In his introduction to "The Private Sector," O'Toole noted that the network "can serve as an informal and invisible nexus, linking both public and private police outside officially regulated channels."
"It can become de facto a national police force; what it lacks in organization and formal structure, it makes up for in ubiquity....the prospect of a shadowy army of a million private cops ready to do the bidding of whoever will pay their wages is enough to make even the most ardent law-and-order advocate a little nervous."
To back up this contention, O'Toole documents some of his favorite atrocity stories: · In Indianapolis, a retired air force lockpicking expert broke into the offices of U.S. Senator Vance Hartke. The burglar's accomplices planted bugging devices and collected political intelligence as part of a political espionage and dirty tricks campaign to unseat Hartke and replace him with conservative Republican, carried out by International Investigations, Inc., a private detective firm. The firm may have been involved in as many as 100 other burglaries related to political dirty tricks. · In Maryland, a state senate investigating committee heard testimony that a former police officer employed in the security department of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company helped the Baltimore police install illegal wiretaps. The police also illegally obtained information from a local credit bureau. · In California a former police officer, Jerry Ducote, committed 17 political burglaries against anti-war groups and the United Farmworkers during a two-year period. Ducote, formerly with the John Birch Society, claims he supplied stolen information to the right-wing American Security Council, Western Research Foundation, and later Research West, Inc. While these groups denied Ducote's charge, there is no denying that documents and mailing lists stolen from several groups were passed through the private and public political intelligence network and ended up in the files of the FBI, CIA, House Un-American Activities Committee, and even the para-military Minutemen, who sent death threats to some people on one list of anti-war activists. · In Houston, several police officers said their illegal wiretaps were installed with the help of Southwestern Bell's security force, a staff which is one-third composed of former FBI agents. The FBI was alleged to be the receiver of much of the information gleaned from the illegal wiretaps which were aimed at collecting information about local political activists.
While there is a certain degree of competition among the various participants within the network, there is also copious information sharing and a demonstrable willingness to join forces for specific investigations. Many of the participants in the network move from job to job, into and out of the private sector, always building up their list of contacts.
The problem of private sector spies collaborating with their public counterparts is certainly not new, and hardly a well-kept secret. One famous Sherlock Holmes story is based on the infiltration of the Pennsylvania coal miners' society, the so-called Molly Maguires, by a Pinkerton agent who was hired by mine owners to set up the militant workers on charges of violence. Several mine workers were hanged following a trial where almost all of the evidence came from the uncorroborated testimony of the Pinkerton spy.
In his book, "Political Repression in Modern America," Robert Goldstein documents hundreds of cases where public officials worked with corporate security agents to crush union organizing or silence dissidents. During the turbulent organizing drives of the 1930's, one Congressional committee found that the use of private spies by employers to infiltrate and disrupt labor unions was a "common, almost universal practice in American industry." According to Goldstein, "When a company's won resources failed to break the union organizational efforts or strikes, corporations could rely upon intervention by local police, state militia or federal troops, especially in major disputes."
In the late 1970's and early 1980's a number of civil liberties groups sought an investigation of the public/private counter- subversion spying network, especially in the area of employment. Linda Lotz of the Campaign for Political Rights pointed out that "the fact that this type of activity, where corporations and law enforcement officials work together to spy on unions still continues today is not well known." In an introduction to a packet of information on the growing threat of private sector spying, the Campaign for Political Rights warned that there was a trend towards "corporations collecting information about political activists and giving that information to law enforcement officials who have been forbidden to collect information about citizens involved in lawful political activity."
Doris Strieter and George Elliott had a lot in common. They were both white, middle-class Americans who raised their families in the Chicago suburb of Maywood. Their children attended the same Lutheran day school. They both were interested in politics.
George Elliott once covered the Chicago area political scene through the lens of his camera as a volunteer photographer for Second City, a since vanished alternative newspaper. He could be seen at various demonstrations during the late 60s and early 70s with a 35mm camera draped around his neck. for a while he attended meetings of the Chicago Peace Council.
