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tv   Book Discussion  CSPAN  November 29, 2014 4:00pm-5:31pm EST

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rural bunker in lebanon. >> history bookshelf features popular american riders. that is on american history tv every weekend. subversives, seth studentd reports on activism and liberalism. the book examines the activities of the fbi as well as ronald reagan's connections to the fbi, which began after the second world war when he was president of the screen actors guild. recorded at uc berkeley, this event is 90 minutes. >> good evening. my name is whole on behalf of the journalism
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school, i want to invite all of you to what i think is an extraordinary special event. tonight, we have the honor of rosenfeld here. he went on to enjoy a long career as an investigative reporter at the san francisco examiner and chronicle. i stayed in touch with him all those years. i have known him for at least 30 years. for all that time, seth was involved in his own personal of whatr the question
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was really going on here at berkeley during the 1960's. book,sult is this subversives, the fbi's war on student radicals and reagan's rise to power. it is an extraordinary book. i was waiting for years to rita. it's an extraordinary book. , it. read it. this book is based on 250,000 documents. some of which you will see tonight. if you've never seen a fbi document, you might be shocked. you might want to close your eyes when you see it. handwriting i j edgar hoover himself. looking out into the audience,
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let's do a poll. how many people remember j edgar hoover? good. we don't have to do a lot of explaining. we are going to try to have a conversation and go through some of this material for about 45 minutes. if we have time, we will show you a short video that is produced by the center for investigative reporting. i realized that this book is very heavy. long, based on the documents. i surprisingly easy reach. page 505to wait until to get a glance at the daunting process that seth went there when he was trying to put this together. there is a narrative about that. to give you an idea of his
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accomplishment here, you can take a look at the reviews. they range from publishers weekly that says, narrative nonfiction at its best. is 200 50,000 documents. in case you have forgotten or you are too young to know, the 1960's of it template for today's divisiveness. he wrote how the abyss formed. his book is crucial history. it is also a warning, said the christian science monitor. the wall street journal said, even though they are prepared to here all kinds of things, work provides unusual insight into what has happened in america. hopefully we will have time at the end to reflect on what i think myself is going on.
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we have a lot of ground to cover. we will do about 45 minutes of discussion with equal amount of time for questions. there are microphones in the audience. i do ask two things. that you identify yourself. when u.s. questions, no speeches, police. lease. seth will be signing books when we are done. let me start with a question. give us a sense about what this book is all about. >> thank you for that wonderful introduction. [applause] this book is a history of the 1960's. it is a secret history, or i should say a history of the fbi's secret activities
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concerning the university of california during the cold war. it tells the story by examining the fbi's activities in regard marioee main characters, kerr, who turned out to be in a great dispute with mario savio and other students, and ronald reagan, who was running for governor at this time and made campus protest a major issue in his campaign. both mariodds with savio and clark kerr. you can see that behind the scenes of many well-known events , the fbi was deeply involved with these people and with the university of california, and they were secretly tampering with history, trying to influence public policy behind the scenes.
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>> how did you start this? what got you going? i remember you as a young undergraduate living next door to me on first-rate. innocent. >> those were the days. i first got interested in this when i was a student here at berkeley in the late 1970's. i was reporter for the daily californian. my editor asked me if i was interested in taking a look at some fbi documents that they had gotten under the freedom of information act. i jumped at the chance. i knew the fbi had been deeply involved in domestic surveillance elsewhere as a result of hearings before the u.s. congress. a lot of information had come out. aknew that berkeley had been hotbed of student protesting the 1960's. i was very intrigued to know
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behinde fbi was up to the scenes at berkeley. i looked at these documents and consulted with various people about them, and wrote several stories for the newspaper. in researching those stories, i realized that there was much more there. i can see that there were many more fbi files that had yet to be released. even before i had finished those stories, i submitted a much asked banded freedom of information act request that sought information on more than 100 different organizations and individuals, very specifically requesting certain categories of records. i thought i would get these records in one year or so and finish of the project and move on to the next story, but i had no idea that i was embarking on a 30 year legal odyssey that would lead me to bring five lawsuits against the fbi and
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forced the bureau to release more than 300,000 pages of records, even though the fbi's been more than $1 million in taxpayer funds trying to suppress those records. >> where does the story began in the fbi files? in terms of their interest in berkeley and what they ultimately did? >> the fbi had been interested in berkeley and student protests at berkeley dating from before world war ii, but where i started the book is right after world war ii, when the fbi is investigating soviet espionage in berkeley at the university of california. soviet intelligence agencies were trying to get nuclear secrets through members of becoming his party who lived in the bay area. j edgar hoover ordered a massive investigation into this. this was an effort to find out who the soviet spies were.
