"Ayer Head" Professor Defends Bill Ayers
By Cliff Kincaid
Dan Kennedy, an assistant professor at the Northeastern University School of Journalism in Boston who writes for the British Guardian, has been caught spreading falsehoods about communist terrorist Bill Ayers. Yet, he refuses to correct the record, promising that he will one day "surprise" people with the truth about Bill Ayers and his connections to two Weather Underground members involved in the murder of a Boston police officer.
To borrow a phrase from Mark Thompson, a student parent who recently confronted Ayers at one of his propaganda sessions on the University of Illinois campus, Kennedy has revealed himself to be an "Ayer Head."
Specifically, Kennedy is defending Ayers against charges that members of his organization, Katherine Ann Power and Susan Edith Saxe, were convicted of involvement in a bank robbery and the murder of Boston Police Officer Walter A. Schroeder in 1970.
But a 1975 Senate Internal Security Subcommittee report and former top FBI official Oliver "Buck" Revell say that Power and Saxe were regarded by law enforcement authorities as members of the Weather Underground. An FBI document on the official FBI website explicitly identifies Power as a Weather Underground member.
Echoing Ayers, Kennedy claims that Ayers has been unfairly "demonized" and insists that, other than blowing up a bomb that killed three of their own members, the Weather Underground "radicals" never "killed nor injured anyone." This is a monstrous lie worse than his deceptions about Power and Saxe.
Weather Underground members Power and Saxe were not only involved in the murder of Schroeder and served prison time for it but Ayers himself told an FBI informant, Larry Grathwohl, that his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, had personally planted the bomb that killed San Francisco Police Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell in 1970. This case is still open and evidence is being gathered and analyzed.
What's more, the Weather Underground spin-off, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), murdered black educator Marcus Foster and bank customer Myrna Opsahl during a robbery and also blew up police cars in an effort to kill police officers. SLA member Sara Jane Olson was recently released from prison.
Another Weather Underground off-shoot, the Revolutionary Armed Task Force, which included members of the Black Liberation Army, conducted the 1981 robbery of a Brinks truck that left one police officer and two security guards dead. Dohrn spent 8 months in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury about what she knew about the case.
Ayers and Dohrn signed the notorious "Prairie Fire" manifesto praising the BLA and the SLA as "leading forces in the development of the armed struggle…" This manifesto included a dedication to Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. A Weather Underground statement dated February 20, 1974, and signed by Dohrn had praised the SLA, which also kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, for raising "everyone's consciousness" about "the war between the rich and the poor."
Weather Underground members operated under a variety of names, including Red Guerrilla Resistance, Armed Resistance Unit, New World Liberation Front, and United Freedom Front.
It defies common sense and Journalism 101 for Kennedy to try to separate the Weather Underground and its leaders from their various cells or spin-offs.
Kennedy's bizarre comments have been thrust into the spotlight because Ayers had been scheduled to speak at Boston College. When Boston-based radio talk-show host (96.9 FM, WTKK) and Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham found out about it, he raised an outcry and sparked protests. Graham highlighted the fact that Katherine Ann Power, convicted in the 1970 bank robbery and murder of Officer Schroeder, was identified by the FBI as a member of the Weather Underground. As a result of the protests, Ayers' speech on campus was cancelled.
Considering the nature of the Schroeder murder, it's not surprising that Ayers and Dohrn and their followers would try to distance themselves from it. Schroeder, who was survived by a wife and nine children, was shot in the back three times.
Kennedy, who also writes for the Boston Phoenix and is a regular panelist on "Beat the Press" on public television station WGBH, has been adamant on his Media Nation blog that "Katherine Ann Power had no connection to the Weather Underground" and that "I have searched far and wide on several occasions, and I can find no evidence that anyone has ever linked Power or Saxe to the Weather Underground¯including the FBI." He based his conclusions on some Google and Amazon.com searches and a look at a heavily redacted FBI document on the Weather Underground posted on the Web.
Graham countered: "For the nitwits out there (including some moron who claims to teach at Northeastern University) who keep trying to argue that the murder of Officer Schroeder was unrelated to Ayers' Weather Underground, check out what the actual FBI has to say on the subject." This is a link to the FBI item about the Weather Underground that included a photo showing "Weather Underground members Bernardine Rae Dohrn and Katherine Ann Power."
Incredibly, Kennedy's response was that the FBI had erred. "Based on what I've found so far," he said, "I think someone in the FBI communications department made a mistake."
This is a classic response from someone who doesn't want to acknowledge that he is wrong. It is terrible for a journalist, let alone a journalism professor, to have such an attitude.
