DANCING WITH THE FBI
While working on the literary adventure of my Memoirs I received two large cardboard boxes in the mail. Much to my surprise they were gifts from the FBI—my Freedom of Information (FOIA) files of about 300 pages, only a small part of some 10,000 pages covering all my US “intelligence” agencies’ records of my nefarious past. I had applied for them so long ago that I had given up hope of ever seeing them. They provide the only practical means, short of personal counter- intelligence, to US citizens of learning how their own government snoops into their lives.
This intensive campaign of spying and careful record keeping also served the purpose of reminding me of activities I had long forgotten. Among other things, I had been named as an unindicted co-conspirator (later dropped) in the Harrisburg 8 Conspiracy case for planning to kidnap Henry Kissinger and placing bombs under the Capitol, which FBI chief JE Hoover wanted to use to discredit our religious peace movement.
Apparently on April 1, 1972 “at a rally held in Harrisburg… Paul Mayer read 8 names of persons claiming responsibility for the York sabotage… [where] 313 casings for 500 pound bombs ready for shipment were damaged by a group referring to itself as ‘Citizens Committee to Demilitarize Industry’…. While it is recognized that Mayer will be uncooperative when contacted…every investigative venue must be pursued to its logical conclusion.”
The files engage in a fascinating analysis of my views on non-violence and violence. “Subject states that violence does not apply to things, such as draft files, but to people, such as napalmed children in Vietnam…. And subject states that ‘the day may come when to be non-violent may be more violent than to be violent’—a position once hinted at by Ghandi. But when a synopsis states that: “He believes that violence which applies to people is sometimes justified,” one analyst almost comes to my defense with “Advise in detail where this is supported?” and concludes that “in no instances do the details indicate subject has stated (or believes) violence to people is sometimes justified.” They were trying to determine just how dangerous I was. My day-and-night observers were also troubled that “he has expressed brotherhood with the Black Panthers and Weatherman while disagreeing with their tactics.”
Hoover’s G-Men seemed to listen to every rally speech, monitor my sermons and read every op-ed piece. Of course they also used phone taps and informers. I later realized that we had one living right in our East Orange community house. Through the interception of some grandiose correspondence with a prisoner they accused me of traveling to Cuba in 1970 to raise money—a far-fetched and fictitious charge because this was many years before my first visit to Cuba. Similarly they discovered that I was “organizing minor sabotage among employees at Picattiny Arsenal.” This charge was true and the leak scuttled a potentially powerful and profound action. I had met a group of devout Catholic laymen who worked as engineers and technicians in one of the biggest bomb plants in the country in Dover, NJ. They were seriously and prayerfully contemplating some act of nonviolent action against these instruments of death and I always thought that their or my phones had been tapped.
It was apparently through this same leak that the protectors of our First Amendment also discovered that “he assisted in harboring fugitive XXXX” (name blanked out but undoubtedly they meant Fr. Dan Dan Berrigan).
The files also report that “Paul Mayer led 15 persons in a sit-in at the Archdiocese of NY offices to protest the RC Church’s position regarding demands made by _________ [James Foreman in the Black Manifesto] for reparation to negroes.”
Finally “Due to his anarchistic (sic) beliefs, including his views of violence and his involvement at least in the defense of those who have participated in the destruction of Government property in opposition to the Vietnam War; and due to his frequent travels throughout the country making speeches supporting his views to obtain funds and muster support both for his cause and the cause of PCPJ, it is recommended that Mayer be placed on Priority II of the Security Index.” It’s nice to get a promotion somewhere.
Would that US military, police, prison and intelligence agencies be held to such scrutiny, high standards and moral delicacy about their views on and use of violence.