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Date: Fri, 28 Apr 1995 09:59:04 EST
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Subject: FBI buys ads to attack Peltier clemency (fwd)
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/* Written by prisondesk in igc:justice.prison */

FBI buys ads to attack Peltier clemency

By Jon Lurie, The Circle, February 1995
Reprinted in Spirit of Crazy Horse,
March-April 1995 issue

For nineteen years, Leonard Peltier has been a prisoner of the United States of America. Lynn Crooks, the US Attorney who prosecuted him, has admitted in federal court that the government doesn't know who killed Ron Williams and Jack Coler, the two FBI agents who died during the Oglala shoot-out in 1975. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark has become Peltier's lead defense lawyer. Through the years, scores of politicians have voiced their support for peltier, including 55 members of the Canadian Parliament who intervened on Peltier's behalf in US court in 1992.

Worldwide sympathy for Peltier has inspired millions of petition signatures, dramatic and documentary films and plays, shelves of books, hunger strikes, demonstrations, songs, poems, and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. President Clinton is currently considering a clemewncy request to restore Peltier, one of the longest held political prisoners in the world today, to freedom. But one organization wants Peltier to remain behind bars until death - the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As of July 7, 1993, the date Leonard Peltier's final appeal was turned down by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, the only person on earth with the legal power to release him is the President of the United States. Since then, supports have been hopeful that an independent, thoughtful national leader would see the folly of the Peltier conviction and set him free. They hope that leader is Bill Clinton.

The FBI may fear Clinton could be that independent leader and so have initiated a public relations campaign to tell the president what is ostensibly their side of the story.

A full page paid advertisement title, Dear Mr. President: Leonard Peltier murdered two FBI agents. He deserves no clemency. first appeared in the Washington Post on July 15, 1994. The ad was paid for by the FBI Agents Association and the Society of Former Agents of the FBI. The release of the FBI missive coincided with the arrival in DC of the Walk for Justice, a group led by American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks, which sought to increase awareness of the Peltier case across the United States.

The Walk attracted broad support, says Banks. There were police officers and sheriffs who signed petitions in support of Peltier. There were mayors and members of Congress who signed. That's why the FBI is conducting this propaganda campaign. Anytime the FBI has to pay for ads, you know that the movement has damaged their position.

The FBI is trying to mount a counter-attack because Peltier's clemency claim is so strong. They're scrambling. They're grasping, Banks saids. The FBI is not under the control of the Justice Department. They aren't under the control of anybody. They're just like Nazi thugs.

They know it was a complete fabrication. For him to be released will expose the moral wrongs the FBI has done to Peltier and the Indian people in general, Banks said.

LPDC co-manager Lisa Faruolo says the FBI has taken up a slander campaign to sabotage the clemency campaign. She says an uninvited agent visited a reporter at the Virgina Ledger-Star to offer information about the Peltier case. He gave the reporter false information, saying that Leonard was being followed by Coler and Williams, and he shot them when he stopped the car. She explains that the FBI's advertisement in the Washington Post contains a bare minimum of 33 factual errors.

The FBI ad contains factual ewrrors, not only as compared to scholarly research done by noted author Peter Matthiessen, but also in contrast to FBI-acquired prosecution testimony.

The FBI paints the deceased agents with such glowing terms as affable, friendly, defenseless, and fine young law enforcement officers. The ad repeatedly describes Leonard Peltier as violent, criminal, vicious, a thug, and a murderer. The effort to make Peltier out as simply...a murderer with no respect or regard for human life, seems to be the ad's main point.

No one close to Peltier has ever accuised him of being a violent person. Prior to his murder conviction, he had never been found guilty of a violent act. He has spent much of the past nineteen years teaching himself to paint, becoming an accomplished artist. The testimony of Santa Maria, California police detective Bruce Correll, in fact, indicates that even when faced with life imprisonment, Peltier would not shoot another person. Correll was the arresting officer after Peltier, informed that a contract had been put on his life, escaped from Lompoc Prison in California.

At the site of Peltier's arrest, Correll found a mini-14 carbine and a clip of ammunition covered by branches. Correll asked Peltier why he hadn't shot the pursuing officers. Peltier responded, Maybe I could have gotten one or two of you, but I'm not a killer.

Correll also relayed a story he had been told by a pumpkin farmer named Jerry Parker, who encountered the starving Peltier in his fields. Correll said, The story we got was that Parker asked him, 'You going to kill me now?' And Peltier said, 'Naw, you're just a working man, like me.' He told him he was a Native American political prisoner, and the whole time Parker thought he was going to kill him. But he didn't, and that was his biggest mistake.

Since Peltier's escape, the FBI and prison authorities had been flooding the California media with reports that the fugitive was armed and dangerous. That Parker was so sure Peltier would kill him suggests the effectiveness of those broadcasts, not only on citizens, but also on police officers who beleived they would be risking their lives in making the arrest. Peltier supporters feel the FBI's anti-clemency campaign is just another armed and dangerous broadcast, this time aimed at the entire US population.

Faruolo says the Washington Post ad backfirewd on the FBI. Because of the public outcry ovewr the anti-Peltier ad, they had to assign a reporter to write a story about Leonard, she says.

The Post article was assigned to Dennis McAuliffe, a veteran journalist currently working as a foreign correspondent and editor for the DC area daily. McAuliffe (Osage), the only Native American in the Post's newsroom, says the idea for the Peltier article came about when his editor returned to the US after a decade overseas.

