- While working for the Arms Control and Disarmament agency in 1978, Paul Wolfowitz is the subject of an investigation that alleged he had provided a classified document on the proposed sale of US weapons to an Arab government to an Israeli government official via an AIPAC intermediary. However, the probe will eventually be dropped. Wolfowitz will go on to become the second Bush's Deputy Secretary of Defense and the prime architect of the Iraq invasion of 2003. (Washington Times/Daily Kos)
- February: John Kerry is honorably discharged from the US Naval Reserve. (Bush-Kerry Timeline)
Clintons invest in Whitewater
- Spring: Bill and Hillary Clinton invest in a 240-acre vacation home development in northwest Arkansas, Whitewater Estates, in northern Arkansas, at the invitation of banker and developer Jim McDougal and realtor Chris Evans. McDougal and the Clintons buy it with the intention of splitting it into 5 to 10-acre lots. Eventually the Clintons and the McDougals will form the Whitewater Development Company to manage the property. McDougal actually handles the transaction; the Clintons know nothing of real estate and are merely in it for profit. (McDougal is in the habit of bringing his friends and political colleagues into real estate deals.) Soaring interest rates cause buyers to shy from purchasing the undeveloped lots; the Clintons hold on to their property for a time, building a model home and making minor improvements. Eventually the Clintons will sell their rights to the property, sustaining over $65,000 in losses.
- The deal is a poor one from the outset. Though the land is at the confluence of two of Arkansas's most lovely fishing rivers, the closest town is forty-five minutes away over narrow, curvy back roads, making the creation of a housing development or vacation resort difficult. Marion County, its location, is "dry," meaning no alcoholic beverages may be sold within its boundaries. Years later, an assessment of the property proves that it is a poor choice from the outset for any development; Jim McDougal's mismanagement of the property makes the poor situation far worse. McDougal rarely informs the Clintons of any of the financial decisions he makes concerning the property, selling assets without their permission and likely committing an array of crimes against the Clintons and the other investors as well as the state and federal regulatory agencies. In 1985, McDougal, without informing the Clintons, sells the entire assets of Whitewater to realtor Chris Wade for pennies on the dollar; McDougal's primary gain from the sale is a Piper Seminole airplane worth $35,000, which he eventually sells. The Clintons lose most of their investment due to McDougal's financial shenanigans. In 1988, after McDougal's hospitalization and his move to California, Hillary Clinton, whose law firm fornerly represented McDougal, takes over management of Whitewater and is horrified to find that McDougal has essentially run the entire investment into the ground. (H.R. Clinton, Susan McDougal, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)
- May 4: In a political ad in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Congressional candidate George W. Bush claims that Bush served honorably in both the US Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard, where he flew F-102s. Years later, when confronted about the ad, Bush will claim that while he was attending flight school from November 1968 to December 1969, he was considered to be on active duty for the Air Force. The Air Force will deny his assertion by stating that Air National Guard members were considered 'guardsmen on active duty' while receiving pilot training. They were not, however, counted as members of the overall active-duty Air Force. In 2000, Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes will contradict the Air Force by telling the press that Bush's National Guard service counted as "active duty in the Air Force." Bush will continue the lie by saying, "I was in the Air Force for over 600 days." The Air Force clarifies the lie by stating, "Anyone in the Air National Guard is always considered a guardsman and not a member of the active-duty Air Force." While Bush will never admit to the lie, his campaign stops painting him as an Air Force veteran. (The Dubya Report, David Corn)
- May 26: An unmailed package found in a University of Illinois parking lot and addressed to an engineering professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, is returned to its apparent sender, engineering professor Buckley Crist Jr. Crist, who teaches at Northwestern's Technological Institute, cannot recall sending the package and gives it to security. The package explodes when opened by Northwestern police officer Terry Marker, injuring him slightly. This is the first known attack of the mail bomber who will later become known as the "Unabomber." (Unabomber Timeline)
FEMA created; agency mandated to implement martial law and round up thousands of dissident Americans
- July 20: President Carter signs Executive Order 12148 authorizing the immediate creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency is originally mandated to oversee the federal response to natural and man-made emergencies, but under the Reagan administration it will become more of a "secret government," with emergency powers that can supersede Constitutional guarantees. In case of a dire emergency, or the declaration of such, FEMA is authorized to authorize martial law, suspend laws, move entire communities by fiat, arrest and imprison citizens without warrants and without trials, seize property, food supplies, and transportation, and more. In October 1984, syndicated columnist Jack Anderson will report that FEMA has prepared ominous "standby legislation" that would, in the event of a national crisis, "suspend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, effectively eliminate private property, abolish free enterprise, and generally clamp Americans in a totalitarian vise." Such a document could easily be called a blueprint for a coup d'etat. FEMA calls it "national security planning."
