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Date: Wed Jul 24 2002 - 08:06:24 EDT

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       Will the War on Terrorism Follow the Path of the Cold War?

                             by Jo Freeman,


    Expanded from version posted on www.Counterpunch.com, June 24, 2002

         On June 9 the San Francisco Chronicle published an 8-page
    special section on the FBI's "wide-ranging and unlawful
    intelligence operations at the University of California."
    <http://www.sfgate.com/campus. The FBI's activities, and those of
    other governmental and non-governmental organizations "to harass
    liberal students, faculty and regents" over several decades were
    justified by the Cold War. Not until that War was over was some of
    the collateral damage revealed. Most of the destruction done to
    ordinary Americans who were simply living their lives and
    exercising their Constitutional rights may never come to light.

         Since September 11 our government has mobilized for another
    undeclared war of uncertain duration against an unseen enemy --
    this time on terrorism. Like its predecessor, the War on Terrorism
    aims at a powerful and pernicious enemy who could wreak enormous
    havoc at any minute. Like the Cold War, the War on Terrorism is
    being used to justify a variety of security measures which can
    potentially cause more harm to Americans than anything the enemy
    can do. Unlike the Cold War, we don't even think we know who the
    enemy is; it's bigger than al-Queda, but beyond that, who is it?

         In the Cold War we identified members of the Communist Party
    as the enemy -- even when they were law-abiding American citizens -
    - and looked for them under every bed. But that definition quickly
    spread to include almost anyone who did, said or even knew some one
    who proposed an idea that even remotely sounded like something a
    Communist might favor. Everyone "liberal" -- and a lot who weren't
    -- were potential targets for the anti-Communist brush.

         To wage a war without causing more damage to ourselves than
    our adversaries we need to know what we did wrong in the Cold War.
    Let's start by looking at some of the casualties.

         The Chronicle stories were based on thousands of pages of FBI
    files finally released by the FBI after years of litigation. These
    stories highlighted the FBI's efforts to fire Clark Kerr from his
    position as President of the University from 1958 to 1966. I was
    a student at Berkeley from 1961 to 1965; very much engaged in the
    social protests of those years. Upon graduation I went South to
    work for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, for a year
    of voter registration in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.
    My work in the civil rights movement gave me my own small niche in
    the FBI's archives.

         In 1975 I obtained my personal FBI file from Headquarters,
    without much delay. In 1993 I requested files on the University of
    California and various student groups for a memoir, as well as more
    pages on myself from the FBI's regional offices. It was seven
    years before I got anything, and what I finally paid for was a
    small fraction of what the Chronicle got after 17 years of
    litigation. Obviously the FBI didn't think that the court rulings
    applied to other requesters; over time it has become very adept at
    thwarting the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act. In the
    meantime I did research in the University archives and other

         What I learned from all this is that Clark Kerr was not a
    victim of the FBI. He was a victim of the anti-Communist culture
    created by the Cold War. The War on Terrorism threatens to repeat
    this history and with it the wanton destruction of the rights which
    make us proud to be Americans.

         Indeed the FBI was only a minor player in the downfall of
    Clark Kerr. It was a cop, one enforcer, of the culture of anti-
    Communism. That culture was created by our government and
    reinforced by the actions of private individuals. It created a
    climate of fear that was used to compel conformity not only to
    political ideas but to social and cultural ones. It used
    government agencies -- taxpayer money -- to punish those who did
    not do so. University policies that were inimical to the
    educational purpose of the University were written with an eye to
    accommodating that culture and placating its enforcers.

         A key player, probably the key player, in the harassment and
    downfall of Clark Kerr was an official committee of the California
    legislature -- the Senate Fact-Finding Subcommittee on UnAmerican
    Activities (SUAC). Created in 1940 as one of seven state
    committees modeled on the House Un-American Activities Committee
    (HUAC) of the U.S. Congress, it waged a thirty year war on the
    University of California to purge it of people who might be deemed
    subversive. As it did so, its conception of subversive expanded
    way beyond a concern with membership in the Communist Party.

