As Puerto Rico nears a statehood vote in Washington, the necessary votes do not seem to be there and agitation for a vote has been quiet. Statehood for the District of Columbia is a perpetual question that never seems to advance. Now, on the other side of the globe, there seems to be growing interest in statehood for Taiwan.
The unresolved fate of Formosa, now called Taiwan, caught up in a “strategic ambiguity” that the District of Columbia United States Court of Appeals has declared a condition of “political purgatory” is increasingly in the news. For a long time many people have failed to realize or understand how and why the people of Taiwan are stateless, the result of decades of propaganda and false history fed to the public by the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and the exiled Republic of China.
Taiwan, banned from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and even the Olympics unless it calls itself “Chinese Taipei” in the games, has been a colony of some foreign power for four centuries. Since World War II the island has been occupied by an exiled Chinese Nationalist government installed by the United States as a caretaker regime. Unfortunately, the Cold War followed World War II and Formosa fell into an abyss under four decades of harsh martial law, sternly administered by the Republic of China in-exile. The United States looked the other way, aware of the atrocities committed by the ROC against innocent Formosans, because the ROC was an ally against “Red China” and communism.
The sovereignty of the former Japanese colony was to be decided at the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended World War II with Japan. However, the Korean War was raging and President Harry Truman decided it was not time to resolve the international status of the island, leaving dictator Chiang Kai-shek in charge. Over the long years of uncertainty, the name Formosa fell into disuse in favor of Taiwan as the history of it all dimmed with the passage of time.
Now, the People’s Republic of China wants to finish the civil war and conquer Taiwan which it claims is a rebellious province. The entrenched ROC has already brutally demonstrated the lengths it will go to remain in power. Taiwanese independence advocates have long had to battle opposition from China, opposition from the ROC, and even opposition from the United States. What to do?
Activist David Chou has an idea, give the Taiwanese people the option of statehood in the United States of America. Sound far-fetched? Maybe not.
Chou founded the Taiwan State Movement in 1994 and has consistently advocated since then that Taiwan be under the political custody of the United States. Chou wants the future determined through referendum and self-determination and seeks a phased but comprehensive integration with America.
The statehood activists point out that it is a non-military solution to China’s aggressive threats and in some manner is compensation to the Formosans who suffered under the ROC while the USA did nothing. The statehood proponents cite Hawaii’s progress as a state and argue statehood would boost both economies giving America a true doorway to Asian markets.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Dulles once said, “As the main victorious country against Japan, the United States has interests in the ultimate future of Taiwan and that “the U.S. could have made legal claims against Taiwan.”
David Chou seeks sovereignty of Taiwan as a territory of the United States as a prelude to incorporation and a statehood referendum and subsequent Congressional vote. If Chou had his way, there would already be contests to redesign the flag to accommodate a fifty-first state. Statehood for Taiwan? Perhaps it is an idea whose time has come.
What began as a blatant attempt by Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen to silence her most vocal critic, backfired, with a stunning reversal and release of a secret she has long kept from the public. President Tsai made a criminal defamation complaint against Professor Dennis Peng, host of the popular internet news program “True Voice of Taiwan.” Peng has raised questions about the validity of the University of London PhD degree that Tsai received in 1984 after studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Professor Peng has has fought back against President Tsai’s attempt to imprison him for remarks about her LSE thesis. Peng has obtained from his prosecutor, through a pre-trial discovery order, a series of email exchanges between Kristen Chen, a “Liaison Officer” at the Investigation Bureau of the ROC Ministry of Justice, and Kevin Haynes of the “LSE Legal Team.” The go-between was Nicole Lee, the “Education Division Director” of the Taipei Representative Office in the United Kingdom.
Tsai set off an academic firestorm in Taiwan in June 2019 when she filed with the LSE Library, thirty-five years late, her tardy dissertation entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions.” The unbound thesis appears to be a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and handwritten notations, including a question mark. Peng has been relentless in his drive to uncover the truth about events in London thirty-seven years ago.
Nicole Lee made the opening move by emailing Kevin Haynes, with whom Lee was obviously familiar. “I have been contacted by the Taiwanese judiciary institution, which is carrying out investigations into the case of President Tsai’s PhD qualification and thesis submission, and have been asked to obtain answers to ten questions.”
“I realize we have covered some of this ground before and am sorry to trouble you, but we would be extremely grateful if you to provide as much detail as possible and include an supporting documents that may be available.”
Growing impatient with Haynes’ slow response, Kristen Chen entered the conversation. “Thank you for dedicating your time and effort to help us sort things out.”
“It would be very appreciated if you could share with us the information you have already researched at your earliest convenience….I feel terribly sorry every time we put this burden on you.”
The back and forth email exchange between Chen, Lee, and Haynes, at the height of President Tsai’s reelection campaign, discusses what could be released without Tsai’s consent from her 278 page LSE student file with Haynes acknowledging he could answer some questions without Tsai’s consent. “If nothing else, it is difficult to deny her registration at LSE.”
While LSE was busy fending off questions from the public about President Tsai’s thesis, Haynes was busy answering Chen’s questions, although Chen had no warrant, court order, or written consent. Chen’s standing under the Freedom of Information Act was no different from the members of the public with information requests similar to Chen which were routinely denied. Unknown to Haynes, because the request had come from Lee at the “Taiwan Embassy” and Chen in Taiwan, was that the questions had been posed by Dennis Peng through his attorney. One of the questions Haynes did not need consent for was the identity of Tsai’s thesis examiners, despite the University of London’s repeated assertions that disclosure would breach Tsai’s privacy right.
According to Haynes, “It appears from her student file that MJE [Michael Elliott] and Professor Leonard H Leigh examined President’s Tsai’s thesis in October 1983.”
Michael Elliott was Tsai’s faculty advisor before she withdrew from LSE in November 1982. Elliot, who lacked a PhD himself, was briefly listed by the LSE Library as co-author of Tsai’s thesis when the phantom thesis emerged in 2019. Elliott could not have officially served as an external examiner of Tsai’s thesis and any role as internal examiner raises questions about his impartiality.