Doris Strieter's political involvement began when she and her husband Thomas, a Lutheran minister, moved to Maywood, a community that in the late 1960's was attempting to integrate peacefully. "We became involved in civil rights activities on the local level," recalls Ms. Strieter, who in 1969 helped organize a multi-racial slate of candidates for municipal office in Maywood. four years later, Doris Strieter herself was elected to the Maywood Village Board of Trustees.
Because of their outspoken views and public activities, both Strieter and Elliott gained a reputation as political activists. They had more than that in common. both became involved, in very different ways, in the world of private political spies for hire. One of them was spied upon, the other was a spy.
George Elliott was the spy. A former Cook County sheriff's officer turned private investigator, Elliott infiltrated and spied on numerous progressive groups in the Chicago area for the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Elliott spied on the Chicago Peace Council, Second City newspaper, the Guild Bookstore, and the Chicago-based Revolutionary Union-according to members of those groups. He also monitored the activities of several of the plaintiffs in lawsuits filed in the mid 1970's charging the Chicago Police Department's investigative unit, the "Red Squad," with unlawful surveillance activities.
Elliott apparently was neither an FBI agent nor a Red Squad cop but a free-lance contract informant who simultaneously worked as an investigator for several private companies. Activists who believe themselves victims of his spying worried that he could offer industrial clients a sophisticated knowledge of which progressive groups were involved in strikes, labor disputes, and union organizing drives.
Not much more can be said about George Elliott partly because of a strict protective court order limiting the release of information, and partly because people engaged in the private spy network are loath to divulge information about themselves and their activities.
In connection with the Chicago police-spying litigation, Elliott gave a deposition in which he was questioned about his role as an informant for public intelligence groups. When it came to discussing private sector clients, however, Elliott invoked an Illinois law that allows private investigators to remain silent.
Elliott is one of a small but significant number of private security personnel who engage in political spying. There are more than a million private security employees in this country, a larger number than work in public law enforcement. Private security has become a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Most agents are guards or rent-a-cops employed to reduce pilferage or provide site security. Some, however, are political spies. Their job is to collect intelligence to help clients neutralize and discredit individuals and organizations working for social change, labor reform, or better working conditions.
Although many of the private political spies maintain close ties and information-sharing arrangements with public law enforcement agencies, and although many of the private groups are staffed by former (and in some cases current) police and intelligence officers, it appears that virtually all the spying and dossier collection by the private groups is legal. Many of these spying activities would be illegal if carried out by "official" public law-enforcement agencies, yet these agencies have easy access to the information collected by the "private" groups. This was the heart of the controversy in San Francisco in 1993. This type of spying was not uncommon in Chicago during the 1960's and 1970's-Doris Strieter can vouch for that.
Doris Strieter was a victim. She had heard rumors that her neighbor George Elliott was spying on community groups for the police, but she never had any proof. There is no evidence that George Elliott spied on Doris Strieter herself, although he was aware of her activities. Someone was spying on Strieter, though, and in the course of the police-surveillance litigation she obtained copies of the file on her kept by the Chicago Police Department Intelligence Unit. Her real surprise came when the Red Squad files revealed that the International Telephone and Telegraph Company (ITT) had spied on her political activities in Illinois. It happened in 1975, when ITT sent an agent to infiltrate a meeting of activists concerned about ongoing human- rights violations in Chile following the overthrow of the elected government of Salvador Allende. Doris Strieter chaired part of the weekend conference, and a description of her appears in the report prepared for ITT.
"Unidentified white female described as a trustee of Maywood, Illinois. Husband believed to Lutheran minister. May have been in Chile as late as 1974."
Doris Strieter was a little perplexed that the ITT spy failed to recall her name. "The rest of the information the spy gave was very accurate," said Strieter.
It was in her capacity as an elected official that she was asked to participate in a fact-finding mission to investigate violations of human rights in Chile. "Commission members included trade unionists, educators, and people from the religious community," said Strieter, "and they wanted someone from the political community. So they asked me, I suppose because I am basically very straight-there's probably a better word-I didn't have a radical history; in fact, I had just been appointed by the governor to serve on a regional planning board."