         SUAC's chairman from 1949 to 1970 was Hugh Burns. Between
    1957 and 1969 he was also President pro Tempore of the California
    Senate, with a great deal of influence over the University's
    budget. In oral history interviews done in 1977-78, Burns admitted
    that he wanted to discredit Kerr because he "was unimpressed with
    his diligence in ferreting out subversive activities on the

         Working behind the scenes, so far behind that few knew he
    existed, was Richard Ellis Combs, counsel to SUAC from its
    beginning. He maintained a file of 20,000 names of "subversives"
    on 5 x 8 cards at his home in rural Tulare County. Once Burns
    became Chairman, SUAC ceased to hold hearings; instead it met with
    officials to urge actions that it wanted, published reports and
    issued press releases excoriating whoever failed to comply. These
    reports were written by Combs, based on extensive reading of
    material provided by his network of informants throughout the
    state, as well as publications of organizations deemed subversive.
    His reports are replete with names, from all over the country, of
    people who went to meetings, signed lists, or merely appeared on
    membership rosters. Few of the people named are directly accused
    of any subversive association, but they are often linked to the
    names of people who are. His main source at Berkeley was William
    Wadman, who was promoted from head of the campus police to
    University-wide "security officer" in 1952.

         Twice in 1952 Burns and Combs met with the Presidents of
    California colleges to request that they appoint campus liaisons to
    provide SUAC with the names of faculty and staff who were
    candidates for hiring or promotion so they could be checked by
    Combs against his files. Robert Gordon Sproul, then President of
    UC, asked each campus Chancellor, including Berkeley's Clark Kerr,
    to be the "contact man" for his campus.

         Although Kerr did not provide SUAC with any names, this was
    not an impediment to SUAC. Unknown to Kerr, Combs was getting his
    information from Wadman, who reported to Vice President James H.
    Corley. Under Corley's supervision, Wadman also furnished the FBI
    "information contained in personnel files of students and employees
    as well as information relating to subversive activities on the

         Corley had been the University's lobbyist for many years. His
    strategy for influence with the legislature was one of anticipatory
    appeasement. Sharing SUAC's passion for anti-Communism, in 1949 he
    persuaded President Sproul to require that all faculty sign a
    loyalty oath disclaiming membership in the Communist Party or any
    other organization which advocated the overthrow of the Government
    by force or violence. The faculty rebelled; twenty percent refused
    to sign. The controversy did not end until 1952 -- after 31
    professors had been dismissed -- when the California Supreme Court
    declared that a state loyalty oath passed in the interim pre-empted
    a special one for University personnel.

         In October of 1958, soon after Kerr was inaugurated as
    President, Combs held a confidential meeting at his home to discuss
    how to remove him as head of the University. Present were Wadman
    and Bay Area police offers who were heads of their respective Red
    Squads. Combs had compiled a dossier on Kerr and wanted help from
    those present in getting even more information that could be used
    to undermine him. Everyone at that meeting was on the public
    payroll; all pledged their assistance.

         Once Kerr became President, Corley could no longer cover for
    Wadman. Kerr reduced Corley's job and influence and had Wadman
    reassigned. As SUAC stated in its 1965 Report, Wadman was assigned
    "so much insurance work that his counter-subversive operation was
    smothered" and Kerr "again disclosed his aversion to loyalty
    investigations in general."

         SUAC went ballistic at the loss of its campus source. Its
    1961 report contained a lengthy attack on student groups at the
    Berkeley campus. "Reds on campus" blared headlines all over the
    state of California. SUAC succeeded in getting one Berkeley
    student organization kicked off campus that wasn't Communist, but
    was something of a campus gadfly (the official reason was that it
    called itself a campus political party when campus political
    parties weren't permitted).

         On September 14, 1961 and again on January 17, 1962 Burns and
    Combs met with Kerr and select Regents to urge the discharge of two
    Berkeley faculty members they thought were subversives and to
    protest Wadman's reassignment. When Kerr did nothing, Burns tried
    to get the Regents to remove him by revealing a "rumor" that Kerr
    had been observed by the Central Intelligence Agency to engage in
    "undesirable contact and associations during a South American

         Those who bemoan "political correctness" today either do not
    remember or do not appreciate the ramifications of real political
    correctness. During the Cold War the limits of discourse were set
    by government agencies. Dissent was seen as disloyalty. Just
    listening to dissent was suspicious behavior. Subscribing to a
    "suspect" publication or a few misspoken words could mean loss of
    a job. A possible subpoena to a HUAC hearing was the kiss of
    death. A refusal to answer questions meant going to jail.

