What could I learn from the Texas story? The Texas trove came to light when the UT campus police chief of the Vietnam era died not long ago. Upon retirement many years earlier, he had simply taken the files home and kept them from public view. They revealed close collaboration and fairly ambitious surveillance ops between the university administration, campus security, and the City of Austin police in keeping clandestine tabs on student activists as well as local hippies.
I assumed the IU campus cops had been similarly hard at work keeping an unobserved eye on their student protestors, especially those like Jeff and his housemate, Bob Johnson*, organizing demonstrations against pro-war campus speakers such as former Vice President Richard Nixon, General Maxwell Taylor, and General Lewis Hershey, the director of Selective Service. The university was headed by Elvis Stahr, President Kennedy’s former Secretary of the Army, who had become increasingly critical of the campus New Left. I expected IU’s surveillance files, once we got our hands on them, would provide the university’s bird’s-eye view of the activist minority at the school.
Capt. Dillon, IU security, and Jeff Sharlet
However, Larry was undaunted by his task. He sat in at open meetings of the student left, was easily spotted. He looked younger than he was, could pass for a student, but was familiar to the activists as the personification of the campus 'Red Squad'. He told us he shared an undercover informant, a recent law school grad working for the Dean of Students, who’d infiltrated Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the university.
During Jeff’s term as rotating president of SDS, he and Jim Wallihan were virtually certain the guy in question was an administration plant and relegated him to stapling newsletters to keep him out of the inner information loop. As Jim said, no doubt the informant rushed copies of the SDS newsletters hot off the press over to the dean’s office. No great coup since it was not ‘classified’ information, but when Karen asked the informer’s name, Larry would only tell us the man had died young. Jim didn’t remember his name, so his reports may well never be known.
However, local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities were not passive at IU. In 1965 a new grad student who’d been involved in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of ‘64 learned his West Coast police file had already been sent to the Bloomington police. In summer of 1966, IU activists who drove to Indianapolis to protest President Johnson’s speech were intercepted by the Indy police and Secret Service and arrested. Karen was one of the group. The local cops had provided their license plate numbers. That fall, officers of the IU Dubois Club, an ‘Old Left’ group, defied a university ban by showing up at the Student Activities Fair, were arrested, and brought before the county court. A year later when a Dow Chemical interviewer was blocked by a sit-in at the IU Business School, Bloomington cops, county sheriffs, and the State Police responded in full riot gear. There was blood.
Dwight Worker being dragged, IU, Dow demo '67
Finally, the FBI employed a favorite disinformation mechanism at IU – they covertly distributed an underground paper to compete with the campus alternative press, The Spectator. The FBI called theirs Armageddon News, but it fooled no one, was even criticized as clumsy by J. Edgar Hoover himself, and ceased publication after a few issues.
*We’ve searched for Bob Johnson for several years without luck and hence listed him on the Web site for Jeff’s missing friends at http://jeffsharlet-and-vietnamgi.com.yolasite.com/