Close Encounter with the
Barack Obama would have you believe that the bombings by the radical domestic terrorists known as The Weather Underground were something that happened "when I was eight years old" and with which he had absolutely no connection. And while it is true that their bombings started when Obama was eight years old, they actually continued until he was twenty years old. And, incredibly, the life of Barack Obama and the terror campaign of the Weather Underground nearly intersected on the evening of September 26, 1981 at an anti-Apartheid protest which turned violent at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
I'm tempted to say they may have intersected, rather than just "nearly." But I don't know for sure.
I'll be frank and admit that when I first started working on this report, I thought perhaps I might come across evidence that Obama personally witnessed a Weather Underground attack. But I could never find that proof. The final link in the chain eluded me, and eludes me still. So I'm not claiming that Obama had any direct connection to the incident.
But damn how the coincidences -- if you can call them that -- kept piling up. I may have never found proof that Obama was at Kennedy Airport on September 26, 1981, when Weather Underground terrorists blinded an innocent man, but I did uncover evidence to suggest he could have been there. Indeed, all the facts point in one direction: that he could very likely have gone to the protest, because protesting against Apartheid was by his own admission his field of interest at the time. And he was in New York on that day. But primarily because very little is known about that period in Obama's life, we may never find out the real story.
Read on, and come to your own conclusions.
Obama Became Involved With Anti-Apartheid Protests and Embraced Far-Left-Wing Politics While at Occidental College
Between 1979 and 1981, Obama -- by his own account, and by the testimony of others who knew him at the time -- became heavily involved in the anti-Apartheid protest movement while attending Occidental College, where he also embraced Marxism and far-left-wing ideologies.
This excellent article in Open Letters Monthly illuminates many little-known details of this "lost" period of Obama's life. Included is this quote written by Obama himself in Dreams From My Father):
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism and patriarchy.To hear an mp3 audio clip of Obama himself speaking this passage about his Marxist friends, simply click here (right-click or control-click to to download the mp3).
"Franz" Fanon is actually Frantz Fanon, a 20th century psychiatrist and communist philosopher who is seen as the patron saint of Third World revolutionaries. And I think we can be quite sure Obama wasn't attacking Fanon and praising Eurocentrism; if you're even using words like "neocolonialism" and "patriarchy," it's obvious where your sympathies lie.
The article continues,
Obama became more serious during his sophomore year, taking dense philosophy courses, becoming involved with the Black Students' Association and a campaign to divest funds from apartheid South Africa. He got his first taste of the allure of public speaking at a rally for the anti-apartheid campaign, where he played the role of an activist giving a speech in a piece of street theater. After a few opening remarks, white students dressed in paramilitary uniforms were to come on stage and drag him away. As it happened, after he got through his opening remarks:According to the Los Angeles Times, Obama's main political interest in 1980 and 1981 while at Occidental was the anti-Apartheid movement:I stopped. The crowd was quiet now, watching me. Somebody started to clap. "Go on with it Barack," somebody else shouted. "Tell it like it is." Then the others started in, clapping, cheering, and I knew that I had them, that the connection had been made....
Though some express surprise at his current prominence, classmates recall a slim, good-looking teen with a moderate Afro, a taste for Casa Bianca's Hawaiian-style pizza (pineapple and ham) and a role in protesting college investments in firms doing business in South Africa during the apartheid era.
This video made by the Boston Globe discusses in greater detail Obama's political involvement with the anti-Apartheid movement in 1981. After getting his bearings during his first year at Occidental, he took a political turn as a sophomore:
Obama had been somewhat rudderless when he first arrived on campus. He gained a sense of direction in his sophomore year [i.e. late 1980 through mid-1981] when he joined a student campaign to push the college to divest from South Africa on account of the Apartheid policies of the white minority government. "That group of students remains, in my mind, one of the most serious groups of students to have gone through Occidental College. The [South African] divestment movement was to the '70s and '80s what civil rights, the anti-war movement and the women's movement were to the '60s."This article about Obama on the Occidental College Web site also reveals how Obama was deeply involved in the anti-Apartheid movement there:
Almost 30 years ago, he was a freshman from Honolulu living in Haines Hall, playing pick-up basketball and developing a reputation as a campus activist. Today, Barack Obama '83 is a Democratic presidential hopeful...Bonus Coincidence: That speech by Obama referenced above, which was the first political speech he ever gave, was to a group at Occidental associated with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) -- which itself had been the precursor to the Weather Undergound. (And this article also traces Obama's continued SDS connections, including a 2002 speech he gave at a rally organized by SDS veterans.)
