The Davidians moved to Waco, Texas in 1935, and since then have minded their own business. James Wood, a professor of religion at Baylor University and resident of Waco since 1955, said that before February he hadn't heard of them referred to as a "cult." The librarian at the Waco Tribune-Herald confirmed that until their seven-part series on the Branch Davidians -- the first installment of which began one day before the initial assault on February 28, 1993 -- the Tribune-Herald referred to them as a "religious group," not a "cult."
The reporters for the series relied on "experts" from the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). A year earlier there had been allegations of child abuse, and the child protective services went to the compound, knocked on the door, walked in, and interviewed the children. They found no evidence of abuse and left. But that was before CAN began playing the media like a fiddle.
Rick Ross, who was convicted of jewel theft in 1975 and boasts of more than 200 "deprogrammings," has been praised by CAN executive director Cynthia Kisser as being "among the half-dozen best deprogrammers in the country." In 1992 Ross, Adeline Bova, and CAN national spokesperson Priscilla Coates worked their magic on David Block, a group member for five years. He told them about the guns in the compound, and Ross tipped off the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). The affidavits supporting the search warrant used the word "cult," and BATF even adopted some of CAN's media savvy: they alerted television stations before the February 28 raid so that cameras could catch the action. It was expected to go as smoothly as those drug raids on cop shows, and might prove helpful to next year's budget.
To serve the search warrant, 100 BATF agents approached the compound on February 28. But the Branch Davidians had been tipped off and were in an apocalyptic mood, so four agents and six group members were killed by gunfire. This began a siege that lasted 51 days. CAN "experts" such as Priscilla Coates alleged child abuse, and others consulted further with authorities. CAN president Patricia Ryan recommended the use of lethal force. Janet Reno and Bill Clinton picked up on the allegations of child abuse, and decided to put an end to it. This was finally achieved on April 19, when federal stormtroopers attacked again and over 80 men, women, and children perished in a fire.
During the 51-day siege, David Koresh allowed 13 adults and 21 children to leave the compound. After a nine-week study of these children, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services concluded that there were no indications of abuse. Even while Reno and Clinton were speaking of abuse, FBI director William Sessions said that his agency had no such evidence. Coates' response was, "I know how these types of groups work and children are always abused." Within a week the press dropped the child abuse angle as effortlessly as they had hyped it. It seemed like a good story at the time.
Before the trial of eleven Branch Davidians began in San Antonio, one defense attorney asked that prosecutors and their witnesses be barred from using the word "cult" during the trial because it has "negative and dangerous" connotations. The judge denied this motion, but did allow the jury to consider self-defense in their deliberations. The verdict was a mixed bag. During the trial, BATF agent Dan Curtis defined a "cult" for the court as "a group of people who live together differently than the rest of society."
Meanwhile, a diverse group of activists, ranging from the ACLU to the National Rifle Association, recommended increased oversight of federal law officers, and less reliance on uncorroborated, paid informants as a basis for obtaining search warrants. NRA legislative counsel Richard Gardiner pointed out that federal agents ignored an offer by David Koresh that would have allowed them to inspect all firearms in the compound. Even Soldier of Fortune magazine, which had never met a well-armed, patriotic assault team they didn't like, referred to the BATF as a "gun gestapo."
But the message appears to have been lost. BATF director Stephen Higgins was replaced by John W. Magaw in September 1993, and two months later the new acting director was still determined to keep an eye on other cults: "They're out there. They don't yet have the weaponry that we saw in Waco ... but they will develop if society allows them to." Magaw said the BATF was currently keeping tabs on cults in "three or four places around the country," but declined to be more specific.
The problem with the word "cult" is not that cults don't exist, nor that they should be left alone. The problem with the term, and with others like "brainwashing" and "mind control," is that they are too easy to use. Larger issues get lost when convenient labels are attached to complex phenomena, and sometimes the larger issue is more important than what the label attempts to describe. CAN, BATF, and the media all used the word "cult," and thereby obscured the fact that these were men, women, and children with civil rights. By the time everyone could see that this issue was more important than whatever weapons they were said to have possessed, it was already too late.