The 12-member mission went to Chile in February of 1974 and returned to write a report that charged "flagrant violations of human rights, systematic use of terror and torture, economic chaos and strong evidence of U.S. involvement in the coup." Upon her return, Doris Strieter joined the Chicago Committee to Save Lives in Chile. "After going down there, there was no way I could remain uninvolved," she said. As chairwoman of the Chicago Committee, Doris Strieter co-sponsored the Second National Conference in Solidarity with Chile. Other organizers included Congressman Andrew Young, Gloria Steinem, and scores of religious, trade union and community leaders.
The conference call listed five priority areas: freeing political prisoners, seeking legislation cutting off military aid to the junta, raising money to help exiles and prisoners facing trial, blocking further covert CIA intervention in Latin America, and exposing the role of the American Institute for Free Labor Development in destabilizing the Allende government. Among other activities suggested for discussion were "solidarity vigils, boycotts...and support for U.S. workers confronting Kennecott, Anaconda, and other multinational corporations whose role in Chile has been brutally documented." One of those multinationals was ITT.
"I don't remember there being much discussion of ITT at the conference. I know for a fact nothing major was discussed since we agreed not to focus on ITT because other companies were reinvesting in Chile," said Strieter.
Still the ITT spy was able to fill eight single-spaced, typewritten pages when he was debriefed by ITT's "manager of major investigations," John Rogeberg. Rogeberg, later chief investigator for ITT, prepared the report and sent it along with the photographs and the identification memo to FBI agent James Vermeersch, who in 1975 was part of a special New York FBI squad tracking down Weather Underground fugitives. Vermeersch has admitted in court that as part of the investigation he participated in 15 or 20 "black bag jobs," the coy FBI term for unauthorized, surreptitious entries-in colloquial English they would be called burglaries.
Vermeersch sent a copy of the ITT intelligence reports to his friend Kurk I. Klossner, a special agent in the FBI's Chicago office, and in a hand-written note asked Klossner to "review & return" the documents "within a week," adding, "I'd appreciate any suggestions on our handling of this." Klossner may have followed those instructions, but he also apparently forwarded a copy of the material to his contact in the Chicago Police Red Squad.
The ITT reports would have remained tucked peacefully in a manila envelope in a drawer in the Red Squad's voluminous file room had it not been for a series of law suits seeking to block the surveillance and harassment of social change activists. "Our obtaining these documents was a quirk of fate," said Richard Gutman, attorney for the Alliance to End Repression. He explained that U.S. District Judge Joseph Perry impounded the entire collection of Red Squad files on March 28, 1975, after learning that the police were in the process of burning hundreds of thousands of pages of intelligence dossiers rather than run the risk that they would become public. The Red Squad (which knew well in advance about the filing of the lawsuits since it had infiltrated the Alliance to End Repression, the organization preparing the first case) had not yet finished destroying the sensitive documents when the court seized the files, including the ITT reports, which were just a month old.
Along with identifying nearly 50 participants in the Chile solidarity conference, the report detailed the various proposals submitted for discussion. A capsule analysis of the event was surprisingly erudite, if somewhat rhetorical:
"To the extent it has been possible to determine the purpose or nature of the conference, it might be characterized as a radical summit conference with a central these of fascists oppression, crimes, and atrocities in Chile as an object lesson for the United States. It appears that around this theme an effort is now being made to unify diverse radical groups in the United States in a sustained campaign against the common enemies of United States imperialism, exploitative capitalism, the CIA and the U.S. intelligence community generally, multinational corporations, etc."
A militant agenda, perhaps, if one is to take at face value the words of the ITT spy, but certainly an agenda that is amply covered by the First Amendment. "What happened at the conference was not at all subversive, not at all illegal," said Strieter. "There were discussions and disagreements over focusing on a single issue or general anti-imperialism, and the decision was made at that point to stick with the issue of Chile." A spokesperson for the National Chile Center and the Chicago Committee to Save Lives in Chile blasted the ITT spying when it was revealed in October 1980, saying: "None of the organizations victimized by ITT spying have ever discussed, planned, or engaged in any activities that could even remotely cause ITT to fear for the security of its property or the safety of its employees. ITT could not have infiltrated and spied on us for any legitimate defensive purpose. It did so in order to assess, and if possible to disrupt, our efforts to expose ITT's flagrant abuses of corporate power."
