Knee, AIM activities were forbidden on the Pine Ridge Indian
reservation by the then Tribal Chairman Dick Wilson. Traditionalists
were not allowed to meet or attend traditional ceremonies. Wilson
hired vigilantes who called themselves Guardians of the Oglala Nation
(GOONs) to enforce his rules. Fact, not fiction.
The three years
following Wounded Knee are often referred to as the Pine Ridge
“Reign of Terror” because anyone associated with AIM was
targeted for violence. Their homes were burned and their cars were
run off the road. They were struck by cars, shot in drive-by
shootings, and beaten. Between 1973 and 1976, over 60 traditionalists
were murdered. Pine Ridge had the highest murder rate in the United
States, people! Fact, not fiction.
And now we’re
supposed to believe, I take it, that the lives of these 60 or more
human beings are somehow less significant than that of Anna Mae
Aquash? Yes, we want justice for Anna Mae, but what about the many
others? Don’t they deserve justice, too?
In almost every
case of violence, witness accounts indicated GOON responsibility, but
nothing was done to stop these bloody events. On the contrary the
FBI, the agency responsible for investigating such violence, supplied
the GOONs with weaponry and intelligence on AIM. The FBI, in fact,
looked the other way as the GOONs committed crime after crime against
members as well as supporters of AIM. Fact, not fiction.
Yet, there was no
mention of these facts during last week’s trial. That means only
part of the story was told. A very small part.
didn’t hear about the shoddy investigation the FBI conducted
into the death of Anna Mae Aquash, either. It took them 28 years to
bring someone – anyone – to trial? The FBI is better than
that. Everybody knows it.
Why did the FBI
not find the bullet hole in the back of Anna Mae’s head, or the
blood on the back of her jacket? These things were immediately
discovered by means of an independent autopsy. Fact, not fiction.
Why did the FBI
rule the cause of death instead as “exposure”? Fact, not fiction.
Why did the FBI
find it necessary to sever Anna Mae’s hands, when the agents on
the scene – in particular, David Price, who testified this week
– should have been able to identify the body of a woman with
whom they were well acquainted? Anna Mae’s body lay frozen in a
gully when found. Winter in South Dakota. The body was too
decomposed, they say. “Unidentifiable.” Fact, not fiction.
And why then was a
photo of Anna Mae’s severed hands later used to frighten another
Indian woman into signing several false affidavits against Leonard
Peltier? Why was Myrtle Poor Bear told that the same would happen to
her if she failed to cooperate with the FBI and the federal
prosecutors? Fact, not fiction.
On the basis of
these fabricated affidavits, a Canadian court was convinced to
extradite Peltier to the U.S. for trial. Bob Newbrook, a retired
police officer who arrested Peltier in Alberta in 1976 recently
stated, "Canada should have learned from the Peltier case that
it cannot trust U.S. evidence presented against American Indian
activists." Newbrook said he has thoroughly investigated the
Peltier and Aquash cases and has come to regret his role. "I'm
haunted by the fact that I now think we seized an innocent man, with
no valid Canadian arrest warrant, based on false evidence from the
U.S.," he said.
Warren Allmand, a
former Canadian justice minister, and the judge who later extradited
Peltier said they would never have agreed to his extradition had they
known affidavits and evidence presented by the U.S. were false.
carefully contrived image as the nation's premier crime fighting
agency, the FBI then as now (and you have only to look at the U.S.
Patriot Act to know this is true) functioned primarily as America's
political police. This role includes not only the collection of
intelligence on the activities of political dissidents and groups,
but often counterintelligence operations to thwart those activities.
At its most extreme dimension, political dissidents have been
eliminated outright or sent to prison for the rest of their lives.
These activities are well documented. Fact, not fiction.
were “neutralized” by intimidation, harassment,
discrediting, and a whole assortment of tactics, including
“snitch jacketing” where the FBI made the target look like
a police informant or a federal agent. This served the dual purposes
of isolating and alienating important leaders, as well as increasing
the general level of fear and factionalism in the group. Just like
the fear described in that courtroom last week. Yet, you heard agents
of the FBI, deny there ever was such a thing as snitch jacketing,
didn’t you? This and other tactics used by the FBI also are
well-documented. Fact, not fiction.
The trial was
well-orchestrated – not to convict the man on trial, but to
convict AIM activists and prosecute Leonard Peltier all over again
(another violation of his constitutional rights, I would argue) in
the court of public opinion.
The style and
content of the articles being published last week (machine-gun-toting
Indians?) focused on Peltier, specifically, who is due for a full
parole hearing in 2008. These articles were reminiscent of articles
published at the request of particular FBI agents during the campaign
in 2001 to convince President Clinton to grant Mr. Peltier’s
petition for Executive Clemency. This is why Leonard Peltier has
filed a civil suit against the FBI, naming former director Louis
Freeh, current director Robert S. Mueller, and a dozen or so active
and retired agents of the Bureau. Allegations contained in the suit
include providing to the media as fact “numerous [&ldots;]
knowingly false and unsupported accusations [&ldots;] against the
Plaintiff designed solely to deny him the right to due process both
before the [U.S.] Parole Commission and in petitions for Executive Clemency”.
changed, it seems. The only difference now is that the FBI and
federal prosecutors are using a court of law to advance these false
and unsupported accusations – when they know and have admitted
twice before the appellate bench that they can’t prove
Peltier’s guilt. They believe they’re not culpable now
because they are only indirectly providing false information to the press.
In our system of
justice, trials are open and public. This is, in part, to guard
against official misconduct and to ensure that only justice is done.
In our mature society, this means that the print and electronic media
are the witnesses to due process – the public’s eyes and
ears, so to speak. This means that you have the responsibility to
tell the truth, the whole truth. This means you must remain
independent observers and guard against manipulation by the FBI and
government prosecutors who fight only to win, not for the sake of
justice. Might does not make right, ladies and gentlemen. And the end
does not justify the means.
Attorney at Law