[sixties-l] THE LEGACY OF WOUNDED KNEE

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Jun 22 2001 - 19:47:30 EDT

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] Take What You Need"

    ISSUE FORUM HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES:

    THE UNFINISHED STORY CURRENT POLITICAL PRISONERS - VICTIMS OF COINTELPRO

    PART 2 : THE LEGACY OF WOUNDED KNEE

    <http://www.truthout.com/0297.MC.CivRts.Pt3.htm>

    MR. ELISON: As I was introduced before, my name is Bruce Elison. I am a
    criminal defense lawyer that is currently based in western South Dakota,
    where I have been for 25 years. On behalf of Leonard Peltier, who is now a
    grandfather, and my own children, I hereby want to thank the members of the
    Black Caucus, and particularly Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, for
    conducting this meeting here today. I mean, this is fantastic.
    Congresswoman McKinney, you have done what the Senate Intelligence
    Committee under Frank Church decided not to do, and what the Congress
    failed to do, despite strong recommendations of the necessity of such an
    inquiry by the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Amnesty
    International.
    I came to western South Dakota to be a staff attorney with a group called
    the Wounded Knee Defense Committee back in 1975, and I came from an urban
    Jewish upbringing in the New York City area. I was raised to believe in the
    importance of justice for all people. I was raised to believe in the
    importance of our democracy and our fundamental rights to free speech,
    freedom of association, and freedom to seek redress of grievances. From
    what I have seen over the last 25 years, Native Americans have many
    legitimate grievances, as do others in this country.
    Educated as a lawyer, I was taught that our courts exist to promote and
    preserve justice, our Congress to enact responsible legislation, and our
    executive branch to enforce the laws of our country. What I have
    experienced since my move West has both shocked, amazed, and terrified me
    as a citizen of this country and, more importantly, as a father, and I
    remain so today.
    I prepared a written text, since I understand that is what you are supposed
    to do when you testify in front of a congressional hearing, and I forgot my
    glasses, so you are going to have to bear with me.
    FBI documents and court records in the thousands, together with eyewitness
    accounts, show clearly that beginning in the late 1960s the FBI began a
    campaign of infiltration and disruption of the treaty and human rights
    movement which calls itself the American Indian Movement or AIM. FBI
    operations were directed towards the destruction of AIM and its grassroots
    supports in the urban and reservation communities containing the survivors
    of America's wars against its indigenous population of the last 400 or more
    years.
    Particular emphasis was directed by the FBI towards the descendants of the
    Lakota, who stopped the campaign of slaughter by General Armstrong Custer
    and the Seventh Cavalry, who now reside on the Pine Ridge Indian
    Reservation and some of the surrounding reservations. FBI operations
    against AIM began with surveillance of peaceful demonstrations of people
    calling for the enforcement of treaty rights, for human rights, for equal
    opportunities for jobs and housing and medical care, and for justice in
    America's courts. It soon led to the infiltration of informants and agent
    provocateurs, to the manipulation and use of our criminal justice system,
    and ultimately, out where I live, to state-sponsored terrorism in the
    Indian communities within this country. Documents show the FBI was assisted
    in the suppression of domestic dissent by agencies, including the Central
    Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the State Department,
    military intelligence, often enlisting the aid of State and local police
    and intelligence agencies throughout the country.
    It was a period in which the groundswell of people's movements in our
    communities were regarded as a threat by the Federal Government, perhaps
    due to its magnitude and intensity and the righteousness of the grievances
    being aired. The FBI targeted the voices, the members, the supporters, and
    the funders of those who stood up and visibly tried to obtain fundamental
    correction of the ills affecting millions of people across America.
    The FBI acted as if terrified by any signs of bridges across the barriers
    of color and ethnicity and the joint recognition of common problems and
    collective solutions that we could all work together to accomplish. Many of
    the documents that I have reviewed, that we obtained under the Freedom of
    Information Act, talk about the concern around the time of Wounded Knee,
    and between then and the firefight in Oglala, of the connections between
    the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party, particularly in
    California.
    After the 71 day siege at Wounded Knee in 1973, our criminal justice system
    became but an
    improper tool of the Domestic Security Section of the Intelligence Division
    of the FBI, in its efforts
    to destroy AIM. The man in charge of the Domestic Security Section at the
    time, whom others present today are well familiar with, was Richard G. Held.
    Based in Chicago, Held secretly came to Pine Ridge during the Wounded Knee