So, we know beyond any doubt that Obama was into Marxism and other far-left ideologies and was an active anti-Apartheid protester as of June 1981, which is when he left Occidental and transferred to Columbia. In fact, that was one of the reasons why he transferred to Columbia -- to pursue his growing interests further.
Obama in New York at Columbia: What Little We Know
After Obama left Los Angeles and Occidental in June of 1981, a veil of mystery descends over his life story. As many journalists and researchers have discovered over the last year, very little is known about Obama's time at Columbia, and what few details Obama himself has mentioned seem to contradict the scraps of evidence that can be found.
This section demonstrates two key points: First, that Obama continued his anti-Apartheid activities and Black identity politics while at Columbia; and second, that he's almost certainly not telling the truth about whatever else he was doing during his time there, from August 1981 up until 1983.
As is well-known, Columbia has long been one of the epicenters of political activism. The students there, whatever the era, are always looking for an issue to protest. In the early 1980's according to Wikipedia and other sources, that issue was the anti-Apartheid movement:
Protests against racism and apartheidAfter several years of pressure from such protests, Columbia University on May 7, 1984 finally relented and agreed to stop investing in South Africa.
In an interview published in the January, 2005 issue of Columbia College Today, an alumni magazine, Obama revealed this crucial detail about his interests when he arrived at Columbia in 1981:
As he pursued a political science degree, specializing in international relations, Obama says he was somewhat involved with the Black Students Organization and participated in anti-apartheid activities.This same fact was cited on page two of this New York Times article.
This makes perfect sense, since we know for certain that Obama had been heavily involved in the anti-Apartheid scene up until June 1981 at Occidental, just a couple months before arriving at Columbia in August.
So, Obama's own admission that he was involved in anti-Apartheid protests is partly confirmed by the fact that we know anti-Apartheid protests were going on at Columbia at the time.
But nearly everything else Obama has said about this period is contradicted by the existing evidence. Which can only lead to one conclusion: Obama is not telling us the whole story. Why? What does he have to hide?
The rest of this section contains a great deal of evidence that seems to be mutually contradictory: Obama says one thing, an independent source says another. If it all seems to be going in circles and signifying nothing, that's the point: The evidence in this section proves that we cannot trust what Obama says about his time at Columbia.
Journalistic frustration: The media hits a blank wall about Obama's New York years
Many articles have already been published on this very topic: How Obama refuses to say much of anything about his time at Columbia, and how what little he has said contradicts other sources. In researching this article I had the exact same experience, and I'll present some of my findings below, but first let's take a quick look at what others have said.
The New York Times most famously published an article in 2007 entitled "Obama's Account of New York Years Often Differs From What Others Say," which points out a great many inconsistencies in Obama's meager testimony about his Columbia stint. He has portrayed himself then as having been solitary, studious, hard-working, and impoverished while at Columbia, but the Times notes with frustration,
Yet he declined repeated requests to talk about his New York years, release his Columbia transcript or identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate or friend from those years. ... His 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father," weighs in at more than 450 pages. But he also exercised his writer's prerogative to decide what to include or leave out. Now, as he presents himself to voters, a look at his years in New York - other people's accounts and his own - suggests not only what he was like back then but how he chooses to be seen now. Some say he has taken some literary license in the telling of his story."Taken some literary license" is a nice way of saying: Lied. The Times then goes on to demonstrate many inconsistencies in Obama's version of events.
The New York Observer points out that nobody on campus even remembers Obama being there at the time. Not one person.
Riehl World View concurs, and adds more puzzling details -- or rather, absence of details.
The article about Obama at WikiCU, the online Columbia encyclopedia, even expresses mystification about their own alumnus. In what should be a definitive article about his years there, the encyclopedia says things like...
Obama claims to have participated to some extent in anti-apartheid activities with the Black Students Organization, but no one is quite sure....and so forth. If the people at Columbia themselves seem to be so unsure about Obama's time there, how can an outside journalist expect to find the truth?
While researching this article, I encountered the same blank wall as the journalists who came before me. And whenever I did dig up a fact, it only contradicted Obama's own claims. The following sections illustrate some of these contradictions, and are only presented here for one reason: To show that Obama has never told the truth or the full story about his time at Columbia.
Did Obama move around frequently, or stay in one place?
