Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Surveilling 'Vietnam GI' - Resume of an FBI Informer

He was "white, blond, looked like a college football player," so Thomas Edward Mosher was described by a former national officer of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Chicago. A former Stanford professor Mosher had harassed added that he was short and wiry, wore a crew cut, and cultivated the image of "a traned tough guy." Others described him as "scrappy" and "punchy". Mosher became on of the FBI's most valuable undercover informants in the '60s, subsequently testifying to Congress on SDS and an array of left organizations. Mosher, a Stanford university dropout, began as a civil rights worker in the South became a community activist, got involved in the antiwar movement, became disenchanted, and volunteered his services to the FBI. Along the way, he was a leader in a radical Chicago community group, gained access to national SDS circles, spied on Brother Jeff and Vietnam GI (VGI), went to Cuba for revolutionary training, and successfully penetrated the Black Panthers.

T.E. Mosher (see arrow) disrupting a Stanford faculty meeting, ‘70

Although Mosher’s been lost sight of over the decades since the turbulent ‘60s/early ‘70s, a rough timeline of his whereabouts and activities can be sketched:

• 1942: Born in Chicago 1960: Attended Loyola Univ, Chicago

• 1961: Enlisted in Marines, just 2.5 months active duty, inactive reserve.

• 1962: Enrolled at Stanford Univ 1965: Dropped out of Stanford, did civil rights work in Mississippi 1966: Returned to Chicago, joined ‘Rising up Angry’ (RUA), a radical working-class white outfit which interacted with national SDS Hq, Chicago, through its affiliate JOIN or ‘Jobs or Income Now’.

• Summer 1967: An SDS national leader described Mosher as a “freelance organizer” who was “most enthusiastic about [carrying out] diversionary actions” to distract the Chicago police should they attempt to put down a Black ghetto uprising.

• 1968: Involved with SDS at the national level, worked with Rennie Davis: Spring: With RUA/JOIN contingent, attended SDS National Council meeting, Lexington, KY Summer: Chosen by Bernadine Dohrn to go to Cuba, met with Vietnamese Communists Fall: Attended SDS National Council meeting, Boulder, CO; bunked with Mark Rudd.

• 1969: Returned to Stanford, majoring in Economics Volunteered services to Palo Alto FBI Infiltrated activist groups at Stanford and in San Francisco Bay Area Penetrated Black Panther National Office in Oakland Linked Panthers with other left groups in Bay Area Trained with weapons and explosives in the mountains November: Learned of executions within Panther circles of victims of FBI disinformation

• March, 1971: Testimony before US Senate Committee

• September, 1971: Published a brief summary in Reader's Digest magazine under the title “Inside the Revolutionary Left.

• Summer, 1971: Lived in Cambridge MA under an assumed name.

In his three days of testimony to a Senate subcommittee chaired by Senator Eastland of Mississippi, Mosher recounted in detail his extensive journey inside the left, initially as an activist and then as an FBI informant. During ’68, he appeared to have good access to the SDS national leadership in Chicago, even to the extent of providing the subcommittee with a floor plan of the headquarters building and layout of the offices. More importantly, Mosher reported on SDS plans for a ‘training school’, with various sessions led by Yale historian Staughton Lynd; Bernardine Dohrn, who led the Weathermen the following year; Rennie Davis later of the Chicago 7 trial; and Brother Jeff on ‘organizing in the military’. In this context, he amplified his testimony on Jeff describing him as “the first editor of a GI paper … now deceased.” Later in the spring when J. Edgar Hoover put VGI and its editors under surveillance and FBI agents came calling at the apartment Jeff occupied with Jim Wallihan and Bill O’Brien, the group became more vigilant. It may have been around this time that a new guy appeared, an ex-Navy petty officer who had served in Vietnam, offering to work on the paper. Jeff and Jim, sensing that he may not have been kosher, turned him away.

The following year, not long after Jeff’s death in June ’69, the Chicago 7 conspiracy trial opened, and the former naval petty officer reportedly turned up as a prosecution witness. Meanwhile in 1969, Mosher had returned to Stanford, signed on with the FBI, and managed to infiltrate the California National Office of the Black Panthers, and, according to a journalist, “pulled armed robberies ‘to support the revolution’, supplied friends with guns and explosives, started fights, set fires, helped a fugitive to escape, and established a mountain hideaway for would-be revolutionaries ….” It was later that year that he learned from a Black friend of the execution-murder of a Panther leader at their remote mountain hideout, promptly reported it to his FBI liaison, and, according to what he told the Senators in ’71, was dismayed and no doubt personally scared when the FBI ignored the crime resulting from their planted disinformation.

In his continuing testimony, Mosher seemed to be in the room with Jeff, Dave Komatsu, Jim Wallihan, and other VGI editors as they discussed the history of GI protest, dating back to the Philippines in ’45 when US troops protested the slow pace of demobilization. As he testified,
The people who organized this paper [VGI] were very familiar with the history of that movement. I remember them discussing it in depth, and they talked about the possibility of organizing [GI] coffee shops near bases, distributing newspapers within the military and so on. … [T]he question of their success is not moot. I mean, they have been successful.
In my interviews with Jeff’s editorial team, nothing has turned up about Mosher; no one fitting his description has been mentioned. Of course during early ’68 when VGI was first being published monthly, meetings, editorial and otherwise, were neither secret nor exclusive. Jeff needed many hands to get the paper out – typists to transcribe the numerous GI letters to the editor, drivers to run the originals up to the printer in Wisconsin, others to address envelopes and packages, and volunteers to drop the mailings in post boxes throughout the greater Chicago area as well as in neighboring cities to avoid postal surveillance. Under these circumstances, VGI meetings were of necessity relatively open.

A few months after his Congressional appearance, Thomas Edward Mosher was heard from publically one more time, writing in Reader’s Digest: “I am taking no chances; I have left the San Francisco Bay Area. I am usually disguised, always armed. It will be months, perhaps years before I can lead a normal life.” He had fled to Cambridge MA where he lived under the assumed name of Edward 'Tim' Cox.


  1. Recently saw a reference to Mosher last being sighted in ’82, back in Chicago working for a rightwing city councilman. See S. Weissman in "Reader Supported News", 27 Nov 11.

  2. I was at an SDS National Council meeting in Lexington KY, spring ’68, where Tom Mosher turned up with a delegation of RUA people from Chicago. Like elsewhere, he was quite outspoken and very militant, so much so that I wondered about him at the time.

  3. I knew him pretty well at Stanford. Erratic and passionate. I was not an activist, per se, but he seemed to seek me out as a sort of respite. Watched him deliver rants and speeches in a long black leather coat, Hare Krishna hair at times, he was everywhere. Took a light beating from him with his shoe in my front yard. Thought he was "interesting".


  5. he has pretty good range of motion for his age

  6. He goes to my gym and lives in Chicago.



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