Accuracy in Media

Another one of Bill Ayers’ and Bernardine Dohrn’s terrorist comrades is being released on the streets of America. Sara Jane Olson, a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), an off-shoot of the Weather Underground, has served only seven years for involvement in the murder of a bank customer and the attempted murder of Los Angeles police officers by bombing their cars.

Meanwhile, justice continues to be sought for the victims of Weather Underground terrorism such as San Francisco Police Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell, who was killed by a bomb on February 16, 1970. Former FBI informant Larry Grathwohl has testified under oath that Ayers told him that Dohrn planted the bomb. The case has been re-opened and evidence is still being gathered.   

While the SLA committed murders, bank robberies and other acts of violence, it became notorious for kidnapping the granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Patty Hearst.

In the document, “The Last SLA Statement,” Bill Harris of the SLA declared that “The long run aim of the SLA was to work toward the annihilation of U.S. imperialism and the culture and institutions that support it.” The SLA was part of “a people’s army” to accomplish this goal. 

Ayers and Dohrn, leading members of the Weather Underground, had served as supporters of the “Sara Olson Defense Fund Committee,” along with such luminaries as Keith Ellison, now a Democratic member of Congress from Minnesota. Olson was a fugitive for about 25 years until in 1999 she was discovered and apprehended and put on trial for her crimes. She pleaded guilty in 2002 to murdering a bank customer, Myrna Opsahl in 1975, and planting bombs intended to kill police. Opsahl was a 42-year-old mother of four who was trying to deposit money from a church collection.

Olson, also known as Katherine Soliah, was sentenced to 14 years and became eligible for parole after seven years.

Officials in Minnesota, where Olson hid out, and California, where her crimes were committed, have been arguing about where she should serve her probation. More attention should be paid to a dysfunctional justice system that permits a murderer to get out of prison after only seven years.

In addition, the Olson support apparatus also deserves serious scrutiny.  

Ellison, the only Muslim member of Congress, was an attorney and member of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), which handled Olson’s defense. The NLG was cited as a Communist Party front organization by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Today, the NLG specializes in accusing the U.S. Government of being too tough on terrorists and cop-killers and is still an affiliate of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, officially designated a Soviet front during the Cold War. 

News reports about Olson’s impending release have inaccurately called her a “domestic terrorist” and have ignored her associations with Ayers and Dohrn. However, former Congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein points out that the SLA was in fact a group or section of the Weather Underground, which had connections to the Cuban intelligence service, the DGI, and the Soviet KGB.

He notes that a Weather Underground communiqué dated February 20, 1974, and signed by Bernardine Dohrn discussed the work of the SLA and said that the purpose of the kidnapping of Patty Hearst was: “the guerillas have kidnapped the daughter of a rich and powerful man in order to provide food to the poor. Their action has unleashed an astonishing p(r)actical unity among people’s organizations, and a leap in everyone’s consciousness about the fundamental reality which will not die or pass into the memoires [sic] of a previous decade. That is, the war between the rich and the poor.”

Dohrn did question the SLA’s murder of black educator Marcus Foster, the superintendent of Oakland’s public schools, as he was not a “recognized enemy.” But Dohrn said “it wrong to allow such questions to become a grant of immunity to enemies and executioners of the oppressed.” So Dohrn wasn’t too upset about the senseless murder of an innocent man, comments Romerstein. (See pages 17-20 of this report for the Dohrn communiqué.)

A Court TV account of the Foster murder noted, “In a communiqué delivered to a radio station the next day, the SLA claimed responsibility for the murder and gave their motive: Foster’s supposed support for mandatory photo ID cards for high school students. The SLA contended the program was a government scheme to establish prison-like surveillance at schools and that Foster was a CIA agent.”

Former FBI informant Grathwohl commented to AIM on Olson’s release: “Isn’t this wonderful?  I see another book in the offing explaining why she did what she did! It is just another terrorist in our midst. Look at the list of endorsements to set Olson free. Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn were right there advocating her release. Why not? She’s just a gray haired lady who didn’t mean to hurt anyone. It’s the same BS we’ve been listening to from Bill and Bernardine for years.”

In response to the incessant claims of Ayers and Dohrn that they never killed anybody, Grathwhol comments, “Marcus Foster was killed by the SLA and their association with the Weather Underground is documented.” Grathwohl participated in a March 12 news conference demanding that charges be pursued against Ayers and Dohrn in connection with the McDonnell murder.

He adds, “Where has our reason gone if somehow we can now accept bombings and terrorism as a means of protest? No wonder Mark Rudd admits his role in the plans to place bombs at Ft. Dix. They think they’re bullet-proof and they can get away with anything.  They might be right.” Rudd was a Cuban-trained comrade of Ayers and Dohrn in the Weather Underground.

Grathwohl’s latter comments are a reference to Rudd’s forthcoming book from Harper Collins, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Accuracy in Media has encouraged the public to appeal to Murdoch to cancel the book, out of sensitivity to the victims of Weather Underground terrorism.

  • News Corporation executives in New York can be reached here.

AIM is also asking Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and other TV personalities on the Fox News Channel, another subsidiary of News Corporation, to intervene with Murdoch and ask him to withdraw the Rudd book from publication. The Fox News Channel can be reached in Washington, D.C. at 202-824-6300. Please ask that they cover the controversy over the Mark Rudd book by going to the AIM site for information.

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