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In March 5, 1998, Mervyn Dymally addressed a town meeting in Houston, Texas on the topic of ``Restoring Justice to the U.S. Department of Justice.'' The meeting was the first in a series held throughout the nation, organized by the Schiller Institute, in which citizens have joined with political and constituency leaders, to build a movement to put an end to the systematic prosecutorial abuse which has characterized the actions of the ``Permanent Bureaucracy'' of the DOJ for the last 40 years.
At that University of Houston meeting, Dymally was joined by former South Carolina State Senator Theo Mitchell, Robert Muhammad, the southwest regional leader of the Nation of Islam, and this author, to provide community leaders with the ammunition to take on a dirty operation run by the FBI and the DOJ against African-American and Hispanic officials in Houston. The FBI ran a ``sting'' operation against former City Councilmen Ben Reyes and John Peavy, current City Councilmen John Castillo and Michael Yarbrough, and former Port Commissioner Betti Maldonado, which went to trial on March 9.
The Houston case was typical of those made by the DOJ against thousands of minority leaders elected to public office. These cases grew out of an FBI operation designed specifically to target minorities, named ``Operation Frühmenschen,'' which dates from the time the FBI was headed by the racist J. Edgar Hoover.
The existence of this policy was brought to light by an investigation initially launched by Dymally in 1975, when he was the Democratic Lt.-Governor of California. As he details in the interview below, the investigation grew out of a casual conversation with the nation's only other African-American Lt. Governor, George Brown of Colorado, as the two of them compared the pattern of legal harassment and media attacks each had been subjected to during their political careers. From that investigation, a study was produced, which concluded that there was widespread targetting of African-American elected officials. That study, not surprisingly, received little notice.
After his election to the U.S. Congress in 1980, Dymally remained concerned about this problem. A new investigation began in 1986, and a second report was issued under his auspices, ``The Harassment of Black Elected Officials, Ten Years Later.'' This study was conducted by Dr. Mary Sawyer, who had also prepared the first report. By then, Dymally had been elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). In this capacity, he rose to address the Congress on January 27, 1988. In the short time allotted to him (he was given one minute to speak!), he dropped a bombshell:
``I come to the well of the House today to place before this nation a document which challenges the very basic tenets of constitutional rights and abrogation of duty. As chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and on behalf of my colleagues, I have transmitted this morning to the chairman of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, an affidavit sworn by an FBI agent which alleges an established official policy of that body to initiate investigations of black elected officials without probable cause.The affidavit he released contained a stunning revelation: Attorney Hirsch Friedman, who had worked with the FBI in Atlanta, stated that there had been a coordinated operation against minority elected officials run by the FBI, with the name ``Operation Frühmenschen.''
``Such a policy represents the ultimate abuse of power and places at risk more than 6,700 elected officials mandated to serve the people of this nation. The Congressional Black Caucus and the National Caucus of Black State Legislators call for an immediate investigation into these facts.
``Mr. Speaker, the actions alleged in this affidavit are deplorable and we offer them for the record in order that people of conscience everywhere will know the impact of unbridled authority. The Congress of the United States must not allow those empowered to enforce the law to make mockery of the instruments of justice and due process.''
In his affidavit, Friedman said,
``The purpose of this policy was the routine investigation without probable cause of prominent elected and appointed black officials in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States. I learned from my conversations with special agents of the FBI that the basis for this policy was the assumption by the FBI that black officials were intellectually and socially incapable of governing major governmental organizations and institutions.''Despite Dymally's courageous presentation, and the Friedman affidavit itself, which offered irrefutable proof of DOJ/FBI corruption, no action was taken by the Congress. From the time of Dymally's January 1988 revelation, until hearings held by the Schiller Institute on August 30-September 1, 1995, the issue was buried, and DOJ/FBI Frühmenschen hit teams continued to target innocent officals. The failure of Congess to take up this challenge was one of the reasons Dymally left Washington in 1992. His decision was reinforced when he saw Democrats back away from defending House Speaker Jim Wright, who was the target of a vicious assault by Rep. Newt Gingrich, who, of course, later took Wright's job.
While in Houston, Dymally was asked by a reporter from Elements magazine why he thinks there has been so little response to the harassment of African-American elected officials. ``The strange phenomenon of harassment,'' he replied, ``is that it is a very individual experience; when I am harassed, you do not experience it. As a result of this, it is very difficult to get the African-American community and civil rights organizations aroused on this issue. I want to thank the Schiller Institute for taking up this issue.''
