[Ppnews] Crazy Tom the FBI Provocateur

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 28 13:02:59 EST 2011

Crazy Tom the FBI Provocateur

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

27 November 11

Reader Supported News | Perspective

"Anyone who remembers the sixties wasn't really there."
George Carlin

"Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."
George Santayana

s weird as the 1960s became, Crazy Tom stood out. 
He set fires and started fights on the Stanford 
campus, supplied guns and explosives to fellow 
militants, and staged hold-ups "to support the 
Revolution." He also created a secret 
mountain-top training camp and bomb factory to 
groom would-be urban guerrillas, from young, 
mostly white Maoists to the secret Black Panther 
army trying to free Soledad Brother George 
Jackson from San Quentin Penitentiary. Then, in 
February and March 1971, Crazy Tom Mosher put on 
a suit and tie, brushed down his wispy blond 
hair, and testified in secret before the Senate 
Subcommittee on Internal Security. According to 
his sworn testimony, the revolutionary terrorist 
had worked all along for the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation (FBI) and its state counterpart, 
the California Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (CII).

In his testimony, Mosher warned of a growing 
campaign of revolutionary sabotage, terror, and 
guerrilla war, which had already left a trail of 
violence and murder across Northern California. 
The Senate published his tale at taxpayers' 
expense, while Reader's Digest ran a first-hand 
account of his experiences, "Inside the 
Revolutionary Left." As Mosher and the senators 
told it, he had been an informant, passively 
watching the illegal violence of the Left and 
reporting to the authorities to help them enforce 
the law. As those of us who knew him had seen for 
ourselves, he had created much of the terrorist violence he now condemned.

At the time, I was an anti-war activist at 
Stanford, increasingly burned-out, cynical, and 
without too many lingering liberal illusions. Yet 
I would never have suggested that the FBI or 
other police agencies had paid Crazy Tom to shoot 
guns on campus, set fires, or run a guerrilla 
training camp. More likely, I figured, he had 
created his own chaos, while selling his handlers 
whatever bullshit he could get them to buy.

I was wrong. On March 8, 1971, just as Mosher was 
about to testify, a group calling itself the 
Citizen's Commission to Investigate the FBI broke 
into the Bureau's office in Media, Pennsylvania, 
and "liberated" over 1000 classified documents, 
which they began releasing to the press. The 
purloined files included the hitherto secret 
caption "COINTELPRO," shorthand for 
Counterintelligence Program. NBC's Carl Stern 
then filed suit under the Freedom of Information 
Act, and in December 1973, a federal court 
ordered the FBI to make public its clandestine COINTELPRO memos.

One of the memos caught my eye. In May 1968, 
Director J. Edgar Hoover had secretly authorized 
the FBI "to expose, disrupt, discredit, or 
otherwise neutralize" the New Left's opposition 
to the Vietnam War and support for black 
liberation. "Expose, disrupt, discredit, or 
otherwise neutralize" are terms of art, and none 
of Hoover's underlings could have doubted what he 
was telling them to do. Far from enforcing the 
law or protecting our First Amendment right to 
protest, the FBI would use against us the classic 
techniques that the Czarist secret police and its 
European counterparts had used for centuries, 
that the FBI had perfected since the post-World 
War I Palmer Raids, and that the CIA and military 
had for years directed against foreign foes. Our 
Crazy Tom, it appeared, was looking like far more 
than a self-propelled provocateur.

To find out for certain, a group of us at the 
Pacific Studies Center, a radical off-campus 
research institute, decided to look into what 
Mosher had done with us and to us. We interviewed 
Tom over a period of several days, during which 
he ranged from overly talkative to irritatingly 
cagey to truly terrified that we had set him up 
to be killed. We talked with dozens of his 
closest former comrades. And we tried to decipher 
the relevant COINTELPRO memos, with all their 
deleted names and details. The court had allowed 
the FBI to black out every place where Mosher's 
name might have fit, but once we reconstructed 
his violent life and times, no one could doubt 
that Crazy Tom did exactly what the 
Counterintelligence Programs called for him to do. [1]

Too Crazy to Be a Pig

Whatever else he might have been, the short, 
scrappy Mosher was no spoiled preppy. His father, 
he told me, had been sent to the penitentiary, 
leaving his mother to turn tricks at home, while 
he grew up on the streets of Uptown Chicago, 
learning to survive among the roughest rednecks, 
hillbillies, and other refugees from the American hinterland.

