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Pacifica Brass Threatens to Bring In the FBI

Below is a dictated email from the Vice-Chair, Ken Ford

Dear Board Members:

I want to thank and acknowledge all of the hard work that David has done over the years. He will be missed and we wish him well and success.

As most of you know, the majority of us have been the targets of a harassing email campaign, threatening letters, and even extortion phone calls regarding our affiliation with Pacifica.

If you receive any of these notices going forward or have any of the voicemails, emails or letters, please forward them to me so that we may hand them over to the FBI. We do have federal protection under the RICCO/Computer Fraud statutes. Thank you all for being so dedicated to the mission of Pacifica in the face of adversity.

Ken Ford

An Open Letter to Ken Ford; Re: the Federal Bureau of Investigation

To: Ken Ford, Pacifica Foundation
Re: The Federal Bureau of Investigation

June 23, 2001

A message has come to my attention, purporting to come from you, in which you ask members of the Pacifica Governing Board to send what they experience as distressing listener e-mails to your offices. You, if I understand this message correctly, may then forward these documents to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They may then form the basis of a Racketeering in Corrupt Organizations (RICO) suit against various Pacifica reform groups or individuals that you do not like.

Mr. Ford, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to learn that this e-mail (enclosed below) is a fake and that I am the gullible victim of a clever Internet hoax. But if the message is real, I am very alarmed and implore you to reconsider acting on it. I understand that you do not enjoy being called upon to resign by thousands of people across the United States. Since I am familiar with Pacifica, I know that some of these messages may be rude. But inviting the FBI into this situation puts the organization that you represent in great danger.

If the Pacifica radio network has a natural predator, it is the FBI. In the early 1980s Pacifica obtained the network's Freedom of Information Act FBI files. I urge you to read these documents, which about six years ago I filed and sorted as volunteer archivist for the Pacifica National Office Papers. Since the 1950s, the Bureau has been poking, prodding, invading, infiltrating and harassing this organization in the most irresponsible and aggressive ways. It has planted informers within the network, sent agents pretending to be private citizens to inquire about the organization, and far worse.

In 1962, two staff members at WBAI in New York City interviewed a former FBI trainee about his experiences at the Bureau, and prepared to put his comments on the air in late October. After reading internal Bureau files during this period, I concluded that the FBI got wind of this program through a highly placed informer at KPFA in Berkeley (I do not know the identity of this person). Although Pacifica governing board members offered the FBI equal time to respond to the trainee's charges, the Bureau opted instead to begin a reckless campaign of harassment, including visits to staff members' homes, hostile anonymous phone calls, and threats of a raid at WBAI if the program was aired.

When WBAI broadcast the program anyway, the Bureau dossiered everyone of consequence within the Pacifica network, and forwarded its encyclopedia to the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The SISS used the materials to subpoena and grill about 8 members of the National Board in hearings in Washington, D.C., then released transcripts of the hearings to a hostile press. The FCC, under the guidance of a former FBI agent who now served as a Commissioner, withheld Pacifica's licenses and demanded loyalty oaths. Even after the network survived this ordeal, which it did barely, the FBI continued to worm its way into and around the organization.

Do you imagine that Pacifica no longer broadcasts programming that displeases the FBI? Quite the contrary; in fact, some of Pacifica's most prominent programmers have, very recently, published books exposing the FBI's unethical activities. Through the 1970s, 1980s and to varying degrees still, the organization functions as a clearing house for the conclusions of every radical investigative journalist in the country.

Surely the FBI hates Pacifica radio. Do you really believe that if you invite the Bureau into the internal life of Pacifica, its operatives will narrowly adhere to the tasks you set before them, and meekly depart from the scene upon your command? This is the FBI, I remind you, that recently withheld information about the Timothy McVeigh case and put Wen Ho Lee in solitary confinement for a year. This week the newspapers report on an FBI operative who allegedly sold information to organized crime for tens of thousands of dollars.

"Unmanageable, unaccountable and unreliable," a United States Senator called the FBI on Thursday during a Congressional hearing about the Bureau. If you actually plan to bring the FBI to this situation, do you think that it will remain under your control? Up until this month you were toying with a small but precious radio network; at that point you will be playing with fire.

The question is, do you care? Mr. Ford, I don't know you. I do know that if you do not publicly repudiate this extremely ill-advised recourse, it is only further evidence of your lack of qualifications to have anything to do with the governance of this network.

In any event, if the FBI calls me for any reason regarding this matter, I will heed the advice that Lewis Hill gave to KPFA's listeners regarding the Bureau's activities in 1949, a year when it was extremely dangerous to give such counsel: "The FBI is a contemptible institution and the whole country knows it," the founder of Pacifica radio declared. " . . . Refuse to cooperate. Say, No. Say, I for my part will not."

Very truly yours,

Matthew Lasar