The Maldon Institute
By Chip Berlet
Political Research Associates
9/8/2000 (Revision 2)
The Maldon Institute is a right wing think tank that studies national
security and terrorism from a countersubversive and often conspiracist
perspective. Maldon's director, John Rees, infiltrated the political
left in the 1970s, and passed the information to groups ranging from
the John Birch Society to the FBI.
In 1993 Maldon Institute board members included three notable conspiracists:
- Dr. D. James Kennedy, a leading Christian right activist and a co-founder
of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. Kennedy endorsed a book that alleged
the Illuminati Freemasons and certain Jewish bankers were behind US
liberalism's attack on morality.
- Raymond Wannall, past president of the Association of Former Intelligence
Officers and a former assistant director of the FBI. Wannall led a
campaign to justify the acts of government agents charged with illegally
spying on the left based on the FBI's conspiracist view of countersubversion.
- Robert Moss, a journalist who gained fame suggesting that Soviet
agents secretly controlled a network of left and liberal groups in
The overlap with the Christian Right is not surprising. The Free Congress
Foundation, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, Family Research
Council, and other Christian Right groups have long maintained cordial
ties with military and intelligence officials, a relationship which flourished
during the Reagan and Bush administrations.
The Maldon Institute in 1993 claimed financial support from "public–spirited
foundations including the Allegheny Foundation, The Carthage Foundation,
the Anti–Defamation League of B'nai B'rith...." Both Allegheny and Carthage
are controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, who later funded several anti-Clinton
investigations claiming vast conspiracies; and which were carried in
conservative and hard right media.
Starting in the late 1960's, John Rees and his long-time partner S.
Louise Rees conducted political monitoring and surveillance operations
on leftists for over thirty years, first circulating their reports in
their Information Digest newsletter to a wide range of public
and private groups. The Reeses supplied information to such private sector
conservative groups as the Old Right John Birch Society, the Christian
Right Church League of America, the New Right Heritage Foundation, and
the Neo-conservative Anti- Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. The Reeses
also provided information to government law enforcement and investigative
agencies such as the FBI, congressional committees, and local police
intelligence units. In addition, the Reeses supplied data to private
sector industrial and corporate security departements.
John Rees, who once edited a newsletter for the Church League of America,
first published Information Digest and then took on the task of editing
a newsletter for the ultraconservative Western Goals Foundation, then
helped create Mid-Atlantic Research Associates, and then the Maldon Foundation.
Rees spent the early years of the Reagan administration as the spymaster
for the right-wing Western Goals Foundation. Western Goals was the brainchild
of Democratic congressman Larry McDonald of Georgia, a urologist and
a John Birch Society honcho who specializes in placing anti-progressive
diatribes and reports on the left-wing activities in the Congressional
Record. Broken Seals, the outfit's first book, charged that groups including
the Campaign for Political Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, the American
Friends Service Committee, and the Center for National Security Studies
were part of a Soviet-backed attempt "to destroy the foreign and domestic
intelligence capabilities of the United States." The book featured an
introduction by right-wing congressman John Ashbrook and an afterword
by Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham, former director of the Defense
Intelligence Agency. Western Goals published several small books warning
of the growing domestic red menace,
Western Goals solicited funds to create a computer database on American
subversives, but was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
when it was caught attempting to computerize references to "subversive" files
pilfered from the disbanded Los Angeles Police Department "Red Squad."
Western Goals essentially collapsed after the death of Larry McDonald
in September of 1983. John Rees left shortly after McDonald's death.
Western Goals discontinued its domestic dossier and intelligence operation
shortly after the departure of Rees. A contentious battle over control
of Western Goals and the alienation of key funders left the foundation
essentially a shell which was taken over by a conservative fundraiser
Carl Russell "Spitz" Channell who turned it into a conduit for contra
fundraising efforts linked to North and Iran-Contragate. Rees returned
to his freelance spy-master status while former Western Goals director
Linda Guell went to Singlaub's Freedom Foundation. Rees later turned
up at the Maldon Institute.
For many years John Rees was a frequent contributor to American Opinion
and Review of the News, John Birch Society periodicals. Rees network
material is frequently cited in right-wing newsletters and monographs.
For instance in 1988 Phyllis Schlafly's newsletter cited the Rees newsletter
Information Digest on an FBI probe of CISPES. A second Rees newsletter,
published through his Mid-Atlantic Research Associates (MARA) with Arnaud
de Borchgrave and Robert Moss, and titled Early Warning, was cited in
an essay by retired Lt. General Gordon Sumner, former chairman of the
Council on Inter- American Security and a national security adviser to
President Reagan. The Sumner essay offered "Some Strategic Thoughts on
Central America," including the following paragraph:
"Mid-Atlantic Research Associates, Inc., issued a special report on
August 15, 1984 entitled "Central American Support Networks," which gives
a detailed and documented description of the proliferation of Communist-supported
organizations, both in the United States and abroad, that are supporting
the Cubans' and Sandinistas', efforts."The
Sumner monograph was published by the Washington Institute for Values in
Public Policy, a think-tank with close ties to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Sumner is credited in the publication as having served on the "Committee
of Santa Fe which developed the Republican Party platform on Latin America
in the 1980 campaign."