ITT's response to press accounts of its corporate political spying was predictable. A spokesperson for the multinational communications conglomerate issued a press release that simultaneously denied ITT ever "maintained a program of political spying and infiltration" and authenticated the ITT documents found in the Red Squad files, admitting the information on the memo was "obtained by an ITT employee."
What was ITT's explanation for its political spying? Terrorism. Referring to a series of "terrorist threats, bombings, and attacks," the ITT spokesperson said, "The company cooperated with law enforcement agencies in investigating such crimes in an attempt to protect its personnel and property from further terrorist activities."
"Baloney," retorted Richard Gutman. The spying and infiltration "certainly was not to detect crime," he said. "An examination of the reports indicate the ITT gathered information not of criminal activity but rather the lawful First Amendment activity such as the organizing of peaceful protests and boycotts against ITT." Gutman said that it was possible that ITT was planning to neutralize the efforts of the anti-junta activists. "Intelligence gathering such as this inevitably leads to disruption," he said.
And there were signs of disruption at the Chile solidarity conference. "A number of people had materials stolen," said Strieter. "My briefcase was stolen, and at one point the River Forest Police arrived saying they had heard a rumor that Angela Davis was appearing." ITT's claim that they were investigating terrorists is angrily dismissed by Strieter. "If ITT was in the business of rating groups that threatened their corporate security, we would have been very low on the list. Our group never had any history of violent or illegal activity. It can't be an isolated instance. If they spied on us, they must have done it with other groups."
Strieter's suspicions were confirmed by Gutman, who said he found evidence he cannot reveal that ITT monitored other groups involved in anti-junta organizing. Gutman is constrained from discussing the details by the court protective order.
Surveillance of union meetings can have a devastating effect on organizing drives by labor unions as a now-settled lawsuit against J.P. Stevens documents. The incident occurred in the normally quiet and emphatically anti-union town of Milledgeville, Georgia, where Mayor Robert Rice decided to do something about the presence of Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union organizers seeking to unionize the J.P. Stevens textile plant on the outskirts of town.
Mayor Rice called representatives from J.P. Stevens, Grumman Aerospace and several other local industries to City Hall in 1976 to discuss the problem. According to testimony Mayor Rice gave as part of a settlement in the lawsuit filed by the union, he suggested to the corporate representatives that the Milledgeville police "monitor the meetings of union organizers to obtain [license] tag numbers." The list of car licenses could then be run through the town's nifty computer (part of the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) which had access to Georgia's motor vehicle license files. A typed list of who the cars were registered to would be provided to the companies to "check against their personnel file folders," said the Mayor. "Everyone thought this would be a good idea," recalls the Mayor, so he directed the Milledgeville Police to start surveillance.
For two and one-half years, between the summer of 1976 and early 1979, Milledgeville police monitored the activities of the union organizers and reported the license plate numbers of workers who attended meetings. One of the officers conducting the surveillance later said he believed "the workers whose names and license plate numbers we provided would be fired." In the summer of 1978, local newspapers began airing charges that the union organizing meetings were being watched by police. Following the news articles, attendance at the meetings dropped from over 40 to 1.
ACTWU organizer Melvin Tate said after the stories about the surveillance began to circulate, workers told him they were afraid to be seen with him and other organizers. "They believe that some workers who have met with ACTWU have lost their jobs because the employers found out about their participation in meetings," said Tate.
During the height of the surveillance, local police were so "worn to a frazzle" by the spying activity that Mayor Rice asked for and received corporate assistance for the spying. According to Rice, "Grumman Aerospace...graciously consented to send two of their security men...to help and assist the Milledgeville Police Department's surveillance work." The Grumman gumshoes were reputed to be former CIA agents, but their work did not impress the Mayor, and they left after 10 days. The police spying did have its intended effect, however, "It was quite obvious that from the way the attendance had dropped off at the meetings that we had been successful in our surveillance work and that Union activities had stopped," Mayor Rice stated.
Even the Macon News, which admitted it is not "overly enamored of organized labor," was worried about the Milledgeville spying incident. In an editorial it pointed out that "when a large industry enlists the police power of its host community to compel workers not to join unions through intimidation and harassment, we are entirely too close to the police state for comfort."