Professor Leigh, who taught criminal law at LSE, was eligible to have served as an internal examiner but not as an external examiner. The principle, to prevent academic fraud, is for at least one member of a doctoral examination viva panel to be from an external educational institution. However, the time-bound practice of external examiners was apparently not followed in Tsai’s case. The lack of an external thesis examiner and the tardy submission of what appears to be a draft dissertation suggest that ROC prosecutors may be knowingly pursing Professor Peng for criminal defamation without foundation for their case, which would be a political prosecution.
Peng will not get the benefit of a jury trial. The exiled Chinese government, headed by Tsai, has an antiquated justice system that does not allow juries in Taiwan. Peng can hope his case does not go the way of former ROC President Chen Shui-bian who was subjected to courtroom heckling, midnight court sessions, a substitute judge, and perjured testimony when he was convicted for alleged corruption. Peng can also hope that he does not end up like the Taiwan Civil Government political fraud defendants, caught up in a never-ending trial with multiple hearing adjournments stretching the criminal trial into a two-year long ordeal.
The disclosure to Chen of the identity of the thesis examiners occurred on December 17, 2020, along with other admissions by Haynes. To the question whether Tsai was enrolled at LSE when she submitted her thesis for consideration in June 1983, Haynes answered, “It appears not from her student file.” But, not to worry. “We understand it was not uncommon at the time of President Tsai’s period of study for PhD candidates in the UK universities to complete their thesis independently and be permitted to enter for examination.”
Meanwhile, the University of London stubbornly refuses to name the thesis examiners citing Tsai’s privacy, a view shared by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. A Freedom of Information appeal is pending before the Information Review Tribunal of the United Kingdom. A decision from the Tribunal is expected in June.
The revelation that there was no external examiner at Tsai Ing-wen’s viva examination of her thesis renews concerns about academic fraud. Tsai attended a school, the London School of Economics and Political Science, that could not issue its own doctoral degrees. Tsai was not enrolled in LSE at the time she submitted her thesis for review. Tsai’s advisor, Michael Elliott lacked a PhD degree. Now comes the admission by the LSE Legal Team that Tsai’s thesis examination lacked an external examiner. Throw in the tardy thesis to the mix and one is forced to wonder if the reason the University of London refuses to confirm the examiners’ identities has less to do with Tsai Ing-wen’s privacy and more to do with a cover-up by the academic gatekeeper of an unearned doctoral degree.
Fifty years ago, April 28, 1971, a clandestine, counterintelligence program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, code-named COINTELPRO, in secret operation from 1956 until 1971, was abruptly terminated. Assistant FBI Director Charles Brennan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, realized that release of stolen FBI memoranda from the Media, PA office would compromise the illegal undercover program.
Ten days after the COINTELPRO-corrupted murder trial of Edward Poindexter and David Rice in Omaha, Nebraska, ended, Brennan wrote a memorandum urging immediate termination of the secret operations.
“To afford additional security to our sensitive techniques and operations, it is recommended the COINTELPROS operated by the Domestic Intelligence Division be discontinued.”
“These programs involve a variety of sensitive intelligence techniques and disruptive activities which are afforded close supervision at the Seat of Government. They have been carefully supervised with all actions being afforded prior Bureau approval and an effort has been made to avoid engaging in harassment. Although successful over the years, it is felt they should now be discontinued for security reasons because of their sensitivity.”
“In exceptional instances where counterintelligence is warranted, it will be considered on a highly selective individual basis with tight procedures to insure absolute security.”
The next day, J. Edgar Hoover sent out a short directive to FBI field offices. “Effective immediately, all COINTELPROs operated by this Bureau are discontinued.”
One of Brennan’s priority duties as head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, which he aggressively pursued, was directing counterintelligence operations under COINTELPRO. Brennan was determined to break the Black Panther Party which J. Edgar Hoover had declared was the number one threat to domestic security. Brennan no doubt hated having to pull the plug on his primary weapon, COINTELPRO.
The summer before, just two weeks after Brennan had been promoted to head Domestic Intelligence, he was ramrodding COINTELPRO operations. Brennan would later testify to a Senate committee. The Church Committee, with ten Senators present, convened to question Charles Brennan about illegal FBI activities. Brennan said he became chief of the Domestic Intelligence Division in August 1970. Brennan did not tell the Senators he was part of a conspiracy to withhold a report on the identity of Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard’s killer that same month in order to make a case against Poindexter and Rice.
Brennan was asked if there was “a program of intensification” of investigations beginning August 1970. Brennan admitted Domestic Intelligence did intensify counterintelligence operations.
Brennan was asked if the intensification concerned J. Edgar Hoover over abridgment of individual liberties. Brennan replied, “He hadn’t demonstrated a previous concern of this nature in the past.”
During Brennan’s intensification campaign, on August 17, 1970, at 2:07 a.m., Omaha police received a 911 emergency telephone call from a male who spoke in a deep gravely voice that a woman was screaming at 2867 Ohio Street, a vacant house. Eight policemen responded. While officers searched a tremendous, blinding flash and deafening blast shook the silent neighborhood and ripped through the walls of the vacant house killing Patrolman Larry Minard.
Two men, Edward Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa), leaders of the Black Panther affiliate National Committee to Combat Fascism were COINTELPRO targets at the time of the murder and were blamed for the crime. A call was made to FBI headquarters in Washington from the Omaha office at 6:45 a.m. Charles Brennan, Assistant Directer, was informed by memorandum about the call concerning the death of Minard.
“Omaha Office offered assistance in covering out-of-state leads and FBI Laboratory facilities offered. Omaha advised it had notified military and Secret Service, was following closely, and alerted its racial informants in pursuit of investigation.”
Brennan was also assured, “Pertinent parts will be included in teletype summary to the White House, Vice President, Attorney General, military and Secret Service.”