In Dreams From My Father, and several other places, Obama claims to have been practically itinerant while in New York, moving from apartment to apartment, from one bad neighborhood to another. This AP article, as a typical example, states:
The Obama campaign declined to discuss Obama's time at Columbia and his friendships in general. It won't, for example, release his transcript or name his friends. It did, however, list five locations where Obama lived during his four years here: three on Manhattan's Upper West Side and two in Brooklyn - one in Park Slope, the other in Brooklyn Heights. His memoir mentions two others on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In about 1982, Siddiqi and Obama got an apartment at a sixth-floor walkup on East 94th Street.That's seven different locations in total.
However, a quick perusal of the phone books from the period suggest otherwise -- that Obama moved into that 94th Street apartment shortly after first arriving, and stayed there the rest of the time while in New York:
This page from the 1982 Manhattan phonebook lists "B. Obama" as living at 339 East 94th St. (The 1982 directory is the first one Obama could have appeared in, since the 1981 directory was printed before Obama's arrival.)
Yet this page, from the 1985 Manhattan phonebook, shows that he was still living at the same address -- even having the same phone number. And he was in the following year's directory as well, still at 339 East 94th St.
How could that be? As Obama's campaign said in the quote above, and as Obama details in Dreams From My Father, he moved several times while in New York, sometimes sharing a room with others.
The only feasible explanation would be that Obama rented the 339 East 94th St. apartment (shown here), and then moved out while subleasing it to others, still maintaining the apartment and the phone in his name. And while acting as a sort of freelance landlord, collecting renting from his sublessors, he was still broke and kept having to move from place to place himself.
But seriously: How likely is that? It's much more likely that Obama simply stayed in this one location the entire time, and later concocted a tale of being poor and itinerant as part of some narrative about his rise from poverty, or something along those lines.
Was Obama a member of the radical Black Students Organization, or not?
As we saw above, in articles in The New York Times and Columbia College Today, Obama claims to have been a member of the Black Students Organization while at Columbia. But was he really?
This is a photo of the Columbia Black Students Organization, taken from the 1983 yearbook The Columbian. As you can see, Obama was not among them, even though 1983 was his senior year at Columbia. (The bright spot in the lower left is a reflection of the camera flash. In case you're wondering whether the flash accidentally obscured Obama, this photo shows the missing portion of the image - which also doesn't include Obama.) Earlier editions of The Columbian did not include photos of the BSO.
This image comes from the Black Students Organization's own history page. Both the image and the text depict the BSO (and its predecessors; before 1976, the Black student group at Columbia changed names several times) as being extremely radical; famously, in 1968, the Black student group "armed with guns" took over a building on campus and initiated a complete shutdown of Columbia. After their heyday in the late '60s and early '70s, things calmed down somewhat, but they kept up their radical activism continuously since that time. Yet, no mention of Obama is made anywhere on their site. And the same New York Observer article linked to above, states:
The former vice president of the Black Students Organization, senior Mark Attiah, was shocked to learn that Obama was even a member of the BSO. "I knew that he graduated from Columbia, but he doesn't talk about it that much, which I get," Mr. Attiah said.... Coincidentally, Mr. Attiah worked at the 25th reunion of the class of '83 last year, and not surprisingly, reported that Senator Obama did not attend.... In fact, there is not a single picture of Senator Obama in any of the yearbooks from the period when he was a student--he is not even listed as absent in the BSO photo from 1983.In fact, aside from Obama's own assertion, I could find no real evidence suggesting that he was a member of the Black Students Organization at Columbia. Again, his claims do not stand up under scrutiny.
Was Obama active politically, or did he live a solitary life?
Obama claims that, while at Columbia, he was active in the left-wing political scene. For example, in addition to the anti-Apartheid activities and the Black student groups mentioned above, Obama discusses in a passage from Dreams From My Father:
the socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union.To hear an mp3 audio clip of Obama himself speaking this passage about attending socialist conferences, simply click here (right-click or control-click to to download the mp3).
(Cooper Union is a small college in Manhattan.)
However, this completely contradicts other claims he makes about his time at Columbia, during which he says (according to the New York Times article cited above) that
I spent a lot of time in the library. I didn't socialize that much. I was like a monk.Well, which is it? Was he a radical black activist who went to socialist conferences and anti-Apartheid protests, or was he a solitary bookworm?
Unfortunately there is almost no evidence to support one or the other of Obama's different versions of his college career.
These two photos, taken from The Columbian yearbook from the early '80s, show that there was indeed a great deal of political activism at Columbia during that era, which at least provides some support to his claim that there was even any political activity happening at all at Columbia when he was attending. This protest, for example, was about the U.S. involvement in the El Salvador civil war.
Another El Salvador themed protest at Columbia from the same period. (Bonus Coincidence: Just a few months afterward, Bernardine Dohrn protested U.S. involvement in El Salvador, showing that the anti-Apartheid protest scene wasn't the only possible point of contact between Obama's circle and the Ayers crowd.)