- FEMA transformed itself during the Reagan administration. Presidential counsel Edwin Meese, later to become Attorney General, will tap Louis Guiffrida to head the agency. Guiffrida, a former California National Guard officer who had served as Governor Reagan's terrorism advisor in California, is obsessed with security to the point where he has himself deputized so he can carry a pistol to his office. Guiffrida founded the California Specialized Training Institute in San Luis Obispo, a school for military and police commandos which developed the concept of the police SWAT team, an adaptation of military search-and-destroy tactics adapted for urban America. CSIT graduated its first 40 candidates in mid-1973; six months later, a California SWAT team burned the Symbionese Liberation Army members alive in their house on live television. During this period Meese was Governor Reagan's chief assistant. He and Guiffrida organized and conducted "domestic counterinsurgency" throughout California. Suspected radicals were spied upon, as were their friends and acquaintances. Maximum force was marshaled to crush both riots and legitimate demonstrations. During one week in Berkeley, while a near-continuous pall of gas hung over the city, more than 200 people were shot. One, an innocent bystander, died of his wounds. Another, a painter, also a bystander, lost both his eyes.
- In 1971 Sen. Sam Ervin's Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights revealed that military intelligence had set up an intricate surveillance system that covered hundreds of thousands of American citizens. Committee staff members had been shown a master plan, called Operation Garden Plot, that gave an overview of the Army police strategy. The staffers said they found the plan to be alarming. Four years later, Britt Snider, the subcommittee's point man on military intelligence, told a reporter, "We could never find any kind of unifying purpose behind it all. It looked like an aimless kind of thing." Nevertheless the subcommittee issued a report that condemned the Pentagon's monitoring of the "peaceful activities of non-violent citizens" whose only offense had been "to stand on their hind legs and exercise the rights they thought the Constitution guaranteed."
- The subcommittee was never shown some of the subplans of Garden Plot, including one essential to understanding FEMA's mandate and mission: Operation Cable Splicer. Cable Splicer grew out of the urban turmoil and violence that marked the late 60s, with racial and anti-war protests often turning into pitched battles between police and demonstrators. Then-president Johnson appointed a National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders headed by then-governor Otto Kerner of Illinois. One week later, Harold Johnson, Chief of Staff of the Army, set up another task force to study "every aspect of the Army's role in civil disturbances." The task force assisted the Kerner Commission. It also issued its own report that was acted upon by the Pentagon. Its first prescribed remedy was greater intelligence. Military intelligence, working with local, county, and state police forces, and the FBI, undertook and directed a massive domestic intelligence gathering operation. A sophisticated computer center kept track of all public outbursts of political dissent. Ervin's subcommittee was at work for a full year before they discovered it. "At no time during the first year of the Subcommittee investigation," stated its staff report, "did either the Army or the Department of Defense admit that a computer [record] on civilian political activity existed within the Pentagon's domestic war room." When it was discovered, the staff found 18,000 files, including some on ordinary people, who had quite unknowingly become "associated with known militant groups." It also included senator George McGovern.
- The Senior Officers Civil Disturbance Course (SEADOC) was instituted at the Military Police Academy in Fort Gordon, Georgia, to train senior military, National Guard, and police officers. Contingency plans were prepared for every city in the country that had a potential for student, minority, or labor unrest. Forces ranging from regular Army troops to local police were trained to implement them. Seven Army infantry brigades 21,000 troops were available for riot duty. The Army task force that had designed this program changed its name to the Directorate of Civil Disturbance Planning and Operations. It became a national coordinating center for these various efforts. The Directorate's headquarters in the Pentagon basement was called "the domestic war room." It was there that the supposedly nonexistent computer records were found. There, too, was found a full-time staff of 180, including around-the-clock "watch teams." The teams were surrounded by acetate maps, and they used teletype, telephones, and radios to maintain constant contact with every state National Guard headquarters and all major military installations in the continental United States. It was, indeed, a war room, planning for war against the citizens of the United States.