There is no legal or scientific basis for the use of such terms, only a broad and vague recognition that certain techniques (hypnosis, food and sleep deprivation, confinement, degradation, fear of punishment, threats of death, repetitious propaganda, peer pressure, and other forms of abuse) can be effective with certain persons as a means of lowering their resistance to stimuli. In other words, they foster authoritarian social structures in which individuals are content to follow orders. But with other persons, the same techniques may provoke opposite reactions.
The mere fact that orders are followed may also reflect a reasonable decision to subordinate one's individual interests to a higher ideal. And to complicate matters further, the techniques used by so-called "cults" are frequently more subtle. It's a tough call in all but the most flagrant situations. As Judge T.S. Ellis III admonished deprogrammer Galen Kelly, "One man's cult is another man's community, no matter how wacky you or I might think that is."
"Deprogrammers" are guilty of the sort of thinking that forestalls adverse judgments by locating such judgments in a category that they themselves establish. If you object to my deprogramming, then you must still be brainwashed. CAN was originally called the Citizens Freedom Foundation, established in 1974 by Ted Patrick. According to Gerald Arenberg, writing in The Chief of Police magazine, Patrick in 1974 already had a "career of kidnapping young adults from young and little-understood churches in exchange for handsome fees from distraught or overbearing parents." Patrick attempted to deprogram Catholics and Episcopalians, and also deprogrammed four Mormons. "The Mormon Church," said Patrick, "is one of the biggest cults in the nation." According to Dr. Lowell Streiker of Burlingame, California, a deprogrammer named Cliff Daniels once said that "he used the 'sex thing' to see whether the girl was completely out of the cult. If she consented, then he knew that she was completely out. If she did not consent, then he knew that he had more work to do."
At the very least, "deprogrammers" should be more accurately called "reprogrammers." For legal reasons, CAN's referrals to these reprogrammers are done informally, and for the record they now disavow some who have ended up defending themselves against kidnapping charges. The reprogrammers themselves are careful to involve the families in the process. That's where their money comes from, and besides, courts usually give the family the benefit of the doubt if the effort backfires. CAN claims that its informal network was involved in more than 1800 "deprogrammings" in 1992.
Apart from the fact that the techniques of "cult leaders" and "deprogrammers" are distressingly similar, another philosophical problem is the extent to which majority culture itself exhibits characteristics of the cult. Personality cults are common in all hierarchical organizations, while religious and ethnic intolerance is pervasive everywhere. Marxism may be finished, but this doesn't mean Marx was wrong about the alienation of everyday life. And there are still critiques such as Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" (1967), with "its treatment of the erosion of life as lived experience and its replacement by representation, life experienced as the received effects and images of commodity culture -- as spectacle."
Social power, or the ability to manipulate others, is the central issue in the narrow debate over cults. CAN objects to the power of the cult, and tries to transfer this power to the family, the government, or to themselves using cult-like techniques. More sensitive social critics are aware that power and manipulation are found everywhere in society. The winners are those who can harness military potential, or provide bread, or lacking these, can manipulate the masses with circuses. In this view, some of the best examples of imposed duress and manipulation are sponsored by governments and the elites who run them.
One of the documents uncovered by the anti-draft movement in the late 1960s was titled "Channeling." Distributed by the Selective Service System in 1965, it was intended as a rationale for issuing draft deferments in the national interest. The tone was not only blunt, but was actually boastful of the government's capacity for manipulation:
The psychology of granting wide choice under pressure to take action is the American or indirect way of achieving what is done by direction in foreign countries where choice is not permitted.... From the individual's viewpoint, he is standing in a room which has been made uncomfortably warm. Several doors are open, but they all lead to various forms of recognized, patriotic service to the Nation. Some accept the alternatives gladly -- some with reluctance. The consequence is approximately the same.