Smart, sensitive, and charismatic, he quickly 
learned how to hustle, charming the improbable W. 
Clement Stone, an insurance tycoon who gave 
millions to former President Nixon. Stone also 
wrote books telling people how to develop PMA, a 
Positive Mental Attitude, by jumping up and down 
every morning chanting "I am healthy! I am happy! 
I am successful!" Tom met Stone at the McCormick 
Boys Club, took him as a big brother, and later 
got him to write a recommendation to Stanford, 
where the eager young man enrolled in the fall of 1962.

Mosher tried hard to score in the world of big 
money and soft manners. But for all his Positive 
Mental Attitude, the foster son of success lacked 
the financial backing and social background, 
while he caused so many fights that the 
fraternity he joined asked him to leave. "Mosher 
was one of the most violent people I'd ever 
known," recalled one of his well-bred frat 
brothers. "In the space of two and a half months, 
he punched out eight people." Tom finally dropped 
out of Stanford in the spring of 1965, filled 
with admiration, awe, envy, hatred, and 
resentment for the silver spoon set. Had he 
failed? Or had Stanford failed him? The wiry 
street fighter tried to work out the balance, but never could.

After spending a few months with the civil rights 
movement in Mississippi, Mosher returned to 
Uptown Chicago, where he became "a 
revolutionary." Several of my friends from 
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had 
started a local community organizing project 
called Jobs or Income Now (JOIN), and Mosher, 
whom I met casually at the time, became one of 
its stars. He also married a college professor's 
daughter named Mary, fathered a son Keith, and 
rubbed elbows with many of America's best-known young radicals

In August 1968, the SDS leader and later Weather 
Woman Bernadine Dohrn asked him to go in her 
place on a trip to Cuba. As fellow travelers 
remembered him, Mosher was a gung-ho Che Guevara 
bent on guerrilla war. In fact, he was already 
working for the government, or at least looking 
for a job. "I really wasn't such a stone cold 
revolutionary in Cuba," he told me. "I was just 
acting as one, carefully observing and analyzing 
for my own benefit. You'd have done the same 
thing if you had in mind what I had in mind."

Returning from Cuba in October, Tom met with FBI 
agents and gave them films he had taken on the 
trip. He then moved back to Stanford, and no 
later than "let us say April 1969," he began what 
he called his "active association with the Bureau."

Why did Tom sign on with the Feds? Take your 
pick. In various breaths, he spoke of his poor 
boy's resentment of rich white radicals and black 
militant thugs, his patriotic disgust with their 
violence and anti-Americanism, his long-standing 
anti-Communism, and his sudden disillusionment 
with Cuban socialism. He also mentioned pressure 
from the law, his need for money, and growing 
marital strains with Mary. In Tom's topsy-turvy 
mind, most - if not all - could have played a part.

One other possibility was that Mosher came to the 
FBI from military intelligence. His military 
records, which we managed to see, showed that he 
had served two and a half months on active duty 
with the Marines. He then remained in the 
reserves for six years, but without any evidence 
of ever attending a single reserve meeting. This 
was the file one would expect from someone 
performing an undercover assignment, but we were never able to nail that down.

In any case, Tom's temper, his passion for guns 
and explosives, and what he called his "peculiar 
mental illness at the time" made him the perfect 
provocateur. His madness drove him to live on the 
edge, continuously courting danger, while working 
for the FBI allowed him to carve out a free-fire 
zone between the militants and the law where he 
could let rip his terrifying rage.

Just as the COINTELPRO memos directed, Mosher 
brought into the anti-war movement an incredible 
aura of violence, which disrupted our protests 
from within and discredited them to those on the 
fringe. He baited the moderates and egged on the 
militants. He even fought right-wing Young 
Americans for Freedom, threatening publicly to 
sodomize one of their campus leaders. His fury 
surging just below the skin, he acted like a 
savage six-year-old, flying into a rage whenever 
he wanted, upsetting, unnerving, and grasping for control.