The battle for Lyndon LaRouche's exoneration, which is being fought against the same networks and apparatus of the DOJ's Permanent Bureaucracy responsible for ``Frühmenschen,'' has given renewed courage to many individuals like Mervyn Dymally, who have become active in the campaign for the McDade-Murtha Citizens Protection Act of 1998.
The following interview was conducted with Mervyn Dymally June 18, 1998.
New Federalist: How did you get involved in the fight to expose injustice, especially against African-American officials?
Mervyn Dymally: Sometime in 1975, I was invited to a conference of human rights workers of America, by a young academician named Mary Warner Sawyer, in Atlanta. It was an occasion to meet my friend and fraternity brother, and fellow Lt.-Gov. George Brown [Colo.]. During the course of the meeting, George and I sat down to make small talk, and reminisce about our new-found experience.
What we both found very striking, is that his experiences were so similar to mine; it was as if he were in Sacramento, and I was in Denver. The same kind of subtle racism, the same kind of inquiries by law enforcement, the same kind of scrutiny by the media. And so we approached Mary Sawyer, who was assistant to the mayor of Berkeley, Calif., and who was so moved by our joint experience, that she decided to do a study of our complaint. Was this an isolated incident among two new Lt.-Governors who are black? Or is there a pattern around the country?
So, Mary moved to Sacramento, and began to do some consulting work. In the absence of money, she took the Greyhound bus and rode through the South. And what she found there was what George and I were experiencing. Out of that trip through the South and southeast, came the first report on the harassment of black elected officials.
NF:Was that report published?
Dymally: That report was published. I regret to say that we could not find a single civil-rights group that was willing to take up the charge. So Mary, George, and I went to Washington to release the report [at a press conference]. We were doing very well, until a black reporter from the Washington Post started playing the role of devil's advocate, asking the impossible, for example: ``Did you check with these newspapers you claim were sensationalizing the negative?'' Once he opened up that box, all the white reporters jumped in and came down on us with all force, and we got very little publicity. We could not interest anyone to take up this cause, and so, the matter died.
I was later defeated for reelection for Lt.-Governor, but that's another story by itself.
NF: What happened?
Dymally: A Los Angeles Times reporter went to an investigator in the Attorney General's office in California, and told him that he was informed by the Feds that I was going to be indicted. The investigator then wrote a memo to his boss, and on the memo he put a ``P.S.''--``this is only a rumor.'' The P.S. was erased, and the report was given to the wife of a reporter, Bill Stout of CBS television. His wife was working for my opposition. Bill Stout read, very dramatically, on the news, a week-and-a-half before the election, that I was going to be indicted, and--I paraphrase him--he said, ``I read it, you heard it, Dymally knows it, he's going to be indicted.''
I was leading by six points [in the polls] at the time, and, when I heard the news on the radio, CBS radio, KNX, I said to my campaign manager and my son Mark, ``I think it's all over, let's pay off all our debts.'' A friend loaned me his plane, a Gulfstream jet, I think it was, and I had the unique distinction of visiting every county in California as a candidate, all fifty-eight.
NF: Who was your opponent in that race?
Dymally: Mike Curb, who called me a criminal. Governor Pat Brown, Sr., called me and said that, as Attorney General, he had prosecuted a man for calling someone a criminal without any evidence. We went to the District Attorney in San Bernardino County, where the charge was made, and he assigned two investigators. They came to see me and asked me to take a lie-detector test, as if I had been guilty of some wrong. And when I said let me check with my lawyer, I don't know why I am taking a lie-detector test, they gave the Los Angeles Times reporter a story, and the big headline the next day was ``Dymally Refuses Lie Detector Test.''
So the victim was again victimized.
Then he repeated the charge in Santa Clara County, in San Jose. We went to the District Attorney there, who ruled that the statute was unconstitutional, and refused to prosecute. I might say, to his credit, Mike Curb subsequently apologized to me, in 1980, when I ran for Congress, and endorsed me.
NF: Were charges ever brought against you?
Dymally: The U.S. Attorney in Southern California ... went after me.
In 1980, I held a press conference and announced my candidacy [for the U.S. Congress], and said, ``If the U.S. Attorney has any criminal evidence against me, this is the time to indict.''
I proceeded to Sacramento, to hold a similar press conference. The FBI had two leaks, the Sacramento Bee, and the Los Angeles Times, and both reporters came to me and asked if my lawyer had been in touch with the U.S. Attorney. I said no, he hadn't been. The Bee reporter said, ``If he calls them tomorrow, I think they are prepared to drop the case.''