- In the 21st century, the nerve center of this program seems to be located in a vast, underground fortress in Mount Weather, Virginia (the real-life counterpart of the fictional "Mount Thunder," featured in the book and movie Seven Days in May.) In 1975, senator John Tunny charges that Mount Weather holds dossiers on 100,000 or more Americans. Tunney claims that the computer system there gives the installation access to detailed information on the lives of virtually every American citizen. Mount Weather personnel will stonewall question after question in two Senate hearings. The seven-level deep facility, built during the Cold War years, has been expanded and is lavishly maintained by and for FEMA executives and national officials. One source reports that the agency has spent approximately 94% of its budget not on disasters, but on this and dozens of other mostly secret underground installations.
- In May 1968, barely a month after the Army task group became the Directorate, the workshop and seminar on civil disturbance control, called Cable Splicer I, was held at the California National Guard's training academy at the San Luis Obispo camp. 307 law enforcement and military officials attended. It was a prelude to Cable Splicer II, which was to be a much bigger affair. Part II began on February 10, 1969. The Governor's Orientation Conference kicked off a series of joint military-police training sessions across California. There were 500 people in the audience. They included a dozen military intelligence officers, generals from the Pentagon, the Sixth Army, and the National Guard, along with dozens of lesser officers. Police chiefs and sheriffs came from as far east as Washington, DC. California state legislators attended as did executives from telephone, utility, and defense contract companies. Governor Reagan took the stage. A week earlier he had promised to keep California's universities open at the point of a bayonet, if necessary. "You know," he began, "there are people in the state who, if they could see this gathering right now and my presence here, would decide that their worst fears and convictions had been realized: I was planning a military takeover."
- The Cable Splicer II war games were played a month later. They were, in fact, dress rehearsals for a military takeover. They were organized around 23 existing political jurisdictions across California, at city, county, or regional levels. Controllers, players, monitors, and observers gathered in "emergency operations centers." This was usually the radio room of the county sheriff or the largest participating police department in a given area. Senior National Guard officers and their Army advisors attended. So did senior police and sheriffs officers, as did telephone and utility company executives. In every way, on every level, the military men worked closely with the police officers. The soldiers took all precautions to disguise the military's cooperation with the police, including the use of civilian clothing. Anywhere between six weeks and six months of prep work had already been done when the game began. This included the preparation by the California National Guard of two special intelligence documents entitled "special Intelligence Summary" and "rganizations and Personalities." Frank Salcedo,a public information officer for the California National Guard, was asked if the National Guard supplied intelligence data on California citizens and political organizations. He replied, "Well, how else could you do it?"
- At the Cable Splicer II conference, Chief Deputy Attorney General Charles O'Brien argued that if the Constitution prevents the police from gathering political intelligence then, the Constitution goes too far. Deputy Attorney General Buck Compton declared that "free speech, civil rights, rights to assembly" had all become "cliches." Compton thundered, "Dissidents go beyond...honest dissent, honest and proper use of the right of free speech." O'Brien echoed the conference's idea that dissent equals treason by saying, "A civil disturbance anywhere in this state is an attack on the state itself." Anyone who attacks the state, even verbally, becomes an enemy of the state by definition. In dealing with enemies of the state, no law or constitutional safeguards apply. This strategy requires more than funding, organization, and the turning of a blind eye by the courts. It requires the training of men to carry it out. That was Guiffrida's role. Concluding reports for both Cable Splicer I and II call for the creation of another school, in addition to SEADOC, that would offer a "long range training program" to provide exchange of law enforcement officers and military officers with the goal of establishing "a nucleus of officers [both law enforcement and military] at every level of government who were conversant with the doctrine, tactics, of each other."
- The school was established in May 1971, in San Luis Obispo: the California Specialized Training Institute. Guiffrida headed CSIT, which received the bulk of its funds, like its predecessor, from the federally funded Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. Iran-Contra point man Oliver North found a home away from home in Guiffrida's FEMA. As White House National Security Council liaison to FEMA, he collaborated with Guiffrida in drawing up secret wartime contingency plans, including elements that went far beyond Garden Plot and Cable Splicer. North will deny helping draft such a plan, but he was never adequately grilled by Congressional investigators on the matter. When House member Jack Brooks asks North about his work for FEMA during the Iran-Contra hearings, Senate panel chairman Daniel Inouye blocks the questioning, saying that the entire subject is classified.
