"I worked the right wing as hard as I worked these nuts," he said of the Weathermen. "But the press kisses their asses, and a lot of the information isn't out there."

In 2000, Reagan was recruited out of retirement to join the Phoenix Task Force, a team of local and federal law enforcement officials investigating unsolved cop killings from the 1970s, including the long-dormant Park Station case. Among his duties was sifting through the FBI's voluminous paperwork on the Weather Underground.

He soon came across a set of decades-old documents that astonished him. In the bulging case file on the Weathermen was a sheaf of FD-302 forms, used by bureau agents then, as now, to summarize interviews performed in the course of investigations.

In 2007, a memorial plaque to honor McDonnell was placed outside Park Police Station in the Upper Haight.
Jacob Poehls
In 2007, a memorial plaque to honor McDonnell was placed outside Park Police Station in the Upper Haight.
Former Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn is suspected by investigators of organizing the deadly attack on Park Police Station.
Courtesy of Max Noel
Former Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn is suspected by investigators of organizing the deadly attack on Park Police Station.

The FBI's first recorded statements on the Park Station bombing plot came from interviews over two days in June 1972 with a man who once had been a writer for the Berkeley Tribe, an underground newspaper. While Reagan would not disclose the man's name, law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation said he is Matthew Landy Steen, who has used the alias William Hellis Coquillette.

Steen told agents he had attended a Bay Area meeting in January 1970 at which half a dozen Weather Underground activists discussed their plans to plant a bomb at Park Police Station. Among those Steen placed at the meeting were Dohrn, the Weather Underground's charismatic leader; and Machtinger, who investigators believed to be one of the group's principal bomb technicians.

Also in the case file were multiple forms from interviews with a former Weather Underground member named Karen Latimer. In the mid-1970s, years after Steen spoke to the FBI, Latimer came forward to say she had attended a separate planning session for the Park Station attack with Dohrn and Machtinger in the winter of 1970. (In the months leading up to the bombing, Dohrn was living on a houseboat in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, according to an account in A Radical Line, the family memoir of Thai Jones, son of former Weatherman Jeff Jones.)

At these meetings, Reagan said, Dohrn "seemed to be more or less the ringleader," while "Machtinger gave instructions on how to build the bomb, and they discussed the placing of the bomb at Park Station."

Reagan said the witnesses' descriptions of the meetings were consistent with each other and strikingly similar to other Weather Underground planning sessions he had personally attended while an undercover agent. The idea, he said, was to implicate all members in a criminal conspiracy, reducing the chance that anyone would turn to the police.

"To them, building a bomb is an act of cohesion," Reagan said. "It's almost like the Mob, when they ask someone to kill somebody or hack a guy's arm off. They trust you more when they're dirty with you."

Reagan's account was confirmed by Max Noel, another retired FBI agent who investigated the Weathermen in the 1970s while based at the bureau's San Francisco field office. "They did exist, and they were credible," Noel said of the statements.

San Francisco police Inspector Joe Engler, the lead detective on the Phoenix Task Force, declined to comment on evidence or potential witnesses in the Park Station case, citing the ongoing investigation into the bombing. He referred a request for the forms on Latimer and Steen to federal authorities. At press time, the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said a Freedom of Information Act request from Village Voice Media for the documents was being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

For decades, the only known indications of the Weather Underground's involvement in the bombing of Park Station had been tenuous hearsay from Larry Grathwohl, a U.S. Army veteran hired by the FBI to infiltrate the Weathermen in 1969. In sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 1974 and in a 1976 memoir, Bringing Down America: An FBI Informer with the Weathermen, Grathwohl asserted that he had heard from Ayers during a meeting of a Weather Underground cell in Buffalo, N.Y., that Dohrn "had to plan, develop, and carry out the bombing of the police station in San Francisco." But former Weathermen have long dismissed his story as a fabrication. During a book tour of the Bay Area in January, Ayers told the San Francisco Chronicle that Grathwohl was "a paid dishonest person."

Reviewing the bureau's files in 2000, however, it was plain to Reagan that the case against the Weathermen went well beyond a solitary piece of after-the-fact hearsay relayed by an FBI mole. When he read the statements from the other two informants, who had independently supplied similar details about Weather Underground members conspiring to bomb Park Station, he had one thought: Why didn't they prosecute?