However, none of the very few protest photos in the yearbooks depict Obama himself, nor do they show anti-Apartheid protests in particular.
You'd think that Columbia, which is so proud of its history of radical activism, would maintain some kind of research archive about past protests. And, in fact, they do have such an archive, with the promising name University Protest and Activism Collection, 1958-1999. But alas, the name is misleading; because the description of the collection reveals that it is almost exclusively devoted to the glamorous, glorious, delirious period between 1968 and 1972. And this pdf which gives a detailed description of each box in the collection reveals that it's not even "almost" exclusively about that era; despite the ambitious title of the collection, it has nothing whatsoever about 1981 or any year close to 1981.
So we actually have no idea, and essentially no way of finding out, what exactly happened protest-wise during Obama's stint at Columbia. He could claim anything, either way, and there would be no way to confirm or deny it.
But, as with his other claims, this puts him in a bind. If he's telling the truth about his political fervor and anti-Apartheid activism, that puts him into the orbit of Ayers and the Weather Underground. If he's not telling the truth -- well, then, he's a liar.
What's so odd about Obama's near-silence concerning his time in New York is that he said he transferred from Occidental to Columbia for the specific purpose of getting more involved in political consciousness and activism at a larger and more engaged school. This New York Times article, for example, says Obama transferred to Columbia to "test my commitments" to social justice causes "like apartheid and poverty in the third world." And yet we are asked to believe that once Obama arrived in New York, the epicenter of activism, he suddenly stopped being politically active. No. It's much more likely that he continued his activism, but now refuses to discuss what he did there. Why the strange glossing over of what should be the culmination of the activism which got its start at Occidental? Could it be not that he abandoned politics altogether, but rather that he became so radicalized that it would be an embarrassment now that he's trying to present himself as mainstream?
Bonus Coincidence: As Andrew McCarthy pointed out in this article at the National Review Online, entitled "Why Won't Obama Talk About Columbia?":
- Obama took a class at Columbia from Edward Said, the influential Palestinian activist and intellectual.
- Obama was later photographed sitting and chatting with Said at an Arab-American dinner, showing they must have continued their relationship.
- Said wrote the blurb for William Ayers' Weather Underground memoir Fugitive Days.
- Ayers attended Columbia Teachers College in the 1980s and almost certainly at that time knew Said, who was then a professor at Columbia.
The Anti-Apartheid Protest at Kennedy Airport Against "The Springboks," the South African National Rugby Team
Now let's jump to the other thread in this investigation. As we'll soon find out, this Springboks thread is not as disconnected from the rest of the story as it may first appear: at one end, it becomes deeply entangled with the Weather Underground. At the other end, it almost touches the thread of Barack Obama's life. Almost. But not quite. Or at least not that I can prove. Because right here in the center is the one missing link in the chain of evidence: Was Obama at this protest?
In 1981, the government of South Africa, stung by international criticism of its Apartheid policy (which legally separated whites from blacks in South African society), sent its national rugby team "The Springboks" on a round-the-world "goodwill tour" from New Zealand to the United States, in an attempt to humanize South Africans in the eyes of the average person. The tour turned out to be one of the biggest public relations blunders in history. Instead of engendering goodwill toward South Africans, the tour only served to ignite ferocious and sometimes violent anti-Apartheid protests wherever the team went.
The first stop was New Zealand, where the entire country was thrown into turmoil due to official and unofficial protests against the team. The violent confrontations which erupted at almost all of their games remain to this day among the most significant incidents of civil unrest in New Zealand history. Swarms of protesters would dash onto the field, only to be beaten back by police; planes flew low over the matches dropping harmless "bombs" made of flour onto the field; riot police patrolled the streets; criminal gangs used the chaos to beat each other up in mass rumbles; politicians yelled and pointed fingers at each other; and then there was the infamous "Clowns Incident," in which New Zealanders were outraged by footage shown on TV of policemen beating up mobs of defenseless clowns -- or at least anti-Apartheid protesters dressed as clowns. (Seriously.)
News of the political and social uproar in New Zealand reached American anti-Apartheid protesters before the Springboks even arrived in the United States. Although the Springboks were only scheduled to play three matches here, protests were quickly scheduled for all of them. As revealed in this detailed history of the 1981 Springboks tour in America, a cat-and-mouse game ensued between tour organizers and protesters, with game times and locations being changed to thwart any planned disruptions.
