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

The Weather Underground again

Proving a negative can be damn near impossible. So consider this a first, halting effort to refute Michael Graham’s claim that Katherine Ann Power was a member of the Weather Underground.

Power, as you may recall, is a convicted murder — a former student radical who was one of five people responsible for killing Boston police officer Walter Schroeder in a 1970 bank robbery. Last year, Michele McPhee, like Graham a talk-show host on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), repeatedly claimed that Schroeder was killed by the Weather Underground; that because William Ayers, a former leader of the Weather Underground, knows Barack Obama, it must therefore follow that Obama was being disrespectful to the Schroeder family or something.

Now Ayers has been invited and disinvited to speak at Boston College, which occasions Graham’s missive.

Graham’s evidence is a link to an FBI Web page in which Power is identified as a member of the Weather Underground. Yet it is an odd document to which Graham refers — there is nothing in it about the Schroeder murder or Power. There are, however, photos of Bernardine Dohrn (Ayers’ wife, and indeed a former member of the Weather Underground) and Power. No further information is provided.

There is also a link to an FBI document, in multiple parts and hundreds of pages long, that is a 1976 internal history of the Weather Underground. However, it is unsearchable, as it is in the form of a PDF image file. It would take me many hours to read through it. I don’t have the time, but if anyone would like to try, be my guest. I’d like to know what’s in it.

More interesting is another link Graham provides — to a long article in National Review, published in 1993, not long after Power’s arrest. In it, one of her former Brandeis professors, Jacob Cohen, goes into deep, fascinating detail about Power and her classmate and co-murderer Susan Saxe. Cohen makes it clear that Power and Saxe were consumed by the radical insanity of the time. But Cohen, who knew them well, offers no indication that either of them was a member of the Weather Underground. It just doesn’t come up.

The thing is, Power’s story is well-known. She and Saxe, while students at Brandeis, hooked up with three ex-convicts and robbed a bank so that they could raise money for the Black Panthers. It sounds crazy, and it was. The crime they committed was unspeakable. But with the sole exception of that FBI page, I don’t think you will find anything anywhere suggesting that they were tied to the Weather Underground.

Here is how the New York Times described it following Power’s 1993 arrest:

The bank robbery came in a year when the anti-war movement had splintered, with some groups going underground and turning to violence. That March, three members of the Weathermen, a radical group, blew themselves up in the Greenwich Village town house where they were trying to build bombs.

Then the United States invaded Cambodia. Four days later in early May, four Kent State University students were shot to death by the National Guard during a protest of the invasion. The next day Kathy Power was one of thousands of students who walked out of classes in protest.

A national committee to coordinate student strikes was set up at Brandeis and it included Ms. Power, Susan Saxe and a state prison inmate on a college furlough program, Stanley Bond. All three took part in the bank robbery.

I am trying to find out more. Given the FBI statement, I am treading carefully. But, so far, I have seen no facts that would challenge the public record: that Power and Saxe had nothing to do with the Weather Underground.

Instant update: I just had a flash of inspiration and looked at the index of Weather Underground members in that FBI report (PDF). The place where Power’s name would be (if it’s there) has been blacked out. Saxe is not mentioned at all.

Still more: I see that Graham has referred to me as “some moron who claims to teach at Northeastern University.” We shall see who’s the moron by the time this has been resolved.

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The Weather Underground again (II)


  1. O'Rion

    “who claims to teach” Now that’s not very nice. Here I stuck up for Michael in his DMV problems.