I called my attorney, Edward Masry, he called them the next day, then they wrote me a letter saying that there was insufficient evidence--evidence of what? Of nothing!
NF: How long had this investigation been open?
Dymally: Sometime in the early 1970s, the Department of Justice in San Francisco, through the FBI, announced they were going to investigate the California legislature. There were 120 legislators, 80 in the Assembly, and 40 in the Senate. Of those 120 men and women, they singled out two: a black, Mervyn Dymally, and a Korean, Al Song; we were seatmates. Al Song was defeated that year, in 1976, and I was defeated in 1978.
Then, I go to Congress, and the stories keep coming back to me, about harassment. Ten years later, in 1986, we held another conference and commissioned Dr. Mary Sawyer, who had gotten a Ph.D. from Duke, to do a second report. And her conclusion was almost a single line, ``Nothing had changed.''
NF: In the second report, she followed the investigation of 1976, to determine if there was a continuing pattern of targetting of minority elected officials?
Dymally: Yes, and she found the same pattern. The report was entitled, ``Harassment of Black Elected Officials, Ten Years Later.'' We held a seminar and the black media were very defensive, especially those from the Washington Post.
NF:This was sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)?
Dymally: Yes. Every year the CBC holds a weekend legislative seminar and dinner, and each member is entitled to conduct a seminar of his or her own choice. I selected that topic, and Congressman Walter Fauntroy was the featured speaker, and I believe Shirley Chisholm was there as well.
NF: What was the reaction of others in the CBC to this seminar?
Dymally: The CBC has never really taken an official position on this matter. Individual members felt strongly about it, as individual members were victims of this harassment. There were many members who had experienced this. Mickey Leland, shortly before his death, told me that the FBI was after him.
NF: Did you try to get this before Congressional committees, to get a full hearing?
Dymally: No, I never felt there was a groundswell of support within the ranks of the Congress for it.
Subsequently, Clarence Mitchell III, who became the only person to be convicted in the Wedtech scandal--everyone else was freed on technicalities--he and I got together and organized the Center for the Study of the Harassment Against Black Elected Officials. We were temporarily funded, in the late 1980s, by a church council, out of New York, one of the more progressive church denominations. That lasted until about 1994, when we had to close our doors due to the lack of finances. Before we had to close our doors, we held a series of meetings across the country.
NF: So, after you had turned up evidence that there was a pattern, and that this pattern was continuing, there was still no one who would take up the fight?
Dymally: No civil rights group, that I know of, would take it up. In fact, the Joint Center for Political Studies sent a staff member to New York, to say at our first national conference there, that they had no evidence of harassment of black elected officials.
NF: Were you investigated while you were in the Congress?
Dymally: I kept hearing rumors that the FBI was interviewing people to find out if I travelled with a lot of cash. One of the persons with whom I travelled said the only cash he ever saw on me was a lot of credit cards. Another one told them that he was with me in Kinshasa [Zaire], but I turned in my per diem to the embassy, because he had not used it.
When the scandal broke about the bounced checks [in the Congressional Bank], I had issued a check to a charity in Pennsylvania, which promptly lost the check. By the time they deposited the check, the bank had closed. So it was not an overdrawn check. It was a check for $100, which I have here in my files. Over this, about half-a-dozen FBI agents came to interview me. My first thought was, this is Washington, I'd better get an attorney. I went to a law firm, and their fee was $25,000. My staff, on which I had three or four lawyers, asked me if I was guilty of any wrongdoing. I said no. Then why spend all of this money? they asked. Do you have it to spend? I said no. Well, let's handle it.
We answered all the questions. They brought a check which I had used for a down-payment on my son's condo. I made a note on the memo line on the lower left-hand corner of the check that it was for the escrow account. The FBI wanted to know what that money was for.
One of the reasons they were after me was that the Sergeant-of-Arms was accused of helping members cash these checks without adequate funds. And he was fired, 90 days before his retirement was due. I was asked to put him on the payroll, so that he could gain his retirement. And I must say, I was amazed at the number of conservatives who came to me and praised me privately for doing it. They would never have done it, but he was very popular with both the Democrats and Republicans. He was one of my favorite people, by the way. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. They thought there was some collusion between he and myself, but I never had any bounced checks.
