by Jean Ann Eisenhower
I was born into a Republican family, just days after the 4th of July, in 1952, and given a most favored name in decades of American politics – Eisenhower.
At the age of eight, I recall hearing my mother telling friends that our new home in Merced, California, backed up on a cul-de-sac near the home of Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall. My doctor was his cousin, Addison Udall.
At the age of nine, we moved to Paradise Valley, Arizona, where, someone told me recently, Dan Quayle attended school for a few months, until his parents moved him to the local private school. May or may not be true.
In any case, this protected, conservative town where a Vice Presidential candidate might have been my neighbor never allowed me to imagine that I might one day grow up to worry about personal government repression.
The FBI would be concerned about me, though, by the time I turned 27 and began organizing in the Christian peace and anti-nuclear movements. Both these were sufficient cause – according to former FBI Agent M. Wesley Swearingen in his book FBI Secrets: An Agent’s Exposé – to make one a serious target for surveillance, dirty tricks, and repression.
I also know this firsthand, having received FBI documents from a friend who was framed and almost went to prison, that describe numerous activities and statements of mine. Scores of pages outline mostly silly and legal things, like potlucks and phone calls to Congress people, but some reports make us sound suspicious, as the informer-authors speculate on reasons we avoided them, as we planned perfectly legal work we simply didn’t want disrupted. (The more juicy their reports, the more likely they received continuing paychecks.)
Last year, I moved to Oakland for two months to do media work for the historic federal trial “Judi Bari vs. the FBI” (and Oakland Police), in which the FBI and police were found guilty of conspiracy to frame Judi for a bomb planted in her car in 1990 that crippled and almost killed her; and for failing to investigate obvious leads for the would-be assassin.
For six weeks, I witnessed courtroom testimony and evidence, wrote about it, and sent out press releases and photos like these, sometimes to as many as 600 media around the United States.
The FBI also communicated with the media, of course, and no corporate-owned media outside California covered this historic trial – or the guilty verdicts and $4.4 million judgement against the FBI – even though four of us worked on it full-time.
It know not every member of the FBI condones attempted murder, framing, or hiding a would-be assassin, or would resent my six-week series of media releases. Indeed some former agents, troubled by conscience, have gone public with charges that the FBI is the worst sort of “good ol’ boy” network, in which law and truth are scrapped in favor of promoting, even with assassination, a narrow concept of corporate-controlled American conformity.
As the former FBI assistant director, William C. Sullivan testified: “Never once did I hear anybody, including myself, raise the questions, Is this course of action which we have agreed upon lawful? Is it legal? Is it moral and ethical? We never gave a thought to that realm of reasoning…. The one thing we were concerned with was this: Will this course of action work? Will it get us what we want? Will it reach the objective we desire to reach?”
Objectives? Apparently, sometimes at least, objectives include crushing and smearing other opinions, so people with the most power can expand it.
Court was fascinating. The FBI agents were very well dressed, well-rehearsed, well-protected by the nation’s most talented attorneys. Yet their testimony constantly contradicted itself, contradicted their previous sworn depositions, contradicted each other, contradicted the evidence, and contradicted common sense.
For instance, the FBI’s “bomb expert” told the court he “knew” Judi knew about the bomb because “it had been on the floor of the back seat where she would have seen it.”
He continued to say this even after the photos on these two pages were displayed to the court, showing the driver’s door ballooned out and the back door looking functional, as it was: The EMT’s working with him at the bomb scene had opened the back door to try to reach Judi and had no problem with the door, but found her impaled on a spring from the front seat. The back seat, when it was carried into court was in near pristine condition for an older car. (See the photo above.)
He also said he believed she had put her guitar case on top of the bomb because the guitar case had been “demolished,” “blown to bits,” and “was totally unrecognizable,” even though this photo, court evidence, shows the case quite recognizable at the scene.
For six weeks after the bombing, the FBI fed the national media “disinformation” which the feds later had to retract, but the media for six weeks reported it all, as fact, across America, including the assertion that Judi, mother of two young girls and an outspoken 20-year practitioner and advocate of non-violence, was a “known terrorist.”
Judi was – and this is key to everything – a very effective speaker and advocate for sustainable forestry, which, she was explaining to folks up and down the West Coast, could provide a stronger economy for logging communities while saving a significant portion of our American heritage – our ancient forests.
People were listening, and loggers and mill workers were taking the stage with her. She’d helped put a California citizens’ referendum on the ballot, named “Forests Forever,” which polls indicated would soon make sustainable logging state policy – though it would lessen logging companies’ short term profits by billions of dollars.
