Donald Freed

Donald Freed

Donald Freed is an investigative journalist and author. In the 1970s worked for the Citizens Research and Investigation Committee. Freed has written numerous articles on the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. He also covered the political activities of Richard Nixon and events surrounding the Watergate Scandal.

In 1973 Freed worked with Mark Lane on the book, Executive Action. Other books by Freed include The Existentialism of Alberto Moraria (with Joan Ross), The Killing of RFK (1977), Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier (1980), Spymaster (1980), China Card (1980), The Quartered Man (1988), Killing Time: The Unsolved Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman (1996) and Every Third House (2005).

Freed has written several plays including Inquest (directed by Alan Schneider); Secret Honor (directed by Robert Altman); Circe & Bravo (directed by Harold Pinter). He is also author of two screenplays, Secret Honor (1984) and Of Love and Shadows (1994). Recent plays include Is He Still Dead?, Solidarity, Socrates Must Die and The Death of Ivan Ilych.

Over the years Freed has won the Rockefeller Award; the Louis B. Meyer Award; the Unicorn Prize; the Gold Medal Award; the Berlin Critics Award and the NEA award for "Distinguished Writing."

In 2004 Freed launched a new journal and publishing enterprise called Another America. This venture has included the writings of Harold Pinter, Leon Katz, Ronald Harwood, James Ragan, Shelley Berman, Norman Corwin, and Jack Langguth.

Primary Sources

(1) Donald Freed, Gemstone - the Bottom Line (1974)

As of 1970, there were basically three covert operations. One was under the aegis of Haldeman's "November Group" and could be called political propaganda/espionage. This group's field controls were former New York City policemen John Caulfield and Anthony J Ulasewicz on the East Coast acid "prankster" Donald Segretti on the West. A second team of amateur political agents worked out of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). These young, middle-level bureaucrats began to panic as Nixon slipped behind Edmund Muskie and George Wallace in some of the 1970 polls.

The third operation was Charles Colson's "Attack Group" or "black advance." This was the Hunt-Liddy network, the Gemstone axis of the conspiracy. By February 1972 this group had taken over the Segretti "dirty tricks" network, the CREEP "political propaganda" operation, the White House Special Intelligence Unit (the "Plumbers"), and the intelligence fronts using narcotics control as a cover (DALE, Operation Intercept). The paramilitary, unofficial Gemstone net not only controlled all of the other political efforts of the presidential campaign, but had penetrated and was beginning to use and compromise the FBI, CIA, Treasury, Office of Economic Opportunity, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and perhaps a dozen other federal agencies, plus local intelligence or "Red Squads" across the country. This was the magnitude of Operation Gemstone.

Colson was the key figure. Publicly, as Special Counsel, he was liaison between the White House and various political groupings-the Reverend Carl McIntire, the Liberty Lobby, and similar right-wing extremists; the Eastern European ethnics, many of them neo-fascists; the American Security Council and the National Rifle Association; Teamster officials and organized crime; ITT, the multinationals, and the CIA. Covertly, he was liaison to the White House from the secret government, with primary responsibility for Operation Gemstone. Charles Colson was the double agent, and his plan was simplicity itself:

1. Prepare to re-elect the president. Eliminate Wallace. Isolate the left.

2. Seize the government. Disrupt the GOP convention. Blame the left and the center. Declare a state of national emergency. Rule with Nixon, or without him. More a coup de main than a coup d'etat.

3. Cover up. Eliminate anyone who could "talk."

4. Build new mass base. Use four-year American Bicentennial Celebration to drown all remaining dissent...

Later Colson would arrange anti-Nixon incidents at the AFLCIO convention in Miami and hard-hat attacks against antiwar demonstrators in New York. It seems likely that he was also involved in an early rehearsal of Gemstone at a Nixon appearance in San Jose, California, in late October. According to Congressman Paul McCloskey and the local police chief, the ultraconservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) sent its members to pose as anti-Nixon demonstrators. Both Hunt and Colson were founders of YAF.

(2) Donald Freed, Gemstone - the Bottom Line (1974)

On May 15, 1972, Arthur Bremer was arrested for the attempted assassination of George Wallace. The question is the classic cui bono, who benefits? The answer, Operation Gemstone.

From the media the American people learned that Wallace's would-be assassin Arthur Bremer was a disturbed twenty-oneyear-old, an unemployed ex-busboy and janitor's helper. He had been laid off his janitorial job in Wisconsin in January 1972 and had no record of any income from that time until his arrest in Maryland in May. His tax return for 1971 shows earnings of $1,611. His automobile, purchased in September 1971, cost some eight hundred dollars, half of his total income for the year. Where, then, did Bremer get the money for his "mad scheme" to kill George Wallace, by far the most heavily guarded of all the presidential candidates, with a double set of body guards and a bullet-proof speakers' podium?