Flashing his pistol at a non-violent anti-war 
sit-in in April 1969, he offered to take care of 
the campus police and boasted of trashing their 
car windows. "Time to get serious!" he urged. 
"Time to pick up the gun." Late one night, he 
fired eight or nine shots into the home of 
Stanford president Kenneth Pitzer, and then tried 
to get the incident reported in the press. He 
also fired into a university auditorium, and 
during a demonstration against ROTC, he fired several shots into the air.

In July 1969, Mosher went to a party at the home 
of H. Bruce Franklin, a brilliant scholar of both 
Herman Melville and science fiction, and a prime 
target of the FBI's Counterintelligence Programs. 
The "Maoist English professor," as the press 
called him, had become a convert to old left 
thinking, zealously defending the historic 
necessity of Stalinist terror in the Soviet 
Union, a fatuous claim that won him scant 
support. Together with his equally militant wife 
Jane, Bruce ran the Revolutionary Union, which 
preached the impossibility of non-violent 
revolution, but overlooked the even larger improbability of a violent one.

The party that night was celebrating the 
acquittal of several radicals charged with 
fomenting a street riot in downtown Palo Alto. A 
large crowd showed up, including the defendants, 
three jurors, most of the local 
anti-establishment, and some visiting left-wing 
honchos from across the country. The guests were 
talking, dancing, and drinking wine, when Mosher 
slapped a juror who was dancing with Mary. Bruce 
jumped in, some serious brawling began, and it 
looked for a time that the police might come, 
using the opportunity to raid the house, search 
for weapons, and rough-up a few self-proclaimed 
revolutionaries. After the punch up, Franklin 
cooled to Mosher, telling his comrades not to 
trust the lunatic. "I may be crazy," Mosher replied, "but I'm not a pig."

In spite of Franklin's tenure, the Stanford 
administration soon brought disciplinary charges 
against him, holding him responsible for the 
climate of senseless violence that Crazy Tom 
helped to create. Adding to the furor, Mosher 
leaked hearsay stories to the press accusing 
Franklin of supplying weapons and explosives to 
the Black Panther Party in Oakland. Such stories 
took their toll. Sacrificing civil liberties in 
hopes of gaining security, the faculty judges 
voted to fire Franklin for his political activism.

Like Bruce, the vast majority of us in the 
Stanford movement tried to keep a safe distance 
from Crazy Tom, finding his behavior bizarre. 
Many of us heard stories of how he pulled his gun 
on friends, beat his wife, and bragged of 
"rolling queers" outside the gay bars in Palo 
Alto's Whiskey Gulch. We saw him as a constant 
chameleon, always shifting roles. One day he 
would play the bearded guerrilla in field jacket 
and combat boots. Another day he would pose as 
the clean-shaven movement lawyer "William Z. 
Foster," turned out in suit, tie, and wingtips. 
He would also appear as a campus queen in purple 
velvet; a white Huey P. Newton in a costly 
leather coat; an Aryan racist and 
authentic-sounding anti-Semite spouting slogans 
from the neo-Nazi bible Imperium; or an 
off-the-screen James Dean in Levis and T-shirt, a 
sleeve rolled up around a pack of cigarettes. 
"I'm from Uptown, Man. The toughest neighborhood in America."

Tom was crazy, all right, and everybody knew it. 
Why, then, did anyone ever trust him?

In part, he traded on his poor white origins, 
especially with all the guilt-ridden rich kids 
who looked to the working class to make the 
Revolution. ("In Uptown we're really more 
lumpenproletariat," he later told me with a 
knowing smile. "None of us can keep a job.") But 
mostly he and his rags-to-revolution image found 
an appreciative audience in a small but growing 
cadre with Red Books and revolvers who were 
always trying to act more Mao than Thou, a 
maddening vanguard that one wit dubbed the "Marksmen-Lemmingists."

"He would periodically make chiding remarks about 
my non-violence or put forward adventurist 
proposals," one pacifist recalled. "But he was 
only one of many political crazies. There were 
lots of people who had even weirder ideas than he did."