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what you see in the documents is that in the years following that, the fbi veered from this very important national security mission and instead came to focus on professors and students ,ho were involved in dissent and of the fbi would be on gathering information and trying to get the professors they deem to radical fired from the university of california. >> but they did using wiretaps. they did pick up people in oakland, for instance, who were conspiring to get secrets. >> yes, this is true. the fbi did find evidence of soviet espionage in berkeley. that was a very important national security mission. one that the fbi property should be doing, but the files make it abundantly clear that the fbi veered from that mission and came to focus on people involved
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in first amendment activities and lawful dissent. >> rated their investigation -- they did their investigation. they used informers and informants. to make it clear to everybody as we go through this and the documents, what is the difference between an informer and informant? >> the term evolved. and informant would be anyone who provides information to the fbi. informant would be anybody who had a formal relationship with the fbi, who was probably , who was somebody that the fbi believed to be under their control and direction in gathering information on political organizations. >> the most startling part of , to me anyway,
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having written about ronald reagan and covered ronald reagan , was to see documents that say ronald reagan is an informer. how did that start? how did you determine that? >> that begin in hollywood right after world war ii. one night in 1946, fbi agents knocked on ronald reagan door and told him that there were communists and some of the liberal groups he was involved in. ,s reagan wrote in his memoir these fbi agents opened my eyes to a good many things. documents show is what reagan only hinted at, that reagan proceeded to become an active informer in hollywood. he provided information about fellow actors and about his opponents in the screen actors guild.
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in subsequent years, j edgar hoover repaid those favors by giving reagan personal and political help, even though it was beyond the fbi statistics and to do so. jurisdiction to do so. --ut reagan and the fbi out there?readout >> no. >> i will summarize it for you. this is a document from august 4, 1947. it is a report on the fbi's investigation into alleged communism in hollywood. one of the areas the fbi was looking at was alleged communism infiltration of labor unions in hollywood. of course, one of the main unions is the screen actors guild you can see here guild. here is the screen actors guild. i will fast-forward to that part
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of it. thatthis document says is on april 10, 1947, two fbi agents interviewed ronald reagan and his wife jane wyman at their home in hollywood. reagan at this time was president of the screen actors guild. jane wyman had been active in the guild. says that reagan and jane wyman had requested that they be agents ind by bureau order that they might furnish information regarding the activities of some members of the guild whom they suspected were carrying out communist party work. the document goes on to say that ronald reagan advised of the screen actors guild had 12 officers, background information about the guild, and he goes on to name names. among the people he named was a well-known actress, karen morley, another actress, and he
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claimed that on all questions of policy to confront the guild, they follow the communist party line. reagan stated that they do not appear to be particularly close, but whenever an occasion arises necessitating the appointment of some member to a committee or invariably two nominated or supported the same individual. reagan and wyman go on to list several more actors and actresses, including alexander knox, hume cronin, dorothy tree, and selena royle. reagan also mentions larry parks . this document struck me for several reasons.
