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March 19, 1972 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1972-03-19

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a
special
feature

the

7 "

sunday

daily

about
the
Berrigans

T

Number 59

Night Editor: Linda Dreeben

Sunday, March 19, 1972,

Ari

The

Harrisburg

&

Genesis

of

a

conspiracy

By MARK DILLEN
HARRISBURG, Pa.
"I hope also that you're not worry-
ing about us seven, or about Ted
Glick. We're okay, getting it togeth-
er, and we'll get it more together as
the courtroom debacle develops. Af-
ter all, we have one another, our
lives in resistance, the best of law-
yers, you and thousands like you.
That's more than enough going for
us."
-Father Philip Berrigan, Jan. 23,
1972
A TRIAL goes on in Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania. Every weekday; a
group of devout Catholics and a lone
Pakistani Moslem take their places in
the Federal District Court here, ex-
change quick smiles with the small but
filled-to-capacity gallery and sit down.
They've earned (or is it unintention-
ally acquired?) all the trappings of a
"political" trial, even down to being'
referred to a la radical left-The Har-
risburg 8. Now they bask in the heady
distinction of being singled out by
J. Edgar Hoover for punishment, and
like the early Christians they try to
emulate, the more they are persecuted
and prosecuted, the better the impres-
sion they create.
The eight are charged with ten
counts of conspiracy - the federal gov-
ernment's legal workhorse used to com-
bat the threat seen in the anti-war
radical groups. With the case now
formally surfacing in the courtroom for
an extended trial (instead of the form-
er grand jury secrecy), the defendants
find themselves inheriting the mantle
of leadership in the anti-war struggle.
At least for the time being, they are at
the center of the movement - even
though their trial seems the sole, ten-
uous connection between the older, pa-
cifistic Catholic Left and the splinter-
ed radical groups around the country.
The Harrisburg defendants some-
how represent a commitment to ac-
tivism which has by its nature baffled
potential supporters ever since Hoov-
er's November, 1971 announcement of
an "incipient plot" by the Catholic
Left's East Coast Conspiracy to Save
Lives. Though the defendants long-
term dedication and eloquent argu-
ments were encouraging, the seeming
naivete of their alleged plans startled
many. After raiding draft boards in
three different states, the defendants
were to blow up the underground heat-
ing tunnels for Washington, D.C. gov-
ernment buildings on Washington's
birthday, 1971, and kidnap Henry Kis-
singer the following day.
It didn't matter much that Hoover
let the word out while begging more
money for the FBI before the Senate
Appropriations Committee - his first
Senate committee appearance in 15
years. "(It is) an anarchist group ---
self-described as being composed of
Catholic priests and nuns, teachers,
students and former students (whose)
principal leaders . . . are Philip and
Daniel Berrigan," Hoover intoned, and
It was enough to start things working
against two middle-aged, activist
priests.

Phil and Dan Berrigan

"Imagine! my brother in prison,
myself on the run, our friends here
in there (in prison, on the run), and
in every city between. Thus, all of
us are enabled, in an utterly new
way, to probe and ponder the new
forms of community, the questions
about the future ..."
-Father Dan Berrigan, April, 1970
PHIL AND DAN BERRIGAN will tell
you that they are blessed to be
hounded by the government, criticized
by their Church and taken to jail for
their beliefs. They may be right. Their
troubles have drawn attention to them
and their cause during a time when
troop withdrawals, electronic battle-
fields and Presidential junkets h a v e
threatened to rob the Movement of its
fervor. Dan, the older of the two, with
elfin appearance, is the poet, the think-
er. Phil is the grey-haired man of ac-
tion, the true believer - Catholic Left
proponent of civil disobedience. On
March 9, Dan-who was not listed in
the final Harrisburg indictment-came
to town on parole from a draft board
record burning charge to visit the con-
spiracy defendants.
"Where do you think the prosecution
will be taking its case now?" reporters
asked Dan outside the courtroom. "In
circles, as usual," was Berrigan's dead-
panned reply.
The Berrigans began rubbing au-
thorities the wrong way early in the
Movement's genesis. While Dan was
sticking to religious topics of a more
traditional nature in developing a re-
putation as a poet-author, his brother
was making waves in the early sixties
championing the civil rights cause. By
1964-5 they were part of the miniscule
peace movement and promptly found
the Catholic Church no less intolerant
of anti-Vietnam war sentiments than
the American public. Because of his
strong anti-war positions, Dan's super-
iors sent him to Latin America, where