    occupation in 1973 to directly supervise FBI domestic security operations
    against AIM in the field. While claiming in documents that AIM members were
    engaging in acts of sedition, the Bureau sought to arrest hundreds in the
    aftermath of Wounded Knee, in the hopes that it would tap the strength and
    resources of the Movement and make it go away. It soon concluded that this
    approach was insufficient. As one FBI document stated, "There are
    indications that the indian militant problem in the area will not be
    resolved or discontinued with the prosecution of these insurgents."
    Most Wounded Knee criminal charges brought against hundreds of AIM members
    were eventually dismissed by Federal court judges for illegal use of the
    United States Military. The FBI then began to fund and arm and equip a
    group of more western-oriented Lakota men and women who called themselves
    the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, or the "goon squad" on the Pine Ridge
    Reservation.
    As many as 60 men, women, and children were killed in the period of
    political violence which then followed, and this is out of a population of
    11,000 people. These were mostly members of AIM, members of their families,
    supporters, their friends, and sometimes simply people who were neighbors
    of those people involved in the movement. I remember staying in homes in
    Pine Ridge during this period where men felt compelled to keep loaded
    weapons nearby while they and their families, including children and
    elders, slept, fearful of the real and immediate danger of an attack by the
    goon squad in the night. People whose families lived for years in fear of
    immediate serious bodily injury or death in their homes, their yards, or
    walking in the streets of their community.
    And we are not talking at this time of random acts of mindless violence by
    those who are angry, mentally ill, desperate or lost in this country, but
    violence directed at them and their families because they believed in the
    traditional indian ways of their ancestors and belonged to or supported the
    American Indian Movement.
    One instance I personally witnessed involved FBI agents and a Bureau of
    Indian Affairs SWAT team escorting carloads of goon squad members and their
    weapons out of the community of Womblee after a day and night of armed
    attacks on the community. This resulted in the ambush murder of a young AIM
    member, and the burning and shooting up of several homes.
    One of the killers was given a deal by the FBI for five-year sentence in
    return for his testimony that two goon squad leaders had acted in self
    defense in their attack on four men who were unarmed in a vehicle. I
    investigated this murder at the request of the tribal president-elect, and
    was horrified by this deal, and the main killers went free.
    I represented a 14-year-old who was physically handicapped at the time, who
    was forced to face an adult sentence in adult court, charged with murdering
    one of three goons who had just threatened to kill him as one of them
    attacked him. Court testimony revealed that he had previously witnessed his
    brother being shot in the streets of a nearby town, his obviously pregnant
    sister being beaten in the stomach by a rifle butt, and his family hugging
    the floor of their rural home for nearly five hours while members of the
    goon squad fired semiautomatic and high-powered rifle bullets through the
    walls of their home.
    There was no investigation by the FBI of those responsible, although they
    were identified in each instance. This child's brother was involved in the
    American Indian Movement. That was the only connection the family had.
    I represented a young mother and AIM member named Anna Mae Pictu on weapons
    charges.
    She told me after her arrest that an FBI threatened to see her dead within
    a year unless she cooperated against members of AIM. In an operation
    previously used against members of the Black Panther Party, the FBI,
    through an informant named Doug Durham who had infiltrated AIM leadership,
    began a rumor that she was an informant.
    Six months later her body was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The FBI
    said she died of exposure. They cut off her hands, claiming that this was
    necessary to identify her, and buried her under the name of Jane Doe.
    We were able to get her body exhumed, and a second, independent autopsy
    revealed that rather than dying of exposure, that someone had placed a
    pistol to the back of her head and pulled the trigger. When I asked for her
    hands after the second autopsy, because she was originally not buried with
    her hands, an FBI agent went to his car and came back and handed me a box,
    and with a big smile on his face he said, "You want her hands? Here."
    I myself have been personally and directly threatened by agents of the FBI
    for my efforts to expose what the Bureau did on Pine Ridge and within the
    courts of our country. They seem to be fearful of what daylight could bring
    to their conduct in the past, and perhaps their plans for dealing with
    dissent in the future.
    U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Heaney, after reviewing numerous court
    transcripts and FBI documents, concluded that the United States Government
    overreacted at Wounded Knee. Instead of carefully considering the
