Mark Felt — who was exposed this week as Deep Throat — was one of only two FBI officials ever to be convicted for ordering COINTELPRO operations. In 1980 he was convicted for ordering FBI agents to break into the home of Dohrn and other associates of the Weather Underground. He was later pardoned by President Reagan. Jennifer Dohrn discusses the FBI surveillance, break-ins and a secret FBI proposal to kidnap her infant. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez also reveals that as a leader of the Young Lords that he, too, was also a target of a similar FBI campaign. [includes rush transcript]
On Tuesday the family of Mark Felt publicly said they hoped history would view him as hero for being Deep Throat.
But not everyone is praising Felt. A group of former Nixon aides are criticizing him for betraying the Nixon administration.
Former Nixon advisor Pat Buchanan says Felt was "corrupt" for revealing White House secrets.
G. Gordon Liddy also criticized Felt. Liddy organized the break-in of the Democratic National Campaign headquarters in the Watergate complex. Liddy said:
"He’s certainly not a hero because a law enforcement official who obtains knowledge of a commission of a crime, has the evidence of it and who did it and so forth, is ethically obliged to go to a grand jury, bring his evidence and so forth, so an indictment can be obtained and justice can be done. He didn’t do that. Instead, he selectively leaked it to a single news source."
That was G.Gordon Liddy. Liddy himself was convicted conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping in connection to Watergate. He served four and a half years in prison before having his 20 year sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter.
While Felt’s name will forever now be linked to helping expose the Watergate scandal, he is also connected to another dark moment in U.S. history — the FBI’s counter intelligence program known as COINTELPRO.
Under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI carried out an extensive campaign of surveillance and neutralization of political groups including the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
In 1980, Mark Felt — along with Edward Miller — became the highest ranking FBI officials to be convicted of criminal charges since Hoover became head of the agency in 1924.
The two officials were convicted by a jury of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens for ordering FBI agents to secretly break into the homes of friends and relatives of the militant anti-war group The Weather Underground.
In September 1980, government prosecutors said in court that Felt’s actions were a "violation of the rights of all people of this country, violations that cannot and will not be tolerated as long as we have a Bill of Rights."
Felt and Miller were later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan who credited them for bringing a "end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation." In 1983 a federal judge ordered that Felt and Millers’ criminal record be swept clean. Felt and Miller were the only FBI officials convicted in connection to COINTELPRO.
Felt never denied the the break-ins but argues they were done in the name of national security. He claimed that the Weather Underground had extensive ties to foreign powers and that break-ins were part of a foreign intelligence investigation.
We are joined now in our studio by Jennifer Dohrn who was the target of FBI break-ins ordered by Felt. Her sister, Bernadine Dorhn, was a a founder of the Weather Underground and was on the run from the federal government during the 1970s. Government documents show that FBI agents repeatedly broke into Jennifer’s home. In 1978 she filed a civil suit against Felt and Miller. The suit was settled in 1983 out-of-court.
- Jennifer Dohrn, sister of Weather Underground member Bernadine Dohrn. Jennifer sued Mark Felt after it was revealed that he ordered FBI agents to secretly break-in to her home as well as other associates of the Weather Underground.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s turn to that story of the break-ins that the F.B.I. authorized. On Tuesday, the family of Mark Felt publicly said they hoped history would view him as a hero for being Deep Throat. This is Felt’s grandson, Nick Jones.
NICK JONES: The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt, Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice. We all sincerely hope the country will see him this way, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: But not everyone is praising Mark Felt. A group of former Nixon aides are criticizing him for betraying the Nixon administration. Former Nixon advisor, Pat Buchanan, says Felt was corrupt for revealing White House secrets. G. Gordon Liddy also criticized Felt. Liddy organized the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex.
G. GORDON LIDDY: He’s certainly not a hero, because the law enforcement official who obtains knowledge of the commission of a crime and has the evidence of it, and who did it and so forth is ethically obliged to go to the grand jury and bring his evidence in there so an indictment can be obtained and justice can be done. He didn’t do that. Instead, he selectively leaked it to a single news source.
AMY GOODMAN: That was G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy himself was convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping in connection with Watergate. He served four-and-a-half years in prison before having his twenty-year sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter.
JUAN GONZALEZ: While Felt’s name will forever now be linked to helping expose the Watergate scandal, he is also connected to another dark moment in U.S. history: the F.B.I.’s Counter Intelligence Program, known as COINTELPRO. Under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I. carried out an extensive campaign of surveillance and neutralization of political groups, including the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
AMY GOODMAN: In 1980, Mark Felt, along with Edward Miller became the highest ranking F.B.I. officials to be convicted of criminal charges since J. Edgar Hoover became head of the agency in 1924. The two officials were convicted by a jury of conspiring to violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens, for ordering F.B.I. agents to secretly break-into the homes of friends and relatives of the militant anti-war group, the Weather Underground. In September 1980, government prosecutors said in court that Felt’s actions were a, (quote), "violation of the rights of all people of this country, violations that cannot and will not be tolerated as long as we have a Bill of Rights."