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reagan had said several times, including in his memoir, that he never pointed the finger at anybody. what you can see here is quiet clearly that he secretly did that. documents also in which ronald reagan names people, sometimes on the scanty us to of evidence. i believe that this information shows a different side of ronald reagan, different from the easy-going ocular, president who takes a kindly view of people. you see reagan here naming people who are his opponents in the guild, and he is benefiting personally by bringing his opponents to the attention of the fbi. what's also significant is that he offers no real evidence. he is just saying that they seem
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to follow the communist party line. of jd he became a favorite edgar hoover's question marquis he did. . >> he did. many actors and naturalist's did not have any idea that the president of this guild was making their information available to the fbi. initially j edgar hoover was suspicious of ronald reagan because he had been involved in some liberal groups. the more reagan cooperated with the fbi's investigation, the more hoover came to trust him. , reagan andocuments the fbi have what they call a close and cooperative relationship. in later years, hoover repaid these favors. in one case, in 1960, --
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>> they are not getting paid money? >> no, there is no evidence that he was being paid money or under control by the fbi. the document suggests that reagan was not operating for pecuniary reasons, but for other motives. >> he did get some favors. the motors favors are interesting. >> reagan and jane one and were concerned about their eldest daughter, maureen. she had gone to live in washington dc preaching was 19 years old. they had heard that she was living with an older married policeman. rather than call her up and ask her about this, they turned to friend.through a mutual hoover personally authorize an investigation of maureen
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reagan's romantic life, even though he acknowledged in fbi directors -- records that this was beyond their jurisdiction. one fbi agent posed as an insurance of men and interviewed neighbors. another one interviewed the cleaning lady at maureen reagan's rooming house. a third agent talk to some other police officers. they confirmed that she was in fact living with this older married policeman. they confidentially furnish the information to the reagan's, who agreed to keep it a secret. it's unclear how they use this information and whether it help the relationship with her daughter in any way. [laughter] in 1965,r incident reagan received -- of him is on the eve becoming governor. >> this is when reagan is deciding to run for governor. helpn gets more personal
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and political help from j edgar hoover. this time concerning his adopted some, michael reagan. the fbi had been investigating a crime family, and agents in phoenix, where the leader had a home, were conducting surveillance and saw that michael reagan was hanging out on of the mafia leader. to interviewnted ronald reagan about this. they thought he might have heard some useful information from his sun that could help them in their investigation, which was a high priority. but j edgar hoover interceded. he refused to let the agents interview ronald reagan. instead, he ordered that they warned him that his sun michael with thes hanging out sun of the mafia leader. thisd reagan's reaction to was summarized in one report. i can share that.
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let's see. >> you can't make this up. [laughter] this document is what the fbi calls a summary memorandum. it actually summarizes other fbi documents. this is the serial number of the original document, and then what the summary him that. in my lawsuit under the freedom of information act, the fbi claim the original documents had been destroyed. this is all we have. -- it says, is summarizing this letter, the letter states that ronald reagan on advised by special agent february 1, 1965 concerning his
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.ons association he was most appreciative and stated that he realized that such an association and actions on the part of his sun might well jeopardize any political aspirations you might have. he expressed concern for his sons behavior and reputation. reagan stated that he would telephone his sun and instruct him to disassociate himself gracefully and in a manner which would cause no trouble or speculation. he stated that the bureau's courtesy in this matter would be kept absolutely confidential. , reagan commented that he realized it would be improper to express his appreciation in writing and requested that the special agent conferred the great admiration he has for the director and the bureau, and to express his thanks for the bureau's cooperation. document is now almost
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20 years after reagan first became an informer in hollywood. it shows the evolution of reagan's relationship with the fbi. here you have an example of ronald reagan, who by this time in his life has defined himself politically as somebody who believes that people should not be overly reliant on government. that taxpayer dollars are being wasted on entitlements. but he has no hesitation taking this kind of personal help regarding his sun and his daughter. i should add that going forward, reagan's relationship with the , and when closer reagan became governor in late 1966, one of the first things he did after taking office was to from the fbi and request a briefing about student protests
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at berkeley, particularly about mario savio and the free speech movement, and clark kerr, the president of the university, and liberal members of the board of regents. hoover personally authorize that briefing. together of coming the new governor of california and the director of the fbi. from your book, it appears they targeted, if you will, clark kerr, the president of the university. why clark kerr? why would he be so fixated on what had become the largest public university in the world? j edgar hoover had long been concerned about berkeley, dating to the days of the investigation into atomic espionage here. he had been concerned about radical professors. he had been concerned about professors who refused to sign a loyalty oath in the late 1940's
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and 1950's. that is not the loyalty of you have designed to work your. >> no. this was a loyalty oath that was adopted for only university employees. the print the professors who denied it, were sued over. .hey won reinstatement this particular loyalty oath was declared as constitutional. but hoover consider the reluctance to sign the oath as further evidence that they were potential subversives. >> and clark kerr? >> let me find one of the document first. there we go.
