Accuracy in Media

A curious thing happened after my column, “‘Ayer Head’ Professor Defends Bill Ayers,” was posted on Sunday night. An FBI document about the Weather Underground, which was hyperlinked in the column, was changed by the FBI to delete a reference to the terrorist group. The “Ayer Head” Professor, Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University in Boston, admits he is the one who prompted the FBI to make the curious change. It is all part of an effort to try to separate Ayers, a leader of the Weather Underground, from the murders that his group was responsible for.

Kennedy, a journalism professor, has come to Ayers defense on at least two occasions. The latest was when the communist was invited―and then disinvited―to speak at Boston College. Kennedy continues to claim that the Ayers group never killed or injured anyone, except their own members. This is a flat-out monstrous lie, which ignores the admitted and well-documented involvement of the Weather Underground in the 1981 Brinks robbery that left two police officers and a security guard dead.

To Kennedy, Ayers is a “respected education reformer” whose life has been put “in danger because of the pounding he’s been subjected to over his ties to Barack Obama.”

Can you believe it?

The controversy over the FBI website is a side issue to the question of why Kennedy is spending so much time defending Ayers. But his success in getting the FBI to make a change to a web entry raises the far more serious issue of the FBI’s understanding of the terrorist threat, past and present.

The threat posed by Ayers is not over. Now a professor at the University of Illinois, he is still a communist and travels abroad, especially to Venezuela, where authoritarian ruler Hugo Chavez hosts members of terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Through the Movement for a Democratic Society, Ayers and other Weather Underground members are trying to resurrect another “student movement” on the campuses. This makes the controversy one of more than academic interest. 

Friends of the FBI?

The controversy over Kennedy’s involvement with the FBI comes at a time when the Bureau is under fire for its engagement with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), considered by many security experts to be a front for terrorist groups. The FBI had a formal relationship with CAIR until the group’s terrorist ties were exposed in a court case. Then the FBI, according to John Miller, Assistant Director in the Office of Public Affairs, “suspended any formal engagement” with CAIR. Rep. Frank Wolf wants to know if there is still informal contact going on with CAIR.

What happened in the Weather Underground case was that conservative Boston radio talk-show host Michael Graham had linked to an item on the FBI website in making the case that Katherine Ann Power, one of those convicted of murdering Boston Police Officer Walter Schroeder, was a member of Ayers’ Weather Underground group. The item originally identified Power and Ayers’ wife Bernardine Dohrn as members of the Weather Underground. But Kennedy then announced the news on Monday, April 6, on the same day that my column started appearing on other Internet sites, that the item had been changed to remove a picture of Power and to claim that she had been previously “inaccurately” linked to the Weather Underground. There was no explanation of why this change had been made, raising even more questions. It raises the specter of whether pressure could be applied to the Bureau to sanitize other aspects of the history of the Weather Underground―or perhaps stop ongoing investigations of terrorism itself.

On the other hand, there appears to be some internal pressure in the Bureau to forget the past. Weather Underground terrorist Mark Rudd was actually invited to lecture to the FBI Training Academy in 2005 by FBI Special Agent Andrew Bringuel. Rudd is now out with a memoir celebrating and trying to cash in on his terrorist past.

Obama’s new Attorney General, Eric Holder, was involved in the much-criticized Clinton Administration pardons of members of the Weather Underground. What’s more, the political career of Obama himself was launched in the Chicago home of Ayers and Dohrn, who are facing increasing scrutiny over their reported roles in the 1970 bombing murder of San Francisco Police Sergeant Brian V. McDonnell. The FBI and local law enforcement officials have confirmed that the investigation into McDonnell’s death is still open and that evidence continues to be gathered and analyzed.

The “Controversial” FBI Report

My column had also linked to the “controversial” FBI item, although the bulk of my case that Power and Susan Saxe (also involved in the Schroeder murder) were members of the Weather Underground consisted of references from a detailed Senate Internal Security Subcommittee report, an interview with former FBI official Oliver “Buck” Revell, and a report by and interview with former Congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein. 