JUAN GONZALEZ: Felt and Miller were later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan who credited them for bringing a, (quote), "end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation." In 1983, a federal judge ordered that Felt and Miller’s criminal record be swept clean. Felt and Miller were the only F.B.I. officials convicted in connection to COINTELPRO. Felt never denied the break-ins but argued that they were done in the name of national security. He claimed that the Weather Underground had extensive ties to foreign powers and that break-ins were part of a foreign intelligence investigation. We’re joined now in our studio by Jennifer Dohrn, who was the target of F.B.I. break-ins ordered by Felt. Her sister, Bernadine Dohrn, was a founder of the Weather Underground and was on the run from the federal government during the 1970s. Government documents show that F.B.I. agents repeatedly broke into Jennifer’s home. In 1978, she filed a civil suit against Felt and Miller. The suit was settled in 1983, out of court.
AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Jennifer Dohrn.
JENNIFER DOHRN: Thank you. Thank you for having me here today.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s good to have you with us. When you heard that Deep Throat had been revealed, and it was Mark Felt, your response?
JENNIFER DOHRN: My response was that history needed to be reviewed, re-looked at, re-examined, and this was a great time to look at the comparisons between what happened in the early 1970s to me and many others and what in fact is happening now around Iraq and the building of a counterintelligence system.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about what happened to you. Where did you live?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I lived in New York primarily. I was based in New York. I was very, very active in the anti-war movement and in support of the Black Freedom Movement and the Puerto Rican liberation struggle, and I was followed night and day by the F.B.I. I had my apartments, several apartments, wiretapped. Apartments next to me were rented by F.B.I. agents who kept continuous 24-hour surveillance of every sound made in my apartment. I was followed up and down the streets. I would get a job, the F.B.I. would go in after me, and I would then be fired from the job. It was around-the-clock harassment.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you aware of it at the time?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I was aware of a lot of it. I was certainly aware of being followed a lot. I was —- assumed that perhaps my phones were tapped, and I had no idea of the level of extent under which I was being surveilled. I had no idea that break-ins were repeatedly happening into my apartments. I remember when I was pregnant with my first born feeling extremely vulnerable because I was being followed a great deal of the time, and then it was revealed when I received my Freedom of Information Act papers, over 200,000 documents, that there actually had been developed by Felt a plan to kidnap my son after I birthed in hopes of getting my sister to surrender. So, my imagination -—
AMY GOODMAN: The F.B.I. plans?
JENNIFER DOHRN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: To kidnap your son?
JENNIFER DOHRN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: How did it say that in the documents?
JENNIFER DOHRN: It said that this was a plan that had been developed and ultimately was not implemented.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, —
JENNIFER DOHRN: Pretty amazing.
JUAN GONZALEZ: It became clear, I guess in the early 1980s, the extent of this — of the illegal break-ins and illegal activities. Wesley Swearingen, a former F.B.I. agent, actually testified that he had conducted — he was basically a full-time burglar for many years.
JENNIFER DOHRN: Like 238, or at least, he recorded.
JUAN GONZALEZ: At least 238 burglaries in Chicago and Los Angeles, and that New York there was a special squad of the F.B.I., Squad 47, that was basically assigned to find the Weathermen. Apparently J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with the Weathermen, as were L. Patrick Gray who then succeeded him. And so, the presumption was that the main reason that they were surveilling you so much and burglarizing your apartments was in search for Bernadine Dohrn and her relationship to the Weathermen, right?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I think that was the primary assumption, but in fact, what was happening was great surveillance and breaking of the law, illegal acts, directed, authorized, built, engineered by Felt against the entire movement of protest. I think it’s important, especially when I hear the earlier clips, it’s being billed as Watergate brought down Nixon. My view is that the victory of the Vietnamese people and the vibrant movement in this country brought down Nixon. And the whistleblowing to have Watergate be exposed was critical, but we have to set the record straight historically. And in fact, what was being done to me, which was severe and continual, was small compared to the strategy that was implemented by Felt against other movements in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go for a minute to your sister, Bernadine Dohrn. She doesn’t join us in the studio or on the phone, but I want to go back to an excerpt of a 2002 documentary called The Weather Underground. It goes back, way back, to the news clips.
BERNADINE DOHRN: My name is Bernadine Dohrn, and I was part of the Weather Underground from — well, it’s hard to say when it started — 1970 to 1980. I was underground for eleven years.
There’s no way to be committed to non-violence in the middle of the most violent society that history has ever created. I’m not committed to non-violence in any way.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Bernadine Dohrn more recently and going back in those last comments in 1969. So, they were pursuing you to get her? Did they succeed?
JENNIFER DOHRN: Did they succeed in getting her? No. They never did. And they were also pursuing me because I represented one of many, many, many millions of voices in this country that said, "No more!" We were not going to stand for this war continuing in Vietnam. We were not going to stand for the extreme repression that was coming down against the Puerto Rican and Black and American Independence Movement. Really important that I was a symbol, and what happened to me was real, in search of my sister, but that COINTELPRO, which Mark Felt is responsible for really implementing was much wider than we ever have come to really understand.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Mark Felt was the ultimately convicted. Government prosecuted him.
JENNIFER DOHRN: Yes. He actually was.