  2. O-FISH-L

    Dan, as a retired cop whose late father attended the funerals for both Officer Walter A. Schroeder and his brother Detective John D. Schroeder who was also shot and killed some three years later, I sincerely commend you for labeling Walter’s murder by Katherine Ann Power and friends as “unspeakable.”Unless I’m missing something though, I feel like you’re venom aimed at local media types is misdirected. Clearly it is the FBI, as evidenced by your hyperlink in paragraph four, first sentence, that unmistakably labels Power as a member of Bill Ayers’ despicable group. Your beef is with the FBI and their website, not the talk hosts who reasonably rely on information put forth by what many consider the premiere law enforcement agency in the world.Make no mistake, I consider Michele McPhee a major-league phony. Her criticism of Peabody Police patrolmen for accepting the city’s contract offer for one new day off per year (they chose 9/11) was the last straw for me. But Dan, you almost equal her deceitfulness by claiming it was McPhee who said the terrorist Ayers “knows” Barack Obama. I’ll rely on the October 3, 2008 NY Times piece by Scott Shane that reports among other meetings “a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office.” Does Obama merely “know” the terrorist or did he allow him to host a “coffee” for him as the Times reports?Lastly Dan, just a day after BTP host Emily Rooney, in your presence, appointed herself Papal Nuncio and invalidated the weeping Virgin Mary’s appearance in a window of a local hospital, while nullifying other paranormal events, you proclaim “Cohen makes it clear that Power and Saxe were consumed by the radical insanity of the time.” Consumed by radical insanity? To paraphrase Ms. Rooney, “Nonsense!”

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: Regarding your “deceitfulness” claim, it was just sloppy writing on my part. I’ve fixed it.Please read my follow-up post. If Graham were interested in the truth rather than scoring cheap points, he wouldn’t rely on a single photo caption on an FBI Web site with no other reference to Power. The underlying FBI documents contain zero mention of Power, Susan Saxe or the murder of Officer Schroeder.I have searched far and wide on several occasions, and I can find no evidence that anyone has ever linked Power or Saxe to the Weather Underground — including the FBI. Maybe there’s something out there that will prove I’m wrong. But a photo caption with no other information isn’t going to do it.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: One more thing. I see nothing wrong with directing some “venom” at a talk-show host who slimes me without even bothering to do any research.

  5. Mr. X

    This connection of Power and Saxe to the Weathermen started with McPhee last year because of something an alleged member of the Republic of New Afrika (allegedly) told her. That’s her only source, and she refuses to provide any other evidence, in my view because there isn’t any. I study this period, and these groups, as an area of historical scholarship, and there is no reason to connect the Boston group to the Weatherman. The first time I heard McPhee make the claim, I challenged her on it; she was unresponsive (other than to say that her source in the RNA told her). Graham picked up the allegation from her, much later. Btw, if you Google Power, Saxe, Gilday, et al., and Weatherman, you’ll find sources that are only associated to McPhee and Graham’s radio station (and the people who listen to it — e.g., you’ll find examples in comments sections, always from the Boston area).

  6. O-FISH-L

    Dan, Graham shouldn’t have slimed you and I respect your right to retaliate. If I were Graham I wouldn’t have gone personal but certainly would have asked rhetorically, “If an official FBI document isn’t enough proof for Prof. Dan Kennedy, what is?” “The Old Testament perhaps?” The FBI had Power on the Ten Most Wanted List. They should know her better than anyone. Until she sues or the FBI retracts, Graham and McPhee should be waving that page around like it’s the Constitution.That said, I haven’t had enough time to dig into it to draw my own conclusion on Power and the WU. I’m just saying that if you have something in writing from an agency like the FBI, run with it. As we both know, these two are in the entertainment industry, only 25 years and a space shuttle poster removed from the late, great Wally George.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: We are not talking about an official FBI document. We are talking about a Web page put together for students. It is based on official FBI documents, but — whoops! — those documents make no mention of Power or the Schroeder murder.We’re not 100 percent of the way there yet, but we’re very close.

  8. Concerned Citizen

    AYERS INTERVIEW ON BC STUDENT RADIO TOMORROW, APRIL 16th @ 5 PM EASTERN!!!!Listen in to "Banned at BC: Free Speech at the University & Educational Reform" on BC's political talk show "Blowback" at are welcome.

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