Revell, who was involved in the search for Power and Saxe, said that both women were considered members of a Weather Underground spin-off, the United Freedom Front. As the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee noted (and I linked to this report twice in my column), Power and Saxe were clearly considered members of the Weather Underground. They were explicitly identified this way. Power was also specifically identified as a member of a Weatherman group at Brandeis University. The Weatherman was a forerunner to the Weather Underground.

Incredibly, Kennedy has written a new article insisting that the 168-page Senate report is wrong! Kennedy wants to dismiss a report which was based on “an inventory and analysis of all information with respect” to the Weather Underground in the possession of the subcommittee, and which was endorsed by Senators from both political parties. This committee had investigators and confidential information. Instead, Kennedy wants to rely on a quick revision of an FBI webpage. Why? Because it suits his political agenda and his defense of Ayers against charges that his group murdered people. And this guy is teaching journalism!

Interestingly, Kennedy has absolutely nothing to say about former FBI Official Oliver “Buck” Revell’s comments to me on the involvement of Power and Saxe in the Weather Underground spin-off group. Revell rose to the position of Associate Deputy Director in Charge of Investigations, with jurisdiction over all FBI operations, including counter-terrorism. He was an obvious authority on this matter. And yet Kennedy ignores him! Amazing. 

As experts have tried to emphasize, one has to understand the Weather Underground organization as a network or movement, not a membership organization. The Weather Underground had a core group but also operated through numerous fronts, factions, spin-offs, and off-shoots, including the SLA, New World Liberation Front, Revolutionary Armed Task Force, and United Freedom Front.

In light of all this evidence, why did the FBI change that item about Power’s membership in the group?

After being alerted to the change by Kennedy himself, I sent him an email raising the question of whether he had had any contacts with the FBI about it. Kennedy ridiculed the idea, saying, “Regular readers of Media Nation [his blog] know what great pull and clout I have with the FBI.” But he subsequently acknowledged, when someone on his blog raised the issue, that “The FBI changed its page within the past few days. In fact, it was done after I started making inquiries.”

In his latest article, he admits exchanging e-mails with FBI spokesman Paul Bresson and quotes him as saying the change was made because “When she [Power] was announced on our Top 10, we made no reference to her association with the WU [Weather Underground] then. Seems like we would have.”

Seems? Let’s examine this rationale.

If you examine this FBI “Wanted Poster” of Bernardine Dohrn, you will find no reference to her membership in the Weather Underground. Does this mean she wasn’t a member? We all know that she was a prominent member and leader of the group. In such public statements, the FBI focused on the alleged criminal acts, not their membership in different groups. FBI spokesman Bresson doesn’t seem to understand this.

I talked to an FBI spokesman who wasn’t very forthcoming with details and wouldn’t even confirm that Kennedy was the one who made the inquiries, which he said started about a week ago. The item had been on the FBI webpage since 2004. He said internal research was conducted and the FBI historian, John Fox, was consulted. But in terms of what records were examined, he made the claim, also given to Kennedy, that when Power was put on the FBI “Most Wanted” list, her membership in the Weather Underground was not mentioned in a press release. Hence, they concluded in retrospect that she had not been a member.  

This is absurd. This slip-shod approach is to be given priority over a report from a Senate committee? And the views of a former top FBI official and congressional investigators?

I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for any information about the Bureau’s contacts with Kennedy over this change. It is indeed troubling that a Bill Ayers apologist has this kind of contact and sway with the FBI, and that a low-level official can make such a change without adequate research.

We will know more when the results of my FOIA request are complied with. But what we do know suggests something is seriously wrong in the public affairs office of the FBI, which is run by John Miller, a former correspondent and anchor for ABC News.

Sadly, the FBI spokesman seemed completely unfamiliar with the report of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. References to Power can be found on pages 33, 36, and 92, while references to Saxe are on pages 33 and 36.

How a Terrorist Network Operates

Contacted on Monday, Revell was surprised that the reference to Power being involved in the Weather Underground had been deleted. “They didn’t have membership lists. They didn’t carry membership cards,” he reiterated. “But the fact of it is that they did associate with and support the Weather Underground on the campuses. She [Power] was never charged as such and they may not have any official documentation. But there was ample information of them being associated.” 