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this document is dated october 16, 19 58th. it is just after clark or had become president of the statewide university of california. it sheds light on hoover's view of clark kerr. dr. clark kerr has recently been formally inaugurated as president of the university of california and as allnsequence, the head of universities. dr. kerr has always given the impression that he is a "liberal" in the educational field. that he is not in sympathy with loyalty oath by stating university officials. and that he is also not in complete accord with the fact that varies branches of the state and local government must conduct security investigations of individuals on various campuses.
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especially with those individuals take part in classified contract spirit with this background in mind, the following is being brought to the attention of the bureau. this is in the event that the bureau may receive some inquiry recurring -- concerning dr. kerr, who at best is a highly controversial figure in california education. so, that is 19 58th. that is 19 58th. is 1958. concerns a visited the campus of somebody named frank been aon, who had housing official, i housing official, in los angeles and had been called to testify before the house un-american activities
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committee and had refused. wilkinson was going to come to the campus and give a speech. certain people were very unhappy about that. that, andsummarizes then we see on the last page hoover's handwriting, his characteristic jacket scroll. he writes, i am absolutely opposed to this crowd of bleeding hearts at berkeley using the fbi to get off the hook. , and ikerr is no good kraigen is. that to me was an astonishing document. here is the head of the nations largest law enforcement agency that thery bluntly head of its leading public university and one of the most imminent educators in america
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was rotten to the core, essentially. this reflected the fbi's view of clark kerr. withd he later intervened lyndon johnson when he was considering clark kerr for the cabinet. >> he did. what led up to that, this was 1961. in 1964, the free speech movement erupted at berkeley. mario savio,luding were very involved in the civil verys movement and were upset that the university had a rule that prohibited them from engaging in political activity on campus. to appreciate how upset they were, you have to understand that the previous summer mario savio and other students had been in mississippi helping to register black to vote as part of mississippi freedom summer. by the kueen attacked
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klux klan and risked their lives for something they believed passionately about, and they came back to berkeley to find out they could not handle the leaflet on campus or collect a quarter for civil rights groups. for that matter, they could not even handle the leaflet for 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 refuse. in defiance, some of the students set up a card table right in front of the main administration building and .anded out leaflets in short order, a police cruiser pulled into the middle of the plaza and arrested somebody named jack weinberg, who was on the table. they could go anywhere, students began to sit down around the police car and soon the entire plaza was filled with students sitting around the
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place car. they held captive for the next 33 hours. that was the beginning of the free speech movement. [applause] the fsm went on to stage a number of protest, trying to negotiate with the university. they ultimately put on what was the biggest sit in in the nation's history, roughly a hundred people were arrested for sitting in overnight. regents revoked this rule, essentially admitting unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights. when this happened, hoover, who already viewed kerr with suspicion, became convinced that wasr was -- that kerr untrustworthy. he believe that clark kerr failed to crackdown on the free
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speech movement. at this point, hoover went beyond collecting information on clark kerr and began to actively try to get him fired. hoover tried to do this was by leaking information to certain members of the board of regents who were opposed to clark or, with the idea that they could then use these allegations against clark kerr to convince other regions to fire him. >> they recruited informers any administration, in the university administration? >> one of the most astonishing things i found in my research is the extent to which the fbi involved itself in university affairs over a long treat of time. the extent to which the fbi developed informers at every level of the campus community, from student activists to professors to vice chancellors to members of the board of regents. those are just the ones that were in the documents. effortsly, hoover's
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failed. he could not get members of the board of regents to fire clark are. pat brown was governor. he was a staunch supporter of clark kerr. fbi officials realize that as long as pat brown was governor, parker would remain university of california president. when ronald reagan was elected in november, 1966, j edgar hoover and other fbi officials viewed this as a breath of fresh air. they believed they finally had an ally in the governor's mansion. they begin to work closely with ronald reagan to crackdown on student protesters and radical professors. >> what happened? >> what the documents show is that over the following years -- isl, what happened first that one of the first things that redmond reagan does after he is elected as file for a fbi briefing, which hoover personally authorizes. two weeks later, the first board of regents meeting attended by
