CODE NAME RESMURS | National Security | Politics

CODE NAME RESMURS

I regret to advise you of the tragic deaths of special agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams, both of whom were shot and killed on June 26, 1975 while attempting to serve arrest warrants in connection with charges of robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon on Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Director, FBI In the winter of 1973, armed members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) took over and occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota in the name of the Lakota Nation and in open defiance of the United States government. For 71-days the Oglala Sioux ruled themselves and flouted the ultra-corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs, along with decades of police brutality, racial disparity, obscene poverty and general hell of American Indian life. Wounded Knee begat three years of political violence on the Pine Ridge reservation. RESMURS is FBI code for “reservation murders,” and it refers to the deaths of two special agents and one Native American in the early summer of 1975 in Pine Ridge not long after Wounded Knee. An open war was occurring on the rez between traditional Indians (AIM members) and the tribal government in which the tribal chairman had hired “GOONS,” (Guardians of the Oglala Nation) to terrorize, murder and assault AIM members. The FBI was complicit in the programme and supplied the GOONS with intelligence on AIM members. Leonard Peltier was an AIM leader. On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents in unmarked cars followed a pick-up onto Jumping Bull ranch where Leonard lived. This arrogant and bold move alarmed AIM members who feared an attack, and a shoot-out erupted. When the bullets cleared, Joe Stuntz, an Indian, had died of a sniper head shot, and agents Coler and Williams had been shot at close range. Leonard Peltier has served nearly 30 years in prison for these murders despite a breath-taking lack of evidence and a wildly unfair trial. The list of FBI horribles includes perjured affidavits, witness intimidation, and enormous evidence suppression. The government has even admitted in open court that it does not know who killed its agents. Yet Peltier sits in prison, even though witnesses have recanted their FBIinduced testimony, new evidence has appeared, and the judge who

denied him a new trial has changed his mind. He is internationally viewed as an American political prisoner. The Quill sits down with one of Mr. Peltier’s attorneys, Michael Kuzma, a Buffalo native and UB Law School graduate, to find out why.

How did you get involved with Leonard Peltier?
I’ve been interested in Leonard’s case for, god, almost three decades. I’ve studied the FBI’s program COINTELPRO – that’s short for counterintelligence pogrom, that was established to harass and target groups viewed as a threat to the status quo – it’s a dirty tricks program - so I was aware of how COINTELPRO had been used to target the AIM and individual AIM members. In junior college, I even wrote a paper on Leonard Peltier. For years, I just assumed that Leonard didn’t need any legal help because he had some of the greatest legal minds such as William Kunstler, Ramsey Clark, John J. Privitera, and Bruce Ellison, working on his case. It turned out, however, that there was much work that needed to be done. In 2001, Gina Chiala, who used to run the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, asked me if I’d be willing to oversee the handling of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that had been started by renowned human rights attorney, Jennifer Harbury.

I had never heard of Leonard Peltier before I met you. Why does he get no media exposure?
There has been very limited press coverage, and a fair amount of it has been less than favorable. The FBI has actually waged a disinformation campaign through the media. Documents that we’ve obtained from the FBI through FOIA show that they hired consultants and others to counter any positive press. For example, West 57th, a CBS news program featured a very favorable piece on Leonard’s case. After that story aired, the prosecutor in Leonard’s case filed written protests with CBS claiming that the West 57th story inaccurately portrayed the facts and circumstances surrounding the firefight at Pine Ridge.

So how does an attorney use FOIA?
John J. Privitera, Bruce Ellison, and I talked and we decided that we would submit FOIA requests to the FBI field offices that we thought most likely would have files – Milwaukee and Minneapolis - Richard Held, who was a Special Agent In Charge and a dirty trickster who was

brought in from Chicago to South Dakota, we submitted a request there – we submitted one to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Albany, NY. We discovered that each field office where we submitted a FOIA request had files.

And how many FBI field offices was that?
It was initially a dozen or so. Then the FBI wanted us to cut a deal where we would agree not to submit any further FOIA requests if we would agree to just have certain materials processed. We couldn’t agree to that because we did not know how many documents or what FBI field offices actually maintained files relating to Leonard Peltier and/or RESMURS. The FBI required us to submit FOIA requests to each and every one of its 50 some odd field offices. Through these requests we found out that virtually every FBI field office maintained files. What’s most fascinating is that the New York City file has been missing since December 2002 – it’s on what they call “Special Locate.” We are most fascinated by the New York City file because most of Leonard’s attorneys were or are from the New York City area.

Will the FBI file start a file on me because I’m interviewing you?
It wouldn’t surprise me. The FBI is always looking for ways to justify its existence.

Do you have an FBI file?
Yes, one document stated, among other things, that I was a selfproclaimed extremist and an illegal tax protester.