- FEMA's wartime crisis strategy will be tested in a series of simulated war games conducted in conjunction with Pentagon maneuvers. In early 1984 President Reagan signs Presidential Directive Number 54 that allowed FEMA to engage in a secret national "readiness exercise" under the code name of REX-84. REX-84 is coordinated by FEMA with the military's Night Train 84 operations. In Operation Night Train thousands of troops were deployed in Honduras near Contra supply bases. A lawsuit filed by the Christic Institute will allege that the entire exercise is a cover for supplying illegal arms to the Nicaraguan Contras; the lawsuit is dismissed by a conservative judge who calls it "frivolous." Investigative journalist Donald Goldberg, who helped research Jack Anderson's column on the subject, will find that during REX-84 FEMA simulated rounding up and some 400,000 fictional "aliens" in a six-hour period and detain them in military camps throughout the United States. The theory behind the simulation is that an international crisis, presumably a US invasion of Nicaragua, sets off what one declassified FEMA document calls "uncontrolled population movements" as hordes of "refugees" swarm over the Mexican border into the United States. FEMA apparently justifies the use of concentration camps by presuming that the refugees would include enemy agents. The rationalization is ludicrous; it is far more likely that REX-84 is a drill for rounding up dissident Americans. The Miami Herald later obtains a heavily censored FEMA memo that describes the Alpha Two phase of the exercise as a test of "emergency legislation, assumption of emergency powers... etc:" in other words: martial law.
- In 1998, when the movie X-Files: Fight the Future is released, with its plot thread of an imminent declaration of martial law by FEMA, the agency releases a "public affairs guidance" to help agency employees deal with "the potential for an increase in queries from the general public and the news media" generated by the film. "some moviegoers may not understand that they are watching a fictional portrayal of the agency," the document says. Some Americans have come to "believe we have a somewhat sinister role," it notes, and admits "it is not realistic to think that we can convince them otherwise and it is advisable not to enter into debate on the subject." The document urges FEMA officers to make one thing clear: "You may emphatically state that FEMA does not have, never has had, nor will ever seek, the authority to suspend the Constitution." This is a lie. (San Francisco Bay Guardian)
Camp David peace accord between Egypt and Israel
- September 5 - 17: The now-famous Camp David meetings between the leaders of Israel, Egypt, and the United States take place at Camp David, Maryland. Egypt's Sadat agrees to a general outline for peace that guarantees the autonomy of the West Bank in return for Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. Although not conclusive, the meetings between Sadat, Israel's Menachem Begin, and the US's Jimmy Carter eventually produce a memorable peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and win all three leaders the Nobel Peace Prize. The big losers in the peace agreement are the Palestinians, though many in the Arab world recoil from Egypt's temerity in entering into any agreements with Israel and cut ties between their countries and Egypt. Some Palestinian factions begin attacking Egyptian targets, and Sadat is considered a traitor by many radical Islamists and Palestinians. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Dawoud el-Alami)
- November: A youthful Bill Clinton, Arkansas's attorney general, wins the governorship of Arkansas, becoming one of the youngest governors in the country's history. His term is marred by an unpopular motor vehicle tax and the escape from Fort Chafee of a number of Cuban refugees from the Mariel boatlift. His wife's refusal to take his last name, insisting on being called by her maiden name of Hillary Rodham, also alienates some voters; she will later acquiesce to taking her husband's name and try, with some success, to become a less outspoken and controversial First Lady. In 1980 Clinton will lose his bid for re-election to Republican Frank White, but will win back the office in 1982. (Wikipedia)
- Ford's former chief of staff, Dick Cheney, wins the sole US House seat for Wyoming. Cheney will retain the seat for ten years, becoming a powerful behind-the-scenes force for radical hard-right Republican politics. See the page on Cheney for more information about his career in the House and in Washington. (Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein)
- November: Democrat Max Heller of South Carolina loses in his Congressional bid to Republican Carole Campbell. Heller, the popular mayor of Greenville, is a native of Austria whose family fled the Nazis in the late 1930s. Campbell's political guru, Lee Atwater, decides to attack Heller's ancestry by a series of "push polls" (telephone polls designed to inflame negative feelings against an opponent). Atwater's polls ask voters how they would feel about being represented by "a foreign-born Jew who did not believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior." Heller, who had held the lead until the polling, lost a narrow decision to Campbell. (Al Franken)
- November 13: 914 followers and colleagues of messianic cult leader Jim Jones, including Jones himself, die in their enclave at Jonestown, Guyana, almost all from mass suicide. 276 of the dead are children. Jones is found dead with a gunshot wound to the head; some of the dead are found either shot or with evidence that shows they have been forced to commit suicide, though the vast majority of Jones's followers seem to have died willingly. The world is horrified and outraged by the tragedy.