he spent five months. After s t r o n g
objections from parts of the Catholic
community, the Church reconsidred,
and he was recalled to New York City.
By fall, 1967, Dan was at Cornell, in-
volved once again in activist causes.
Meanwhile, Philip had been removed
from a teaching post in Newburgh, N.Y.
and transferred to Baltimore because
of anti-war activities. There he helped
to pioneer the resistance tactic of raid-
ing draft board offices, the first inci-
dent occurring on October 27, 1967,
when he and three others poured blood
on draft files.
This experience, along with his own
arrest and detainment for participat-
ing in an anti-war demonstration at
the Pentagon a few days before, played
an important role in shaping the Ber-
rigans' viewpoints. Said Dan:
"What a time, when theology is writ-
ten on the run, in snatches and fits
and starts. And yet I can say with
all my heart's approval, we have come
full circle and are back in the prison
of Antiochus or Herod, speaking
through the bars .
"It has come to this, during this war,
that the government is acting at home
and abroad in a perfectly consistent
way. On both fronts, American power is
the active, virulent enemy of human
hope."
T HE NEXT STEP came May 17, 1968
in broad daylight in the parking
lot of a selective service office n e a r
Baltimore. Dan and Phil, along with
seven other left-wing Catholics, set fire
to 378 draft card files with napalm
made according to an .armed forces
manual. By spring, 1970, their convic-
tions were final and the "Catonsville
9" - the name the public knew them
as - were soon picked up from their
separate "underground" sanctuaries.
That is, all except Dan Berrigan. It
took four months of search before FBI
agents, disguised as birdwatchers tres-
passing near philosopher W i 11 i a m
Stringfellow's Rhode Island h o m e,
caught the fugitive priest and sent him
off to join his brother at the federal
penitentiary at Danbury, Connecticut.
Following a prisoners' strike he helped
to organize, Phil was transferred to
Lewisburg, Pa., where he would meet
the key to the government's current
charge against him and the Harrisburg
8: FBI informer Boyd C. Douglas.
U.S. Deputy Atty. General Lynch: "I
would like to establish the sterling
character of lr. Douglas since 1970."
Defense Lawyer Paul O'Dwyer: "We
did not inquire into this."
Lynch: "Possibly, because they know
he's a hard working and depend-
able-"
O'Dwyer: "Oh, come on, Mr. Lynch!"
MR. WILLIAM LYNCH, a short, silver-
blond-haired prosecutor, smiled to
the Harrisburg 8's defense lawyers as
he made the above remark in court
last Thursday. It would probably be
the last day Boyd Douglas would be
nnv the, Tin+1 ~i tP~f ,,4+ H~bn' 'jr.in, t

las got up and left the stand, where
he had spent 46/ hours under interro-
gation since Feb. 28.
But there was something about that
smile that told those who caught it
that Douglas was not an ordinary in-
adept
f o r m e r. Douglas was particularly
adept at changing his allegiances and
convincing new allies that he was sin-
cere. In the courtroom, he would speak
of how he agreed to keep tabs on
"SDS, the Panthers . . . and the other
nuts" after having first sought their
acquaintance as a convict dissatisfied
with "the system." Simply put, Doug-
las was a con-man who turned inform-
er to ease certain government charges
against himself and whose political be-
liefs,.if any, were sublimated by what-
ever course was most helpful in getting
out of his scrapes with the law.
And the now paunchy, slicked-down,
31-year-old Douglas has had quite a
few. After dropping out of high school,
Douglas enlisted in the Army in 1960
and went to Korea. After a stint there
-highlighted by larceny and f r a u d
charges against him - he was sent
back to the States but, as he calmly
told the jury, "I got off the plane and
never reported to my unit." He was
soon traced down, put in the stockade
at the Presidio in San Francisco, but
again escaped.
By 1963, Douglas had managed sev-
eral escapes, passed $60,000 worth of
bad checks in more states than he says
he can remember, was deported to the
United States from Acupulco, and ar-
rested and convicted in San Antonio,
Texas for impersonating an officer and
passing bad checks. He was sent to
Lewisburg to begin serving a maximum
six year term, but after three years he
was paroled. He began passing bad
checks again, was arrested by the FBI
in Wisconsin with a 9 mm Beretta
pistol on him and again sentenced to
serve time in Lewisburg. There also he
occasionally got into trouble for cheat-
ing and gambling.
It was then that Douglas' talent for
making the most of a situation seem-
ed to rise to even greater heights. In
the fall of 1969 he applied for and was
accepted into a unique program which
enabled him to leave the prison during
the daytime to take courses at nearby
Bucknell University. Under this "study-
release" program he would only be re-
quired to return from the campus at
night. Although no one else among the
1400 Lewisburg inmates was then en-
rolled in the program and only three
had ever participated in it, prison of-
ficials overlooked Douglas' long re-
cord and let him go.
O'Dwyer: "Then ,you told Phil Berri-
rigan that you were dissatisfied with
the government in your first conver-
sation with him?"
Douglas: "When you're in prison
you're not going to tell another in-
mate you're pro-government."
"THAT'S THE thing about Phil Ber-