How many documents did the FBI originally claim to only have?
During Leonard’s trial, the government produced about 3,500 pages and said that’s all we have. In the early 1980’s, we learned the FBI actually had 18,000 pages. Roughly 12,000 pages were released in full or in part. Another 6,000 pages were withheld in their entirety. Fast forward to about two years ago and we learned that all these numbers were all a lie. Nationwide, the FBI has 142,579 pages that have never been reviewed by Leonard Peltier’s defense attorneys. Through the multiple FOIA requests, we also learned that files have been destroyed,

such as the Portland, Oregon file. We’ve got conflicting reports, but it was allegedly destroyed on November 23, 1993. We would love to get our hands on this file because it may shed light on the Oregon State Police stop of the Marlon Brando motor home in which Leonard, Dennis Banks, and others were travelling.

There’s a file on Brando?
Yes, and I’m trying to get it. After Leonard left South Dakota after the firefight in June of 1975, he and Dennis Banks eventually ended up at the home of Marlon Brando, an ardent AIM supporter. Brando gave Banks the keys to his motor home and $10,000 dollars in cash. The motor home was later tracked and pulled over by Oregon State Police. Through the Oregon freedom of information law I’ve gotten part of the Oregon State Police file. Some of the documents originated with the FBI field office in Portland. Of course, the FBI field office in Portland has ignored our repeated inquiries.

Who’s Frank Blackhorse?
Frank Blackhorse was arrested in Alberta, Canada with Leonard. He was sought in connection with the deaths of Agents Coler and Williams but was never extradited to the United States. Blackhorse was wanted in the States not only for his possible involvement in the deaths of Coler and Williams, he was out on a $10,000 cash bond for wounding Special Agent Curtis A. Fitzgerald in March of 1973. He never appeared for his trial and was not extradited back to the States for that case. It turns out that Frank Blackhorse’s real name is Frank DeLuca and he is not Native American. To this day, he’s a free man living in Canada. He’s never spoken out on behalf of Leonard. I’m not accusing him of anything, but can you imagine you wound an FBI agent, you’re now sought in connection with the deaths of two agents, and when you’re finally arrested, the FBI says hey that’s okay you don’t have to come back and face the charges?

Was there a rat on the Peltier defense team?
The one thing we’re fighting for here in U. S. District Court in Buffalo we sued the Buffalo field office of the FBI for its files - bit there is a heavily excised teletype that seems to indicate that there may have been an informant, purportedly warned by the FBI not to get too close to defense attorneys and unfortunately U. S. District Judge William Skretny declined to order the FBI to disclose the teletype. The FBI has

a history of putting informants near defense attorneys. If you look at the trial of Russell Means and Dennis Banks, Douglass Durham, a former police officer and FBI snitch, was head of security for AIM and he was a FBI plant. He had developed so much trust within AIM he could determine who could and could not sit in with Means and Banks while they were meeting with defense attorneys.

What did the government find so threatening about AIM? Were they advocating the overthrow of the government.
No nothing like that. It was just hysteria. The primary function of the FBI is to serve as domestic political police and their job is to monitor and crush any kind of dissent. The FBI will do everything in its power and they will use every trick in the book, legal or otherwise, to crush individuals or organizations deemed to be a potential threat to the status quo.

Do you see any parallels today with Muslim Americans?
Yes, there’s a lot of parallels, not only happening with Muslims, but with the anti-war movement. It may not be called COINTELPRO, but there’s a dirty tricks program. It’s even more insidious.

How much money has the FBI charged you for photocopying?
10 cents a page. The Minneapolis office alone has 90,000 pages so that’s nine grand right there.

What do you think the FBI is trying to hide?
If all these documents were released I think the American people would be outraged to learn how insidious, how devious, the COINTELPRO tactics were. The Leonard Peltier RESMURS case is a textbook example of COINTELPRO gone awry. By way of agent provocateurs, the FBI set into motion a scenario that culminated in the deaths of Joe Stuntz and Agents Coler and Williams. The FBI simply cannot afford to have these long-hidden files publicly released because people would learn how out of control the FBI had become and, I might add, continues to be.

Where can people get more information on Leonard’s case?
Check out www.freeleonard.org and www.leonardpeltier.org. Also, Ed Woods, he has a no-parole Peltier website. He’s a retired agent obsessed with Leonard’s case. His website is loaded with disinformation. On one final note, Coleen Rowley, the so-called FBI whistleblower, who is now running for Congress, used to be the FOIA officer at the FBI field office in Minneapolis. She did everything in her power to throw roadblocks in our path with respect to the FOIA requests. I recently e-mailed her and asked if she were elected would she fight to secure the full release of the RESMURS files. To date, she has not responded to my e-mail. The woman is an utter fraud and not what she purports to be. Currently, the FBI is scheduled to release another round of documents to Mr. Kuzma in December.

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