Brennan stayed in the loop with letters and calls from Special Agent in Charge Paul Young to FBI headquarters keeping Brennan updated on the case. Two internal memorandums from William Bradley, a supervisor, detailed a plan to withhold a laboratory report on the 911 recording of the anonymous caller’s voice.
“Omaha Office has advised that the Omaha Police Department has requested laboratory assistance in connection with a bombing which took place in Omaha 8/17/70. This bombing resulted in the death of one police officer and the injuring of six other officers and is apparently directly connected with a series of racial bombings which the Omaha Police have experienced. The Police were lured to the bomb site by a telephonic distress call from an unknown male.”
“If approved, the results of any examinations will be orally furnished the Police on an informal basis through the SAC, Omaha.”
Poindexter and Rice were convicted by a jury that never heard the 911 recording and were sentenced to life at hard labor. Rice, who changed his name to Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, died at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016. Poindexter remains imprisoned at the maximum-security prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence. Poindexter has a pending commutation of sentence request with the Nebraska Board of Pardons but the Board has refused to set a hearing date for him ignoring a prayer vigil, a march, a demonstration at the home of Governor Pete Ricketts, and a billboard campaign.
Although the runaway train that COINTELPRO had become continued to barrel down the tracks and returned in partial form in different guises over the years, the formal counterintelligence tactics developed to combat foreign spy rings were terminated a half-century ago. Sitting in a tiny prison cell for that half-century is Ed Poindexter, COINTELPRO’s last victim.
This article is excerpted from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and available in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.
So near, yet so far. That is the status of Puerto Rico statehood. Closer to statehood than it has ever been in over a century from its status as a territory of the United States. Called a commonwealth, full rights as American citizens do not exist for Puerto Ricans, who are barred from voting for President and electing Members of Congress. Statehood, however, seems to lack enough political support on what is a bi-partisan issue for both sides of the debate. Actually, it is a three-way matter not only involving continued territorial status or statehood but also includes independence, which has had a difficult history on the island.
Although the Senate will cast the final determining vote on statehood, eyes are on two Representatives from New York, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) Both women of Puerto Rican descent are opposed to statehood and instead support a binding convention on the issue. The two Representatives issued a statement explaining their stance. “For true, legitimate change, Puerto Rico’s status must be resolved from the ground up. Plans for altering the Island’s relationship with the U.S. should not just garner the consent of the Puerto Rican people; they should originate with them. In fact, many in Puerto Rico would view Congress pushing statehood not as an end to colonization, but the culmination of it.”
There have been a half-dozen referendums with varying outcomes, although they were all of an advisory nature and not binding.
Former Puerto Rico Governor Carlos Romero Barcelo has said, “The people know that we do not want the colony anymore, we want equality, especially political equality, because in a democracy what matters is the right to vote and the right to participate on equal terms in the bodies that govern the nation.”
Puerto Ricans voted on ballot measures addressing statehood in 1967, 1993, 1998, 2012, and 2017 with various results.
On July 23, 1967, Puerto Ricans were given three options at the ballot box on the island’s political status; commonwealth, statehood, or independence. Commonwealth won with 60 percent of the vote. Independence received less than one percent.
On November 14, 1993, another vote was held. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald R. Ford participated in the campaign for statehood. President Bill Clinton remained neutral on the referendum. The results were much closer than before, 48.9 percent favored remaining as a commonwealth, while statehood received 46.6 percent of the vote. The vote for independence grew to 4.5 percent.
On December 13, 1998, voters were given five options: commonwealth, free association, statehood, independence, and none of the above. None of the above won with a majority of the vote at 50.5 percent. Statehood received the next highest share of votes at 46.6 percent. Independence dropped to 2.6 percent, with free association receiving 0.3 percent. Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth finished last with 0.1 percent of the vote. The None of the above category received so many votes because of controversy over the wording of the referendum.
On November 6, 2012, Puerto Rico held another vote on the island’s territorial status. The referendum was structured into two questions. The first question asked was, “Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status?” A majority, 54.3 percent, voted no. The second question asked voters about their preferred status: statehood, free association, or independence. Statehood received a majority of the vote, 61.2 percent. The option of free association received 33.3 percent, and independence climbed to 5.5 percent. Curiously, one-fourth of the voters declined to answer the second question. 1,798,987 people voted on the first question, while only 1,363,854 people voted on the second question.
On June 11, 2017, Puerto Ricans voted again in a referendum which gave voters three options: commonwealth, statehood, and free association. Statehood received 97.2 percent of the vote. The Popular Democratic Party boycotted the election. Turnout was a paltry 22.9 percent, undermining a mandate for statehood.
On November 3, 2020, Puerto Rico held its most recent vote on status. The ballot question simply asked “Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?” A majority of voters, 52 percent, said yes.
The three elected parties fall into different views on statehood. The Popular Democratic Party traditionally has been pro-commonwealth. The New Progressive Party is associated with statehood. The Puerto Rico Independence Party advocates becoming its own nation.
Legal experts debate whether Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth has a specific legal meaning apart from territory, or is just stylistic. Under free association status Puerto Rico would become a sovereign nation independent of the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the island would maintain a free and voluntary association with the United States. An agreement of free association would delegate certain powers, typically those regarding military, trade, and currency, to the United States. Free association would put Puerto Rico on the same status as three Pacific nations. The Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau, all former jurisdictions of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, are sovereign nations in free association with the United States.
If Puerto Rico became an independent sovereign nation, the country would develop its own government and economy. Puerto Ricans who are residents of the island would lose United States citizenship.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi has called statehood a matter of “democracy, equality and doing what is right.” However, one thing that is lacking is a public outcry for statehood. If the statehood movement wants to achieve its goal, it needs to connect its struggle to the broader fight for racial and social justice. Many of the injustices we see today in the United States are the direct legacy of colonialism and imperialism. Another significant reason statehood efforts have stalled has been a lack of engagement with Puerto Ricans who oppose the idea, both on the island and in the diaspora. Statehood has divided the populace and has not been a unifying factor.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has announced his opposition to statehood for Puerto Rico. However, Schumer’s opposition is not the kiss of death as statehood has bi-partisan support in the Senate.
