It was most surprising to come across the following entry at the website for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses for Terrorism (known by the acronym START), which is run by the Department of Homeland Security out of the University of Maryland. According to DHS, START is one of their “centers of excellence,” an academic center sponsored by the DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate.
The webpage concerns the “Terrorist Organization Profile” for the Secret Army Organization, a right-wing terrorist group in the early 1970s, a group START writes was “possibly funded by the FBI.”
According to START, “The Secret Army Organization (SAO), a right-wing militant group based in San Diego, was active from 1969 to 1972. They targeted individuals and groups who spoke out against the Vietnam War, especially those who organized public demonstrations and distributed anti-war literature.”
Indeed, if we could turn the clock back to June 1975, we would read an article in the New York Times, “A.C.L.U. Says F.B.I. Funded ‘Army’ to Terrorize Antiwar Protesters.”
According to the Times, the ACLU compiled a 5,000 page report on the SAO, a group of former Minutemen and other right-wingers and violent home-grown fascists, for the benefit of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “alleging the Federal Bureau of Intelligence recruited a band of right-wing terrorists and supplied them with money and weapons to attack young antiwar demonstrators.”
But that’s not all, the SAO engaged in bombing and attempted assassination, and guess whose house the weapons turned up in? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s let the DHS’s “Center of Excellence” inform us of this important episode in our history, which came, by the way, after the FBI claimed they had stopped their Cointelpro program of disruption of the Left.
Assassination Attempt, FBI Agent Hides the Weapon
From START’s SAO webpage:
The report also stated that the SAO planned to kidnap and murder protestors of the 1972 Republican National Convention, which was to be held in San Diego before being relocated to Miami Beach. An assassination attempt of Dr. Peter Bohmer, professor at San Diego State University, and Paula Tharp, reporter for the San Diego Street Journal, brought about the arrests of several SAO members who later acknowledge an FBI connection. During the investigation, the gun used in the assassination attempt was found in the home of FBI agent Steven Christiansen, who was subsequently identified as a SAO contact. In 1973, Godfrey, testifying as an FBI informant, claimed he received up to $20,000 in weapons and a $250 per month income from the FBI to recruit new SAO members and provide information to agents. He also testified to the criminal acts of several SAO operatives, including fellow leader Jerry Lynn Davis. Official statements from the FBI claimed no involvement with the SAO, and no agents were prosecuted.
The story of the SAO is a forgotten piece of contemporary history that is directly relevant to a number of current issues, including the prosecution of the bogus “war on terror,” and the FBI’s role in it; the debates about government participation in and legalization of assassination of its own citizens; and government surveillance of and attacks upon dissent in this country.
It also could be considered a prime example of the historical amnesia that plagues our times, an amnesia hastened by disinterest by the major media, cheered on by government agencies none too interested in accountability for government overreach or even criminality.
Links to the President
According to the Ann Arbor Sun at the time, the ACLU tagged the SAO as “an interagency apparatus organized ‘at the direction of Richard M. Nixon.’”
Reportedly the link to Nixon came via
Watergate burglar White House “plumbers” operative Donald Segretti, who affidavits claimed had given funds and military hardware to SAO to disrupt the 1972 GOP convention in San Diego. (The convention was subsequently moved to Miami Beach.)
But it was the FBI who seems to have been operationally in charge.
From the Sun: “SAO operative Jerry Lynn Davis, who once participated in the CIA’s Bay of Pigs invasion, revealed that [admitted FBI informant Howard Barry] Godfrey had regularly supplied the SAO with money and weapons on behalf of the FBI.”
A newspaper office was attacked. A car firebombed. Informants infiltrated, while meetings were monitored. There were plans to poison the punch at antiwar meetings. A theater was bombed. Bulletins were published on “how to make booby traps, how to use ammonium nitrate in high explosives,” And then, there was the assassination plot, or rather plots, as the SAO bungled one assassination attempt after another to kill a left-wing professor at San Diego State.
How It Went Down, and the Cover-up