         In 1959 HUAC announced that it would hold hearings in San
    Francisco. It sent files of over 90 teachers to local school
    boards. It never held these hearings (and didn't come to the Bay
    Area for another year). In the meantime, Cong. James Roosevelt (R.
    CA) told the House on April 25, 1960, four teachers were fired and
    "More than 100 teachers have been in emotional turmoil for 10
    months. Their teaching effectiveness has been impaired, and their
    sense of insecurity has communicated itself to their
    colleagues...[Most were] on probationary status.... These may be
    quietly eased out of the teaching profession by the simple
    expedient of not renewing their contracts."

         Until 1963 the University of California had a "speaker ban."
    Another product of the anti-Communist culture, formalized after the
    1934 San Francisco general strike, it prohibited from speaking on
    a University campus anyone "who would use it as a platform for
    propaganda." That meant all known Communists and anyone else
    deemed controversial by a campus administration. Malcolm X, Nobel
    laureate Linus Pauling, and Harold Laski, a professor at the
    University of London and Labour Member of Parliament, were among
    the many non-Communists whose invitations from student or faculty
    groups were canceled. No one running for public office, including
    the Governor running for re-election, could speak on a University
    campus (though they could speak at the state colleges).

         Of course the speaker ban didn't apply to registered students.
    Bettina Aptheker, a student at Cal the same years I was there,
    could speak her mind, but when the Berkeley History Department
    invited her father, a Ph.D. in history and an editor of the
    Communist Party journal Political Affairs, to participate in a
    symposium in the area of his scholarly expertise, the entire event
    had to be moved off campus.

        Polls showed that the California voters supported the speaker
    ban. They thought it proper to protect vulnerable, young minds
    from deceptive ideas. This preference for security over freedom,
    or more accurately the appearance of security over the student's
    freedom to hear unpopular ideas inside the campus gates,
    demonstrates how thoroughly the culture of anti-Communism had
    saturated the public mind. When a student group successfully
    sponsored a campus talk by someone accused -- but not proven -- of
    being a Communist organizer, three dozen carloads of Bay Area
    citizens went to Sacramento to complain directly to Governor Brown.
    The scope of the Speaker Ban was an issue in the 1962 gubernatorial
    campaign; challenger Richard Nixon wanted to broaden it.

         After Brown won, he and Kerr lobbied the Regents of the
    University to abolish the speaker ban; this was accomplished in
    June of 1963. It didn't go quietly. The Regents were inundated
    with letters objecting to the idea that students should be free to
    listen to just any one, especially on a state campus.

         One Regent added a long letter to the official record which
    argued that "to allow an agent of the Communist Party to peddle his
    wares to students of an impressionable age is just as wrong, in my
    estimation as it would be to allow Satan himself to use the pulpit
    of one of our best cathedrals for the purpose of trying to
    proselyte new members."

         Needless to say, SUAC saw the freedom of students and faculty
    to invite anyone to speak on campus as a security threat. Both
    privately and publicly SUAC continued to attack the University.
    Its golden opportunity came in the fall of 1964 when students at
    Berkeley formed the Free Speech Movement (FSM) to challenge a new
    application of an existing rule that prohibited student groups who
    engaged in any kind of off campus political activity from meeting
    on campus, passing out literature, collecting money, or even
    advertising their off campus membership meetings on the campus
    proper. Like the speaker ban, this rule was a product of the anti-
    Communist culture. Because the administration feared
    recriminations if a student group met on campus which could be
    accused of Communist influence or a few Communist members, it
    prohibited all student groups with any interest in off campus
    politics (including the Young Democrats and the Young Republicans)
    from doing pretty much anything on campus.