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ronald reagan, they vote to fire clark kerr. hadboard balance of power shifted because ronald reagan was now a member and he made several appointments to it. the fbi documents that was release indicates that the board members were aware of certain fbi information that ronald reagan had at the time. in the following months and years, documents show that the fbi continued to cooperate with ronald reagan and secretly provide him with reports on certain professors and students. theiral was stifling first amendment activities. what was going on here? the fbi had an outpost here? >> yes, the fbi's regional office was in san francisco. it already had a pretty large a satellitency,
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office, in oakland. in the 1950's, the fbi opened another resident agency right in downtown berkeley, in the great western bank building, today, the wells fargo building good this was a sign that the fbi was increasingly focusing on events at the university of california. in particular, first amendment activities. one way we know this is through -- one of the former fbi agents interviewed .as a man name curtis lin he provided me with a personnel roster. what it showed was that approximately 40% or 50% of agents were devoted to security type investigations. a much smaller proportion were --oted to traditional
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investigating traditional crime or espionage. hoover's priorities were clear. he was focusing on dissent at that time. before,ted to move on if we can briefly. you have expanded since the book came out the role of informants, paid people operating at the direction of the fbi. one of them that you develop in the book is that you have some subsequent documents, maybe you could explain how you discovered rightnd what it means? >> . i believe you are referring to an informant. wasway i learned about him that one day i was interviewing a former fbi agent, and i had met him in the course of doing my research. i had spent many hours with him over. of months.
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i was surprised to hear this. we talked more about it. eventually, i obtained a detailed, on the record, tape-recorded statement from him. i had never heard of richard a oakey before. i begin to research who he was. a red everything i could find about him. i interviewed people who knew him. i interviewed him as well. in 2007, i interviewed him twice on the telephone for about an hour each time.
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it with hisded permission. during the second interview, i asked him if he remembered a man named bernie threadgill. his initial reaction was, who is that? , isn't it true that you used to work for the fbi? he said something like, who said that? i said, bernie threadgill told me that. he said, he did? we talk some more and i pressed him for a direct response as to whether he had worked for the fbi or not. eventually, he denied it. as we talked, he said something else. he said, people change. it is very complex. layer upon layer. it, i later reported
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included both his denial and the subsequent statement. even at that point, i did not think i had enough evidence to write a story. after richard a oakey passed away in 2009, i submitted a freedom of information act request for any records on him. >> can you explain that when you die -- >> when you die, legally speaking, you have a much diminished right to privacy. [laughter] you are able to get more information. i am sure if i had submitted that request when he was alive, the fbi would not have released a single page. in this case, he had passed away , and the fbi and the fbi eventually released about 1800 pages or so. one of the documents that was released identified him as informant he-two. this is a 1967. a report on the black panther party. based on my explains in
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reviewing fbi records and having gone to the court process several times, i was quiet confident that my interpretation of what that records that was correct. to be sure, i consulted with namedr fbi agent, a man wes swearingen, a man who had served 25 years in the fbi and later became a critic of j edgar hoover, particular he of j edgar hoover practices of illegal break-ins together evidence. leavedg 10 had the fbi had failed to disclose that one of the key witnesses against pratt had been an fbi informant. so he reviewed some records that i have obtained. he came to the same conclusion, that richard a oakey was an informant. whoy that, you mean so many
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was paid regularly by the fbi for how many years? point, we were just examining whether he had been an fbi informant at the time in this particular document. he gave me a sworn declaration that was filed in court stating ant he believed he had been informant. i went further and took this evidence and tested my thesis that he was an informant by examining many more fbi records. i was looking for anything to contradict it. i also compared it to several case studies of other activists who had later been revealed as fbi informants. based on this information, i book that richard a oakey had been an fbi informant, and also reported videon a new story and a that i prepared for the center of investigative reporting. i don't think we have time
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right now to look at it. if you want to see a video of little bit later in the program, we can show you what went on in the video itself. so what are to go on with the narrative. >> well, i knew that this information would be somewhat controversial because richard a oakey is very revered figure activist community in berkeley, and also with the asian american activist community. i suspect the people to be skeptical. i was not prepared for some of the personal attacks that were made on me as a result of reporting that story. my motives were questioned. it was adjusted that i was involved in framing richard a oakey as an fbi informant. there's not a shred of evidence for that. it.