So, Tom's craziness became Tom's cover, as he 
stamped the anti-war movement with his own brand 
of random terror. Perhaps we were also beguiled 
by a lingering faith in the very system we 
opposed. "Mosher's too crazy to be an informer," 
we all agreed. "The government would never hire anyone as loony as him."

But that was just the point. Tom's violence and 
"peculiar mental illness at the time" were 
precisely what his FBI handlers wanted. How 
better to disrupt, misdirect, and discredit our 
opposition to the war? Mosher was a loaded gun 
that the Bureau pointed at us, trashing our First 
Amendment right to protest without government 
interference and our freedom to decide for 
ourselves the message we wanted our non-violent demonstrations to convey.

Training for Guerrilla War

Reaching beyond the Stanford campus, Mosher 
quickly found his ticket to the big time in a 
remote patch of ravines, redwoods, and 
rattlesnakes high in the nearby Santa Cruz 
Mountains. "The land," as it was called, belonged 
to a group of draft resisters who had bought it 
for a retreat. It was also the outdoor playpen of 
one of Tom's former fraternity brothers, a 
near-sighted and slightly mad charmer called "Blind Timmy."

Tom had heard that his old friend still lived in 
the area and set off to find him, driving into 
the mountains on an old logging road, then 
trekking upward along a tiny twisting trail, 
until he came to a small clearing with a homemade 
cabin built of wood and stone. In the clearing, 
Mosher spotted Timmy frolicking with a band of 
teenage boys and girls. They were all naked. A 
self-anointed guru, Blind Timmy preached the 
virtues of pan-sexualism, seeking universal unity 
and spiritual ecstasy through an open-ended communion of bodies and souls.

In time, Tom and Mary joined in, and for a while 
it was Timmy, Tom, and Mary. But the ménage did 
not work out. "I found that I was emotionally 
right-wing and came to see the whole thing as 
diabolical possession," Tom confessed. "I guess 
my soul just had too much of the funky gray Mid-West."

Timmy scooted off to do his missionary work 
elsewhere, leaving Tom free to use the land as he 
wanted, which was just as the FBI memos suggested 
- "to take advantage of all opportunities for 
Counterintelligence and also inspire activity in 
instances where circumstances warrant."

As early as the spring of 1969, Mosher brought 
some Stanford radicals and black militants from 
Oakland to the mountain hideaway to practice 
shooting and "discuss alone the techniques of 
using high explosives," as he later testified to 
the Senate subcommittee. He and his black 
comrades also got hold of over a hundred sticks 
of dynamite, along with timers, mercuric 
fulminate for the fuses, and electronic 
detonators, all of which they stashed on the 
mountain. By summer, the land had become, as Tom 
told it, "literally ... a bomb factory."

Every bomb factory needs a mad scientist, and 
Mosher found his in a short, bright, and 
profoundly angry black student named Jimmy 
Johnson. Mosher had met him at Stanford in 1963, 
and the two outsiders grew close. JJ had dropped 
out about the same time as Tom, and was just 
coming back to finish his degree in chemical 
engineering. Mosher spotted him at an SDS party, 
where - as friends in the Black Student Union put 
it - JJ stood out "like a fly in the buttermilk." 
The two began spending time together and winding 
each other up. Together, they jeered at the 
tough-talking rads and their tea-party sit-ins, 
and promised to show those punk kids what revolution was all about.

JJ's friends in SDS tried to warn him away, 
telling him that Mosher was crazy, if not a 
police agent. But most of the Stanford radicals 
thought Johnson a little loosely wired, too, and 
left him to his fate. Mad Dog Jimmy, Crazy Tom - they seemed a perfect pair.

At the time, JJ was facing trial for rioting in 
downtown Palo Alto, while the university was 
trying to discipline him for disrupting a 
trustee's meeting where he had protested 
Stanford's millions of dollars in Pentagon 
research contracts. So much for civil 
disobedience, he told Tom. Why put yourself up in 
plain view for something that doesn't get any 
results anyway? Why not use something safer and 
more efficient? Something with a bang.