Allegations by the Reeses and other right-wing spies have been used by the
FBI as a justification for launching massive investigative probes. These intrusive
FBI investigations harassed, smeared, and disrupted groups that were not engaged
in any criminal activity, but simply exercising their constitutional rights
to dissent from official government policies.
An example of this was the first FBI investigation of the anti-interventionist
group CISPES, which was launched in September of 1981 to determine if CISPES
should be forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Among
the documents used by the FBI to justify this CISPES probe, according to Congressional
testimony by FBI official Oliver "Buck" Revell, was a 1981 article by a former
FBI informant and ongoing right-wing private spy—John Rees. The Rees article
appeared in Review of the News a magazine published by the paranoid
ultra-right John Birch Society. This FBI investigation was terminated without
indictments in December of 1981.
A second FBI investigation of CISPES began in March of 1983. It was premised
on the right-wing conspiracy theory that CISPES was a cover for "terrorist" activity.
To justify this view, the FBI relied not only on reports from its informant
Varelli, but also in part on a conspiratorial analysis contained in a report
written by Michael Boos, a staffer at the right-wing Young Americas Foundation.
This FBI "counter-terrorism" investigation was terminated without indictments
Red-baiting the Nuclear Freeze Movement
Information from John Rees and Western Goals led to embarrassment when President
Ronald Reagan charged the nuclear freeze campaign was, "inspired by not the
sincere, honest people who want peace, but by some people who want the weakening
of America and so are manipulating honest and sincere people." Reagan saw freeze
activists as dupes or traitors. When asked for proof, reporters were told much
of the information was secret, but that one public source was a "Reader's Digest" article
by John Barron. Barron had based the allegation in part on an article by right-
wing spy John Rees. Rees had based his article on unsubstantiated red-baiting
allegations made during McCarthy period hearings. Reagan later openly criticized
those who brought down Joseph McCarthy. A State Department charge that the
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was a "communist front" was
retracted when traced to a Rees report published by Western Goals Foundation.
To prove the nuclear freeze is a Soviet plot, Rees in "Information Digest" noted
that public remarks on disarmament by a member of the Soviet Central Committee
of the Communist Party bear a "striking similarity" to materials produced by
the Mobilization for Survival, Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy,
and U.S. Peace Council. Furthermore, Rees noted that several of the organizations
involved in the nuclear freeze campaign were identified by witnesses during
the McCarthy era as communist fronts. This is the type of material that appears
in his book, The War Called Peace: The Soviet Peace Offensive, which was the
Bible of the anti-Freeze movement.
Rees gained considerable credibility in Washington, D.C. during the Reagan
years as an expert on national security issues. He was quoted as "authoritative" by
Sam Francis, a key aide on the Senate Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism,
which held hearings during the early part of the Reagan Administration into
alleged subversive conspiracies by leftists.
"What is truly frightening," explained Rachel Rosen DeGolia of the Chicago
Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, "is that Sam Francis also wrote a report
for the Heritage Foundation where he suggested the U.S. intelligence agencies
utilize information from private security and intelligence groups which are
not hampered by constitutional and regulatory safeguards that protect citizens
from governmental invasions of privacy." She points out that information-collecting
techniques that cannot legally be employed by governmental investigators are
sometimes permitted private security forces.
In fact, the private political spy network was re-plugged directly into governmental
intelligence units by the Clinton Administration so they could to supply information
not otherwise obtainable legally by the government investigators.
Red-baiting Antiwar Activists
Another example of the work of the Rees network was prompted by the January
26, 1991 Washington, D.C. demonstration against the Gulf War. Covering the
event for the newspaper Human Events, reporter Cliff Kincaid contacted
and quoted Sheila Louise Rees, who claimed the group coordinating the antiwar
demonstration, the Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, was established "by
the traditional hard-line peace activist organizations that have always worked
with the Communist Party U.S.A...." including, according to Rees, the War Resisters
League, American Friends Service Committee, Mobilization for Survival, and
SANE/Freeze. The phrasing of the quote implied that the peace groups were really
fronts for the Communist Party, U.S.A. The headline for Kincaid's February
9, 1991 article read, "Far Left Sparks Anti-War Protests: Effectively Supports
Iraq," implying that in time of war, the peace activists in effect were guilty
of being criminal traitors.
The rhetoric, source, and outlet for the story are all familiar components
of an institutionalized domestic counter-subversion network. One arm of this
network is comprised of private right- wing groups that spy on progressive
dissidents and then publicize claims that the dissidents are engaged in potentially-illegal
activity. These biased claims are then used by the other arm of the network,
counter-subversive units within government intelligence agencies, as a rationale
to launch investigative probes which frequently interfere with legitimate protest
activities of dissidents who are not engaged in criminal activity, but merely
exercising their First Amendment rights.