         I was the official representative of the University Young
    Democrats to the FSM Executive Committee. Our concern wasn't
    Communism but civil rights. Inspired by the Southern Civil Rights
    Movement, we had recruited students to participate in civil rights
    demonstrations in San Francisco the Spring before. We saw the new
    application of the old rule as a threat to our ability to raise
    money and bodies for the civil rights movement. The Berkeley
    students and faculty strongly agreed with us. By the time the dust
    settled (if it ever did), 773 persons had been arrested for
    occupying the administration building, the campus administration
    had been removed, and the Regents had agreed to let the First and
    Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution apply to the
    University campus. Since then student groups of all political
    persuasions have been able to meet on campus, as well as pass out
    literature, collect money and proselyte.

         SUAC was ecstatic, but not about the new student freedoms.
    Its 1965 report almost gleefully raked Kerr over the coals for
    shirking his responsibility to discipline errant students. Kerr
    was soft on Communism, it implied, and that was why he was so
    easily taken advantage of by the Communist-led FSM. For this
    official attack on the state University and its President the
    California taxpayers (including my mother) paid about $80,000.

         After Kerr released a 42-page critique of the Report's
    inaccuracies and distortions, Burns and Combs retaliated with an
    unprecedented 162-page Supplement, at a cost of $36,000. This
    attack was so vehement that the Regents stepped in and negotiated
    a truce. Only then did SUAC's public attacks cease. But SUAC's
    accusations were already being used as political ammunition. What
    happened at Berkeley was a campaign issue in the 1966 gubernatorial
    race, helping to defeat Governor Brown. At Governor Ronald
    Reagan's first Regents meeting Clark Kerr was fired. He was
    finally felled by the culture of anti-Communism.

         The impact of the Burns report didn't stop at the California
    borders and it wasn't confined to the prominent and the powerful.
    It followed me throughout the South. I got four honorable mentions
    in the 1965 Report, all innocuous, three of which were true.
    Someone pasted those four paragraphs onto a page with other
    excerpts on "Communists in the Rebellion." Titled "MISS JO
    circulated in some of the small Alabama towns in which I worked.

         That particular piece of paper didn't surface in SCLC's voter
    registration project in Grenada Mississippi in the summer of 1966.
    Instead, on August 18, 1966, the Jackson Daily News,
    <http://www.jofreeman.com/sixtiesprotest/clipping.htm> which called
    itself "Mississippi's Greatest Newspaper," exposed me in an
    editorial headlined "Professional Agitator Hits All Major Trouble
    Spots." It cited the Burns report as its major source of
    information, even for things it did not say. It implied that I was
    a Communist, though it didn't specifically say so (which would have
    been libel per se). The editorial was accompanied by five
    photographs, including one taken on December 3, 1964 of my speaking
    from the second floor balcony of the administration building. As
    soon as my boss, Hosea Williams, saw that editorial he put me on a
    bus back to Atlanta. "That thing makes you Klan bait," he said. "We
    don't need more martyrs right now."

         For years I assumed the FBI was behind this story. It had all
    the earmarks of an FBI plant, requiring connections between
    California and Mississippi. My belief was reinforced when the
    FBI's Cointelpro actions against the Civil Rights Movement in
    general and its persecution of Dr. Martin Luther King in particular
    were revealed. Not until 1997 did I discover that the actual
    source of the editorial and photos was the Mississippi Sovereignty
    Commission (MSC), an official state agency of which I was
    completely unaware in 1966. And only after reading many pages in
    the MSC files at the Mississippi Department of Archives did I
    realize that I and others like me were not just foot soldiers in
    the civil rights movement, but cannon fodder in the Cold War.

         After years of litigation by the ACLU, in 1994 a federal court
    ordered Mississippi to open the MSC files and notify "victims"
    through public advertisements that we could obtain copies. When I
    got the pages on which my name appeared I discovered that the MSC
    had its own spy on the Berkeley campus. Edgar Downing, a welder
    from Long Beach who grew up in Mississippi, took photos of me and
    many others and sold them to the state of Mississippi for its own
    extensive files.

