Background Image

Haverford Winter 2014 : Page 32

The Burglary and the Tri-Co FBI had also discerned a “need to infiltrate Philadelphia ghetto areas in an effort to head off potential race riots. …” One other file stands out, also for its head-scratching quality. After nearly a half-century, the FBI’s rather modest snooping at Haverford is all but forgotten. Davidon, who died last November, is a central figure in Medsger’s book. Yet the college itself scarcely figures in it. No surprise there. The documents we received amounted to fewer than three dozen of an estimated 1,000 that were taken, and very few touched on Haverford. The News did report that the FBI’s chaired by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, was unsparing about the program and the men who oversaw it: “The FBI resorted to counter-intelli-gence tactics in part because its chief offi-cials believed that the existing law could not control the activities of certain dissident groups, and that court decisions had tied the hands of the intelligence community. Whatever opinion one holds about the policies of the targeted groups, many of the tactics employed by the FBI were indis-putably degrading to a free society.” During the second semester of our sen-ior year, though, that verdict was still five be “real SDS/real Commie.’’ The story went on to say that Coleman had urged Morsch to inform him if there were subsequent FBI contacts, a recom-mendation that the trainer said he was glad to hear. “The president commented that he saw ‘no need for further action at this point,’ ” the News reported. The balance of that week’s story noted that a member of the Bryn Mawr admin-istration acknowledged that he had been “approached by the FBI and quizzed in connection with the March 8 theft” in Media. It was part of a massive, yet ulti-mately unsuccessful, effort to identify those responsible. The bureau also contacted Bryn Mawr to ask about a scheduled on-campus speech by a woman who was a defendant in an alleged plot to kidnap then-National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. Seven anti-war activists were later freed by a fed-eral jury in Harrisburg in that case, in which Davidon had been named an unindicted co-conspirator. At the News , our time with FBI files was nearly done. The April 23 issue report-ed that new documents had revealed more informers at Swarthmore. The same issue carried two letters to the editor. One severe-ly chastised the paper for taking a “cruel tone” regarding a dedicated member of the College in reporting about Morsch. The other was from a Haverford alumnus who said he was a strong supporter of resistance groups, yet added, “This has not and does not alter my trust in Dick Morsch as a human being nor my con-viction that he cooperated with the FBI from the most patriotic motives.” Privately , we felt the same way. A few weeks later came graduation. Anti-war Sen. Eugene McCarthy delivered the commencement address. Neither of us remembers a word of it. Journalist David Espo ’71 is a special corre-spondent with The Associated Press covering the U.S. Congress and national politics. Attorney Peter Goldberger ’71 runs an Ard-more, Pa., law practice focusing on appeals and other post-conviction aspects of federal criminal cases. He is the current board presi-dent of the ACLU of Greater Philadelphia. David Espo (left) and Peter Goldberger in their 1971 yearbook photos. intensive and ultimately fruitless investi-gation into the break-in included a meeting where agents attempted to question Political Science Professor Sara Shumer in her Haverford campus office. Yet if any-one at Haverford other than Davidon played any role in the break-in, Medsger’s book doesn’t say so. The historical importance of the Media break-in was the public disclosure of COIN-TELPRO , a secret program of domestic spying on blacks, anti-war activists (and presumed would-be activists), perceived Communists and others, carried out by the FBI under its long-time director, J. Edgar Hoover. According to the agency’s current web-site, “The FBI began COINTELPRO —short for Counter-intelligence Program—in 1956 to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States.” The program steadily mushroomed. Two decades later, in 1976, a Senate committee years in the future. Copies of the stolen documents kept finding us. In mid-April came an untraceable plain white business envelope with a smudged postmark. The front-page headline it pro-duced read: “Haverford Trainer Morsch Acknowledges 15-Year ‘Off And On’ Contact With FBI.’’ Here was a painful, human dilemma. A man universally admired, liked and respected on campus was a regular point of contact for the FBI, and had been for years. An interview with him followed that was arguably as difficult for reporter as for subject. The News reported: “In acknowledging his long time association with the FBI, [he] concluded, ‘I never gave a bad report about anyone. If it was good, I said so. If it was bad, I said nothing.’ ” The documents suggested otherwise, indicating that Morsch had sometimes conveyed less than flattering impressions. One student, for example, was judged to ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// 32 HaverfordMagazine

Previous Page  Next Page

Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here