When the bomb went off, Judi was gruesomely wounded, crippled for life, and would have died if the bomb hadn’t malfunctioned. The FBI shipped her car to Washington, DC, so that no media would see it for months, then aggressively linked the backers of Forests Forever to “terrorism.”
The referendum lost, forest clear cuts and corporate profits were guaranteed. Even the thirty death threats Judi had received the previous month (ignored by the Sheriff before the bombing) were also ignored by the FBI.
When a letter-writer claimed credit for the bomb, the FBI did no DNA tests to see if there was saliva in the glue on the envelope flap or stamp. Eventually, Judi’s estate (she died seven years later of breast cancer), conducted this research and found a suspected FBI informant implicated.
I wrote about this and more for six weeks, while living with friends who both received death threats while I was there. For awhile, we held our breath every time we turned the ignition key.
Most sobering, though, was this fact: the national media conducted a nearly total black-out of this news, even though (or maybe because) they’d published the disinformation earlier.
Not only were the corporate-owned media absent, but so was the woman who would later publish a book defaming Judi after the trial. Even thought she lived nearby in San Francisco, she never attended the six-week Oakland trial. Obviously her book is fantasy and contains no documentation, but it serves to indoctrinate FBI agents, I’m sure.
No family members of FBI agents attended court either, unless they were well-disguised.
These men [I’m digressing now, but humor me], so opposite the sexy fed, what’s-his-name of X-Files, who portrayed such openness of heart….
What an idea! If every FBI agent could open his or her heart and re-direct his or her power in the true direction of what he or she is pledged to – freedom and democracy…. But only a few resist so far.
I believe they haven’t acted yet in larger numbers because this country is such a brutal place. I believe they are afraid.
Brutal? Let’s admit a few things.
Many Americans suffer at jobs they don’t like, away from their families, “unable to quit.” Most are getting poorer, though we’re surrounded by trinkets. Nearly everyone is on drugs: caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, anti-depressants, and even drugs for children to dull them into tolerating school. Children commit mass murder.
Nearly everyone’s addicted to TV and laughs about their addiction, if asked about it, which few do. Few trust their neighbors or even know them.
We have the highest per capital prison population in the world, over two million. Diseases escalate. Each decade reveals medical and other experiments done by our government on unwitting citizens (usually after statutes of limitations have expired), while allegations of similar acts continue to be called conspiracy theories.
We have rampant domestic and sexual abuse, even in our churches. Corporations steal our retirement funds and move to control the planet’s food and water supply and “human resources” (God, what a phrase! – that’s us), and government is deaf to all our protest.
Worse, our military wages wars to support those corporations. Environmental disasters go unaddressed because people feel powerless.
Most of us were “educated” since age five, regimented by clock and calendar, our time and space both made into boxes.
Boys may have been welcomed into life with the torture of un-anesthetized circumcision. Most of us experienced some unnatural separation from our mothers at birth, followed by extended families ripped apart, and no tribal or community caring. Those advocating other ways to live, if they’re too charismatic, are “neutralized” – FBI lingo for assassination, and the furthest thing from freedom and democracy.
Dwight warned us to “beware the military-industrial complex.” And now, I believe, is the time to act to change things.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence: “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive…it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…. [I]t is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Jesus, I believe, tried to teach us something for which He, like many, was neutralized and his teachings subverted: Listen to your inner spirit, take care of each other, and “The truth shall set you free.”
Native American wisdom (which also advocates caring for one another) says that speaking our truth is one of the reasons we live. And the Hopi, I understand, are saying, “The time is now.”
Since our corporate-owned media wouldn’t tell the Judi Bari story, I’ll tell hers with mine – and add my vision of enlightened feds (whether you think it’s ridiculous or not) and citizenry.
Thanks for reading. And for telling your story. For sharing our truth is the only way democracy can work and for us to be truly free.
Happy Independence Day ~ Jean Ann
PS: A few resources for non-corporate news and history [My 2003 list; today I don’t keep up; it all seems like the same old thing, and I can’t bare to keep reading more of the same]: truthout.org, alternet.org, indymedia.org (look for Asante Riverwind’s “Declaration of Interdependence” there), copvcia.org, judibari.org, aclu.org, votetoimpreach.org, thewaronfreedom.com, Democracy Now and Jim Hightower radio, Mother Jones Magazine, Agents of Repression by Ward Churchill, and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Mathiesen.