- Jones is a preacher who, as a young man, sold pet monkeys door-to-door to finance his church. He was ordained in 1964 as a Disciple of Christ, a Protestant denomination known for its outreach towards minorities, and many African-Americans will be drawn to Jones's following. Jones preached a radical, apostate brand of Christianity, telling his followers that much of the Bible was erroneous and that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ (along with Buddha, Akhenaton, Lenin, and even Father Divine). He claimed to have performed miracles of healing, and as time went on, he became more and more withdrawn and cult-like. Along the line, the vocally heterosexual Jones was arrested, in 1973, for soliciting a male undercover police officer for sex; he also managed to pick up a stiff barbituate addiction, and was an enthusiastic user of LSD and marijuana. The church itself wins praise for its involvement in improving the lives of the poor and downtrodden, particularly its work with drug addicts, prostitutes, and the homeless. Conversely, many of these people who received help from the Temple become followers of Jones.
- In the summer of 1977, Jones moves his Peoples Temple from San Francisco to Guyana, a tiny, jungle-covered country on the Caribbean coast of South America, after an investigation of the church for tax evasion was launched. He and his followers created "Jonestown," a so-called "agricultural utopia" based on quas-comministic principles that was designed to be free of racism. Jones's followers were to think of him as their own incarnation of Christ and God. Some left the organization before the move to Guyana, and spoke of brutal beatings, murders, and a mass suicide plan, but their stories caused little stir: in spite of the tax evasion allegations, Jones was still widely respected for setting up a racially mixed church which helped the disadvantaged. Around 70% of the inhabitants of Jonestown were black and impoverished.
- On November 14, 1978, congressman Leo Ryan, a California Democrat and a committed social crusader, arrived in Jonestown as part of a fact-finding mission after relatives of some of Jones's followers had made numerous and serious allegations of human rights abuses. From November 14-17, Ryan and his delegation interviewed residents; within hours of their arrival, delegation members began receiving notes and hearing whispers from followers who wanted to leave. Eventually Ryan will arrange to take about 20 followers back with him. The morning of November 18, an attempt was made on Ryan's life by an angry follower wielding a knife; US embassy deputy chief Richard Dwyer insisted that Ryan make plans to depart. That afternoon, while waiting at the airstrip for their plane to land and take them aboard, Ryan's group is strafed by gunfire from several of Jones's followers. Ryan and five others are killed, and nine wounded; some of the survivors managed to leave aboard a six-seat Cessna, and the remaining survivors fled into the jungle.
- Jones tells his congregation that the apocalypse he has been predicting is upon them. After a heated exhortation to his gathered followers about the danger that is to come from vengeful US law enforcement forces, and the sanctity and necessity of "revolutionary suicide," (a term borrowed from Black Panther leader Huey Newton who had argued the slow suicide of life in the ghetto ought to be replaced by revolutionary struggle that would end only in victory -- socialism and self determination -- or revolutionary suicide --death) the Temple officials begin passing out cyanide-laced Flavor Aid (a variant of the more familiar Kool-Aid) to the members. Though the chain of events is not clear, it appears that most of them drink the poison down willingly. Some are injected, willingly or not, with cyanide, and some, presumably resisters, are shot. Jones himself is found dead in a deck chair with a gunshot wound to the head; it is unclear whether the wound is self-inflicted. An autopsy shows levels of the barbituate pentobarbital in Jones's body that would have been lethal to people who had not developed a tolerance for the drug. (Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia)
- December: Jim McDougal joins Governor Clinton's staff as liason for economic development, leaving Susan, his 23-year old wife, to run his real estate business. She has no training in real estate and is unable to keep the business running properly. (Susan McDougal)
- December: Vietnam invades Cambodia and topples the despotic, homicidal regime of Pol Pot. Vietnam will not withdraw from Cambodia until 1989. (Chronology of US-Vietnam Relations)