In the House of Representatives Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been busy. On March 26 they, and others, introduced House Resolution 279 condemning the Insular Cases. The resolution keeps the Puerto Rico statehood question on the stovetop while the kitchen heats.
“The United States Supreme Court’s decisions in the Insular Cases and the “territorial incorporation doctrine” are contrary to the text and history of the United States Constitution, rest on racial views and stereotypes from the era of Plessy v. Ferguson that have long been rejected, are contrary to our Nation’s most basic constitutional and democratic principles, and should be rejected as having no place in United States constitutional law.”
“Today the United States has 5 populated territories, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands of the United States, which together have a population of over 3,500,000 residents, equal to the population of the 5 smallest States combined, more than 95 percent of whom are racial or ethnic minorities.”
“Until the Insular Cases were decided in the early 1900s, the Supreme Court long recognized that Congress’ powers over the territories, while broad, were “not absolute and unlimited”, but rather subject “to such restrictions as are expressed in the Constitution.”
“The Supreme Court’s decisions in the Insular Cases broke from its prior precedent to establish a doctrine of territorial incorporation, creating for the first time a distinction between so-called “incorporated” territories, where the United States Constitution applies “in full”, and “unincorporated” territories, where the Constitution applies “only in part”.
“Downes v. Bidwell, the most prominent of the Insular Cases, was delivered by Justice Henry Billings Brown, the author of Plessy v. Ferguson’s doctrine of “separate but equal”, who wrote that America’s newly acquired overseas territories were “inhabited by alien races, differing from us in religion, customs, … and modes of thought”, making it impossible to govern “according to Anglo-Saxon principles.”
“Justice Edward White, who in a separate 3-Justice plurality developed the territorial incorporation doctrine in Downes, expressed concerns over the “evils” of admitting “millions of inhabitants” of “unknown islands, peopled with an uncivilized race”, who he believed would be “absolutely unfit” for citizenship.”
“Justice Harlan, who penned the lone dissent to Plessy v. Ferguson, also wrote a series of powerful dissents to the Insular Cases, declaring in Downes that “[t]he idea that this country may acquire territories anywhere upon the earth, by conquest or treaty, and hold them as mere colonies or provinces—the people inhabiting them to enjoy only such rights as Congress chooses to accord to them—is wholly inconsistent with the spirit and genius, as well as with the words, of the Constitution.”
“Judge Juan Torruella, who served on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1984 until his death in 2020, labeled the territorial incorporation doctrine a “doctrine of separate and unequal”, writing that “the Insular Cases represent classic Plessy v. Ferguson legal doctrine and thought that should be eradicated from present-day constitutional reasoning” because they run contrary to “the most basic precept for which this nation stands: the equality before the law of all its citizens.”
“The Insular Cases are relics of the racial views of an earlier era that have no place in our Nation today.”
Constitutional Law Professor Sanford Levinson has called the Insular Cases “central documents in the history of American racism.”
Puerto Rico statehood is about more than adding a star to the flag, it speaks to the heart of American democracy about equal rights for all.
Nothing in Taiwan brings into focus the fact that the island is under the control of an exiled Chinese regime more than the many statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek which litter the landscape. Hundreds of statues of Chiang still disgrace public spaces throughout Taiwan. Officials of the Republic of China in-exile from President Tsai Ing-wen on down have been slow to remove the Chinese hero worship statues despite the atrocities Chiang ordered against innocent Formosans after his installation by the United States after World War II.
One patriotic Taiwanese activist, Chen Jun-han, better known as Chilly Chen, has made it a personal crusade to correct the Chinese propaganda icons with non-violent actions. Chilly’s most recent effort was to spray paint a Chiang statue in Taipei with the words “slayer of the century” and “devil murderer.” Chilly was quickly hauled off to a police station but not before he made a public statement explaining covering up authoritarian propaganda messages with black plastic while leaving the statue of Chiang in place was wrong.
Chilly was taken into police custody for “mutilation” of the statue and then transferred to a ROC prosecutor’s office for interrogation where he continued to give them an earful. Chilly was finally released after ten hours in custody after police were able to clean the red paint off the statue base.
The veteran activist is Taipei director of Taiwan National Volunteer Team and has participated or led six non-violent paint balloon assaults and protests at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall where a giant statue of the dictator is protected by a ROC honor guard. Untold thousands of Formosans were murdered, tortured, and imprisoned under orders from Chiang beginning with the 228 Massacre in 1947 and continuing under the White Terror period during four decades of harsh martial law as Chiang, and later his son Chiang Ching-kuo, tightened their grip on the island following Chiang’s 1949 defeat in the Chinese civil war.
“There are still 94 bronze statues of Chiang Kai-shek in Taipei that Mayor Ko Wen-je refuses to remove. Covering up authoritarian words with an acrylic board does not cover up the fact Chiang was an incredible butcher known worldwide. Covering up words like “national Savior” and other sickening slogans cannot cover from the hearts of the Taiwanese people the evil Chiang has done.”
“Mayor Ko has sprinkled salt into the wounds of 228 victims and families by inviting Ma Ying-jeou to participate in 228 memorial activities. Ko should follow the example of Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang to dismantle Chiang statues.”
Chilly’s artistic statements over the years have resulted in multiple arrests and $12,000 NTD in fines which he has not paid. Chilly prefers to save his money for more paint.
Chilly Chen, though passionate in his patriotism, is modest and calls himself a nobody. However, Chilly’s modesty hides the fact that few dare to follow his example and that his determination to speak the truth about Chiang Kai-shek and his government makes Chilly a role model for truth, justice and courage.
The jurors, who had deliberated for nearly twenty-five hours over a three day period, took their seats in the jury box. Judge Donald Hamilton asked the jury if a verdict had been reached. The court clerk read the decision of guilty with life sentences, first for Poindexter then for Mondo. Hamilton ordered the two defendants taken to the Nebraska State Penitentiary to serve their sentences “at hard labor.”