It is relatively, easy to compute the minimum amount that Bremer would have needed from January to May. Setting to one side the cash outlay for stopping at expensive hotels (the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, the Lord Elgin in Ottawa); automobile repairs for a machine driven constantly for weeks at speeds up to seventy-five miles per hour in order to keep pace with presidential candidates who flew to their destinations; any miscellaneous expenses such as his records, specially constructed ammunition found in his car, and the expensive clothes Bremer wore into court when he pled not guilty; setting aside all these and any other contingency costs, Bremer could not have spent less than five thousand dollars on his eighteen-week, ten-state odyssey. The figure is conservative. It includes the price of the guns he purchased, court fines for speeding and carrying a gun, and the $135-a-month rent for his occasionally used Milwaukee apartment.

On May 15, 1972, Arthur Bremer stepped from a crowd in a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland, and gunned down George Wallace. To this day no one has explained how Bremer could have known weeks in advance where in Laurel Wallace would speak. Nor has the FBI been able to identify the bullets used as coming from Bremer's gun, since they were special and had no rifling marks. Somehow the "lone fanatic" had gotten advance intelligence for what appeared to be a thoroughly professional job...

The full story remains to be told. But during 1972-73, our research group, the Citizens Research and Investigation Committee (CRIC), receive several bits of unconfirmed information which are worthy of note:

* On July 13, 1973 Roger Gordon, fifty-three, a member of the right-wing Secret Army Organization (SAO) fled from a hiding place in Australia to beg asylum in Suva, Fiji. According to the Associated Press, Gordon "had secret information concerning Watergate" and feared for his life. His information: that the heavy-set man with the "Joisey brogue" seen giving orders to Bremer on an Ohio ferry was Anthony Ulasewicz, a White House operation.

* Secret Army Organization (SAO) and FBI sources in the San Diego area reported that White House agent Donald Segretti gave moriey to Bremer.

* During 1970 Tom Huston, a Nixon aide, prepared a series of memoranda which attempted to tighten White House control of the FBI, CIA, etc., and intensify the use of electronic surveillance, "penetration agents," and illegal break-ins. According to a staff member of the Ervin Committee, White House files contain a still undivulged memo in which Huston justifies selective assassination.

* On May 18, 1972, three days after the Wallace shooting, Charles Colson staged a "Victory in Vietnam" march and rally in Washington, under the auspices of the right-wing preacher Carl McIntire. Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Fox of the Secret Army Organization drove from San Diego to attend, passing en route near the site of the Wallace shooting. Sources in San Diego reported that while the Foxes were away, FBI Special Agent Steve Christianson entered Mr. Fox's office files and planted documents which could implicate him in the assassination attempt. A group of Washington-based former intelligence agents have since confirmed this.

With Wallace out and the election assured, most of Nixon's politicos signed off the Gemstone plan. The hardliners under Colson did not. Moving into the temporary vacuum, they stepped up their drive for power. Their immediate object-to implicate the opposition in the violence planned for the GOP convention.

How? By planting forged documents, a second specialty of Howard Hunt.

Where? In the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Complex.

It wasn't difficult. Once inside the complex, the contract team moved into the office of Dorothy V. Bush, which was located next to that of Lawrence O'Brien, the Democratic National Chairman. It was their third raiding party and they moved with a familiarity of the surroundings. They carried with them the necessary tools: false documents prepared by the CIA, lockpicks and door jimmies, a shortwave receiver, gas guns, two cameras and forty rolls of film, a walkie-talkie, and an assortment of electronic surveillance equipment.

The team had several objectives. One was to install a bugging device to monitor O'Brien's telephone conversations. Another was to search for evidence of contribution's from foreign governments. A third grew out of an earlier break-in over the Memorial Day weekend. The team had discovered that the Democrats had nothing in their files which could later be used to link them to the "violent, left-wing militants," or to justify emergency measures against the party in the name of "national security." So, while McCord checked listening devices, and one of the Cubans handed the security plans for the Democratic Convention to a compatriot to photograph, Frank Sturgis prepared to put several forged documents deep in a filing drawer where no one would be likely to find them before the time was ripe. According to a source close to some of the men arrested that night, Sturgis was planning to plant something which purported to tie the upcoming convention violence to the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), the Black Panther Party, the antiwar movement, and the presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern. Sturgis was Hunt's man, and he was acting without the knowledge of McCord, Barker, and the others.

(3) Publishing blurb for Donald Freed's Spymaster (1980)

With this novel, the author of Inquest and Executive Action has managed fiction-created-from-fact that transcends and informs fact--an electrifying saga of a remarkable man's public and private lives that is perhaps to the secret world of spydom what The Godfather was to organized crime.

