Political opponents of the Reagan administration’s Central America policies have been the targets of mysterious break-ins, IRS audits, and FBI questioning and physical surveillance. Congressman Don Edwards, (D-CA), a former FBI agent, said “What we fear might be happening … is that the administration is using the various independent agencies of the United States Government for their political purposes.”
A three-part television report by San Francisco’s KRON-TV “Target 4” anchor-reporter Sylvia Chase and producer Jonathan Dann, with help from investigative journalist Angus Mackenzie, revealed the following:
— The IRS sent a letter to Sojourners, a non-profit ecumenical Christian magazine based in Washington, D.C. that opposes aid to the Contras and other Reagan policies, threatening the group’s tax-exempt status. The IRS refused KRON-TV’s requests for an interview but a spokesman said the IRS has the power to require tax exempt groups to present both sides of an issue and that the IRS is just as likely to warn conservative groups as ones that oppose administration policy. When KRON-TV checked with the organizations of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the groups reported no problems with the IRS; The offices of former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Robert E. White, now head of the Commission on U.S.-Latin American Relations, were broken into over the weekend of November 29. White, who opposes the administration’s Central American policies, said “It’s my best guess that some members of this administration either encouraged the break-in or passed on information about us to a group that had the capacity to make a break-in;” Former FBI informant Frank Varelli admitted spying on members of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and charged FBI agents broke into a CISPES office in Dallas; FBI agents were ordered to follow, photograph, and conduct extensive background checks on members of the All People’s Congress to determine if the group had a propensity for violence.
In another report, UPI revealed that dozens of American citizens and groups critical of President Reagan’s policy on Central America say they have been harassed by the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, or the Customs Service after visits to Nicaragua.
Finally, on March 11, 1987, the Women’s Building in San Francisco was broken into; the intruders apparently spent hours rifling file cabinets containing the names and home addresses of women involved in Central American peace issues and radical feminist politics. San Francisco Examiner columnist Warren Hinckle reported it as a “classic political break-in of the stripe that FBI-soon-to-be-CIA Director William Webster has called a ‘disturbing pattern’ of more than 60 reported incidents of break-ins at peacenik organizations across the land that began during he reign of acting President Oliver North.”
KRON-TV “TARGET 4,” 2/18-2/20/87, “Heat On The Left” series, by anchor-reporter Sylvia Chase, producer Jonathan Dann, and Angus Mackenzie of the Center for Investigative Reporting; SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER — UPI, 2/19/87, “Nicaragua visitors: U.S. harasses us,” by Neil Roland, p A-13; SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, 3/13/87, “Info-thieves hit the Women’s Building,” by Warren Hinckle, p B1, B6.