         Mississippi's interest in California was sparked by the couple
    dozen Berkeley students who had participated in Freedom Summer a
    couple months before the FSM. Our chief spokesperson, Mario Savio,
    had worked in McComb, Downing's home town, for a few weeks. SCLC's
    summer 1966 Grenada project brought Downing back to Mississippi,
    where he took more photos and sold them to Erle Johnston, Jr.,
    Director of the MSC. Johnston, who had been a professional
    publicist before joining the MSC, arranged for the Jackson Daily
    News to publish the editorial and the photos which made me "Klan

         Although full of falsehoods and innuendos, the newspaper
    published the editorial as true, even though HUAC's Chairman
    responded to a query from a Mississippi Congressman that there was
    no record of my having an "association with officially cited
    Communist or Communist-front organizations." Why did it do so?
    Because the culture of anti-Communism permeated the South.
    Implying that civil rights workers were Communists associated two
    evils with each other and reinforced Southern beliefs that "outside
    agitators" were a foreign as well as a domestic threat.

         The Jackson office of the FBI clipped the page from the
    newspaper and sent it to Headquarters. This began a feedback loop.
    Reports from the Jackson FBI office state that (name blacked out)
    contacted them, and identified JO FREEMAN as a demonstrator in
    Grenada, Miss. "(__) who has furnished reliable information in the
    past, advised that FREEMAN is .... also listed by the Un-American
    Activities Committee of California as a subversive." The charge
    that California thought I was a subversive shows up on several
    pages in my personal FBI file, even though the San Francisco FBI
    office repeatedly says that "No subversive activity is known." The
    Burns report didn't say I was a subversive. I realize that to the
    State of Mississippi all civil rights workers were subversives, but
    it is California that is credited with my designation as such.
    Mere mention in the Burns Committee report was enough.

         I will probably never know all the "subversive" files my name
    appears in. After Burns left the California Senate and Combs
    retired, the new President Pro Tempore discovered himself and "more
    than a score" of legislators in Combs' card files. He promptly
    abolished SUAC, sealed its five hundred cubic feet of material and
    consigned it to permanent storage in the State Archives. It's not
    open to the public, or to those listed on its cards, and may not be
    in my lifetime.

         I will also never know the personal consequences of having an
    FBI file or a listing in the 1965 Burns report. But based on what
    I do know, I'm reasonably sure there were some consequences, none
    of them salutary. The work of official, taxpayer supported, state
    committees, in many more states than California and Mississippi,
    harmed thousands and thousands of good American citizens.

         It did not matter if you were a powerful President of a major
    University, or a foot soldier doing voter registration, once you
    were labeled by the anti-Communist culture as a subversive, or a
    possible subversive, or someone who might participate in activities
    which other possible subversives also participated in, you were
    labeled forever, without even knowing it.

         For all this money spent on investigation and time spent
    exposing ordinary Americans with dissenting views, did these
    agencies discover any threats to our national security? From the
    files I've seen, they knew less about what was going on at the
    Berkeley campus than the students and faculty. The FBI files and
    the SUAC reports are full of errors. They identify as possible
    nefarious influences people we did not know, or know of, and don't
    identify the ones we did know. The SUAC reports give the
    impression that Combs was living in a fantasy world; he interpreted
    and reinterpreted every smidgen of information and misinformation
    to support his world view about the imminent Communist menace and
    discounted anything that didn't fit.

         While some of the FBI agents in the San Francisco office
    appear to be grounded in reality, their Director, J. Edgar Hoover,
    was not. The local agents correctly reported that the FSM was not
    started or controlled by Communists, but when Hoover testified
    before the House Appropriations subcommittee on March 14, 1965, he
    implied otherwise. He said there were 43 persons with "subversive
    backgrounds" in the FSM, including five faculty members. In fact,
    there was ONE member of the Communist Party who was a central
    player in the FSM and a few others who were peripheral. Their
    affiliation was an open secret. They weren't the radicals in the
    FSM and were often a restraining influence on those who were.

         What does this portend for the future? Nothing good. Will
    our fear of terrorism take us down the same path as our fear of
    Communism? If we are to fight this war without shooting ourselves
    in the foot -- and the knees, and the abdomen, and the chest -- our
    security agencies need to be very open about everything they do and
    everything they find. Secrecy creates corruption of purpose. Real
    protection requires accountability, oversight, and transparency.
    If we ask the fox to guard the henhouse, we have to keep a steely
    eye and a heavy hand on the fox.

    Jo Freeman is an attorney, political scientist, and author of
    several books. For more information go to www.JoFreeman.com,
    or reach her at jfrbc@hotmail.com or 718/693-3384.^Z

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