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there was a bit of controversy over this. i obtain some additional records after that first story was prepared. these records were released as a result of the lawsuit that i had brought to force the fbi to release more information on richard a oakey. the fbi took the position in court that it had no more files on a oakey. after i submitted evidence in court, and with the help of my attorneys, the court reversed the fbi and said that the fbi had to make an additional release of records. one of the documents isolated cemented as evidence was the document that identified richard a oakey as p-2. that is what convinced the court. pages ofeleased 221 his informant file. these additional records show that he had been an fbi informant, a paid fbi informant,
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from 1961-1977. >> now, his importance -- and this is clear in the center for investigation video you can see online -- one of his main reasons he is of so much interest is his involvement with the black panther party. >> yes. he had been a student in the mid-1960's. there he met to follow students, huey newton and bobby seal. he became firmly with them. later, when they form the black panther party in late 1966, they went to richard a oakey's apartment in berkeley and talk to him about it. they asked him for guidance. they knew that he had a gun collection. he had been the army. he was a gun if it's your motto. he agreed. and gave them some of their first guns and firearms,
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training, and gave them more weapons and the early 1967. there is no dispute about this. bobby seal has written about it in his memoirs. richard a oakey confirmed in several interviews. where a theituation same time richard a oakey was providing black panthers with guns and firearms training, he was a paid fbi informant. i haveto make clear that no evidence that the fbi knew that a oakey was arming the panthers or that the fbi was involved in any way. nonetheless, this inescapably raises certain questions, what do the fbi know about this if anything? did the fbi have any involvement? so, the question becomes who are the subversives?
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people j edgar hoover was after, or was it the fbi itself? they tried to subvert the society that they lived in. >> i think the fbi documents make clear that j edgar hoover's fbi was subverting the constitution and bedrock american principles, and that ronald reagan joined in that image., contrary to his he did point to figure at his did point his finger at people. he did report to the fbi. that raises the questions, who were the real subversives? >> i think with that said, thank you. [applause]
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if you have any questions, we have some microphones. people will be walking around with microphones. if you could -- i see some hands up right behind you there is one. if you could identify yourself, police. >> jeff brooks. there were 150 people here. you said that tha bedrock american principles, >>, checks checks and balances. have 6000 -- don't they
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believe in checks and balances. ? >> i don't know if i have an answer. >> suing the government is a lot of trouble. it's very time-consuming. it can be very expensive. i am very fortunate to have had the assistance of pro bono attorneys, who handled my cases for more than two decades. the first amendment project in oakland gave me help. [applause] green, ben and david stein, a lawyer and oakland, has given me great help. the law office of tom steele for many years carried my case. [applause]
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yes, i and i have had so much financial support from several foundations. i'm very grateful for that. it is a major undertaking. is -- that maybe the reason why many people don't do it. >> i always reflect on this when we start talking about the fbi, documents, the freedom of information act, and they fact that we know this. it is also true that this is the only country -- i know the brits do have a freedom of information act, but it has not been litigated in britain -- this is the only country that i know of in the world where you can ask a get the documents of the secret , their own documents, their own words, produce for us to look at. it is an unusual expense to be of to do this. even though it is a pain in the -- >> my name is steve jacobson.