When Lockheed security specialist Robert Lang wanted to find out if some of the rank-and-file union militants in the Georgia assembly plant were members of the Socialist Workers Party, he simply picked up the phone and called his "personal acquaintance" John Donahue in the New York FBI office. Lang and Donahue had worked together in the FBI for ten years before Lang left for the Lockheed post.
Lang had learned from one of his several "confidential informants" in the plant workforce that dissident union members had "circulated communist literature" at the International Association of Machinists Union Hall. Lang's supervisor, E.J. Garbers, member of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, told Lang to investigate the activities of the Socialist Workers Party in the plant.
Lang's call to Donahue in the New York FBI office included a request to check out some of the names of workers being investigated. A few days later, when Lang called Donahue again, he was told the FBI had voluminous information relating to two of the suspected SWP members. Lang called several other FBI "acquaintances" but gained no new information.
Lockheed's agents spied on suspected SWP members at work, their cars were tailed, their homes watched, and their conversations were monitored according to sworn testimony by Lang. His admissions were backed up by Lockheed "industrial relations" documents produced at Lang's deposition in the SWP's massive lawsuit against illegal surveillance and disruption. One document showed cooperation between Lockheed security and a local Police Intelligence Division agent who reported his unit had an undercover officer spying on the swp, and that the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms unit had "instituted monthly meeting" of local police intelligence squads where the SWP was "discussed in some length." At those meeting, the Lockheed memo reports, "the SWP was characterized as a 'terrorist organization prone to violence.'"
The SWP may be many things, but it is not a terrorist organization prone to violence. Still, the Lockheed investigators pursued their research until they had identified over one dozen suspected SWP members and sympathizers in the plant. A thorough investigation of these persons' employment applications uncovered enough exaggerations and discrepancies for Lockheed to move to dismiss the workers for falsifying their records. The real motivation for the application review, however, was clearly to neutralize the activities of political activists at Lockheed.
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Information frequently flows from private spies into public intelligence coffers. Sometimes, however, the relationship is even more cozy.
Depositions taken in connection with a Chicago Socialist Workers Party lawsuit produced claims by several former members of the Legion of Justice, a right-wing vigilante group active in Chicago during the antiwar period, that the group cooperated with both federal and local intelligence units. The cooperation extended to collection information for the agencies through illegal activities such as office break-ins and thefts.
Twice in the 1950's, the National Lawyers Guild held its national convention in Chicago, and both times wiretaps and black-bag jobs produced information for the Red Squad and the FBI. The techniques could have escaped detection only through active assistance of hotel security personnel, according to the Guild.
Private security personnel are often happy to assist their public counterparts; in many cases the private intelligence agents earned their spurs in the employ of governmental investigative agencies. Government agents migrate into private employment with such frequency that former FBI agents have their won organization, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. One cynical FBI alumnus has dubbed the group, "Hoover's Loyal Legion."
A 1975 FBI Society list (the last edition to slip out of the highly secretive group's tight fist) showed that in that year there were almost 7,000 former FBI agents employed nationwide and paying dues to the Society.
It would be unfair to suggest that all former FBI agents are as obsessed as J. Edgar Hoover used to be with rooting out subversives. And certainly, not all former FBI agents engage in nefarious activities. But some do.
In Houston, several police officers said their illegal wiretaps were installed with the help of Southwestern Bell's security force, a staff that is one-third composed of former FBI agents. The FBI was alleged to be the receiver of much of the information gleaned from the illegal wiretaps, which were aimed at collecting information about local political activists.
Of the over 100 former FBI agents listed as Society members in Chicago in 1975, more than half were in law enforcement or with private security firms or in corporate posts dealing with security, investigations, personnel management, or labor relations. Among the Chicago firms with former FBI agents in these posts, according to the 1975 list, were: Standard Oil, E.J. Brach Candies, Purolator Security, American Airlines, United Airlines, R.R. Donnelly & Sons, Illinois Bell, Walgreen's, Canteen Corporation, Edward Hines Lumber, Continental Can, Playboy, Beatrice Foods, Texaco, and Marshall Field's.