The tone of the protests changed dramatically on September 21, 1981, when a rugby league office in Schenectady, New York was bombed. A ripple of fear went through the team, and the rest of the tour was almost cancelled, but went forward anyway, after an emergency ruling by the United States Supreme Court denied a challenge by a protest group to have the tour stopped by legal means.
A series of protests preceded the Springboks' arrival at each of their matches, but aside from the bombing, there was no significant violence. That is, until the tour was already over.
Acid-throwing incident at John F. Kennedy Airport
On September 26, 1981, a group of anti-Apartheid protesters from New York showed up at John F. Kennedy Airport in the city to protest the departure of the Springboks back to South Africa. Due to a mistaken news report, the protesters had arrived at the wrong time; the team had changed their schedule, and were going to take a completely different flight. But no matter -- the protesters were unaware of this.
Thinking they were attacking the plane containing the Springboks, some of the protesters rushed forward from the main body of protesters and threw "acid" or some kind of corrosive liquid at the plane and at security officials guarding the plane. A policeman named Evan Goodstein was blinded by the acid, and several other personnel received mostly minor injuries.
(To see a full-size high-resolution version of this article, click here or on the image above.)
This article, which appeared in Newsday (Nassau Edition, page 7) on Monday, September 28, 1981, gives the clearest description of the violent acid-throwing incident at the airport. It is also the only article which reveals the names of all the acid-throwers:
Timothy Blunk (misspelled as "Blonk")
Mary Patten (misspelled as "Marcy")
Why are these names significant? Because investigators later discovered that most of the arrestees were members of the Weather Undergound -- or at least the splinter groups that were the surviving components of the Weather Underground.
I searched high and low for photographs or videos taken at this protest. But the only one I ever located was in this ABC News television report from October 26, 1981 which, according to someone who has seen it, briefly displays the only known photograph from the September 26 incident. Unfortunately, the photo does not show the protest itself, but rather the arrest of one of the acid-throwers in the airport after the attack; the remaining protesters are not shown. And the video is not viewable online; the only way to see it is to order a copy from the Vanderbilt University Television News Archive; and even then, one must obtain written permission from ABC to broadcast or display any portion of it.
Photographs of this protest are the only way we can ever find out for sure if Obama was present or not. Once again, the truth is tantalizingly close, yet out of reach.
Of course, there were likely hundreds of other Columbia students also involved in the anti-Apartheid movement in 1981, and they all are equally likely to have been at the Kennedy Airport anti-Apartheid event. And thus, equally likely to have a peripheral connection to the Weather Underground. Which is true. But few if any of them would later develop a decade-long relationship with the founder of the Weather Underground, after moving just blocks away from him in Chicago (as Obama did). And none of them are running for president, so their long-ago political intersections are of no public significance.
I'm not saying that Barack Obama himself was at this protest; he may have been, he may not have been. But it is likely that Obama -- who in his own words hung around with Marxists and socialists and was involved in the anti-Apartheid protest movement in New York in 1981 -- would have been aware of an anti-Apartheid protest by Marxists and socialists which happened in the same city he was in.
The Connection Between The Springboks Protest, The Brinks Robbery, and the Weather Underground
According to these Grand Jury Proceedings at the United States Court of Appeals on January 21, 1982, Eve Rosahn was involved in both the Springboks anti-Apartheid protest on September 26, 1981 and the notorious Brinks Robbery of October 20, 1981, which is generally accepted as the last terror attack carried out by the remnants of the Weather Underground:
...Eve Rosahn was arrested in person at the Airport incident, so we know she was involved there; and she owned one of the the getaway cars for the Brinks robbery and probably rented the other -- so she must have been involved there as well.
According to an Associated Press article (which is only viewable on Lexis-Nexis, not on the Web, so there's no way to link to it) released on October 22, 1981:
Newspaper Says Link Probe Between Weatherman and Rugby BombWhat this means is that the three incidents were all connected: The Schenectady bombing was the third-to-last Weather Underground attack, the Kennedy Airport acid assault was their second-to-last attack, and the Brinks robbery was their last attack.