Human Events, is an ultra-conservative weekly newspaper that periodically
carries articles claiming to have uncovered subversive plots. And, as Human
Events reporter Cliff Kincaid pointed out in his story on the Gulf War
protest, Louise Rees is "publisher of Information Digest, the publication
that monitors extremist groups."
Lack of accuracy is no barrier to success for private spy publications. Information
Digest sold its biased but highly detailed reports on the activities of left,
liberal, and radical groups for over a decade. Its subscribers were mainly
corporate security agents and law enforcement officials.
Information Digest collected its information not only by voraciously reading
leftist periodicals, but also by physically infiltrating various groups, including
several in Chicago. Information Digest repeatedly turned up in the files of
the Chicago Red Squad and other local and federal intelligence agencies being
sued for illegal surveillance and disruption. Its specialty is tracing alleged "Communist" infiltration
of movements for social change.
John Rees is known to have supplied the Information Digest and information
to the Chicago Police Department, the FBI, and several other law enforcement
He also worked for a time with the Church League of America in Wheaton, Illinois.
Information from the Church League and a similar group called the American
Security Council, has turned up in the Chicago Red Squad files.
There is ample evidence that the Red Squad was plugged into a private political
intelligence network. For instance, George Elliott was not the only civilian
spy utilized by the Red Squad. There was a string of paid and unpaid civilian
spies including Sheli Lulkin, a Chicago school teacher, who was linked to spying
on no fewer than 80 Chicago organizations.
Lulkin continued to keep in touch with some of the more right-wing former
Red Squad agents, and shortly after being revealed as a civilian Red Squad
spy, she received an award for her work from the Council Against Communist
Aggression. Lulkin maintains she infiltrated community and labor groups in
order to ferret out Communist influence and the "terrorist infrastructure." While
in Washington to receive her award, Lulkin met with John and Sheila Louise
John Rees first turned up in Chicago on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic
Convention. He promptly went undercover to ferret out subversives. The process
of how information from Rees ended up as an item in Robert Wiedrich's Chicago
Tribune Tower Ticker column is illustrative both of how private spies feed
information to the police (who then pass it to scoop-hunting journalists) and
of how the information is distorted with each little step it takes.
Documents released to Jerry Rubin in a FOIA request concerning the 1968 convention
protests provide the details of how Wiedrich was buffaloed by the private political
spy network's information-laundering game. To begin with, we will let the FBI
documents speak for themselves. What follows is taken from the memo prepared
by the FBI agent assigned to investigate the Wiedrich article:
'Chicago Tribune reporter Robert Wiedrich
wrote a column "Tower Ticker' on September 4, 1968, that the Chicago Police Department,
Chicago, Illinois, had a secret tape recording made by an undercover man indicating
that the Yippie leaders intended to tear Chicago apart. The article quoted part
of the tape recording as 'These Chicago cops are soft. If that had been New York
cops, they'd have busted our heads. It's gonna be easy to take these coppers
and this town apart.'
"Mr. Wiedrich advised he obtained his information used in his article from
Thomas McInerny, Mayor's Office, Commission of Investigation, Chicago, Illinois.
"Mr. McInerny advised that the information he gave to Mr. Wiedrich was obtained
from one John Rees....Mr. Rees did undercover work during the Democratic National
Convention and reportedly made a tape recording of a meeting of dissidents
in which the quote referred to above supposedly was made. Mr. McInerny does
not have the tape recording in his possession nor has he heard it. The FBI agent went on to report that the tape recording was originally
given to Thomas Lyons of the Chicago Police Intelligence Unit by John Rees. Unfortunately,
the forgetful Mr. Lyons could not locate the tape and reported
that "no transcript was made of the recording inasmuch as it is practically inaudible
in its entirety." In fact, Lyons told the agent that the quote about the Chicago
Police Department being soft was not on the tape recording at all. The quote
was actually a statement by Rees, who mentioned in the course of a conversation
with Lyons that the persons "gathered at the Quaker House generally felt the
Chicago Police had been easy to deal with at the time the demonstrators were
forced out of Lincoln Park." So much for accurate quotes. So much for Wiedrich's
highly touted sources. The right-wing political
spy network strikes again.
As for Rees, the FBI concluded his information left something to be desired.
One FBI memo puts it succinctly: "Rees is an unscrupulous unethical individual
and an opportunist who operates with a self-serving interest. Information he
has provided has been exaggerated and in generalities. Information from him
cannot be considered reliable. We should not initiate any interview with this
unscrupulous unethical individual concerning his knowledge of the disturbances
in Chicago as to do so would be a waste of time."
Despite this rather tawdry assessment, the FBI did accept information from
Rees in the form of his newsletter Information Digest which several activists
found in their FBI files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Rees is famous for one other aspect of his career. He received nationwide
attention in 1964 when Peyton Place author Grace Metalious died leaving him
her quarter-million-dollar estate on the basis of a death-bed will that ignored
her estranged husband and their three children. Rees had known Metalious only
a few months. Rees later renounced his claim to the estate once it was discovered
liabilities exceeded assets.
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