By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Weather Underground again (II)

As it turned out, it really didn’t take me that long to skim the 1976 FBI history of the Weather Underground.

At 420 pages, it is a comprehensive overview of whom the FBI considered to be associated with the Weather Underground and what activities they engaged in. And there is not one solitary mention of Katherine Ann Power, Susan Saxe or the 1970 murder of Boston police officer Walter Schroeder.

As I wrote earlier, the section in the index where Power’s name might have appeared has been blacked out (or, to be more accurate, whited out). But from actually scanning through the document, it is clear that she’s nowhere to be found. Whoever’s name has been whited out, it’s safe to say, isn’t Power’s.

In another part of the document (PDF) is a section titled “WUO [Weather Underground Organization] Communiques and Bombings 1970-1976.” The section comprises a long list of terrorist acts for which the Weather Underground took credit — everything from bombing New York City police headquarters and the U.S. Capitol to helping Timothy Leary escape to Algeria. Again, there is no mention of the bank robbery in which Officer Schroeder was killed.

The only FBI reference to Power’s alleged membership in the Weather Underground is a photo caption on a Web page that links to the 1976 report. Based on what I’ve found so far, I think someone in the FBI communications department made a mistake.

Moving right along: Over at Google Books, I was able to search “The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground,” by Ron Jacobs (1997). There are no references whatsoever to Power, Saxe or the Schroeder case.

Using’s “Search Inside” feature, I also peeked at William Ayers’ memoir, “Fugitive Days.” Again, no reference to Power, Saxe or Schroeder.

I also consulted stories from the New York Times and the Associated Press published at the time of Schroeder’s murder. Both reported the FBI’s belief that the suspects were involved in “revolutionary” activities. Neither story made any mention of the Weather Underground.

I see no reason to back down from asserting that Katherine Ann Power had no connection to the Weather Underground.

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The Weather Underground again


Shorter Freeman Dyson


  1. O-FISH-L

    Dan your loyalty to, and protectiveness of, fellow liberals is laudable but the particular liberals you choose to defend makes your effort laudably repugnant.You write, “Based on what I’ve found so far, I think someone in the FBI communications department made a mistake.”So you make the quantum leap that a published FBI document that hasn’t been redacted is a mistake, with an even further leap that someone in the “communications department” made a mistake? Are you kidding me?In the time I’ve been here I’ve known you to be friends with some prominent lawyers like Silverglate and others. Isn’t it high-time for Power to file a libel lawsuit against the FBI and slander lawsuit against McPhee, Graham et al.? Either that or stand down.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: I suppose that page is an FBI “document,” but not in the customary sense — it’s a history lesson for students, the sort of writing task that might have been assigned to an intern.Let me repeat: the underlying FBI document on which it was based contains not a single mention of Power, Saxe or the Schroeder killing. There seems to be only one other reference to Power on the entire FBI Web site, and it doesn’t link her to the Weather Underground.If the FBI has evidence linking Power to the WU, it remains hidden. A photo caption isn’t evidence.

  3. MeTheSheeple

    Her name is used in connection with a CD-ROM of FBI files focused on Ayers; Amazon has it here. The first comment on Amazon seems rather important.I don’t know; I don’t have the CD. But it looks like the CD and the Freepers have been trying to tie her to the Weather Underground, for factual or perhaps other reasons.

  4. MeTheSheeple

    Fish wrote: Dan your loyalty to, and protectiveness of, fellow liberals is laudable but the particular liberals you choose to defend makes your effort laudably repugnant.Fish, if you read the original message, it sure looks like Dan feels her actions were repugnant. I don’t see where Dan suggested her actions were anything other than illegitimate, awful and deplorable.This is a question of looking at her criminal associates, or lack thereof.Say there’s a random street murder in Boston. Someone says it’s tied to Whitey Bulger. Does investigating that claim somehow detract from the awfulness of the murder? Does that make the questioner somehow support the murder and his politics?