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first of all, i don't know h anybody could believe anything the fbi says with a record. it is a key time here, where the occupy movement has arrived. discrediting can make a lot present-day activists -- i went to a meeting 10 days ago activist,960's including myself. this. believes they all feel that you have been used by the fbi to discredit. i'm not saying you're guilty. i say you're being used by the fbi. everybody believes that. to defendaying, himself. >> i am happy to respond to that.
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well, i've spent a lot of time examining fbi records. i have studied their record-keeping procedures. i have been very careful in doing my research. i think i described to you the many steps i went through before i felt i had enough evidence to richard a oakey was an fbi informant. the other thing used remember is records -- there was very little likelihood they would see the light of day. the freedom of information act was incredibly weak. it was not well used at the time. believe thatn't the fbi would create these records and give them to me now an effort to discredit richard a oakey three years after he died. i am well aware that the fbi in some cases has framed evil as fbi informants or placed a
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snitch jacket on them. there is not a shred of evidence that that is what happened here. the people who have made the allegation have done so and irresponsible way. i don't believe they have examined the evidence in an open way. i think that when all this is over, they will have to revise their estimation of who richard a oakey was. >> my name is jack kurzweil. i am proud to say that i exist in a footnote in your book. [laughter] i would like to clarify something about the timeline on the aop thing. one of of the san francisco chronicle articles, i believe, you said that his first contact with the fbi was a result of his friendship with another man.
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that was a berkeley high, i believe. fbihe context of the tapping the phone of others. give something of a timeline as to when the fbi first made contact with a oakey, , and howrd to others that worked itself out chronologically? in 1961,obably know, he was one of the people called before the house un-american affairs activity. >> right. well, i spoke with him about this, by the way. fbirding to the former agent, bernie threadgill, the fbi had a wiretap on their home. they were long-time members of
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the communist party. this wiretapping of a conversation between doug and richard a oakey. they were fellow students at berkeley high in the mid-and late 1950's. subsequent to that, the fbi approached richard a oakey and asked him if he would become an fbi informant. the documents that were released from his fbi informant file are consistent with that. to himntain references associate with certain people during the late 1950's. they show that he was approached , at least by 1961. these documents, which the fbi tried hard to cover up and were released only as a result of a court order, turn out to have bernie threadgill's initials on the bottom of them. whatare consistent with threadgill told me.
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what these documents show is that, starting in 1961, richard a oakey became active in various left-wing groups, including that young socialist alliance and the socialist workers party, later the amount a committee, the omission -- asian american political lines, third world strike, and the black panthers. that would be a rough chronology of his involvement with the fbi. >> [inaudible] what happened, according to fbi records, was that he enlisted in the army, immediately upon graduating high school. according to fbi records, he spoke with an army official and discuss some of his associations at berkeley high school. this army official been recorded this -- reported this to the fbi. him andcontacted
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enlisted him as an informant. if that answers your question. ok. spencer, tos dan brief gems of irony before question. the republicans have made ronald reagan icon is the great defender of freedom of expression and private rights. things to your good work, that should be debunked. i hope it is well published. the other thing is that we all know how during the mccarthy they accused people of being communist gives. now the left has engaged in the same sort of name cohen we heard it here tonight. they're trying to do same thing to you. i regret that family. you are undistorted mary researcher. the question i have also deals
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with the black panthers. the black panthers needed some help with their books. ramparts magazine's editor was asked to send a bookkeeper over. her name was a key van patten. betty then was patten. she saw that the panthers were cooking the books. we now know that the panthers had her murdered. i am wondering that if in researching your book, if you came across any further evidence of the fbi perhaps being privy to that information. >> no. [laughter] i have not. in regard to your earlier comment about reagan, just to put in perspective this
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information about reagan, his previous biographers, including , they all say in the biographies that they were frustrated by the very few pages that the fbi had released about ronald reagan. and also by the heavy reductions in those documents. what we have at this point is the most complete record of ronald reagan's involvement with the fbi in the years prior to his becoming president. i believe that this information sheds light on the evolution of reagan's politics. it helps explain his turn from in his earlyal hollywood days to being a staunch anti-communist in the years of follow. my name is lori. i'm curious as to whether you have any idea how large, how infiltrators,,
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there were operating around the fromstudent groups, say 1964-1970. of extensive the network people that they have working for them? you have any idea? give you a number. i can take you it was extensive. informantsrs and regularly attended campus events. we have a question here in the front. i would first like to say in response to the last comment, but the left does not attack seth rosenfeld. a segment of the bay area community did.