Lest there be any doubt that the FBI Society sees itself as a network encouraging professional interaction among its members, it should be noted that the Society's membership list is organized alphabetically, geographically by state and city, and alphabetically by corporations for which Society members work. The list is a ready reference manual for information gathering and sharing among private security officers and their public counterparts.
In his book "The Private Sector: Rent-a-Cops, Private Spies and the Police Industrial Complex," former CIA employee George O'Toole wrote that "the Society is not a collection of superannuated federal pensioners....Many of the members served less than three years with the FBI....For them a tour with the Bureau was a kind of internship, a career step." According to O'Toole, a loyal FBI alumnus working in the private security field "can often be more useful in achieving the Bureau's goals than a special agent on active duty with the FBI. The Society appears to be an instrument of this policy -its Executive Services Committee is a placement bureau aimed at populating the most powerful security positions in both the public and private sectors with former FBI agents."
A glance at the Society's 1975 roster certainly proves O'Toole's contention about positions of influence, nationwide, there were over 100 Society members working for telephone company security forces alone, and there were high concentrations of FBI Society members among the security staffs of auto and aircraft manufacturers, oil companies, insurance companies, and private detective agencies. There were no fewer than 18 FBI Society members working for the conservative Wackenhut detective agency, an agency whose extensive files on leftists were eventually turned over to the Church League in Wheaton, where they were available to both public and private intelligence agencies.
A controversy over the FBI Society flared up in Chicago when it was discovered that a federal appeals court judge who was hearing cases involving alleged FBI misconduct in Chicago had been an FBI agent and was identified in the 1979 edition of Who's Who as a member of the FBI Society. Wilbur F. Pell was one of three judges hearing arguments in connection with the 1969 raid that left Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark dead and several other Panthers seriously wounded. Among the allegations in the subsequent lawsuit were charges that the FBI had instigated, encouraged, and assisted in the planning of the raid.
Not surprisingly, Pell issued a stinging dissent to the majority ruling which overturned a lower court decision favoring the police and FBI and ordered a new trial in the Panther civil suit. Pell felt that charges against the FBI had no merit. Attorneys for the Panther survivors tried unsuccessfully to have Pell removed from the case after they learned of his FBI ties and Society membership. Pell said he stopped paying Society dues in 1977.
According to a brief filed by Panther attorneys from the Peoples Law Office (Chicago), Pell should have disqualified himself. The attorneys pointed out that one defendant in the case, former Chicago FBI chief Marlin Johnson, was also a member of the Society. The then Cook County state's attorney, Bernard Carey, whose office was defending the county officials charged in the lawsuit, was also listed as a Society member. Furthermore, according to Peoples Law Office attorney G. Flint Taylor, "The Society had spawned an informational and financial auxiliary that organized support and raised over $400,000 to help defray legal expenses of agents charged with abuses of civil liberties."
Later the Society claimed credit for a agreement with the Justice Department that Justice would pick up certain expenses of the agents, who in the words of the Society, were "defending themselves against the many harassing civil suits which have been pressed by left-wing groups and individuals." This philosophy was encapsulated in a policy statement issued by the Society that said that "any criminal prosecution of FBI agents [for actions] taken totally without criminal intent, while performing their duties with honor and determination to protect the country from criminals and subversives, is completely unwarranted."
The Society does more than issue statements, however, and in 1976 adopted a new activist statement of purpose that stressed involvement in efforts to foster increased public respect for law enforcement officials and "protect American security from destructive forces, foreign or domestic." A brief filed by the Peoples law Office on the motion that Judge Pell disqualify himself from the Panther case contained the vague charge that the Society was reported (it was not said by whom) to have an agreement with the FBI by which it would serve as an auxiliary in times of need. Under this supposed understanding, whenever the Bureau needed to apprehend numbers of citizens for preventative political detention under its secret Agitator and Security Index programs, the Society members would be ready to be deputized to assist in the round up.
If such an agreement seems hard to believe, consider that former members of the Legion of Justice in Chicago report that they also were told by people introduced as government agents that the Legion might be asked to help round up radicals for preventive detention in an emergency. In fact, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, the roundup had two operational names, Lantern Spike and Garden Plot, and training manuals for the operation were actually produced by the U.S. military.
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