It turns out that law enforcement officials had come much closer to pouncing on the Weather Underground than Reagan realized. In fact, according to another investigator familiar with the case, prosecutors came within a hair's breadth of filing charges against the group in the 1970s based on Latimer's testimony alone.

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Ted McKim
Ted McKim

I loved this article. I think that last statement shows where the article gets its sources, from one-sided speculation! I especially enjoyed the last statement, "...she disappeared..." Cut to man's face not blinking.... Cut to: woman's back as she hurrriedly moves away from view...fading into dark smoke.

Hey, she disappeared to Chicago where she lives!

Ted McKim
Ted McKim

Having lived through that time I wouldn't trust an FBI agent's word for anything that they said about then. Not sure I trust what they say about people now!

Joe Curwen
Joe Curwen

Emil's comments are quite perceptive. One thing to bear in mind foremost in my opinion, is the operations of COINTELPRO at the time. Their activities continually muddied the waters concerning who was who and who did what.

During that time I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the White Panther Party (among other groups). I recall that then several of the WPP people were either incarcerated or wanted for various radical activities, including a small bombing alleged to have been perpetrated by them. They always asserted that COINTELPRO was behind a lot of it. Many people wrote their stories off as counter-culture paranoia.

Decades later, though, the truth came out. COINTELPRO had been behind a lot of the grief that came their way. Paranoid or not, they had been correct about that much.

I never cared much for the SDS or the Weathermen. They were (aside from the violence) a bunch of jerks and party poopers. The SDS always rambled on about Marxism and who wanted to hear that crap? The WPP were a lot more fun. Still, at the time, the government provoked people toward unreasonable measures, and sometimes the government aided and abetted the radicals with entrapment and fabrication of evidence.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

