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Weinglass describes Chicago trial Austin During their Texas tour, Chicago Seven member Abbie Hoffman and his attorney Leonard Weinglass spoke at the UT-Austin branch. Weinglass’ talk at the UT Law School gives a new dimension to the legal proceedings at Chicago, which some observers have called the political trial of the century. . . . The government had interviewed more than 700 witnesses and had put more than 350 witnesses before a grand jury and had worked on the case for seven months when it returned the indictments. We had to create a structure that would provide us with a competitive force to the FBI, the Justice Department, and the squad of U.S. attorneys in Chicago who were handling the government’s side of the case. The question was, do we go out and hire attorneys to assist and investigate, detectives, secretaries, and a staff so that we would have a comparable structure? The conclusion that the defendants reached was that this was to be [an anti-establishment] movement defense, strictly within the movement and without the aid and assistance of people who customarily function within the establishment. So we undertook a trial of five months’ duration without a single secretary. People within the movement would come into our office and type with one finger all night…. There were 16 people who worked with us full-time. Nine of us lived in one apartment. Many of the people slept on the floor and in the hallway. Witnesses would come we called in 113 from the movement from all over the country, and there was always an extra sleeping bag in the closet.. .. One of the motions [we filed] involved wire-tapping. The government came into court and admitted that it had wiretapped seven of the eight defendants. The government also admitted that under all existing precedents the wiretaps were not legal; however, they took the position for the first time in a court of law that the attorney general has the right to arrogate unto himself the decision to make a wiretap of a citizen on information available to the attorney general which the attorney general need not disclose to a court of law. All a court of law may do under those conditions is inquire of the attorney general whether or not he has probable cause. If the attorney general says he has probable cause the court may not inquire further. This is a radical departure … since the 14 The Texas Observer Every witness the government called was a policeman, an FBI agent, a paid informer, an undercover agent, or a tool of Mayor Daley. courts have always been the final determiners of what constitutes probable cause for a search. . . . The government gave … reasons why [this new wiretap procedure] is necessary. … [T] he president has the constitutional power to authorize electronic surveillance as he deems necessary to protect the nation against hostile acts of foreign powers. [The extension of this theory attempted successfully by the government in this case held that] the president also has the constitutional power to authorize electronic surveillance to gather information concerning domestic organizations which seek to attack and subvert the government by unlawful means. How does the government justify this position? In recent years there have been increasing numbers of instances in which federal troops have been called upon by the states to aid in suppression of . domestic disorders, and if he has intelligence gathering powers internationally to aid the troops in their international combat operations he must have the same powers domestically to aid the troops in their domestic engagements. .. . [The attorney general certified that he had determined that wiretaps on seven of the defendants were necessary and that the court had no power to inquire further on this matter.] Judge Hoffman bought that and that was the end of it. … Judge Hoffman’s law clerk resigned in protest over Judge Hoffman’s ruling on the matter of wiretapping. .. . [T] his case is unprecedented in terms of its wiretapping aspect. It has been entirely overlooked in the reporting of the sensational events of the trial. But I think in many respects that this might be the most dangerous, or the most potentially dangerous, aspect of the trial. .. . EVERY WITNESS [the government called] was a policeman, an FBI agent, a paid informer, an undercover agent, a newspaperman who was paid by the police to gather information, or a member of the Cook County organization. Out of all of the hundreds of people who were on the streets and all the hundreds of people who were in the parks who heard these many so-called subversive speeches and inciting speeches, the government after interviewing 700 people was not able to come up with a single witness who as not a part of the police establishment to testify against the eight defendants. Some of the paid informers who testified were, I think, the most interesting and in many respects some of the most frightening people to come into the courtroom. One man … is a $25,000-a-year advertising executive who was enrolled by the FBI to become a paid informer. The scene of the approach was, symbolically enough, a Little League ballfield, where [the man] was umpiring at second base, and the FBI agent who solicited him was calling balls and strikes. [The man] testified that they met after a game one night and they were talking about the dangers and the perils with which the country was faced. As a patriotic gesture he agreed to become an informer for the FBI. He commuted every day from his very comfortable New Jersey suburban residence to New York. After he worked he would then go to various churches and colleges in the New York area, where he would listen to speakers. Mostly his specialty was the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. He would go to their meetings and listen to five or six speakers, leave the meeting, go out into another place and write on the back of an envelope his impressions of what was said, go home and telephone the FBI and give the FBI the names of all the speakers and his general impression of what they said. He was paid, however, $10 a meeting. Apparently his patriotism didn’t carry him that far, that he was willing to render this service free of charge. The most curious thing that he would do was after each meeting he would submit a voucher to the FBI for his subway toll and bus fare. The second informer was a CBS newsman from San Diego. He worked for a CBS affiliate out there. … He did television news editing for CBS at the same time he was being paid over $5,000 a year by the FBI to act as an FBI informer-agent. You can wonder about the quality and the content of the news editing in the San Diego area when it is being handled by men who at the same time are being paid $5,000 by the FBI to be an FBI functionary. He worked in a neat way. He had full press credentials and when someone would come to speak at any of the universities in the area he .. . would go in as a member of the press with CBS credentials and a little tape recording machine. He would sit in the press section down close and hook up this microphone with CBS letters on it and