    legitimate grievances of Native Americans, the response was essentially a
    military one which culminated in a deadly firefight on June 26, 1975,
    between Native Americans and FBI agents and U.S. Marshals.
    While Judge Heaney believed that the "Native Americans" had some
    culpability in the firefight that day, he concluded the United States must
    share the responsibility. It never has. The FBI has never been held
    accountable or even publicly investigated for what one Federal petit jury
    and Judge Heaney concluded was complicity in the creation of a climate of
    fear and terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
    The resulting firefight near Oglala was preceded by FBI documents
    internally declaring AIM to be one of the most dangerous organizations in
    the country and a threat to national security. It followed by two months
    the issuing of a position paper entitled "FBI Paramilitary Operations in
    Indian Country," a how-to plan of dealing with AIM in the battlefield. It
    referred, used such terms as "neutralization," which in the document it
    defined as "shooting to kill." It included the role of the then-Nixon White
    House in handling complaints as to such military tactics being utilized
    domestically.
    It followed by one month the build-up of FBI personnel on the Pine Ridge
    Reservation with mostly SWAT team members from various divisions of the
    FBI. It followed by three weeks an inspection tour of the reservation by
    senior FBI officials and the reporting of concern by those officials for
    the widespread support enjoyed by AIM in the outlying communities on the
    Pine Ridge Reservation, such as Oglala.
    The FBI headquarters document further referred to an area near Oglala which
    reportedly contained bunkers and would require the use of paramilitary
    forces to assault. Three weeks later a firefight broke out on the ranch of
    elders Cecelia and Harry Jumping Bull which lasted for nearly nine hours.
    FBI documents describe as many as 47 people being involved in the battle
    with SWAT teams of the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and State police
    agencies.
    Three young men lost their lives that day, each shot in the head, two FBI
    agents and one AIM member. And one thing, and I will detract from my notes
    for a moment, that I have always felt was so critical about the way the FBI
    has looked at that firefight and the way the American Indian Movement has
    looked at that firefight, is that for AIM people that day, before they left
    that area, before they were able to escape, they sat and prayed for the
    three men who died that day, all three. The FBI has always only considered
    that only two men died that day, their own agents.
    One of the agents had in his briefcase a map of the reservation. It had the
    Jumping Bull ranch circled with the word "bunkers" written next to it. The
    bunkers turned out to be aged and crumbling root cellars that one wouldn't
    want to defend in a spitball fight behind.
    Leonard Peltier and other AIM members from outside the reservation had come
    into the Jumping Bull area to help them celebrate their 50th wedding
    anniversary. They had come in to join other local AIM members because the
    climate of violence on the reservation had gotten so intense that people
    felt the need to gain assistance from the outside, so men and women came
    in, including Leonard Peltier, and they brought with them their single-shot
    22's and their rusted shotguns and a few hunting rifles that they were able
    to get, and they were in a camp on the Jumping Bull ranch.
    The government used the incident to increase its campaign of disruption and
    destruction of the American Indian Movement. FBI agents, dressed and
    equipped like combat soldiers, searched homes and questioned Pine Ridge
    residents at gunpoint. Armored vehicles patrolled the reservation, as did
    SWAT teams and National Guard helicopters.
    This was accompanied by a public disinformation campaign by the FBI,
    designed to make Oglala residents and their guests appear to be the
    aggressors and, in fact, terrorists. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
    would soon report, "It is patently clear that many of the statements
    released to the media regarding the incident are either false,
    unsubstantiated, or directly misleading."
    You know, we used to think of, during the anti-war days of the war in
    Indochina, we used to talk about "bringing the war home." Well, I think the
    FBI kind of thought that that was really a good idea, and many of the
    tactics that they used in Indochina and Central America and other places in
    this world, they decided to try out on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
    Noting Leonard Peltier's regular presence and involvement in AIM activities
    throughout the country, the FBI targeted him for prosecution from the desks
    of its agents. According to FBI documents, about two and a half weeks after
    the firefight, the Bureau was going to, in its own words, "develop
    information to lock Peltier into the case," and it set out to do so.
    The FBI eventually charged four AIM members, including Peltier, with the
    killing of the agents. No one has ever been prosecuted for the killing of
    AIM member Joe Stuntz that day. After hearing testimony of numerous
    eyewitnesses to the violence directed at AIM members by the goon squad and