When Mosher heard all this, his eyes lit up. Many 
young radicals talked about bombs, but JJ knew 
how to make them. Fire bombs. Dynamite bombs. 
Time bombs. "JJ used to blow my mind with some of 
the things he made," Mosher recalled. "He even 
made a timing device from a photoelectric cell, 
which would go off when someone opened the door or turned on a light."

Introducing JJ to some of the most militant 
blacks in Northern California, Mosher pushed him 
to act out his anger. "What Mosher did was to 
bring this machismo, tough guy shit into the 
movement," JJ later explained. But, at the time, 
he seemed to JJ to be one of the few white boys willing to do more than talk.

With JJ as his revolutionary bomb-maker, Mosher 
spread the word among Northern California 
radicals that he had a full-fledged training camp 
in the mountains. He then recruited the most 
militant to crawl on their bellies over the rocky 
terrain, snipe at make-believe "pigs" behind 
every bush, blow up tree stumps with home-made 
bombs, and stage mock guerrilla raids on whatever 
targets their rich imaginations could conjure up. 
Where Blind Timmy and his nubile playmates once 
pursued their polymorphous pleasures, stern-eyed 
guerrillas now trained for war, while the FBI's 
Tom Mosher - king of the mountain and master of 
"Guevara Ranch" - supplied them with dynamite, 
grenades, pistols, rifles, and machine guns.

Of course, the modest Mosher denied any credit. 
"My role was strictly passive," he told me. "I 
simply used my access to the land to monitor the 
illegal activity of others - a standard law 
enforcement technique." Playing the 
super-patriot, he denied that the FBI ever 
ordered him to go against the law, or that they 
ever ran the COINTELPROS, except perhaps on 
paper. "Those stupid sons of bitches never 
understood that we were at war," he insisted. "I 
had to go beating on doors to push them to do 
something about indiscriminate terror."

The Black Panthers' Best White Buddy

Tom finally got what he wanted in a COINTELPRO 
memo dated November 25, 1968, instructing FBI 
offices to begin "imaginative and hard hitting 
measures aimed at crippling the BPP," the Black 
Panther Party. As FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover 
saw it, the Panthers had replaced Martin Luther 
King as the nation's major black menace, and were 
now "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."

Reality was more the reverse. For all their 
revolutionary rhetoric, the Panthers were fast 
becoming an endangered species. Eldridge Cleaver 
had fled to Algeria. Huey Newton sat in a 
California jail. Chairman Bobby Seale faced 
trials for rioting at the 1968 Democratic 
Convention in Chicago and the alleged torture 
slaying of Alex Rackley in New Haven. As for the 
lesser Panther leaders, Hoover's 
Counterintelligence Programs had begun targeting 
them for special attention, while Attorney 
General John Mitchell's "Panther Squad" was 
preparing a series of pre-dawn, 
shoot-first-ask-questions-later police raids, 
like the one in Chicago that killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.

Trying to protect themselves, the Panthers 
scheduled a major gathering in Oakland for July 
1969, calling together their friends and allies 
to form a "United Front against Fascism." Mosher 
saw this as his big chance. At the SDS National 
Convention in Chicago in June, he physically 
threatened the Progressive Labor Party faction 
for their political attacks on the Panthers and 
pushed for all-out support of the United Front. 
Then he rushed back to the West Coast for the 
Panther conference, using a stolen American 
Express card to fly in several friends from his 
old gang in Uptown, the Young Patriots. "We're 
just like the Panthers," he proclaimed, "only white."

Mosher used his contacts at Stanford to round up 
students to do clerical work and run errands for 
the conference. The Panthers were grateful, and 
Chairman Bobby drove from Oakland to hold a 
planning meeting in Tom's living room. I was 
there. It was clear that Seale liked Tom's style 
and street savvy, naming him official student 
organizer of the anti-Fascist conference. Not bad 
for a white boy from Uptown and just perfect for the FBI.

At the same time the Panthers were organizing 
their peaceable United Front, they also shifted 
their basic approach from armed self-defense to 
"revolutionary violence." Here, too, they turned 
to the FBI's Mosher, who worked closely with 
Panther Field Marshall Randy Williams. "This 
relationship was predicated upon my contact with 
people who could supply explosives and timers, 
and individuals who could provide technical 
information and expertise," Mosher told the Senate subcommittee.