It turns out that the FBI listed Katherine Ann Power and Susan Edith Saxe as members of the Weather Underground for the basic reason that they were considered members of the group.
One authority on this matter is Oliver "Buck" Revell, who retired as FBI Agent in Charge (SAC) in Dallas, Texas, but had risen to the position of Associate Deputy Director in Charge of Investigations, with jurisdiction over all FBI operations. He was involved in the search for Power and Saxe after their involvement in the murder of Schroeder.
He told AIM that the FBI considered Power and Saxe to be members of the Weather Underground but involved in a "spin-off" that he called the United Freedom Front (UFF). "They had been associated with the Weather Underground," he said. "All the UFF members were essentially a cell associated with the Weather Underground."
"We talked to a lot of people that had Weather Underground connections in trying to trace them [Power and Saxe] down and track them down," he added. "They generally hung around college campuses where the Weather Underground was active. They were connected."
Saxe was captured in 1975 and served seven years in prison, while Power surrendered to authorities in 1993, went to prison, and was released in 1999.
Ignorant of the Facts
In an interview with AIM, Kennedy admitted he was unfamiliar with a 1975 report on the Weather Underground from the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security which identified Power and Saxe as members of the Weather Underground who went on the FBI's "Most Wanted List." You can find the report (PDF) here and the reference on page 36. On Page 33 you can find a reference to Power and Saxe being members of the "Weatherman group." The Weatherman became the Weather Underground. Page 92 of the report noted that Power attended Brandeis University and was described by a confidential informant as a member of a "small Weatherman group" there. An October 5, 1970, report in Time magazine said Power was seen attending rallies of the SDS, the forerunner of the Weatherman and the Weather Underground. Saxe also attended Brandeis and roomed with Power.
Veteran Congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein, who just completed a major report on the Weather Underground, makes the basic point that the Weather Underground did not issue membership cards for obvious reasons. This was a secret communist organization, some of whose members were trained in Cuba, which operated in cells, spin-offs, sections, fronts, or "collectives."
The Weather Underground provided the leadership rather than establishing a membership organization, Romerstein points out. He explains, "They encouraged others to go out and commit acts of violence. People who committed these acts of violence on behalf of the Weather Underground were considered members of the Weather Underground." Such was the case with Power, Saxe and their gang.
The Weather Underground, in turn, worked with or on behalf of other groups, including the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panthers. For example, Weather Underground member Mark Rudd admits in his new terrorist "memoir" what had long been alleged¯that the New York "collective" of the Weather Underground conducted the February 1970 firebombing of the home of a judge presiding over the trial of the so-called Panther 21. The Panther 21 were members of the Black Panther Party. Rudd identifies Terry Robbins as being the main organizer of this bombing. Robbins later blew himself up in the explosion that also killed two other members of the Weather Underground. (Rudd dedicates his book to all three of them).
John M. Murtagh, the son of the judge, has written an article, "The Weathermen Tried to Kill My Family." Kennedy should read it before he writes anything else about Bill Ayers.
Propagandist for Ayers
Kennedy has fallen for the Bill Ayers trick of claiming that any murders or attempted murders cannot be legally traced back to anything that he or his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, personally did or said (Dohrn had praised mass murderer Charles Manson and gushed about one of his gang members sticking a fork into one of their murder victims). The claim is made for obvious purposes of self-interest. Ayers and Dohrn are still trying to escape justice because they have lucrative jobs as university professors, associate with prominent politicians such as Barack Obama, and give speeches around the country and the world. Indeed, Ayers has traveled to Venezuela, speaking on education as the "motor-force of revolution," at least four times by his own admission.
The self-serving Ayers claim about not killing anyone simply ignores the sworn testimony from former FBI informant Larry Grathwohl (see the testimony in the back of the Romerstein report) that Ayers told him that Dohrn had planted the bomb that killed San Francisco Police Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell in 1970. Ayers described the nature of the bomb and complained about the fact that Dohrn had to plant it herself. What's more, Grathwohl had said that Ayers instructed that bombs be planted at police facilities in Detroit and that they be timed to kill and injure as many people as possible. Like the bomb that killed Sgt. McDonnell, these were going to contain heavy fence staples and other shrapnel. But the bombs in the Detroit case malfunctioned and didn't go off.
While Ayers also tries to separate himself from the 1981 joint Weather Underground-Black Liberation Army robbery of a Brinks truck that left one police officer and two security guards dead, Romerstein notes that Ayers and Dohrn quickly adopted the baby of Kathy Boudin and raised him as their own son. Boudin and her husband, David Gilbert, were convicted of murder in the Brinks case and were members of the Weather Underground. The child, Chesa Boudin, would grow up to become a cheerleader for and self-described foreign policy adviser to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, demonstrating that the ideology of Ayers and Dohrn and their methods of indoctrination, now being applied to university students, were extremely effective.