This list of left-wing radicals shows another strong connection (if one is needed) between Eve Rosahn and the Weather Underground:
Dana H. Biberman, born February 24, 1951, is a veteran of the Columbia University SDS chapter.... During 1974 and 1975 she played an active role in the formation of the WUO's [Weather Underground Organization's] overt arm, the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC). ... Biberman was an active member of the New York PFOC chapter, and its successor, the May 19th Communist Organization (M-19 CO). The M-19 CO can be characterized as the Weather Underground Organization's own incipient Communist party. With Judith Clark and Eve Rosahn, Biberman was a member of the Committee for the Suit Against Government Misconduct, a PFOC-controlled group set up to publicize a damage suit by 10 WUO associates against the United States, FBI and present and former government officials.This article from Time magazine also ties all three incidents together, including this passage about Rosahn:
The Honda was traced to another longtime activist. In the Brooklyn flat of Eve Rosahn, 30, detectives found a stack of leftist pamphlets and a poster of fugitive B.L.A. Ringmaster Joanne Chesimard, 34. Rosahn, it happens, was arraigned in Queens criminal court last week for violent demonstrations against a U.S. tour by South Africa's Springboks rugby team in September.There's no doubt: The three events (the Schenectady bombing, the airport acid attack, and the Brinks robbery) were all connected, and the violent aspect of the airport anti-Apartheid protest was organized and carried out by the Weather Underground.
And there is a chance -- merely a chance, mind you, no proof -- that Barack Obama was present at that protest, possibly among the many other innocent anti-Apartheid protesters who were unaware that members of the Weather Undergound were among them and about to stage an attack. Or, even more likely, that Obama knew fellow anti-Apartheid protesters who were at the airport. Or at the very least he heard about the airport protest when it happened -- since he was also in New York at the time and also involved in anti-Apartheid protests -- and became aware of the Weather Underground. Any of these possibilities would debunk Obama's later claim that he had no real knowledge of who the Weather Underground were or of William Ayers' past, and that the Weather Underground were simply some '60s radicals who blew things up when Obama "was eight years old."
The other arrested anti-Apartheid protesters
Eve Rosahn was not the only participant in the Kennedy Airport anti-Apartheid protest who was in (or connected to) the Weather Underground.
According to this Wikipedia entry (among many other pages which confirm the same thing) Timothy Blunk was also associated with them:
Susan Lisa Rosenberg (born 1955) is an American radical who drove the getaway car in the Brinks robbery (1981) in which two police officers and an armored-car guard were killed. After living as a fugitive for two years, she was arrested with an accomplice in 1984 while unloading 740 pounds of dynamite and weapons from a car into a New Jersey storage locker. ...In other words, Blunk was partners-in-revolution with a known Weather Underground member, and was thus likely either a member or an associate himself at one time.
This critical history of COINTELPRO lists Donna Borup as a member of the May 19th Communist Organization -- one of the splinter groups of the Weather Underground after its fracture in the mid-'70s; the May 19th group voted to stay undeground on the run, while the Prairie Fire Collective (led by William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn) decided to go above-ground, turn themselves in, face the charges against them (which many managed to beat and get off scot-free) and continue the revolution via legitimate means.
Mary Patten ran in the same political circles as the others (search for "Patten" in each document) and was likely involved in Weather Underground-related activities, but there is less of a paper trail on her.
The Lynne Stewart connection
The Kennedy Airport incident and the Brinks robbery were also connected in another way: Some of the defendants in both cases were represented by radical lawyer Lynne Stewart. In fact, according to her testimony in a much later unrelated terror trial (on pages 7498-9), it was how she got her start as a radical lawyer:
Q. Now, did there come a time when you began to get experience representing people who were charged with conduct that they, the defendant, said had a political motivation?Earlier in the same testimony, on page 7475, Stewart says:
I had learned in other cases where the media was very, very high, cases that I had handled in the Bronx involving Larry Davis, cases up in Rockland County involving the Brinks hold-up and the subsequent accusations of murder of political people who were arrested at the scene; all of these cases had had a suffocating media, almost.And this site notes:
In 1981 Stewart began to combine her law experience with her political concerns. That year several of her friends were arrested at JFK Airport for protesting the arrival of the South African national rugby team. Objecting to the team's presence in the US was a significant action for anti-apartheid activists. The same year members of the radical Black Liberation Army and the Weather Underground killed two policemen while robbing an armored car in Nyack, New York. Stewart decided to represent two of the defendants. One client was acquitted; the other's guilt was never in question. Stewart used the opportunity of her defense to elucidate the elements of US politics and society that the radical groups felt compelled to attack.So, to summarize the connections:
Some of the same people participated in both the airport anti-Apartheid attack and the Brinks robbery, and some of them had the same lawyer. And the earlier Schenectady rugby club bombing, which was also due to the anti-Apartheid protests, was connected to the Brinks robbery because the construction and deployment of the bomb bore the trademarks of other Weather Underground bombings. So it is certain that all three incidents were closely connected. And since we know that the Brinks robbery was a Weather Underground operation, we can say for certain that the Kennedy Airport anti-Apartheid acid attack was a Weather Underground operation as well.