One activist saw first-hand some rifles Mosher 
delivered. "I don't know if Randy considered 
Mosher a great comrade or anything like that," 
the activist recalled "But he did use him as a 
source of military equipment." Mosher brought 
Williams to Guevara Ranch for what Tom described 
in his testimony as "training with high-powered 
and automatic weapons, and other implements of 
revolutionary terror." According to Mosher, 
several small groups of Panthers used his land 
for this kind of training for days at a time.

As quartermaster of the revolution, Mosher also 
got hold of C-4 explosives, or plastique, which 
Williams used in a tragic attack on the Oakland 
Corporation Yard on the night of March 27, 1970. 
According to Mosher, Williams and his "fire team" 
cut a hole in the chain-link fence, entered the 
yard, and strapped the plastique to the side of a 
gasoline can, but without a proper booster. When 
the C-4 failed to detonate, Williams sent one of 
his men to retrieve it. The night watchman 
appeared, and the black militant shot him dead. 
"It wasn't an entire failure," Mosher quoted 
Williams as saying. "We got us some bacon."

Possibly to protect Mosher's cover, the Oakland 
police never charged Williams and his men for 
either the break-in or the murder. But a short 
time later they busted him and two others for 
what police reports described as a heavily armed 
attempt to ambush a paddy wagon. Said Mosher to 
the subcommittee, "My interactions with Mr. 
Williams continued right up to the 24-hour period preceding his arrest."

Dope, Guns, and Cash

"Have you checked out the rise in the crime rate 
about the time of the Panther's anti-Fascist 
conference?" Mosher asked during one of our 
interviews. "Have you looked at the number of armed robberies?"

Starting in summer 1969, the Bay Area had 
suffered a rash of unsolved hold-ups and other 
crimes, just as Mosher hinted. What he failed to 
mention was that he was the chief thief. Was he 
stealing on his own account, quite apart from his 
work for the FBI? Or was his thieving part of the 
Bureau's effort to disrupt and discredit the Left?

"Taxing the dope trade," as he called it, Tom 
raided hippy marijuana dealers, who were in no 
position to call the police. In one well-armed 
robbery in the mountain community of La Honda, 
Tom bagged over 34 pounds of prime marijuana, 
which he took to New York and sold for $3,400. 
One of Tom's accomplices was a black draft 
resister named Rodney Gage. As he later described 
it, Mosher lined the dealers up against the wall 
and subjected them to "political education." 
While the dopers stood there trembling, he 
lectured them on how the "pigs" oppressed the 
people and how the people's army needed money to 
buy guns, which was why the Black Panther Party 
taxed the heroin trade in Oakland and why he was 
taxing the marijuana dealers in his territory.

"It was kind of nice thinking it was political," 
Rodney told me with a tinge of remorse. "But it 
wasn't. It was a rip-off. Nobody but us ever saw any of the money from it."

In fact, the only politics were negative. By 
posing as a revolutionary while robbing the 
dealers, Mosher clearly disrupted and discredited 
the anti-war movement's otherwise successful 
effort to win sympathy and support within 
Northern California's drug-oriented youth culture.

Rodney, JJ, and a youthful drifter named Jimmy 
Inman told of several robberies that Mosher 
pulled. In one, he stole a day's receipts from 
Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park. "This is for 
the Revolution," he told the clerk, further 
souring relations between the more militant Left 
and the owner Roy Kepler, one of the area's 
leading pacifists and a long-time comrade of singer Joan Baez.

 From those who were less pacifistic, Mosher 
stole guns, and he even robbed the emergency cash 
fund we used to make bail for Stanford radicals. 
Rodney bird-dogged the cash, finding the house 
where we kept it hidden. Then one evening in 
September 1969, Mosher called our legal defense committee.

"I think the pigs might try to bust me over the 
weekend," he said. "Do we have the bread to get me out?"

"Don't worry," he was told. "We have plenty of cash on hand."