Mondo said in a short interview following the verdict that he “did not get a fair trial” calling the case against him a “maze of conjectures.” Mondo criticized the Omaha World Herald and local radio and television stations for slanting “towards the prosecution” in news broadcasts.
“I’m not going down to the state pen and say everything is beautiful. going to fight it and I’m going to go back onto the streets and do the same things, speaking out against the evils of the system which got me convicted.”
Ed Poindexter cursed when asked if he wished to be interviewed and he was led away without making a statement.
Within an hour after the jury found them guilty, Mondo and Poindexter where taken from the Douglas County Jail where they had been held since August 1970 and transported to prison in Lincoln to begin serving life sentences at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. The two men were shackled and each taken in separate cars.
Following the trial, the jury foreman whom Poindexter accused of sleeping during the trial, Myron Widger, Jr., was asked what took the jury so long to reach a verdict. “There were a lot of little things.”
Widger said the jury agreed they would not discuss details of the deliberations.
If Poindexter had given a statement about his trial, it is likely he would have complained about his defense attorneys. In letters from prison, Poindexter outlined some of the mistakes made by his lawyers. “There was ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial by failure to interview six potential witnesses with exculpatory information.
“George McCline said he had knowledge of who committed the crime and where the dynamite used was stored. Tyrone Stearns said he knew the source of the dynamite used in the crime.”
“Richard Gibson had information regarding who killed the policeman. Anthony Sanders had knowledge of two white men holding bomb making classes in the community.”
“Patrick Jones had information regarding who sold the dynamite to the individual who planted the bomb that killed the policeman. Finally, an “unnamed informant” tipped police that a black male was selling dynamite.”
“The attorneys failed to vigorously pursue Donald Peak’s testimony concerning the contents of Duane’s suitcase.”
“There was the failure to vigorously pursue a valuable lead in a Social Security card found at the crime scene belonging to Johnny Lee Bussby.”
“Counsel called Robert Cecil to the stand, asked a few questions and excused him without asking him how he got dynamite particles all over his hands.”
“There was failure to at least enter an objection into the record for allowing a sleeping juror to remain on the jury, but wearing a pair of sunglasses.”
“The jury foreman slept all throughout the trial, I complained to the lawyers, they took a short recess, then returned with the man wearing sunglasses for the rest of the trial as he continued sleeping.”
“Raleigh House was implicated by Duane Peak, but the state did not pursue it because they were after only Mondo and myself, the so-called ringleaders. Selective prosecution is the term for that. Robert Cecil was found to have had dynamite particles all over his hands, but the state never pursued him.”
“Also note that he was not even asked any questions related to the dynamite particles found on his hands during his testimony at the trial, not by the prosecution or defense.”
“The state also always knew Duane did not make that 911 call, but did not care who really made it because they were only after Mondo and myself.”
Mondo had more criticism of the trial. “Regarding the testimony of Duane Peak, from the time he was arrested to the time of the trial, Duane Peak gave a minimum of six different versions of the plan to “off a pig”. Of all these versions, only one, which he gave at the trial, implicated me as having anything to do with the death of Minard.”
“How can a witness tell even two different stories and one of them not be a lie? Duane Peak told a minimum of six. Duane Peak is a perjurer.”
“All of Duane Peak’s testimony linking me to the blowing up of Minard was negated by witnesses for the defense, two of them his own cousins.”
“I don’t believe he acted on his own. But I did not use him. I did not put his life in jeopardy.”
“The prosecution claimed a piece of copper wire was found at the “scene of the bombing,” that markings on this wire were compared in a lab to markings left on a piece of lead cut by pliers found in my house. The wire wasn’t actually found at the scene of the bombing but in the basement of the house next door, about three feet from a tool bench.”
“The only copper wire testified to as being used in the bombing was that from the blasting caps. That wire was a half to two-thirds smaller in diameter than the wire found at the house next door to the bombing.”
“There are all kinds of things about the case that are really pretty basic and pretty outrageous that are part of the record that people don’t know about.”
Mondo died in March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Poindexter remains imprisoned at the maximum security prison, a half-century later, where he continues to maintain his innocence. Poindexter, in poor health and at risk from the Covid virus, has a pending commutation of sentence request with the Nebraska Pardon Board but the Board refuses to set a hearing date.
The FBI Laboratory withheld a report on the identity of the anonymous 911 caller that lured Larry Minard to his bombing death in a vacant house in order to obtain a conviction of Poindexter and Mondo who were leaders of Omaha’s Black Panther Party affiliate chapter. Operation COINTELPRO was terminated by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover a week after the Omaha Two were convicted.
Justice remains undone.
This article is excerpted from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and available in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.
Henley Lee Huxiang, a Belize citizen, is the first individual to be prosecuted since the People’s Republic of China amended its criminal code to outlaw support for activities that would endanger national security. Henley Lee was sentenced to eleven years in prison and made to “confess” on Chinese television. The United Kingdom and Australia have suspended the television station that broadcast forced confessions.
Lee was charged with endangering national security in April 2020 and then disappeared from sight until his forced appearance on state-run CCTV-13 television channel. Lee appeared on a show called Focus Report that has also featured “confessions” from four Taiwanese activists arrested in Hong Kong.
In the video, Lee was wearing a vest indicating he was under national security custody and was filmed wearing handcuffs. Lee was accused of funneling money to imprisoned Hong Kong activists Alex Chow, Nathan Law, Joshua Wong, and Sunny Cheung. Chow and Law have denied knowing Lee and said they never took money from him.
Lee, who was born in Shanghai, is accused of being a traitor to China. Until his arrest in 2019 Lee was vice-president of a United States consulting company in China called Eastern America.
Safeguard Defenders, a human rights watchdog group which monitors televised “confessions” on Chinese state media, issued a statement on Lee’s case.