It should be noted that Eve Rosahn and Bernardine Dohrn both managed to evade conviction on any serious charges connected to these incidents, served only very brief jail time, and are now active members of society; Rosahn became a lawyer, and Dohrn a law professor. Although the charges against Rosahn were dropped for unknown reasons, and she was never brought to trial in the Brinks case, facts show that she was at least peripherally involved somehow, though perhaps not in a way that the prosecutors felt they could prove she was legally culpable. Others involved in the airport incident or the Brinks robbery were convicted on some charges but received fairly light sentences due to plea bargains. Almost all are are out of jail by now and have been so for a long time; only a very few, such as Judith Clark, who was in Rosahn's getaway car, remain imprisoned.
A note about my usage of the name "Weather Underground"
For those not intimately familiar with the history of the radical left, the various names and titles associated with the group "The Weather Underground" can be a bit confusing. This hopefully will clear things up:
Weatherman -- In 1969, a group of extreme radicals broke away from the Revolutionary Youth Movement, a faction within the far-left political group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). These radicals formed a new group, which they dubbed "Weatherman" (singular), derived from the Bob Dylan lyric "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayers were two of the founding members.
Weathermen -- Because it was rather confusing to refer to a group of people as "Weatherman," in the singular, the press and fellow leftists shortly thereafter began referring to them as "The Weathermen," which made more grammatical sense, but which lost the reference to the Bob Dylan song.
Weather Underground -- The following year, in 1970, after some early terror attacks, the Weathermen went on the lam after one of their homemade bombs detonated while they were assembling it in a Greenwich Village apartment, killing three of their own members. Because they had gone underground, and were no longer operating in the open, the group subsequently changed their name to the Weather Underground.
Weather Underground Organization -- During this era, in their communiqués the group sometimes used the name "Weather Undergound Organization," which sounded more grandiose and important than merely the "Weather Undergound." This is often thought of by later writers as the group's "official" name, and you will now sometimes see it abbreviated as "WUO."
Prairie Fire Collective -- Some time in the mid-late 1970s -- the exact date is not clear, but probably around 1976 -- the Weather Underground split into two factions, each of which took on different names. One faction, lead by William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, decided the time had come to "go legit": to turn themselves in, face whatever charges may be laid against them, serve time in jail if necessary, and then continue the struggle above ground. This faction called themselves the Prairie Fire Collective. One by one, they all turned themselves in over the next five years. (And because of their refusal to testify against each other, and prosecutorial bungling, most got off with little or no prison time.)
May 19 Coalition -- The remaining Weather Underground members who chose to stay underground and continue their terror campaign renamed themselves "The May 19 Coalition" (also sometimes called "The May 19th Coalition," or "The May 19th Collective"), so named after the birthday shared by Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X.
May 19 Communist Organization -- In 1978, some members of the May 19 Coalition joined forces with the Prairie Fire Organizating Committee (an above-ground legal group composed of "former" Weather Underground members who had turned themselves in and been released from jail, as well as sympathizers) to form yet another group, the May 19 Communist Organization. They continued their terror attacks until mostly all being captured by 1985.
There -- confusing enough for you? To simplify things, and to avoid granting so much solemn legitimacy to the various names by which they referred to themselves over the years, I have throughout this essay referred to all these groups collectively by their most well-known name, the Weather Underground. The truth is, it's all the same people, over and over, just assigning themselves new names periodically, as if by doing so they have cast off the guilt of the crimes they committed under their previous name. Enough already. For simplicity's sake, I use a single name to refer to the group, whether they were at the time calling themselves Weatherman, the May 19 Coalition, or whatever.
The Dohrn-Ayers Connection to the Brinks Robbery
Were Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayers connected to the Brinks robbery?
Signs point to "Probably."
This is where the arc of evidence connecting Obama and Ayers in 1981 reaches the other side. If you had a basic but cursory knowledge of the radical history of that period, you might think, Wait a minute -- this is going too far. Didn't Ayers and Dohrn turn themselves in to the police in 1980? They were done committing crimes -- weren't they?
Sorry. No. Not necessarily.
As it turns out, even after going "above-ground," Dohrn may have still participated behind the scenes in some Weather Underground crimes.
As detailed in an overlooked New York Times story from February 16, 1982, even after Dohrn emerged from hiding, she likely continued to supply the remaining cadres of the Weather Underground with information on how to obtain fraudulent drivers' licenses -- information which she had stolen from customers at a clothing shop where she briefly worked. And those licenses were used to obtain getaway cars for armed robberies committed in the early '80s.