Then, in 1991, they set up a sting for me, right next door to my office in Compton [Calif.]. The problem was to set up a waste energy plant in Compton. I had held a seminar on that, and the man who wanted to put one there had a project that was environmentally unsound, so I opposed it. He then came to a former staffer, who was then a Councilwoman [in Compton]. She said she wanted me to meet this guy. We met. He offered to show me his plan. I concluded there was more to his story than he was saying. For example, he said he had a lot of cash from the Japanese. I had developed some expertise on Japan as a member of the House subcommittee on Asia, and I know Japanese companies don't deal in cash. They deal in bank transfers, and they don't deal with little guys, they deal with large corporations.
When we got into the car ... to look at the proposal, I said to him, ``Look, I know you're a sting. If you were really serious, you would go before the City Council to do this.'' He was working for the FBI. He never came back to me, but went to the City Council, and the result was the indictment of my successor and a Councilwoman [former Rep. Walter Tucker, and Patricia Moore], both of whom were sent to prison.
NF: Have you been disappointed that no one acted on your 1988 initiative, despite the evidence that the pattern has continued?
Dymally: There ought to be another report by Mary Sawyer, this title ought to be ``Ten More Years, and Nothing Has Changed.'' What has struck me as rather unique and interesting is that the Schiller Institute, which is not known as an African-American group, has taken up this cause, when black civil rights groups around the country continue to be silent about it. That has gotten me back into talking about the issue, because nothing has changed.
NF: The Schiller Institute hearings, by bringing together many who had been through this, was quite valuable, as it gave the participants an understanding that these abuses originate in the Permanent Bureaucracy of the Justice Department.
Dymally: I was not close to the Schiller Institute during my Congressional tenure, but since I left Congress and continue to read about these cases, the only group around that's addressing this subject is the Schiller Institute.
I did learn a lot, by being a target. An FBI agent once told me something very interesting, that, once your name is in the file, it stays active. In 1980, after I won the election [to Congress], I met a Cuban woman and a white Republican lawyer, at a luncheon. In the course of small talk, the lawyer asked what I will be doing before taking office. I told him I was thinking of going to Trinidad, and I might stop in Jamaica. He said, ``We're going to Cuba, why don't you join us?'' I thought that would be interesting. He said there will be a ticket for me at Air Cubana when I arrived in Kingston.
So I said to myself that I'd better pay for this ticket with my American Express card, so there's some evidence that it was not a gift from the Cubans. I went there, and we were ushered around, we saw the medical clinics, the sugar factory, some child-care centers, housing projects, but I did not see Fidel. We had a young woman as our interpreter. At some point, it was determined that I was asking too many questions, and she disappeared.
When I came back, the FBI kept calling me. And I said to myself, ``Damn, I thought these guys were going to leave me alone.'' One day, I got an urgent call, that an agent was coming out to Los Angeles, on the late flight, and wants to see me at the FBI headquarters. I went there, and they said they know I was in Cuba, and their information is that Fidel has determined that I am going to be his man in Congress. I said, ``Well, for someone who doesn't speak Spanish and never met Fidel, I'm honored. But how do you know that?'' He said, ``Your guide was one of our people, and you were housed with the dignitaries. There will be a new big story out today, that a Cuban official at the embassy will be deported [from the U.S.]--someone you met in Cuba, and your name might come up.''
After I left their office, I turned on the radio, and there was the story of the Cuban, and the Los Angeles Times called me, about my visit there. That summer, Connecticut Sen. Weicker had gone to Cuba, and went fishing with Fidel, and this was in People magazine, but Weicker was never called by the FBI. But I had to go. When I asked why, I was told it was because the FBI has a file on me, because of my ``past problems'' in California. I said, ``Past problems? You guys created the problems for me. I had no problems there.''
One of the things they did was to subpoena all of my records, 94 boxes, which I had deposited at California State University in Los Angeles. When I asked for my FBI files, they sent me Carter's Economic Report, Security Pacific Bank's Economic Report, Jerry Brown's Economic Report, which were in the boxes, and I had to pay for all these stupid reports, which were mine! So I had to pay for publications that people usually throw in the trash can!
NF: Do you have any thoughts about the McDade-Murtha bill?
Dymally: The best you are going to get out of the McDade-Murtha bill is a hearing, if the Congress is courageous enough to hold hearings, and I doubt it. I don't think [Rep. Henry] Hyde would want to hold hearings on that. But if they do, the Attorney General has said publicly that she has asked the President to veto the bill. If it gets out of the House, it may be killed in the Senate.
I think it is a bill which deserves a hearing, and there would be more witnesses than they could accommodate. If there are hearings and I am invited, I would be very happy to testify. You have done an excellent job in getting as far as you have [with it].
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