He was seeing Peltier bumperstickers all over the place. Leonard Peltier is a hot item outside of the United States. When he returned, he was surprised that we hadn't done the story already, says McAuliffe.

Having just completed his new book, The Deaths of Sybile Bolten: An American History, McAuliffe felt priemd to write about Peltier. The book is about he circumstances surrounding his Osage grandmother's murder in 1925, circumstances that in many ways mirror the situation on Pine Ridge in the 1970s. At that time, the Osage were the richest people on Earth due to oil rights they held on their tribal land. Upwards of three percent of the Osage Nation was killed for their oil money. This was the first major murder investigation ever conducted by the FBI, he says.

McAuliffe's piece took four months to write and grew to 125 inches, huge by newspaper standards, because we're dealing with an audience that you have to assume has never heard of Peltier, he says. He and Peltier spent the day together inside Leavenworth on September 12th, Leonard's 50th birthday.

After carefully examining the facts of the case, McAuliffe is critical of the FBI advertisement that ran in the Post. Based upon what has been documented, there were a number of things in the ad that were incorrect. Above all, the FBI failed to mewntion that they can't prove the case against Peltier. They failed to mention that government prosecutors can't prove the case against Peltier, he says. McAuliffe defends the editorial integrity of the Post, saying, We in the newsroom have nothing to do with the ads.

According to a member of their advertising department, The Washington Post maintains a policy of accepting all ads, except those selling psychic services, handguns, or sex. Ad rates for government agencies, such as the FBI, are unavailable and are not quotable to the public.

McAuliffe's story, which he says contains previously unpublished facts about the Peltier case, is expected to come out in a late February edition of the Post.

On October 26, 1994, the FBI's anti-Peltier missle landed on the Black Hills. In that week's issue of Indian Country Today, a national Native American weekly paper based in Rapid City, South Dakota, appeared the same full page ad seen on the east coast three months earlier.

This is not only an attack on Leonard, this is an attack on the people of Pine Ridge, and on Indian people in general. The fact that an Indian paper ran such a thing only adds salt to the wound, says Chris Peters, coordinator of the Sevewnth Generation Fund, a small foundation which extends grants to grassroots Native causes. Peters says he first saw the ad while having coffee with Nilak Butler, who was at the Jumping Bll ranch at the time of the shoot-out.

There were so many inaccuracies that I thought it was a joke at first. Nilak was outraged. We decided we had to do something about this, Peters says. They decided they had to respond.

The position of our response, says Peters, is to bring some awareness to the situation, and set the record straight. We have to let the FBI Know that this slander campaign cannot happen without our response.

The Peltier case is outrageous, especially when you consider the number of Indian people who were dying from harassment and malnutrition. The FBI Is concerned that Clinton might issue executive clemency. They wany to put Clinton in a position where he politically can't do that, Peters says.

The response, he says, has the support of over 50 prominent individuals and organizations, and endorsements ranging the whole spectrum of Indian people, from radical to conservative.

Andrea Carmen, Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council, says that her organization's support for the response came about because, Native people feel these injustices need to be addressed. We were happy to sign on.

The Seventh Generation Fund has granted a portion of the $2,835 cost of a full page ad in Indian Country Today, but its printing has been delayed while funds are reaised, and people like Nilak and Dino BUtler, who were close to the events, can look at it and approve it. Peters expects the response to appear in the Lakota-oriented newsweekly sometime this month.

Peters is among those who feel betrayed that a Native publisher from the Pine Ridge Reservation would print FBI propaganda. I'm giving Tim Giago the benefit of the doubt when I say he had to accept this ad, Peters says.

Giago's paper, according to his advertising manager, accepts all advertising regardless of its content.

They paid money to put it in, and advertising money is what we need to run our business, says Indian Country Today editor Avis Little Eagle.

Most of the complaints have come from various Leonard Peltier Support Groups around the country. They were just perturbed that we would run it. If an ad is prepaid we will run it. We don't get government grants, so this is how we make our money, Little Eagle says.

Asked if they would check sensational claims of a product such as shampoo, Little Eagle responded, This ran in the Washington Post before it ran in our paper. They would have noticed if there were untrue things in it. If there were inaccuracies, it was the FBI that put them there. You need to talk with out publisher.

If a news story would have come in like that we would have called both sides and gotten a minimum of five sources. We operate under a code of journalistic ethics. I don't operate our newsroom like that FBI advertisement, and I don't want our editorial department mixed in with this. You need to talk with Tim, our publisher.

Tim Giago could not be reached for comment.

He claims he was just being fair, says Faruolo, but he's always been anti-AIM. He claims to be traditional, but if you speak with traditional people on Pine Ridge reservation, they say he has nothing to do with traditional ways.

Lisa Faruolo says Giago didn't print any pro-Peltier letters after the ad came out, but in the following issue answered them by saying he printed it out of fairness to the FBI, claiming that mostly white people had written in.

The Wanblee Corner Store in the northeast corner of Pine Ridge sells Indian Country. Many of the market's customers are friends and relatives of Leonard Peltier. Asked how her customers feel about Tim Giago running the FBI ad in his paper, the woman behind the counter points her chin at the full newspaper rack and shrugs, There's a lot of people around here who really object to it.

Kevin Lord
Alpha Institute