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Sheeple: Interesting, too, that the CD-ROM is related to that same 1976 report.Well, gee, now I wish I had a copy. Though I’ll bet it’s unsearchable, just like the PDF that’s online. Converting those image files to text takes a lot of work.

  6. Amused

    Maybe there is still a lot of 60s radical in me, but I don’t understand why a university isn’t condemned for forcing a student group to withdraw an invitation to a speaker it chose. IT’s not like the institution is handing him an honorary degree.Just as appalling is the FBI Weatherman link with the photo of Power which refers to the Weather men as “inspired by communist ideologies and embracing violence and crime as a way to protest the Vietnam War, racism, and other left-wing aims” which seems to suggest that protesting the war and racism was some sort of communist plot. J Edgar Hoover’s ghost is alive and well. Wonder if its wearing a dress. At any rate, I don’t like the idea of the police getting involved in ideology.As for Graham, he’s a lightweight and sometime lightweights, because of their inability to comprehend much beyond superficial reaction, touch a cord. But it never lasts long, hence Graham’s horrid ratings despite his penchant for whining for publicity rather than engaging in intelligent discourse

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Amused: Good points, of course, but I am trying to keep the focus on truth.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: I’m amused by your suggestion that Power sue for libel. She is a convicted murder — a cop-killer, of all things. In order to win a libel suit, you have to show that your reputation was damaged. Do you see the problem?

  9. Sean

    So it should be Ayers that should do the suing! Another thing Graham is selling is Ayers' dedication of some old pamphlet he wrote, "Prairie Fire", to Sirhan Sirhan. He misrepresents the book as some kind of mainstream thing that you can just pick up at any Barnes & Noble. Howie Carr has picked up on this as well. I would think that, naturally, people like Ayers, circa 1970, assumed that Sirhan Sirhan was brainwashed, a Manchurian Candidate, a patsy, just like they believed Lee Harvey Oswald was. Would groups like the Weathermen even exist, if Bobby Kennedy had lived? I think not.

  10. Mr. X

    As I wrote last night, the whole thing is made up. McPhee got this (she says) from an alleged ex-member of the Republic of New Afrika who (she says) told her that he worked with the Weather Underground (including the Brighton bank crew). The problem is that there is no evidence anywhere that links any of the Brighton bank people to the WU. None. That doesn’t stop people like McPhee and Graham. It’s interesting, because there’s plenty of legitimate stuff to complain about re Ayers; you don’t have to make stuff up. Again, that doesn’t seem to matter to these people. Remember, they’re in the entertainment business.

  11. Bill Baar

    Talk to old SDSers and you’ll hear the biggest issue with Ayers and Dorhn is how they landed on their wealthy feet while others ended up blowing themselves up, or the lives otherwise crashed from living underground.. Old Bill ended up a celebrity, thanks to Dad, money and Commonwealth Edison, while the rest did the dirty work and paid for it.A lady at Church told me how she regretted missing the 60s and radicalism… I told she had no idea how we used each other back then. She’s lucky to have missed it….

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Mr. X: I hear what you’re saying, but I still want to know why the FBI has that photo and caption for Powers. I don’t think we’re quite done with this yet.

  13. Mr. X

    I have no problem with the pursuit. Indeed, as soon as I heard McPhee make the claim last year – I believe it was the first time she uttered it on air (the Ayers bit has just gotten traction in the national media) – I wrote her asking for her source. She responded with this bit about the (unnamed) ex-member of the RNA. I responded with a very detailed rebuttal about the nature of that Brighton group, what people in the WU were doing in this area (so far as we know), the known connections between RNA and the WU (non-existent), etc. No response. The FBI photo is interesting, but hardly surprising. If you know anything about FBI files on radicals from that period, they are wildly inaccurate, typically worthless (they get names, faces, and associations wrong all the time, often because they’ve simply misread what they’ve gotten from the press, and so on). This is not always the case – depends on the office, the officer, and so on. The problem here is that there are a lot of memoirs out there, and a lot of court cases. And there is nothing on this. Zip. Whoever told this to McPhee, if indeed he did, just made it up (from what she wrote to me, this person is her one source for a book she’s allegedly writing on the RNA, and it’s clear she hasn’t got a clue about the period). But she’s now repeated it enough to have gotten other characters involved (like Graham), who have as little concern for evidence as she. Again, though, continue digging. You won’t find anything.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Mr. X: I am interested to know if the FBI still stands by its characterization of Power, and if so, why. Believe me, I agree with everything you’re saying. This is Whitey Bulger’s hometown, so we’re pretty accustomed to not taking the FBI’s word at face value.