An Associated Press article published the same day under the title "Phony Drivers' Licenses Traced to Defunct Child's Wear Shop" summarized the allegation succinctly:
A defunct children's wear store where former Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn once worked has figured in the investigation of the botched $1.6 million Brink's robbery.I'm unable to link directly to that AP article, nor to the original New York Times article, because once again both are only available on Lexis-Nexis and not on the Web. So, instead, I will extensively quote from the original Times here, since it's so important (you can look it up yourself if you're curious, under the title "Behind the Brink's Case: Return of the Radical Left"):
Law-enforcement officials, who portray the defendants as ''executioners,'' say they believe that the $1.6 million recovered after the [Brinks] holdup would have financed guns and ammunition, clandestine travel, and "safe houses" for hiding and planning future crimes. They also say that the [Brinks] robbery in Nanuet, N.Y., was the latest such action by a network of "terrorists," many of them with long criminal records, who have been holding up armored cars in the New York area for at least two years. ...Sorry for the long citation -- it's actually only a small part of the article.
But the implication being made is important: Bernardine Dohrn committed identity theft in late '79 and early '80, and the fake drivers' licenses obtained with those stolen identities were used by Weather Underground members to rent getaway vehicles for armed robberies committed in the suburban New York area in the early '80s. Subsequent armed robbies by the same group -- including the Brinks robbery -- also utilized the exact same technique: stolen identities were once again used to obtain fake licenses which were then used to rent getaway cars. What the article does not state directly, but what is clearly hinted at in the final sentence of the quote, is that Bernardine Dohn continued to be the source of the stolen identities. If so, she had a direct connection to the Brinks robbery, working behind the scenes.
This New York Times article was referenced (but not quoted) recently in this April 23, 2008 article in the Chicago Tribune, which stated:
At Broadway Baby, customers often paid by check and used driver's licenses for identification. On Dec. 28, 1979, information from two customer files was used to apply for two driver's licenses at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. The fraudulent licenses were used to rent getaway cars for the gang.Is it all becoming clear now? The only jail time Bernardine Dohrn ever served was for refusing to testify in the Brinks robbery case, undoubtedly so she would not implicate herself.
As for Ayers: He was married to Dohrn at the time, fighting legal battles together, raising children together, doing everything together, as they had been for the last ten years. Are we to believe that Dohrn inexplicably kept interacting with the Weather Underground and for some unknown reason kept her activities secret from her husband, who had been an integral part of the group along with her? No. Ayers knew. He knew exactly what she was doing, and for all we know, he may have been giving help along the way.
So there you have it -- the arc is complete. The strand connecting Obama to Ayers in 1981 is admittedly tenuous, but it is visible. And what we see may only be a tiny part of the story. The information available at this stage is woefully incomplete. But all the evidence hinting at their connection is certainly within the realm of possibility. And what is most certain is that Obama, as a very grown-up twenty-year-old, came very very close to the orbit of the Weather Underground and William Ayers.
In this essay I have striven to only make factual assertions. The following links are more speculative in nature, and are only provided here as an addendum, possibly to spur further research. Let's just file these under: Food for thought.
This article at the American Thinker also finds Obama's claims to know nothing of Ayers and the Weather Undergound to be highly dubious, considering the close parallels in Ayers' and Obama's ideological and geographical journeys.
Human Events magazine published an article called Obama's Plumbers, alleging that the Obama campaign has a secret squad that has been running around trying to expunge or suppress any damning evidence from Obama's past. After my experiences researching this essay, I tend to lend it some credence.
This essay was originally inspired by this posting on the Just One Minute blog.
This posting at The Motley Fool points out a few more intriguing coincidences and suggests several additional avenues of investigation regarding Obama's time at Columbia.
This completely unattributed and unproven comment at the New York Sun speculates that Obama may have possibly even lived with William Ayers for a brief period -- a bizarre theory which can never even be investigated due to the absence of any evidence (we don't know where Ayers lived during this time).
This wild and woolly post by private investigator Bill Warner tracks down some of the same Obama/Ayers connections that are detailed in this essay, with added literary flair.
The book Far Left of Center contains a detailed and reliable history of the Weather Underground, its members, and various splinter groups.
An eye-opening article on the "Pakistaniat" site details Obama's numerous and little-known connections to Pakistan.
"The Obama File" site has an amazing run-down of Obama's educational history with many verified jaw-dropping details found almost nowhere else.
This essay would not have been possible without the outstanding research contributed by quickjustice, Irene NYC, Toasty, and Chicken Kiev.
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