AMY GOODMAN: You didn’t testify at that trial?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I was not asked to testify, and it’s interesting that the concrete thing that he could be convicted of were burglaries against me and several other people, break-ins, which were documented and recorded. So we had evidence to convince him.
AMY GOODMAN: But you were cited many times in the trial.
JENNIFER DOHRN: Many times. And, in fact, after his conviction, he was pardoned by Reagan, his first act in office, and we conducted a civil suit. And the reason that I participated in the civil suit against Mark Felt was because I did feel that his actions against me, the break-ins, were just the tip of the iceberg. And the only way to really get public attention and knowledge to what was happening to the Black Movement and to the Puerto Rican Movement in this country were to get at these documents.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you settle for?
JENNIFER DOHRN: We settled for minimal. It was essentially closed. We settled for basically lawyers’ fees. By the early 1980s, the ability to get F.O.I.A. files was already being restricted. And now it’s seriously jeopardized, as a way to have some transparency or accountability for what this counterintelligence network is about in this country.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, you know, I can testify, having been a member of the Young Lords back in those days that the numerous break-ins that occurred in the homes of Young Lord members, including my own, back in 1972, clearly were political break-ins and that people — that the things that were stolen had nothing to do with valuable goods of a drug dealer, but were clearly break-ins looking for material and information, and I remember back in 1972, when I was arrested by 13 F.B.I. agents for violating the selective service laws at the time and refusing to serve in Vietnam, I was questioned for about eight hours at F.B.I. headquarters before I was arraigned, and virtually all of the questions that the F.B.I. agents asked me were not about the Young Lords, not about the selective service, but were: When was the last time you saw Bernadine Dohrn? When was the last time that you saw Robbie Roth? When was the last time you saw Mark Rudd? They were obsessed with finding the Weathermen and being able to break a group that they saw sending a bad signal of white progressive Americans and radical Americans uniting with the Black and Latino liberation struggles at the time.
AMY GOODMAN: So when you heard that Mark Felt was Deep Throat, I bet you haven’t realized for all of these years that you had a connection to Deep Throat, Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, that he authorized some break-ins of my apartments.
JENNIFER DOHRN: Well, I was repeatedly stopped and was brought into stations saying I was Bernadine Dohrn just as a form of harassment, obviously. She was safely tucked in the Underground. But I think the ability, our being white, educated, that we could get into the Pentagon or the Capitol or any place we wanted, we were supposed to be the future dream of what they wanted — the government wanted to do, and instead, we decided to ally ourselves, rightly so, with the struggle for justice in this world. And so the passion to get us was intense.
AMY GOODMAN: President Reagan said, when he pardoned Mark Felt, four years ago, "Thousands of draft evaders and others who violated the selective service laws were unconditionally pardoned by my predecessor." He was talking about Carter. Reagan said, "America was generous to those who refused to serve their country in the Vietnam War. We can be no less generous to two men who acted on high principle to bring an end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation." Your response, Jennifer Dohrn?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I would really ask who is committing the terrorism, and that what we were doing was legitimate protest for our civil rights and for rights of people around the world and that this has to be preserved today. I mean, if anything, this story of Mark Felt coming out now should be for people in this country to really look at the challenge to our civil rights, what’s happening with this immoral war in Iraq, and ask for accountability. That’s what needs to be done. So, that’s the legacy of Mark Felt, the legacy should be to look at his responsibility for acts that authorized repression, murder, imprisonment of people for life, Herman Bell, David Gilbert, Leonard Peltier and took away civil rights from people who were dissenting. This is supposed to be democracy now.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting you raise Leonard Peltier, because in his memoirs, Mark Felt’s memoir, The F.B.I. Pyramid, he wrote of his involvement in overseeing the activities of the F.B.I. during the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by members of the American Indian Movement. AIM members have accused him of having a significant role in hatching an illegal counterintelligence program targeting AIM.
JENNIFER DOHRN: So this should be the legacy of Mark Felt, and this should be the historical record that gets set straight. I do support people whistleblowing, I think it’s been critical in terms of what’s going on in Iraq, torture at Guantanamo Bay. All of these things have to be brought out, but his — we need a balanced view of his responsibility.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jennifer Dohrn, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Jennifer Dohrn here in our studio at Democracy Now! And if you want to see the transcripts, you can go to our website at DemocracyNow.org, and pass on information about Democracy Now! to people around the world who might not know about it. Thank you, Jennifer.
JENNIFER DOHRN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, DemocracyNow.org. We’ll go to a break, then we’ll return with investigative journalist, David Wise.
AMY GOODMAN: Just before we go to investigative journalist, David Wise, with Jennifer Dohrn still in our studio, I think there was one last story we wanted to hear from you, and that was a trophy that the burglars got when they broke into your apartment.
JENNIFER DOHRN: Right. Apparently on one of the break-ins, they took a pair of my underwear and put it in a glass case and gave it as a trophy gift to Mark Felt.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And this was discovered how?
JENNIFER DOHRN: This was discovered — it was actually leaked to me by someone in the press years later who had gone over my F.O.I.A. files.
AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Dohrn, thanks for joining us.