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the left in general, whatever it is, has not . i don't think that's a fair comment. is there any evidence that he gave the fbi any important information whatsoever about the panthers? did he tell them anything they did not already know? >> the question was did he give the fbi significant information, particularly about the black panthers? unfortunately, the records released are very heavily redacted. the summaries of information are all deleted, which i think is an abuse under the freedom of
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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] >> 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
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happened. there were two articles that came out at the same time focusing on reagan being an fbi 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 taught 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, 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
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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 overcome the kind i'll -- the kind of denial around the case. 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 igated and closed down, i had fbi agents in the class. the first reports i see of 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.
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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. >> 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 manipulating them?
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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. that there were, in fact, people who could stand up to that pressure. 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 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
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and different agencies involved and what the documents show clearly is that in the 1960s and 1965 hoover hanted a concerted -- mounted 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 on the 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 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
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if i was an informant, 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 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 -- i have not then able to located sense -- was a file on the bay area institute that interested me because i 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
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a few stories about other people who penetrated the anti-war movement in berkeley specifically, the police, who knows. can you talk about the ko-intel program if they existed. >> yeah, hoover started that in the 1950's 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 crimp in hoover's operations. he began cointel program aimed as disrupting people. it was focused on the communism
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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 who are engaged in nonviolent, civil disobedience. >> hi, my name's guy. 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
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happened in the 1960's and 1970's 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. 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
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protect themselves against infiltrators and disruption by operating openly and nonviolently. 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. i think it's true that the democrats are somewhat friendlier to the freedom of information act, but by and large, consistently, no matter who is in office, the fbi
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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 very strong about this, but that memo apparently never reached the fbi. [laughter] because 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 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
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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 aguilar. admirer of yourd work, and those 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
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police state in this country? >> well -- well, i would say that today's fbi is very different than j. edgar hoover's fbi. there's much more public oversight. there's much more congressional oversight. j. 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 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
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transparency to be actively involved. >> i have 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, there is more material acted --d -- read redacted than released. i just wonder is anything original or put forward -- [inaudible] >> right. there are certain rules on automatic declassification that require records to be released,
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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, 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.
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it is, in effect, 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 based on that research i concluded he was an informant. ok. 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
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information. many people speculated on whether -- >> [inaudible] >> fred gill 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 fbi records would fall on me. [laughter] which was a real hazard. [laughter] >> there's a microphone back there.
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>> 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 through the fbi agent thread gill? >> sometime around 2002 roughly speaking. >> ok, 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 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.
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richard was well known within the activist community in the 1960's and 1970's, 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. >> 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
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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 i was i, i used a aok 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.
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i filed freedom of information act requests. i filed a freedom of information 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 tell us how that happened. what was the mechanism that led the fbi to veer from the original mission. how did they rationalize it? what was it? 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
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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. i have 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 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
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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 these activities 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 to the place of the fbi providing these weapons because 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
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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-1970's. >> that is a logical jump? 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 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.
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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 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
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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 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. >> like they do today. >> i don't know what they are doing today in that regard at all. i do know of one incident where 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
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the fbi because of that, but i don't know of any incidents where they actually slide -- supplied weapons. >> if anybody is 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 much. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3.
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