A few nights later, Mosher sent Inman into the 
house. Carrying a loaded pistol, the drifter 
terrified the people inside, tore the house 
apart, and walked out with a large envelope. 
Mosher cursed him out for leaving a second 
envelope behind, but Inman still thought it was a 
good night's work - $1,380 split three ways. 
"Mosher could have gotten me to do just about 
anything," Inman recalled. "He was just that magnetic."

As if to test his allure, Mosher took Inman along 
on at least two trips to the FBI office in Palo 
Alto, scoffing loudly when the young man asked if 
he were an informer. Inman also recalled Mosher 
say that he had his reasons for robbing the 
radicals. Dope, guns, and cash - the ersatz 
revolutionary taxed them all, playing godfather 
to a small-time empire of crime, for which he 
went completely unpunished. In practice, the 
robberies disrupted and discredited the Left - 
just as the COINTELPRO memos instructed.

Eventually, Mosher did land in jail, but not for 
stealing. The problem was Mary, who had left him 
and gotten a quick divorce. He responded by 
terrorizing her and her lovers, one of whom died 
in a car crash. Tom found the dead man's belt 
under her bed, put it on like a wrestling trophy, 
and marched off, taunting her about how easy it was to sabotage a car.

Tensions mounted, and finally Mary showed up at 
Tom's house at 6 o'clock in the morning. With her 
she had two deputy sheriffs, who did not know 
that Mosher worked for the FBI. She also had a 
court order giving her sole custody of their son 
Keith, whom Tom adored. When Tom flew into a 
rage, the deputies maced him and used the 
opportunity to search his house without any need to have a warrant.

They found Tom's legal shotgun, rifle, and 
carbine, along with an AR-15 assault rifle 
illegally modified to fire as an automatic. They 
also found soft drink bottles and white cloth for 
Molotov cocktails, two detonator batteries, a 
timing device, blasting fuse, seven sticks of 
dynamite taped together, a half-inch cap for a 
pipe bomb, and two bags of black powder. As the 
local press reported it, the deputies had scored 
one of the biggest hauls of weapons and 
explosives ever taken from a Northern California 
militant. The local authorities charged Tom with 
assaulting an officer and illegally possessing an 
automatic weapon and explosives - six felonies in 
all, with bail set at $12,500.

Mosher tried to reach his FBI handler, who left 
him on his own, either to teach him a lesson or 
to safeguard his cover. As a result, Mosher sat 
in the Redwood City jail from April 18 to May 5, 
when he finally found the money for bail. To his 
comrades, Tom appeared unbroken. "The spirit of 
the people," he told Rodney, "was stronger than 
the power of the Man's prisons."

In celebration, he tossed a Molotov cocktail at a 
shed in the Stanford stables, setting off five or 
six alarms as he raced from the campus. Tom liked 
fires. According to Rodney, in early April he 
tried to burn down some student housing 
construction, and he appeared to have inside 
knowledge of a dramatic fire that gutted part of 
Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the 
Behavioral Sciences during the time he was in the Redwood City lockup.

 From all over the country, the Stanford fires 
brought harsh demands for law and order, 
especially from Vice President Spiro Agnew. They 
also alienated campus moderates. Even those who 
could understand why anti-war radicals might 
torch an ROTC building or chase CIA recruiters 
off campus could not fathom any reason for 
burning down student housing or a stable.

As all this was happening, Mosher made a career 
change. Unhappy with the FBI's failure to get him 
out of jail, he left their employ except for a 
trip that summer to monitor a Black Panther rally 
in Washington D.C. "They were not serving my 
interests and I was not serving theirs," he told the Senate subcommittee.

The break was less than complete. Tom remained in 
contact with Special Agent Phil Duncan of the 
Palo Alto FBI office, and the Bureau eventually 
worked out a deal with local lawmen. In November, 
Deputy District Attorney Wilbur Johnson, a former 
FBI agent, dropped all the weapons charges 
against Mosher, tacitly confirming that Tom's 
guns and bombs, one of the biggest hauls ever 
taken from a Northern California militant, had 
something to do with his work for the law. Mosher 
pled guilty to a single count of felony assault 
against the police officers, and the following 
January, Judge Robert F. Kane gave him probation 
and subsequently reduced the charge to a 
misdemeanor. To sweeten the pot, Mosher told the 
DA about some LSD-dealing at a house in Berkeley, 
leading to the arrest of a former business associate.

