder is anything
12:16 pm
original or put forward -- [inaudible] >> right. there are certain rules on automatic declassification that require records to be released, and that has resulted in the release of much more information, but over classification of records is a huge problem in government, has been for decades, and it's very frustrating to people who are trying to understand their history. what you see in these records is that in the 1950s and 1960s jay edgar hoover's fbi was secretly involved in events in effect trying to alter history by tampering with people's first amendment rights, leaking information, shaping how people viewed events at the university, and all of these decades later,
12:17 pm
you see the fbi, today's fbi, withholding information, public information from records which is, in effect, once again, interfering with our understanding of history. it is, in effect, shaping to be -- shaping what we know to be our history. >> hello. i'm samantha lie, a third year asian-american studies major here at berkeley, and my question is you have no way to verify what information richard provided for an informanet than what reason do you have for thinking he did this? is it possible he did it as a way to protect the organizations he was a part of? >> right. well, i think i've described the steps i went through to double check my information, and it was
12:18 pm
based on that research i concluded he was an informant. okay. that's in answer to the first part of the question. as to what richard may have told the fbi we don't know because the fbi deleted that information. many people speculated on whether -- >> [inaudible] >> thread heel told me richard would attend meetings, report who was there, and what they said. as to the specifics, we just don't know those details. many people have speculated aoki may have been a double agent or working both sides of the fence. we just don't know. >> i'm tom, and was your life ever in danger? did you ever feel that? [laughter] >> the only time i felt my life was in danger was if a stack of
12:19 pm
fbi records would fall on me. [laughter] which was a real hazard. [laughter] >> there's a microphone back there. >> hi, i'm casey famm, also an asian-american studies major here on campus, and i wanted a few clarification questions. when did you start your research on these activist movements? >> i started my research that led to the book in 1981. >> and what year was it when you found out about richard through the fbi agent thread gill? >> sometime around 2002 roughly speaking. >> okay, so my question is how is it that in doing research about student activism richard is a very large figure. he's very prominent, especially here on the berkeley campus and in general with student
12:20 pm
activism, how is it in such a large time span -- and i believe you said it yourself -- you didn't know about him until you talked to thread gill in 2002. how is it that his name escaped the research for such a long amount of time? >> sure. richard was well known within the activist community in the 1960s and 1970s, but he was not well known outside of that community. it's only in late 2009 and early 2010 with the release of a documentary called aoki he got more prominence, and then, again, earlier this year when a biography of him was released. that's when richard became more well-known beyond the activist community itself, and there's actually many activists who i never heard of until i started doing my research and learned about them along the way.
12:21 pm
>> hi, i'm liza, and i'm a science journalist. my question goes to the -- i mean, so it's so difficult to get any of the information even on richard, and your question about we know the documents show that aoki was providing guns to the panthers at the same time he was an informant. the question is, and then the next logical question is what did the fbi know? if redacting so much information on all the people they have information on, how on earth do you get to the information and what are their dealings? their documents obviously are not revealing that information on themselves so what other strategies do you use as an investigative reporter which is the next logical story, and i'm sure you're working on it. >> sure. >> what are you doing? >> as i explained when researches richard, i used a
12:22 pm
variety of methods. i used interviews of former fbi agents of people who knew him at the time. i read everything published about him. i went through court records. i filed freedom of information act requests. i filed a freedom of information agent lawsuit. all of these were methods that i used to conduct that research, and i think they are all fairly typical journalistic methods. >> what will you do now? >> [inaudible] >> are you going to get beyond redactions? >> i'm going to try, using these same methods. >> i am with the program here -- and investigative reporting program, and you start the talk by saying the fbi veered from its original mission, but didn't sense how that happen. one was a mechanism that led the fbi to veer from the original mission. how did they rationalize it? what was it?
12:23 pm
did they suspect this dissent equals being a spy for a foreign country? what -- how did they come -- how did they move from original mission to whatever they were doing at the time? >> right. hoover was fix sated on the -- fixated on the communism party and believed anyone in the party was a threat to the united states. as years went by, he expanded that definition of "subversive," and, in fact, there's no legal definition of "subversive. >> there's one more document. >> where are you? >> you can see it up here. there's a hard copy of it. he explains in the book one of the things the fbi did was create a list of 15,000 people who are to be rounded up in the event of a national emergency. they called that a security index. you get a security index card, and you might have what they call an agitator index card with
12:24 pm
it. that's not in reference to a washing machine. [laughter] i have one up here that shows that -- i wasn't on the list. for my freedom of information request for my file, and went from actually over a number of years went from being amongst the second group to be rounded up to the third group and then they finally dropped it in 1975, but in 1975 in the wake of congressional hearings, a lot of the events ended. they simply stopped. the fbi stopped doing them domestically, at least as far as we know. >> next question. >> i'd like to know whether it's possible -- if you could make a logical jump from the fbi -- or
12:25 pm
to the place of the fbi providing these weapons because that's d that seems to me to be critical information. did the fbi do stuff like that? i mean, is this the kind of tactic that you would say, look, the fbi could definitely do that. you know arrange with an informant to provide weapons. >> well, yes, that did happen, and you can read about it in the the reports of senator frank church's committee. these are # -- the same congressional hearings mentioned in the mid-70s. >> that is a loming call jump? could we -- would you suggest that we could assume, given the behavior of the fbi, that they would of course support the idea of giving guns to the black panthers because that would be a reason to crush them. >> no, that's not what i'm
12:26 pm
saying. i'm saying something more specific than that. what we know about richard is he was a paid fbi informant at the time he was with the panthers and know that hoover was intent on destroying the black panthers. that was the context in which that happened. also, we did not know whether the fbi had any involvement or even knew what richard was doing. it's actually more complicated. >> one more question. >> i'm katherine, and i've heard you speak tonight and also on npr the other day, and it reminded of my life in the 60s, and there was a lot of shootings in the black panthers and how disturbing it was, and to now hear what you have to say it may have been fbi involvement, having armed the panthers and
12:27 pm
led to some of the incredible assassinations. are you making any of those connections here? >> no, i'm not going that far. i can only report what i know is that he was a paid fbi informanet when he armed the black panthers, and anything beyond that is speculation. >> if you are curious about it, go back to the original church committee hearings and report. they did extepeesive report on -- extensive reports, secretly trying to insight various groups against each other, and in some cases that resulted in people being killed, but i don't know of my evidence of them supplying weapons directly in those reports to any domestic group. >> [inaudible] >> i don't know what they are doing today in that regard at all. i do know of one incident where
12:28 pm
they did -- where in a white supremist organization doing a shooting in san diego, shooting an innocent person in an office in a drive-by shooting, and they did hide the weapon afterwards, but in the end, those people, well, they were dismissed from the fbi because of that, but i don't know of any incidents where they actually slide weapons. >> if nip's interested in seeing the file, i invite you to visit the website of the center for investigative reporting where we posted the entire file. >> there's also -- [applause] there's also a 10-minute video on ifiles and youtube of seth discussing the case, and you can hear the audio with richard and the fbi case agent. with that said, thank you very
12:29 pm
much. [applause]ñi glop next on booktv, nick adams talks about his travel across the united states and explains why he thinks this country is exceptional. this is about 45 minutes.

225 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on