Revell compared the activities of the Weather Underground and its factions to the Al Qaeda Islamic terrorist network. “Everybody is not in Al Qaeda Central but they are essentially working under the mandates put out by Al Qaeda. The Weather Underground was a network but some of the violent groups split off with their own name but they were still associated with and were supported by the Weather Underground.”

Regarding the involvement of Power and Saxe, he said their United Freedom Front was a “specific organization off on its own but they made contact with Weather Underground elements at various universities and locations around the country.”

Pulling the item from the FBI website because “they can’t tie down a membership list or a membership card” seems to be “caving in,” he said. Katherine Power “was considered part of the Weather Underground but in this specific organization,” he added.

The mistake being made by the FBI public affairs office in this case unfortunately was made by the Bureau before, with disastrous consequences. In a pamphlet titled, “Who is Tracking the Terrorists?,” former FBI Assistant Director W. Raymond Wannall has written about how the FBI had once come to the erroneous conclusion that the Weather Underground had ceased to function, not realizing at first that it had developed a new identity and strategy of working through fronts and factions under different names. Only after the 1981 Brinks robbery did this change, he said.

Terrorism in the Family

The Brinks robbery, which left two police officers and a security guard dead, was carried out by another Weather Underground front, the Revolutionary Armed Task Force, including Ayers/Dohrn associates David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin and members of the Black Liberation Army. Ayers and Dohrn adopted the child of Gilbert and Boudin and raised him as their own, after the parents went to jail for murder in the Brinks case.

As former Providence Journal reporter John Castellucci has documented, Dohrn was “suspected of supplying the radical gang that committed the Brink’s robbery with false identification” and spent eight months in jail rather than tell a grand jury what she knew about the terrorist assault. Castellucci wrote the book, The Big Dance, about the case.

Regarding Ayers, Castellucci wrote, “He set off bombs and said he didn’t regret it. He rioted in the streets of Chicago and thumbed his nose at the authorities after the charges were dropped.” Ayers would tell an interviewer, “Guilty as hell. Free as a bird. America is a great country.”

Rather than seek justice for the victims of Weather Underground terrorism, Northeastern University has a professor on its payroll named Dan Kennedy, who is determined to run a protection racket for this “guilty as hell” communist terrorist. Kennedy is a disgrace to academia and journalism. It is tragic that the FBI would take his inquiries seriously.

What the FBI should be doing, rather than responding to a far-left professor, is providing authorities with all of the available evidence concerning the reported involvement of Ayers and Dohrn in the murder of McDonnell at the San Francisco Park Police station. 

Former FBI informant Larry Grathwohl, who has testified under oath that Ayers told him that Dohrn planted that bomb, says that he called Kennedy on Monday, offering information about this case and the Weather Underground. Kennedy had written a column for the British Guardian linking to a magazine article saying that the involvement of the Weather Underground in that bombing had not been conclusively demonstrated. 

“Kennedy stated that he didn’t know who I was and that he hadn’t researched the Park Police station bombing,” Grathwohl said. “I told him who I was and he seemed surprised. I told him I wanted to afford him the opportunity to ask me whatever questions he might regarding Bill and the Weatherman. He has my number and indicated he would be in touch. I doubt it.”

 Kennedy’s Terrorist “Sources”

This is because Kennedy is not interested in the facts and is dedicated to whitewashing terrorists. It speaks volumes that in his article posted on Tuesday he says nothing about getting the call from Grathwohl.

Kennedy does, however, say that he sent an e-mail to Katherine Ann Power, who spent only six years in prison for her crimes, “but did not receive a response.” 

Kennedy’s idea of journalism is to ignore an FBI informant in the Weather Underground and contact the convicted killer of a Boston Police Officer for her side of the story. I’m sure that, if she had said that Ayers had nothing to do with her group or the murder, that Kennedy would have dutifully reported that.

So how did you get that e-mail address anyway, Professor?

  • His email address is (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  His office telephone number is 617-373-5187.


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