with open arms as someone who could
keep contact with the "outside."
Though prison officials claim ignor-
ance, Douglas had already been car-
rying letters outside for several in-
mates and Berrigan soon hear of Doug-
las through others. "He (Berrigan)
asked me if I could get a message out .. .
I said I probably could," Douglas testi-
fied.
Perhaps it was Douglas' gruff de-
meanor and tall tales about past activ-
ism that led to his acceptance in the
group. "Most of the infiltrated groups
want to feel as though they can ab-
sorb anyone," says civil liberties law-
yer-author Frank Donner. "The in-
former shames the main group by be-
ing a man of resolution and for fear
of discrediting themselves and reveal,
ing their own insecurities, they strive
to go along with, and perhaps exceed
the man of action's plots."
From there Douglas' plan arose. A
slew of defense lawyers - featuring
former Atty. General Ramsey Clark -
would like to show that. Douglas was
trying to set up Berrigan and h i s
compatriots. Douglas insists that it was
just - at least at the beginning - to
get more "freedom."
"I knew that they were all anti-gov-
ernment (those who might be contacts
of Berrigan) . .. I felt that if they didn't
care for the policies of the government
they wouldn't be reporting back to pri-
son officials about me."
But Douglas soon learned that there
was more advantage in being a courier
between Berrigan and Sister Elizabeth
McAllister and the other defendants
than just a little more freedom of
movement - if indeed that was his
real motivation. Douglas started read-
ing the mail he was carrying on the
sly and realized he could gain by
changing sides. "I knew I would even-
tually be apprehended with the letters
and that it was against the law to take
them out . .. I copied them so that I
would have evidence to produce to pro-
per authorities when discovered by
police."
DESPITE INTENSIVE cross examina-
tion last week, Douglas would not
admit that he and the FBI actually had
anything arranged when Berrigan ar-
rived at Lewisburg. Instead, he claims,
it was only after contraband letters
were discovered in a shake-down of
Berrigan's cell that he turned informer.
"(U.S. FBI agent Curtis) Mayfield
told me that the U.S. attorney had de-
clined prosecution and that it was up
to me whether I wished to coninue with
the investigation," Douglas testified.
Douglas then began reporting to the
FBI in earnest, simultaneously increa-
ing his involvement with Phil Berri-
gan, even to the setting up of anti-war
meetings and supplying the defendants
with militarydemolition manuals the
FBI had given him. By Sept. 1970, the

government says, McAlister wrote a
letter to Berrigan suggesting the al-
leg:d plan and Phil replied that he lik-
ed it. The letters and phone calls Doug-
las revealed also contained details of
a planned draft record burning in Ro-
chester, New York and thus caught
defendant Ted Glick in the act. One
letter also alluded to Dan Berrigan's
hideout on Rhode Island and led to
Dan's capture.
"Boyd has told so many lies prac-
tically all his life that I can't be-
lieve anything he says."
-Boyd Douglas' father.
WHEN BOYD DOUGLAS stepped down
from the witness stand last Thurs-
lay, an important part of the trial of
the Harrisburg 8 had ended. Yet it was
unclear whether the defense had suc-
ceeded at all in discrediting the funda-
mental points of Douglas' testimony.
The informer did admit to taking over
$9,000 from the FBI, but claimed it only
covered expenses involved in his'work.
He admitted he posed as a Vietnam
veteran and army demolitions expert,
but denied he was the first to suggest
the use of explosives. Once, under hard
questioning, Douglas countered t h a t
Phil Berrigan had even mentioned
blowing up the Pentagon computer sys-
tem in addition to the other acts. In
sum, there were several inconsistencies
revealed, but nothing essentially dam-
aging to the government's case.
Still, the fact that the defense in this
trial should feel impelled to discredit
Boyd Douglas and whatever govern-
ment witnesses follow does say some-
thing about the nature of the charges
against the Harrisburg 8. Like P h i1
Berrigan's bitter young friend, most of
the defendants' supporters see the trial
as an attack on morality, with moral-
ity stripped of all its power in the eyes
of the courts. "Guilty until proven in-
nocent" is the way they characterize
the use the conspiracy charges are be-
ing put to. Though these charges of late
have neither been proven nor disprov-
en as ways of meting out prison sent-
ences to movement activists, those on
trial plainly regard it as a form of
harassment. The Harrisburg 8 may be
on trial for another six months and
the cost of lawyers and publicity may
near $200,000, the defense committee
says.
JN THIS BLEAK, xenophobic town,
few are aware of the facts of this
trial beyond those who, endowed with
a sense of civic pride, are glad some-
thing has finally put Harrisburg "on
the map." They have heard, however,
of the planned protests later this
month and next planned to coincide
with the Easter holidays. And they
don't seem to like it. "I don't know,"
a life-long resident of Harrisburg told
this reporter, "we don't really want that
lendl here."

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