This "strategy of tension" accounts for much of the recent history of Italy, along with other factors such as corruption and organized crime. Since the 1970s, electoral politics there has been perverted by coup attempts and nominally left-wing terrorism -- both of which, experts now believe, were covertly sponsored by the Italian secret services and the notorious "Propaganda Due" lodge run by Licio Gelli. Arms and explosives apparently came from the buried caches of NATO's Operation Gladio, and of course there were the inevitable CIA connections. Gelli himself was linked to U.S. presidents; he attended the inaugural ceremonies of Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and called himself a friend of George Bush. In July 1981, Gelli's daughter was stopped at the Rome airport and documents were confiscated from a false bottom in her suitcase. One of these was a photocopy of Supplement B. The "strategy of tension" used some of the same techniques on the entire Italian electorate that cult leaders use to manipulate their followers.
Modern secret services not only mimic the cult leader's cynicism, but intelligence professionals themselves are locked into a self-perpetuating mind-set. Former CIA director William Colby describes the phenomenon:
Socially as well as professionally they cliqued together, forming a sealed fraternity. They ate together at their own special favorite restaurants; they partied almost only among themselves; their families drifted to each other, so their defenses did not always have to be up. In this way they increasingly separated themselves from the ordinary world and developed a rather skewed view of that world. Their own dedicated double life became the proper norm, and they looked down on the life of the rest of the citizenry. And out of this grew what was later named -- and condemned -- as the "cult" of intelligence, an inbred, distorted, elitist view of intelligence that held it to be above the normal processes of society, with its own rationale and justification, beyond the restraints of the Constitution, which applied to everything and everyone else.
Given the CIA's resources, it is reasonable to expect that a commensurate interest in the cult phenomenon has secretly persisted through the years. The early brainwashing scare, it should be noted, concerned the use of non-drug techniques. The Branch Davidians apparently have no intelligence connections, but with some other groups it's a different story. A CIA interest in cults is far more ominous than the phenomenon of cults by themselves, because intelligence elites have the resources and mind-set to manipulate large populations. The Cult Awareness Network itself has no interest in the intelligence angle. This is one glaring example of those larger issues that they and their media hacks ignore.
The first example of such links is the Unification Church (UC) of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Today it is too well-established to be considered a cult; the list of their front groups and businesses in NameBase runs to 28 pages with 667 names. The UC no longer recruits on U.S. campuses the way they used to -- they don't need the money that Moonies would earn from selling flowers at airports, and they don't need this sort of publicity. Instead they buy universities: in 1992 the UC plunked down over $50 million for the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and one of the UC's new trustees there is Jack E. Thomas, who was assistant chief of staff for U.S. air force intelligence for six years, and then special assistant to the CIA director for nine years. Rev. Moon is also a force in Washington today. In 1992 he admitted that over its ten-year history, the Washington Times had cost him "close to one billion dollars." The influence and respectability this provides is presumably worth more than that.
Before the Unification Church was incorporated in the U.S. in 1963 by Bo Hi Pak, Moon had the support of the South Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA). The expansion of the cult into the U.S. was conceived as a means of influencing U.S. politics. Four of Moon's early followers were young army officers close to Kim Jong Pil, the founding director of the KCIA and chief strategist for the Park regime. Bo Hi Pak was the KCIA liaison to U.S. intelligence at the time, stationed in the Korean Embassy in Washington. Today he is one of Moon's top aides and president of the Washington Times. In 1962 Kim made a two-week official visit to the U.S., and Lt.Col. Bo Hi Pak arranged meetings with CIA director John McCone, defense secretary Robert McNamara, and Defense Intelligence Agency director Gen. Joseph Carroll. On his way home, Kim met with some of Moon's followers in San Francisco. Pak's other duties at the Korean Embassy included frequent liaison trips to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Today the Moon empire is similar to a transnational corporation with various subsidiaries. Cult-like aspects remain visible among Moon's entourage, but from the perspective of most employees, many Moon enterprises are just like other corporations. Rev. Moon still considers himself a Messiah, and his far-flung investments are the means he's using to save the world. His politics are essentially reactionary and anti-Communist, and he has received political and financial support from Yoshio Kodama, Ryoichi Sasakawa, and other powerful Japanese right-wing figures. In 1970 the Japanese contingent of Moon's organization sponsored the annual conference of the World Anti-Communist League.