“This is a dangerous precedent that cannot be understated and reflects the brand new provisions in China’s Criminal Law, echoing the extraterritorial aspects of the Hong Kong National Security Law.”
Although Lee is a Belize citizen, it is not clear he ever lived in Belize and may have purchased his citizenship, as a number of Chinese have done in the past. According to the state-run Global Times Lee acquired his Belize citizenship with the assistance of his family in Hong Kong.
Following his 2019 arrest Lee was portrayed in the Chinese newspaper articles as corrupt and involved in the sex trade. Lee was purportedly linked to fallen politician Bo Xilai although none of the allegations have been proven.
After Lee’s arrest, the state-owned newspaper Guangzhou Daily reported:“Investigations by the national security agency [MSS] confirmed that the suspect provided a large amount of funds to hostile elements in the US, colluded with foreign anti-China forces to intervene in Hong Kong affairs, and funded the implementation of criminal activities that endangered our national security.”
Even though Lee’s connection to Belize is tenuous, his prison sentence for supporting democracy in Hong Kong will have a chilling effect on the PRC’s efforts to woo Belize away from recognizing the Republic of China in-exile’s sovereignty over Taiwan. A year ago, Parliament member Kareem Musa made a trip to China. The United Democratic Party made a big deal out of Musa’s junket, condemning the trip. A UDP news release said Musa was “diplomatically irresponsible” and lied about the nature of his visit which he said was personal and at the invitation of the Belize Chinese Association. The president of the Association accompanied Musa and acted as translator but denied extending an invitation. The Association has been silent about Lee’s arrest and lengthy prison sentence.
The identity of Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s 1983 PhD thesis examiners may be revealed early this summer as a Freedom of Information lawsuit, Michael Richardson vs. Information Commissioner’s Office, in the United Kingdom nears completion. The controversial London School of Economics thesis entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions” triggered an international academic firestorm in June 2019 when President Tsai submitted the tardy thesis to the LSE Library, thirty-five years late.
Not only was the thesis submission more than three decades overdue, the copy presented to LSE, where Tsai studied, was unbound and appears to be a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and handwritten notations including a question mark.
Taiwanese scholars lined up to question the thesis with Professor Dennis Peng, talk show host of the internet news program “True Voice of Taiwan,” the most vocal. Professor Peng’s remarks have earned him a criminal indictment for alleged defamation and potential five year prison term after President Tsai complained to ROC prosecutors. Peng will not be given a jury trial because they are not permitted in the archaic legal system of the exiled Republic of China government.
Tsai was tested on her scholarship at an October 16, 1983 viva examination according to LSE which referred any other questions to the University of London which issued Tsai’s degree. At the time LSE was unable to issue its own degrees and presented the University of London with a pass list to award diplomas. Tsai’s academic advisor was Michael Elliott, who lacked a doctoral degree, thus putting the full burden of assessment on the thesis examiners.
President Tsai, who has bragged the examiners were so impressed with the thesis they wanted to award her a double degree, inexplicably refuses to name them. Following Tsai’s lead, the University of London also refuses to identify the thesis examiners claiming their identification would violate Tsai’s right to privacy.
My complaint to the Information Commissioner of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth Denham, was rejected. Denham took the University of London’s position that Tsai’s right to privacy was more important than public disclosure of the examiners’ identities. Then the matter went to court before the Information Review Tribunal, where it stalled over a territoriality dispute over the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. In February 2021, the Tribunal allowed the lawsuit to proceed. Denham’s office then filed a tardy response pushing the court schedule further back. A ruling in the case is now expected in June.
I have filed a reply to Denham’s submission, outlining why the examiners need to be identified. Denham maintains that disclosure of the examiner identities is not necessary because the validity President Tsai’s PhD thesis “has been met to a extremely large degree” by three facts: the thesis is online, the thesis is listed in an index document, and the University of London claims it holds records of the viva examination.
The fact the thesis is now online, a digital version of the copy submitted by President Tsai Ing-wen in June 2019, and not the version that was assessed, does not address the validity of the 1983 viva examination and instead continues to raise questions about the pagination problems, footnote issues, and hand markings in the online thesis.
Denham also relied on a bibliographic index, Legal Research in the United Kingdom 1905-1984, a quasi-official Institute of Advanced Legal Studies index document, but failed to cite any official IALS record or communication. Further, the Introduction to Legal Research in the United Kingdom 1905-1984 contains a notice which states in part “errors and omissions may have occurred.”
Denham ignored an official IALS email correspondence, dated October 9, 2019, which refutes the bibliographic index entry by stating: “We have been asked many times for this thesis, but we do not have a copy in our collection and we have no record that we ever received the copy that was sent to us.”
Denham has solely relied on an assertion by the University of London, the proverbial fact not in evidence, which falls far short of the “extremely large degree” standard. The University of London’s assertions about its library acquisition of the thesis are contradictory, raising significant and reasonable doubt about the veracity of the University’s assertions about the thesis.
Denham ignored an official email correspondence from the University’s Senate House Library, dated October 9, 2019, which states: “It would seem from our card catalogue records that Senate House Library never received the original copies of this thesis from the External Examiners.”
Denham, relying on University of London assertions rather than on official records or correspondence, speculated, “It is unfortunate that the copy of President Tsai’s thesis that the University library held was lost or misplaced between the mid-1980s and 2010, during various restructuring changes to the library. This may or may not have been why that version was not published in the period after 1984.”
That transparency in this case mandates verification of the viva examination, as the examiners are the gatekeepers of academic integrity and authentication of the thesis validity cannot be hidden from public disclosure or based on mere assertions by the University; a bibliographic index; or a tardy online posting; thirty-five years late.
Denham also relied on a 2019 London School of Economics and Political Science public relations statement as evidence of the thesis validity stating as follows: “In addition, a public statement to that effect has been made by the college at which President Tsai was registered.” Yet in 1983, LSE was unable to issue its own doctoral degrees and deferred to the University of London for the academic qualification to a diploma; further, LSE had no control or supervisory authority over the University of London.