  15. Ron Newman

    “Prairie Fire” was a whole book, not a pamphlet, and you could buy it in the 1970s at left-wing places like Cambridge’s old Red Book Store. (Which still exists, after many moves, as the Lucy Parsons Center, now located in the South End.)Around the same time, the Weather Underground also published a magazine called Osawatomie, sold in the same stores.

  16. T

    Has the FBI ever stated that Katherine Ann Power was a member of the Weather Underground? Have they been asked recently? Has Katherine Ann Power?

  17. O-FISH-L

    Dan, I see the problem but I’ll quote from an Adam Reilly post, “[Judge Ernie] Murphy’s case against the Herald centered on two articles the tabloid published on February 13 and 14, 2002, that depicted Murphy as callously indifferent to victims — a characterization the Herald wasn’t the first to make.”I know you disagree with that verdict, but if Judge Murphy, with his reported reputation, can win a $2m libel suit then certainly Katherine Ann Power has a decent shot. Especially if she is merely a garden variety bank robber / cop killer falsely linked to a terrorist group. “T” above asks the question I’ve been meaning to ask (apologies if it was asked and answered already) but what does Power say about her involvement or lack thereof in the WU? If she’s not defending herself against the WU charges, I’m wondering why are you?

  18. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: But Power was part of a terrorist group.Where on earth did you get the idea that I’m defending Power? I have no use for her. I am simply asserting that there is no evidence she was ever in the WU.

  19. Jerry

    Dan, I’m noting that all this back-and-forth seems based entirely on web-researchable documents of various authenticity. I suspect that some additional reporting, including grunt legwork, is in order to settle this issue. Maybe Walter Robinson’s gang would want to take this on? In any case, just because you can find something (or not) on the Web doesn’t mean you have all the answers. This caution goes for all parties.

  20. Dan Kennedy

    Jerry: I agree, and am in the process of making inquiries.That said, you can’t prove a negative. Given that there has been no indication that Power was involved in the WU for 40 years, it would be wrong to treat the “she was”/”she wasn’t” claims as equal. The burden is on the “she was” side. I have not seen a scintilla of evidence — just a photo caption.I hope to have more at some point. It could take a while, but I’m not going to drop this. And maybe I will ask Robinson to get his students involved, depending on where this goes.

  21. Ron Newman

    If she still lives in the Boston area, maybe someone should ask her?

  22. Dan Kennedy

    Ron: She does not live here. Regardless, it would not be helpful, since anyone predisposed to believe she was in the WU would simply assert that she’s lying. For example, see this. A far more interesting question is whether the FBI would tell us today that it believes she was a WU member. I am in the process of trying to find that out.

  23. Jerry

    It still wouldn’t hurt to ask her directly.

  24. T

    Agree, it would not hurt to ask.This is, in part, a Boston story. Plenty of people were involved locally, not least among them the family of Walter Schroeder. His family is still in the area. I wonder what they were told.What about all the coverage when Power was finally sentenced? Was the Weather Underground mentioned?

  25. Nial Liszt

    **Fish: But Power was part of a terrorist group.**Napolitano says that the proper term is not terrorism, but is now “man-caused disasters.”

  26. Ron Newman

    But wasn’t this bank robbery a woman-caused disaster?

  27. Rob

    Bill Ayers does not represent me as a progressive, but BC does represent me as an alumnus, and I am deeply bothered by the school’s actions in this whole affair. Let the man speak and let students question him. There was nothing to fear from this exchange.

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