The next example is the Church of Scientology, and the curious habits and connections of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986). Hubbard was secretive and sometimes dishonest about his background, and reliable information is difficult to find. His father was a U.S. naval officer, so as as a young man Hubbard traveled to China, the Philippines, and Guam. He may have been introduced to the Office of Naval Intelligence before World War II, which apart from the FBI and certain cells of army intelligence, was the closest thing this country had to a CIA. During the war he was almost certainly in naval intelligence, as Lt. (JG) Lafayette R. Hubbard.
After the war Hubbard was a science fiction writer, and in 1949 he wrote a best-seller, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." In 1953 he founded Scientology, and in 1955 he secretly authored the "Brainwashing Manual," in which he identified virtually all of the techniques of mind control now recognized by most psychologists. The Church of Scientology made its money by selling franchises and Hubbard's books to middle-class enthusiasts, and laundering this money through a Panamanian corporation. Low-level franchise Scientologists enjoyed some independence, but to reach higher levels one had to pay for expensive "auditing" and perhaps allow oneself to be abused by the Commodore himself.
Hubbard made many enemies over the years: the American Medical Association in the 1950s, the Food and Drug Administration and the Australian government in the 1960s, the British government beginning in 1967, and Interpol and the French governments in the 1970s, along with an assortment of Mediterranean and North African governments. Hubbard amused himself by doing battle with all of them. From rows of telexes on the Apollo, a virtual slave ship with a crew of over 300, the Commodore ran covert ops by sending coded orders to his minions around the world. His luck ran out when his operatives were caught stealing documents from a locked government office. This led to simultaneous FBI raids on Church property in 1977, which produced documentary evidence of the Church's infiltration of the IRS, and even of the FBI itself. Eventually eleven of his top aides were sent to prison, while Hubbard himself couldn't be found.
Toward the end of his career, Hubbard was certainly a renegade, far beyond anyone's capacity to control him. But in the 1950s and early 1960s, it's probable that he had support from U.S. intelligence. His early expertise in mind control is curious, as well as his lifetime interest in intelligence tradecraft. Former CIA officer Miles Copeland claims that his CIA colleague Bob Mandelstam made "arrangements" with Scientology and Moral Re-Armament about this time. (Moral Re-Armament is another cult-like organization; Copeland's information on MRA is confirmed by the late Jim Wilcott, an accountant with the CIA in Japan in the early 1960s, who wrote that MRA "was covertly supported and used by the CIA.") Another well-placed source reports that in the early 1960s a high-level award was given to Hubbard by the prestigious American Ordnance Association. Hubbard, this source says, was "on a friendly basis with top generals and admirals and their military-industrial associates."
Jonestown, which ended in the suicide/murders of over 900 followers in 1978, has long been suspected of intelligence links because of circumstantial evidence. The camp in Guyana was a prison for all but an armed cadre that had special privileges and functioned as guards. All of the classic mind control techniques were utilized. While conditions were miserable, there was nevertheless a modern medical facility, and massive quantities of behavior modification drugs were recovered by the authorities. Jones was on good terms with Richard Dwyer, who was working with the CIA through his position as deputy chief at the U.S. embassy in Georgetown. Other evidence confirms close links between the U.S. embassy and the Jonestown leadership. After Congressman Leo Ryan was assassinated at the airport and Dwyer escaped with some survivors into the jungle, he apparently returned to Jonestown. A tape of Jim Jones' last moments has him saying, "Get Dwyer out of here. Get Dwyer out of here." (Dwyer retired from the foreign service in 1984 and died in 1991. He denied that he was present during the final event.)
Joe Holsinger, an aide to Leo Ryan, became interested in the CIA connections in 1980 and presented his case in public forums. A White House official told him a few hours after the airstrip murders that "we have a CIA report from the scene." A top Jones aide, George Philip Blakey, reportedly recruited mercenaries for the CIA in Angola in 1975. He's the one who arranged the lease for Jonestown with the government of Guyana in 1974. Blakey was the son-in-law of Dr. Lawrence Layton, a former biochemical warfare specialist for the U.S. army. These and other circumstances caused Holsinger to speculate that Jonestown was part of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program.