I concede that President Tsai has causative responsibility for a criminal indictment for aggravated defamation against Professor Dennis Peng, one of those persons who have questioned the validity of the thesis; however, public relations statements and news reports do not constitute, in any manner, academic authentication or actual verification of a PhD thesis viva examination; nor does the indictment of Professor Peng constitute academic authentication or actual verification of the viva examination.
That personal data is subject to disclosure when the necessity of verification demands public examination as the safeguard against academic fraud such that one cannot be a secret student and obtain a secret degree from the University of London, thus the privacy of Tsai Ing-wen was breached by inclusion in the London School of Economics and Political Science student directory and by inclusion in the University of London list of graduates because of the necessity of verification; also, the identities of Tsai Ing-wen’s teachers were breached by inclusion in the London School of Economics and Political Science faculty directory because of the necessity of verification; likewise, the identities of Tsai Ing-wen’s thesis examiners demands disclosure because of the necessity of verification and Tsai should have had no expectation of privacy.
That President Tsai Ing-wen has made a Common Law waiver of privacy of the thesis examiner identities by her public statement describing one examiner as a law professor and another as an economist, thus waiving disclosure, as in husband/wife or attorney/client testimonial waivers thus President Tsai opened the door to disclosure of the thesis examiner identities.
That thesis examiners employed by a public body university to perform academic duties, the assessment of scholarship, are rendered for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act as public employees and not private citizens; as such, examiners enjoy no special privacy shield from identity disclosure different from that of a university president, deans, advisers, or teachers and must, of necessity, for verification purposes, be subject to public disclosure of identity.
That current academic practice in the United Kingdom is disclosure of thesis examiners’ identities and that the University of London’s denial of Appellant’s information request is contrary to current academic practice.
Finally, Denham has argued the Tribunal has no authority to order the University of London to develop a plan of correction for Freedom of Information Act non-compliance.
That the authority of the Tribunal to enforce its orders is an inherent power and while remedial actions are more generally associated with injunctive relief than administrative review, the authority to order the University of London to disclose information is not limited if the Tribunal is faced with multiple and/or willful violations of the Freedom of Information Act by the University or its subsidiary affiliate, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Tribunal may order the schools to develop a plan of correction to prevent further violations of the FOI Act as part of its disclosure order.
Next, the Information Commissioner’s Office has been ordered to prepare the exhibits for Tribunal examination before formal review of the case may begin. The ICO has been given until May to prepare the exhibits for consideration.
President Tsai Ing-wen could end the United Kingdom litigation by simply providing the names of the examiners and releasing her thesis viva examination report. If the examiners thought she deserved a double degree, as Tsai has claimed, a reasonable person would expect Tsai to release the report. Tsai’s refusal to identity the examiners continues to raise public doubt about the outcome of the viva examination.
Fifty years ago, April 12, 1971, two cousins of confessed bomber Duane Peak testified that he did not meet with Ed Poindexter to discuss bombing Omaha police as he claimed earlier in the trial over the death of Patrolman Larry Minard.
Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) were leaders of Omaha’s affiliate chapter of the Black Panther Party called the National Committee to Combat Fascism. The August 17, 1970 bombing murder of Patrolman Larry Minard was quickly blamed on the two men who were arrested and charged with the crime. The pair were implicated in the murder by the confessed bomber, fifteen year-old Duane Peak, a Black Panther wannabe. Peak, who was implicated in the bombing by his sisters, made a deal with prosecutors and never spent a day in prison for the crime.
At trial William Peak was called to the witness stand as a defense witness. William said he was a third cousin to Duane Peak and gave some family history about how Duane came to be homeless and out of control. “Well, Duane’s daddy used to like to drink a lot and he would go down the street and come back and beat up his wife and the kids and he stabbed Jackie two or three times and they used to fight all the time and so one day he got mad and pulled a shotgun on all of them and told them to all get out and not come back.”
William Peak denied that Duane had met and left with Poindexter at the Peak house anytime during the week before the bombing contradicting the teenager’s testimony. William recalled an encounter with Duane and police explaining the young man’s hatred of police. “Duane was with me and the police stopped us, first one car stopped us and they put us both up against the car and then about six more cruisers came and they started to handcuff Duane and me so they grabbed me and threw me on the ground and commenced to beating me and kicking me and Duane told them to stop it, not to do that to his cousin, and so they grabbed Duane and hit him two or three times and threw him in the other car.”
William showed the jury three scars from the incident and he testified he also suffered from a torn ligament in his knee. “The police said, “We are going to kill these niggers,” and they grabbed Duane and they said, “We are going to kill this little fat nigger here.” They began beating on folks.”
William Peak denied being at the American Legion club on Friday night before the bombing and said he was at a party at Jim Grigsby’s house with Ed Poindexter, again contradicting his cousin. Peak also confirmed Poindexter’s account of Duane once shooting a gun at NCCF headquarters. “A sparrow flew in the window and so he started shooting and he shot seven holes, two through the floor, one through the ceiling, so I took the gun away from him before he grabbed the shotgun.”
Frank Peak, Jr., another cousin of Duane, also took the witness stand and denied that Duane and Poindexter were ever at his house together. Frank corroborated William’s testimony that Duane was not being truthful.
Virginia Rivers, Ed Poindexter’s mother, was the next witness. Rivers told how Ed joined the Army when he was seventeen years-old, just after high school. Ed’ mother testified he lived with her following his honorable discharge from the Army. She said Poindexter never had any explosives or bombs around the house.
Public Defender Frank Morrison conducted the examination of Ed Poindexter. Ed was confident and described his Army life. After discharge from the Army, Poindexter said he went to work for the Post Office in Atlanta but moved back to Omaha in February 1969 after his marriage soured.
Poindexter said he first met Duane Peak in November 1969 when Frank or William Peak brought Duane to the NCCF headquarters. Poindexter told of disciplining Peak for drug use. “Well, I never actually saw him take them but I remember sometime during the winter of ’69 and ’70 he was put on two weeks’ suspension for being out, for being on red devils.”