(1) The article cites former Weatherman Mark Rudd's "memoir" in describing the group's "charismatic leader", a woman, as "praising the acolytes of cult leader Charles Manson for stabbing pregnant actress Sharon Tate in the stomach with a fork" -- scarcely an act of revolutionary violence. Is it possible that Mr. Rudd, like so many authors of scandalous "tell-all" biographies, added this and other shocking details to increase the notoriety (hence salability) of his book at a time when the group had been out of the spotlight? (2) The article states that the Weathermen "decided to alter their bombing campaign, targeting only empty government facilities" in March, 1970. Yet it also states that a 1971 search of "one of the group's principal safe-houses" by FBI and SFPD inspectors discovered "voice activated bomb switches", and quotes FBI Special Agent Noel in explaining that " 'voice activated switch' means the bomb goes off when a person comes in and talks". So, did the group "alter their bombing campaign" or not? Also note that in 1971 there was no such thing as a "voice activated switch": there were sound activated switches, but these would be very dangerous for anyone planting a bomb since, once the bomb was activated, any sufficiently loud noise would set it off, like a sneeze, or (depending on the sensitivity of the microphone) such random sounds as a door or window slamming nearby, honking car horns, slamming car doors, or the rumble of a passing truck. One possible use for a sound-activated switch would be to function as a killswitch to (permanently) deactivate the bomb, if anyone (such as an office cleaning crew) came in during the night when the bomb's timer would otherwise detonate it. This would be consistent with attempts to prevent injuries or deaths. (3) The article is surprisingly mute on the issue of forensic evidence, specifically on the design and materials used in the Park Station bomb. While it is always possible that this particular bomb could have been specially made to throw investigators off the track, it is more common for bomb makers to have a modus operandi in which certain elements of design and certain materials are used over and over, despite other variations. Parts must be purchased somewhere (the Unibomber notwithstanding) and they can be traced to manufacturers. Microscopic examination of bits of wire can reveal characteristic tool-marks (e.g., wirecutters and strippers). The authorities had numerous examples of Weatherman bombs and even some seized materials and tools. Was there a match to the Park Station bombing? Presumably not, since that kind of forensic evidence would allow a case to be built on the basis of independent corroborative evidence. (4) The article quotes FBI Special Agent Reagan as saying, of the Weathermen's culpability in the Park Station murder, that "...common sense tells you something. Who else could it be?" Yet, the article elsewhere characterizes America's major cities at the time as being "in something close to a guerrilla war" with "the spectacle so many revolutionary groups competing to blow up or kill sworn peace officers". The article notes that a different group, the BLA, actually took credit for the Park Station bombing: a group actually known to have committed, and attempted to commit more, murders of police officers. The two choices offered to the reader in connection with this admission, is that it was either empty bragging and the Weathermen are the real culprits, or else that the two groups were "working in tandem". But two other possibilities exist: (a) the BLA alone was responsible; (b) the bombing was the work of neither group. (5) The FBI was equally sure (perhaps on the basis of "common sense") that security guard Richard Jewell was responsible for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. After having his career ruined, Jewell was exonerated and successfully sued various media sources, including NBS News for Tom Brokaw's statement (apparently made on the basis of leaked information) that "The speculation is that the FBI is close to making the case. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case". (6) The article cites FBI Special Agent Reagan, paraphrasing informant Karen Latimer (now dead) as saying in 2000 that she was "looking for a form a justice" and that she was "deeply disappointed that there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute" other former members of the Weathermen. Yet the article also states that Latimer did not come forward until the mid-1970s, years after the Park Station murder, and quotes an investigator as saying that she did so "to have a federal hold on her passport lifted so that she could travel abroad". (7) Informant Matthew Steen was not described by the article as a current or former member of the group at the time he told investigators, more than two years after the Park Station bombing, that he had attended a planning meeting at which the group discussed plans to bomb Park Station. But it isn't clear why a non-member, even if sympathetic, would be admitted to a planning meeting at which a police station is the intended target of a murderous bomb packed with industrial staples; particularly in an age when undercover police agents and informants were common and every radical group knew it. Steen might well have attended a Weathermen meeting or two, but this? Also omitted from the article is any mention of the circumstances of Steen's interview: was he being investigated on unrelated criminal charges or did he come forward voluntarily; and if the latter, why did he wait two and a half years? The Weathermen were publicly mentioned in the press as suspects in the heated, high-profile coverage following the murder. Investigators coming across any known or suspected associates or sympathizers of the group would question them about it, and anyone seeking a quid pro quo from the authorities wouldn't need much prompting to know that an identification of those responsible for the Park Station murder constituted a kind of golden ticket. (8) The most damning evidence presented in the article is twofold: (a) FBI Special Agent Reagan asserting that the descriptions of the Park Station planning sessions held by the Weathermen (as given by informants Steen and Latimer) were "consistent with each other and strikingly similar to other Weather Underground planning sessions he had personally attended as an undercover agent", a characterization backed up by FBI Special Agent Noel; and (b) the detail of informant Latimer's narration of the supposed planning of the Park Station bombing, as recounted by an unnamed "another inspector familiar with the case". Well, the descriptions given by Steen and Latimer couldn't be too similar to what was observed by SA Reagan in an undercover capacity, since he would then have had grounds to arrange some arrests. As a member, Latimer would have been familiar with the general layout and process, and if Steen attended some meetings he would be too. Aside from the fact that the reader isn't told whether "another inspector familiar with the case" was personally involved at the time or had acquired this familiarity second or third hand in reviewing the (cold) case files, it's a shame that New Times went to press before obtaining the (no doubt heavily redacted) primary documents in the case. That's because anyone who has seen enough original case notes understands that what investigators characterize one way in statements to the press (or other verbal testimony) may be less impressive when evaluated by third parties with different attitudes and goals. Ask any criminal defense attorney about the discrepancies between investigators' verbal characterizations and the casefile materials they've acquired through the discovery process. Note that none of these observations and counter-arguments exonerates the Weathermen of the Park Station murder: but the matter may be less clear-cut than suggested by the article.

Jack Swift
Jack Swift

libertyinjeopardy, you're an effen racist moron.


Wow the New Times uncovers a great story! The only problem you leftists have is that Drudge had this story 9 months ago. We warned you fools about Odumba way back when but of course liberalism is a mental disease.

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