    the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two of Leonard Peltier's codefendants
    were acquitted on self-defense grounds by an all-white jury in the
    conservative town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, truly a remarkable thing, but
    people who were willing to keep their eyes and their ears open and listen
    to the truth, and were able, by a judge who had the courage and willingness
    to learn himself, to allow this evidence to be presented.
    However, after those acquittals, the FBI analyzed why these two men, these
    two long-haired indian militant men could be acquitted by an all-white
    jury, and decided a new judge was needed. FBI documents show that a meeting
    in Washington, D.C. at FBI headquarters, there was a decision made to "put
    the full prosecutive weight of the Federal Government" against Leonard
    Peltier.
    Evidence shows the government used now admittedly false eyewitness
    affidavits to extradite Peltier from Canada. This would catch the attention
    of Amnesty International and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but only
    a little bit.
    The Court of Appeals would call such conduct "a clear abuse of the
    investigative process by the FBI" and gives credence to the claims of
    indian people that if the government is willing to fabricate evidence to
    extradite a person in this country, it is willing to fabricate evidence to
    convict those branded as the enemy. Well, absolutely true, but Leonard
    Peltier remains in prison.
    At Peltier's trial the government presented evidence and argued to the jury
    that he personally shot and killed the agents. To do this, the government
    presented ballistics evidence purportedly connecting a shell casing found
    near the agents' bodies with a rifle said to be possessed by Peltier on
    that day, and the coerced and fabricated eyewitness account of a terrified
    teenager, claiming that the agents followed Peltier in a van, precipitating
    the firefight in Oglala.
    Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the
    ballistics evidence was a fraud; that the rifle could not have fired the
    expended casing found near the body. Further, the FBI had suppressed
    evidence showing the agents followed a pickup, not a van, into the
    compound, and thought someone else, not Peltier, was in that vehicle.
    Citing the case of Leonard Peltier as an example, Amnesty International has
    called for an independent inquiry into the use of our criminal justice
    system for political purposes by the FBI, other intelligence agencies in
    this country. Amnesty cited similar concerns for other members of AIM and
    other victims of the COINTELPRO-type operations by the FBI.
    I will submit to you, when the government can select a person for criminal
    persecution because of their political activity, when they can fabricate
    evidence against that person and suppress evidence proving that
    fabrication, and go ahead and prosecute a person and put them in prison for
    any amount of time, let alone for life, you have a political prisoner.
    Upon disclosure of these documents, a renewed effort in a new trial was
    sought from the courts. While concluding that the suppressed evidence
    "casts a strong doubt" on the government's case, our appellate courts
    denied relief. The U.S. Attorney's office has now admitted in court that it
    had no credible evidence Leonard Peltier killed the agents, and speciously
    claimed it never tried to prove it did. Under our system, if there is a
    reasonable doubt, then Leonard Peltier is not guilty, yet he has been in
    prison for nearly 25 years for a crime he did not commit.
    The FBI still withholds thousands of pages of documents in this case,
    claiming in many instances that disclosure would compromise the national
    security. In the absence of such disclosure, no further efforts in a new
    trial are possible. And Leonard Peltier is not alone in his imprisonment
    for his political activities. We have heard about some of the other people
    today, and I am hearing more every day. Kind of isolated, out in South
    Dakota, from some of the things.
    Despite congressional interest in an investigation of the tragic events at
    Ruby Ridge and Waco, the committee of Congress with subpoena power has yet
    to hold full and formal hearings on what the FBI did to suppress the indian
    movement in the 1970s, as well as the human and civil rights movements in
    the black and brown communities of this Nation. This meeting today is an
    important first step, Congresswoman McKinney, to make sure that we truly
    have freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the freedom to seek
    redress of grievances in this country.
    I would respectfully submit that the FBI's involvement in the suppression
    of dissent within our country is a cause for great alarm. Its use of the
    criminal justice system, disruptive campaigns, and outright condoning and
    support of terrorism in our communities must be investigated and never
    allowed to happen again.
    On behalf of Leonard Peltier and my own children, we would urge a full
    congressional investigation, and we would urge the granting of executive
    clemency to those activists from the '70s, '80s, and '90s who have yet to
    gain their freedom.
    Thank you.
    [Applause.]



    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Jun 25 2001 - 17:48:47 EDT