Poindexter said he never showed Peak how to make a dynamite bomb in a suitcase as Duane claimed. Poindexter also denied giving Peak any instructions about the bombing or meeting Duane at Frank Peak’s house. Poindexter denied going to Mondo’s home with Raleigh House, the alleged supplier of the dynamite and suitcase, or having anything to do with construction of a bomb.
Poindexter related that after his arrest, his clothes were confiscated and he was released from jail without them “I was almost naked.” The clothing was taken by ATF agent Thomas Sledge to deliver to the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Laboratory.
Poindexter said he did not know how particles of dynamite got into the pocket of his camouflage jacket. The jacket was acquired in Vietnam, Poindexter testified. He said he helped transport some dynamite while in Vietnam but had no other contact with explosives than that.
Poindexter denied being at the American Legion club as Duane Peak testified and said he was at a party instead. “I think I stayed there pretty late. I got drunk and I woke up after everybody was gone.”
Testifying in a clear and steady voice, Poindexter told the jury that he never talked with Duane Peak about “how to kill a pig” and never knew Larry Minard nor had any reason to kill him. “I was unjustly accused of a crime, or accused of a crime I haven’t had anything to do with.”
Poindexter testified he joined the Black Panthers during 1969. When the national organization disbanded the Omaha chapter later that year, Poindexter testified he joined a successor group, the United Front Against Fascism and later another group, the National Committee to Combat Fascism, which he headed.
Poindexter’s affiliations created hostility by police. “Well, they didn’t like me personal because I criticized them and because the organization criticized them, other members of the organization criticized them, you know.”
When asked directly about involvement in Larry Minard’s murder, Poindexter promptly replied. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Convicted of the murder, Poindexter and Mondo were sentenced to life in prison. Mondo died at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016. Poindexter remains imprisoned at the maximum security prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence. Poindexter has a pending commutation of sentence request pending with the Nebraska Pardon Board, chaired by Governor Pete Ricketts, which refuses to schedule a hearing date for Poindexter’s request.
This article is excerpted from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and available in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.
Omaha detective Jack Swanson’s testimony about discovery of dynamite was contradicted by another detective in Edward Poindexter murder trial. (credit: Nebraskans for Justice)
Fifty years ago, April 8,1971, Omaha detective Jack Swanson was called to testify in the murder trial of Edward Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa). The two men were leaders of the local Black Panther affiliate group, the National Committee to Combat Fascism, and accused of the bombing murder of Patrolman Larry Minard, killed at a vacant house on the Near Northside on August 17, 1970.
Swanson, a sergeant in charge of the Intelligence Unit, was the police liaison with Federal Bureau of Investigation which was directing clandestine counterintelligence actions against the pair. Assistant prosecutor Sam Cooper asked Swanson about dynamite he claimed he removed from Mondo’s basement. Swanson said samples of the dynamite were taken by Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Division agent Thomas Sledge after it was transported to the detective bureau. Assistant Public Defender Thomas Kenney asked Swanson to refresh his testimony about where he found the dynamite in the basement.
“No, it wasn’t in a hole dug in a wall, it was just a place that didn’t go all the way down to the floor but there was—like starting right here, there was a place where you could store different things back there. When you looked back in this space, you could see it.”
Swanson answered that he was the first one to find the dynamite then listed others present. “As I recall, it may have been Sgt. Pfeffer or Agent Sledge from the Alcohol, Firearms Division. I couldn’t tell you for sure. I informed someone that I thought we had some dynamite in the basement. Well, there were at least four or five other parties because we examined this carefully before we moved it. We were looking for the possibility of a–that there might have been wire or something. It wasn’t moved for at least ten or fifteen minutes after we discovered it.”
Asked again who saw the dynamite before it was removed, Swanson tightened his answer. “Well, Agent Curd was there and Sledge and Bob Pfeffer.”
Cooper questioned Robert Pfeffer next . When asked about dynamite, Pfeffer quickly answered, “Sgt. Jack Swanson found the dynamite.”
Kenney asked Pfeffer when he first saw the dynamite. “When Sgt. Swanson carried the box up from the basement of the Rice house.” Kenney then asked if Pfeffer ever saw the dynamite in the basement. Pfeffer contradicted the testimony of Jack Swanson, “No, I never went down.”
Pfeffer was asked to read a supplemental report he wrote on the search of Mondo’s house where the dynamite “was in the basement hidden under a wooden door.”
Poindexter and Mondo were convicted of murder, in part because of the dynamite allegedly found in Mondo’s basement. Swanson was soon rewarded for his testimony against the pair and promoted to lieutenant and eventually served briefly as Chief of Police.
In 2007, in a post-trial hearing, Robert Pfeffer returned to the witness stand. Pfeffer claimed he found dynamite in Mondo’s basement, not Jack Swanson as he testified at trial. When confronted with his contradictory testimony, Pfeffer became enraged and claimed he was misquoted by the court reporter. Pfeffer also claimed he found three suitcases with wires sticking out of them during the search of Mondo’s house and described dragging the three suitcases with a rope through the handles. Pfeffer could not account how no police report or other witness confirmed the three suitcases or why they were not seized as evidence.
During the trial defense attorneys did not challenge the contradictory testimony of Swanson and Pfeffer despite the obvious conclusion at least one of them was lying. In 2007, when Pfeffer contradicted his own trial testimony nothing was done; Poindexter was denied a new trial and Pfeffer faced no perjury charges.
Mondo passed to the ancestors in March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Poindexter remains imprisoned at the maximum-security prison fifty years after the lies told about dynamite went unchallenged. Poindexter, who continues to maintain his innocence, has a pending commutation of sentence request with the Nebraska Board of Pardons but the board, chaired by Governor Pete Ricketts, refuses to give him a hearing date.
This article is excerpted from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and available in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of theOmaha Public Library.