Former FBI official Revell made the point, also made by Romerstein, that the Weather Underground had no official membership cards. "You can't say they were card-carrying [members] because I don't think anybody carried a card," he said of Power and Saxe.
Nevertheless, their involvement in Weather Underground organizations helps explain why authorities would identify Power and Saxe as members of the Weather Underground. Plus, as the Senate report notes, confidential information was discovered identifying Power as a member of the Weatherman group at Brandeis.
The facts of the case are obvious to anybody who takes the time to do some basic research. But Kennedy is so determined to defend Ayers that he is willing to ignore essential facts about how the Weather Underground operated through cells and fronts. This is the mark of a left-wing ideologue determined to rehabilitate Ayers, not a journalist or journalism professor.
Kennedy Admits Ignorance
To understand the depth of the professor's ignorance, I read to Kennedy an excerpt from the Senate report on the Weather Underground that refers to three female members of the Weather Underground being on the FBI's list of Most Wanted fugitives without being apprehended. They were identified as Bernardine Rae Dohrn, Susan Edith Saxe and Katherine Ann Power. It refers earlier in the report to the robbery of the State Street Bank and Trust Company in Boston and says, "In connection with the robbery a Boston police officer was shot and killed. Police charged both Susan Edith Saxe and Katherine Anne Power of the Weatherman group with complicity in the murder and robbery."
This is about as clear as it gets.
Asked to respond, Kennedy admitted he didn't know anything about the report. But he turned around to say, "You will be correcting the record. Okay. Stay tuned. This isn't done…I think I've got a very big surprise for you coming. But I don't have it now."
So he has a blockbuster revelation but doesn't know what it is yet.
I also pointed out that in his Guardian column he tried to get the Weather Underground off the hook for the Park Station bombing in San Francisco that killed Sergeant Brian McDonnell. I asked, "Are you aware of somebody named Larry Grathwohl?"
Kennedy replied, "No. I don't know that much about that case. And I have not done any work on it at all. The Schroeder case I do know a fair amount about."
I asked, "Then why did you link in your piece to a Time magazine story claiming that a Weather Underground connection to the Park Station bombing in San Francisco had not been conclusively demonstrated if you don't know what the facts were? Do you know that Larry Grathwohl is a former FBI informant in the Weather Underground who testified that he was at a meeting where Bill Ayers told him that Bernardine Dohrn had planted the bomb that killed Sergeant McDonnell?"
Kennedy said he was not aware of that information.
Kennedy Promises Big "Surprise"
I asked why he didn't do some basic research before he published his misleading and false claims about the Weather Underground. He responded, "You are in for a major surprise on the Schroeder case, my man. Stay tuned."
It is difficult to understand what this "surprise" could be, except for further expected denials from Ayers or his apologists that he had anything directly to do with Power and Saxe and the murder of Schroeder. But the fact remains that authorities clearly considered Power and Saxe to be Weather Underground members with contacts and associates among other members of the group. They all shared the same communist ideology.
If Kennedy had any honesty and integrity, he would quickly correct the record, and he has not done so. He claimed the FBI had not identified them as Weather Underground, and that was false. In addition, he had no knowledge of the 1975 Senate report, which also identified them as Weather Underground. Through this column he can find a link to that report.
The larger question is why a journalism professor is spending time trying to split hairs on the matter of whether a communist revolutionary was a card-carrying member of the Weather Underground when it didn't issue membership cards anyway.
Although the evidence is overwhelming that the FBI, law enforcement authorities and congressional investigators considered Power and Saxe to be members of the Ayers/Dohrn gang, Kennedy has been desperately trying to separate them from the Weather Underground, to the point of saying things that are just not factually true.
A further question is: What can be gained from trying to absolve Power or Saxe of their involvement in the Weather Underground? The answer has to be that Ayers and his groupies in academia are afraid that the truth is starting to catch up with him, and that his status as a professor at the University of Illinois might eventually be in jeopardy if the complete truth about his terrorist activities were fully known.
What ultimately needs to be done, of course, is to legally hold Ayers and his ilk accountable for what they did. And that is what the "Campaign for Justice for Victims of Weather Underground Terrorism" is all about. There is no statute of limitations on murder.
· Please ask Professor Kennedy to correct the record and tell the truth. His email address is [email protected] His office telephone number is 617-373-5187.
Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at [email protected].
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