Other curiosities have been noted by researchers. In the early 1960s Jim Jones spent eleven months in Brazil, where he was in frequent contact with the U.S. embassy. His boyhood friend Dan Mitrione, a U.S. intelligence operative and police advisor, was in Brazil at the same time. Jones returned with enough money to start People's Temple in Ukiah, California.
The early reports from the scene of the Jonestown tragedy are conflicting, suggesting an attempt at cover-up. Robert Pastor, an aide to Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, ordered that the U.S. military strip "all politically sensitive papers and forms of identification" from the bodies. (Early photographs show that many bodies had ID tags, which may have been connected to the Jonestown hospital's drug administration program.) No autopsies were possible after the military took a week to bring the bodies back, and many remained unidentified. Press estimates of Jonestown's wealth ranged from $26 million to $2 billion, scattered in banks, foreign investments, and real estate. Much of this money disappeared after it was listed in the press.
Another fun fact is that the Cult Awareness Network itself has a CIA connection. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA's School of Medicine, is currently on the advisory board of CAN and a similar group called the American Family Foundation. For fifteen years he has been a keynote speaker at CAN conferences. In the 1950s and 1960s, West did contract research for MK-ULTRA and was personally acquainted with MK-ULTRA director Sidney Gottlieb. Under the terms of his CIA-funded contract, West ran a program at the University of Oklahoma that experimented with LSD. (At one point he gave an elephant a huge dosage at the Oklahoma City Zoo, which resulted in its death.) After the Watts riots in 1965, West promoted the view that violence was caused by genetic factors, and offenders could be treated by psychosurgery and chemical castration.
Some speculate that the CIA is working both sides of the street on the cultism issue. This is the approach that any good intelligence agency would prefer; it provides an opportunity to shape the terms of the public debate, and allows maneuverability to protect and promote their interests. Unfortunately our media work only on the anti-cult side of the street, and seem thoroughly uninterested in the larger issues. One problem is that if you need a soundbite or two, it's much less expensive to use a CAN "expert" as opposed to digging out your own facts. And with the intelligence angle especially, layers of deniability must be penetrated. After pursuing this angle, the only thing that a journalist might discover is the fact that his editor or publisher is nervous and unhappy, and wants to pull the plug.
Just as decaying Imperial Rome was rife with cults, today many feel that our majority culture has played out its string, leaving us tied in knots. The systems needed to transmit values from one generation to the next are in serious disrepair. Intentional communities, like it or not, will become attractive in coming decades for both social and economic reasons, if only because we all share a penchant for survival. This makes the problem as vital as it is difficult. It seems reasonable to ask that those who use words like "mind control," "cult," and "brainwashing" be ready to explain themselves on the basis of larger issues, with some measure of logical, philosophical, and scientific coherence, and with a bit more compassion.
1. "Texas Talk Show Host Tells What Really Happened in Waco," Spotlight, 31 May 1993, pp. 12-13. Interview with Ron Engleman of KGBS radio in Dallas.
2. L. Keeton and J. Pinkerton, "Infiltrating Cult Will End Standoff, Expert Suggests," Houston Chronicle, 8 April 1993.
3. Some details in the preceding paragraphs are from a 26-page report by Ross & Green, "What Is the Cult Awareness Network and What Role Did It Play in Waco?," July 1993. This report by a public relations firm (Ross & Green, 1010 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 811, Washington DC 20005) was prepared in conjunction with the New Alliance Party. NAP is labeled a "political cult" by its enemies, and is concerned that such labeling may affect their civil rights. Their FBI file shows that this label is picked up from media allegations and disseminated to FBI field offices without any substantiating evidence. A different political party, the LaRouche organization, is also concerned with this issue. They were raided, their records seized, and some of their leaders imprisoned after being convicted on dubious financial fraud charges in the late 1980s. LaRouche himself was released on parole in early 1994.
4. Dick Reavis, "Witness for the Prosecution," San Antonio Current, 10 February 1994, p. 6.
5. Michael Hedges, "Diverse Coalition Seeks Oversight of Federal Law Officers," Washington Times, 11 January 1994, p. A3.