The Spymaster is Vivian T. Prescott, an American golden boy out of Yale's holy-of-holies. Skull and Bones, chum of Jack Kennedy, athlete, lover, son of FDR's confidant.. then with Wild Bill Donovan's World War II OSS, going up against Heydrich and even Hitler...Cold War go-between to masterspy Gehlen...nemesis of J. Edgar Hoover...and finally Director of Central Intelligence.

His life and career encompass the "mole" Kim Philby, the Rosenbergs, the U-2 crisis and the Bay of Pigs...a story that projects who really plotted the Kennedy and King assassinations, and what JFK would have done about the CIA and the Vietnam war had he lived. It dramatically poses who was in truth running the secret government in the United States--a CIA faction that infiltrated Nixon's reelection committee, and went out of control behind the chaos of Watergate, almost tearing the country asunder...more intrigues than one ever suspected--with Kissinger, the coverups, the tapes, the tricks, the FBI...

Vivian Prescoot, Spymaster, was also a man whose desire for one woman shrouded a profound and secret grief for another, and whose life, like his country's, was a torrent of surprise, betrayal and heroic promise.

(4) Donald Freed, Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier (1980)

By August 1972 Plan September was underway. Townley, Vera Serafin, and their toughs were fighting police as the Pots and Pans marched again. A select Townley arson squad had been hard at work all through the spring. Townley's young freedom fighters were also active in middle- and upper-class residential districts organizing "security contingency" against the constantly predicted Marxist sacking to come.

By August 21, Allende had declared a temporary state of emergency in Santiago, primarily because of the street violence and burnings. In Concepcion, the army took control of the city as P y L-staged violence provoked left-wing youth into street responses.

On September 2, President Allende charged that there was something called Plan September, a conspiracy to overthrow the government. A radio station in the provincial capital of Los Angeles was identified as a right-wing propaganda front and ordered closed by the government. The station was, in fact, one of Phillips's assets being fed violent disinformation, composed by Callejas and others. The next radio station to be closed for forty eight hours, as violence spread, was Radio Agricultura, another component in the Phillips network, for whom Callejas also worked. Townley led bloody street fighting to protest the closings.

On October 10, Plan September went into high gear. A nationwide truckers' strike started on that day and grew into a general protest against the government. It did not end until November 5, three days after Allende had been forced to revise his cabinet.

In Langley and Rio, money and plans for the support and, in a number of instances, instigation of these strikes flowed through the fingers of David Phillips and Nathaniel Davis. By way of a dramatic compromise, President Allende shuffled his cabinet to bring a number of military officers into the government. Then he left to try to rally support outside of Chile.

(5) Publishers Weekly (18th April, 1986)

On June 25, 1980, a press conference was held in Washington, D.C., at the Methodist Church at 502 Maryland Avenue, N.E., 20002. Participants in the press conference were Donald Freed, Fred Simon Landis, William F. Pepper and John Cummings.

At the press conference, an invited media audience was told that David Atlee Phillips, a former officer of the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA"), headed a conspiracy to cover up facts concerning the assassination of former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier, and Phillips and other ex-intelligence officers were accused of a number of crimes. Further, it was stated that the Association of Former Intelligence Officers ("AFIO"), a non-profit organization of ex-intelligence men and women from all intelligence services, was involved as an institution in the crimes attributed to Mr. Phillips. These allegations were made orally and in printed material distributed at the press conference.

In October 1980, Death in Washington, a non-fiction book co-authored by defendants Freed and Landis, with an introduction by William F. Pepper, was published. The book repeated and elaborated on the charges against Mr. Phillips and other former intelligence officers, and AFIO. Mr. Phillips was accused of the following crimes in the period after he retired from CIA: obstruction of justice; being an accessory after the fact to murder; an accessory before the fact to murder; conspiracy to defame; and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Further, in addressing the circumstances of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the book contained a photograph of Mr. Phillips, captioned "The Other Lee Harvey Oswald."

The undersigned defendants, Freed and Landis, now retract any charges or allegations that they have made against Mr. Phillips, individually or collectively, publicly or privately. They had no intention of charging or suggesting that Mr. Phillips played any role in the assassination of Orlando Letelier, that he was an accessory before or after the fact of that murder, or that he had any connection with Lee Harvey Oswald. They regret that any such statement or implication found its way into the press conference or into Death in Washington.

As to the other charges, because of Mr. Phillips' long career in the CIA, secrecy requirements imposed by the CIA and enforced by the courts made it difficult for Messrs. Freed and Landis to secure necessary evidence for their accusations.

The undersigned authors, after requesting that the above-captioned actions [Civil Actions No. 81-1407 and No. 81-2578] be settled out of court, have agreed to a financial settlement with the plaintiff.

Lawrence Hill & Co. Publishers, Inc. published Death in Washington. In the light of the foregoing statements by the authors, the publisher expresses its regrets that the book as published contained the statements now retracted by the authors.

Donald Freed, Fred Simon Landis, John Cummings, and Lawrence C. Hill Publisher.