6. James L. Pate, "Gun Gestapo's Day of Infamy," Soldier of Fortune, June 1993, pp. 49-53, 62-64.
7. Scott Shepard, "ATF Chief Vows to Keep an Eye on Religious Cults," Washington Times, 2 November 1993, p. A3.
8. Kristan Metzler, "Dad Acquitted of Plot to Kidnap DuPont Heir," Washington Times, 1 January 1993, p. B2.
9. Gerald Arenberg, "The Rise and Fall of Deprogramming," The Chief of Police, March/April 1993, p. 2.
10. Phil Stanford, "The Quiet War on Cults," Inquiry, 15 October 1979, p. 7.
11. Ross & Green, p. 4.
12. Ibid., p. 2.
13. John Zerzan, "Review of 'Comments on the Society of the Spectacle' by Guy Debord," Anarchy, Fall 1993, p. 12.
14. "Channeling" was one of ten documents in an "Orientation Kit" put out by the Selective Service in July 1965, and withdrawn after it was publicized by anti-draft activists. The quotation is from a two-page reprint that appeared in Ramparts, December 1967.
15. Reprinted in Covert Action Information Bulletin, January 1979 (No. 3), pp. 9-18.
16. Philip Willan, Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy (London: Constable, 1991), 375 pages.
17. William Colby (with Peter Forbath), Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), p. 87.
18. John Marks, The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate": The CIA and Mind Control (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980), pp. 125-26.
19. Investigative Research Specialists, "List of Moon Fronts," 1992. (IRS, 1390 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 10, McLean VA 22101).
20. University of Bridgeport, Office of Communications, "Press Release: University of Bridgeport Board Elects New Trustees," 6 August 1992, pp. 8-9. (Contact: Walter Wager, 203-576-4525)
21. Paul Farhi and Howard Kurtz, "$1 Billion Invested In Times," Washington Post, 28 May 1992, p. B10.
22. Robert Boettcher (with Gordon L. Freedman), Gifts of Deceit: Sun Myung Moon, Tongsun Park, and the Korean Scandal (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980), pp. 38-41.
23. Bent Corydon, "L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?" (Fort Lee NJ: Barricade Books, 1992), 459 pages.
24. Miles Copeland, The Game Player: Confessions of the CIA's Original Political Operative (London: Aurum Press, 1989), pp. 176-77.
25. Jim Wilcott, "The CIA and the Media: Some Personal Experiences," Covert Action Information Bulletin, December 1979/January 1980 (No. 7), p. 23.
26. Joe Holsinger, "Statement to the Forum Entitled 'Psycho-social Implications of the Jonestown Phenomenon,'" 23 May 1980, Miyako Hotel, San Francisco.
27. John Judge, "The Black Hole of Guyana." In Jim Keith, ed., Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History (Portland: Feral House, 1993), pp. 127-65. Judge's essay includes 291 end notes.
28. Kenneth Wooden, The Children of Jonestown (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981), p. 196.
29. Judge, pp. 139-40.
30. Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the
Sixties Rebellion (New York: Grove Press, 1985), pp. 22, 189-90.
In August 1984, two twenty-something young men wearing ties knocked on my door and gave their names: Steve Usdin and Jeff Ubois. A tiny newsletter had mentioned the database I was developing, and they were interested. They began pumping me on my activities and associates, and took notes. Their questions reflected a familiarity with obscure leftist personalities and publications that is found only among seasoned activists, and even more curiously, they expressed no politics of their own. Usdin and Ubois had to be "sent men."
But they wanted to be helpful. My own attempts to interest progressives in my project had been met with quizzical looks, because at the time most leftists were still using typewriters. These two fellows at least knew all about microcomputing. So I rewarded them with the first edition of what today is called NameBase. At the same time I mentioned that I needed the IBM BASIC compiler to get the program transferred from CP/M, and a few weeks later they came by with just what I needed, complete with a photocopied manual in a binder. I probably should have asked them for new computers and an office.
They said their group went by the name of "Information Bank," and they wanted to approach certain organizations in the Washington DC area and volunteer their technical skills. The following June I visited their warehouse headquarters and met Randolph A. Winn and Robert M. Meyer. I asked questions about who or what was behind it all, but their answers were evasive. From their perspective, I was a potential recruit.
In July 1985 I got a call from Kris Jacobs, a DC activist who did research on the right-wing. She said that Ubois was caught looking in her office files, and when she confronted him, he claimed to be from the National Journalism Center. Since NJC is a right-wing group that was then doing research on the left, his answer didn't pacify her. Ubois had been dropping my name to talk his way into certain places, so Ms. Jacobs wasn't happy with my excuses either. I alerted two other organizations who were getting assistance from the Information Bank. The next time Ubois came over in early 1986, I casually brought up the name "National Journalism Center" in a different context, and asked him if he had ever heard of it. "Nope." That's when I opened my own file on the Information Bank.
Louis Wolf helped me check crisscross directories and we visited the recorder of deeds. Several group names were listed under each address, and the two properties we knew about were both in the name of Robert G. Terrell, Jr. While returning from the recorder of deeds office, cross my heart, we spotted Usdin walking with an older man. He didn't see us so we followed them on foot for about two miles like Keystone Kops (they kept stopping at store windows), but eventually lost them. Sometime later Ubois dropped in on Wolf (they never call ahead) and whipped out a business card that read "Hong Kong Business Today." He wanted to know how to get a visa for Vietnam. It was clear by then that most group members were world-class travelers, which included travel to numerous Eastern Bloc countries. It was all a game to them. This was a small group -- perhaps 40 adults -- but they had no visible income to support their far-flung activities.
In February 1987, two young men from the group were arrested in Tallahassee, Florida because the van they were driving contained six children with dirty faces. The term "child abuse" was trumpeted in all of the media, all over the country, for several days. Customs, the FBI, and DC police raided three group properties and made off with their files and computers. The group (it was a "cult" to the media) was called the "Finders" (years earlier they had been known as the "Seekers"), and it was run by Marion David Pettie, then 67 years old. At least now I knew who the older man was and I had another name for the group. No charges were filed and the children were soon returned to their mothers in the group. After realizing that they had been feeding on a nonstory, the media suddenly dropped everything with no apologies. I called the Washington Post city desk at the height of the hysteria and explained that there was another angle, but when their reporter called back he was only being polite.
Three years later I obtained a three-page nongovernment memo of undetermined origin that summarizes Pettie's intelligence links. Most of it seems to check out. According to this memo, Pettie began his career with assorted OSS contacts, served as a chauffeur to General Ira Eaker, became a protege of Charles Marsh (an intimate of FDR and LBJ who ran his own private intelligence network), and was trained in counterintelligence in Baltimore and Frankfurt, Germany. His wife worked for the CIA, and Pettie himself was run by Col. Leonard N. Weigner (whose September 1990 Washington Post obituary confirms that his career was spent in air force intelligence and the CIA). Pettie's case officer was Major George Varga, who relayed Weigner's instructions until Varga died in the 1970s. The memo says that on Weigner's advice Pettie resigned from the military and surrounded himself with "kooks" so that he could infiltrate the "beat," human potential, and now the New Age movements.
Okay, so file this memo under "P" for "Paranoia." Except that in December 1993, first the Washington Times (which was picked up by AP), and then U.S. News and World Report, both carried essentially the same story. It seems that the Finders investigation was stopped cold shortly after it started in 1987, and now the Justice Department has formed a task force to figure out what's going on. Why was it stopped? This is from an internal "Memo to File" written by a Customs agent who participated in the raids, dated 13 April 1987:
CIA made one contact and admitted to owning the Finders organization ...but that it had "gone bad." ... [I was advised] the investigation into the activity of the Finders had become a CIA internal matter. The MPD [DC police] report has been classified Secret and was not available for review. I was advised that the FBI had withdrawn from the investigation several weeks prior and that the FBI Foreign Counterintelligence Division had directed MPD not to advise the FBI Washington Field Office of anything that had transpired. No further information will be available. No further action will be taken.
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