All this left Mosher dangling for nearly a year, 
but as he told the Senate subcommittee, "It also 
served the purpose of increasing my cover, I understand."

Free George Jackson

Into the early 1970s, radicals across Northern 
California were struggling, legally and 
otherwise, to free a street-savvy black convict 
named George Jackson, who had gotten a 
one-year-to-life sentence for stealing $70 from a 
gas station. The state subsequently charged him 
and two other black inmates with murdering a 
white guard at Soledad Prison, and militants on 
both sides of the prison walls were flocking to their support.

I was working at the time as an editor at 
Ramparts, when a well-connected young woman from 
the Soledad Defense Committee brought in a copy 
of a fascinating manuscript that Jackson had 
written in prison. Much of it had great power, 
but someone needed to rewrite it, as my former 
lawyer Beverly Axelrod had done with Eldridge 
Cleaver's Soul on Ice. Would I do the same for the charismatic Jackson?

I said no, not for any political reason I can 
remember. I just felt uncomfortable with the idea 
of ghosting a book that would appear to be the 
words of somebody else, especially someone 
purporting to be a revolutionary leader. What did 
I know? Bantam Books brought out George Jackson's 
Soledad Brother, which remains a classic of prison literature.

By this time, Crazy Tom had begun working for the 
California Bureau of Criminal Investigation and 
Identification, or CII, which had a keen interest 
in whatever he could learn about the Jackson 
campaign. Mosher did not disappoint them.

In one of the apparent coincidences that marked 
Tom's undercover career, one of his oldest 
friends from Stanford showed up in Berkeley in 
the summer of 1970. Kent Mastores was a law 
school graduate and was doing legal research for 
Faye Stender, who just happened to be the lead 
lawyer defending Jackson. Then, in September, 
Mastores took a part-time research job in San 
Jose with another Soledad lawyer, John Thorne.

Neither Thorne nor Stender believed that Mastores 
spied on them, while Mastores insisted that he 
knew nothing at the time of Mosher's undercover 
work and never fed him any information on the 
Soledad defense. But Mosher frequently camped out 
at Kent's house in Berkeley, and would have 
picked up bits of conversation useful to both the 
prosecution and efforts to discredit the Panthers.

Closely monitoring the efforts to break George 
free, Tom met at least twice with Jackson's 
teenage brother Jonathan. He also kept watch on 
Jonathan through JJ and Rodney, both of whom 
spent a lot of time at the home of a white San 
Jose family, the Hammers, who were active in the 
Soledad defense. Jonathan was "a beautiful boy," 
Mosher recalled. "But he really meant business about freeing George."

On August 7, Mosher was driving with JJ, when 
they heard on the car radio that someone with a 
sawed-off shotgun had burst into the Marin County 
Courthouse, seized a group of hostages to trade 
for George Jackson's freedom, and staged a 
shoot-out with the police. "Must have been a 
hillbilly," said Tom. "Ain't no nigger mean enough to do that."

Hearing that the gunman was Jonathan and that he 
had died in the attack, Crazy Tom and Mad Dog 
Jimmy drove excitedly to Mosher's house, where 
they began acting out their revolutionary 
fantasies. In their frenzy, one of them fired off 
two loud shots from a sawed-off shotgun. Moments 
later, a sheriff's car roared up. Mosher raced 
out the back door and disappeared, leaving JJ 
behind. The deputies searched the house and found 
the sawed-off shotgun in the reservoir tank of 
the upstairs toilet. "I was so scared I couldn't 
speak," JJ later confided. "Tom set me up to be killed."

Whatever Mosher's motives, the deputies threw JJ 
in jail and charged him with burglary, possession 
of stolen property, carrying a concealed weapon, 
and being armed while committing a felony. Mosher 
sent word that, because of his own legal 
problems, he would not be able to testify that 
the black militant had permission to be in the house.

JJ's luck seemed to be going from bad to rotten. 
Back in May, the police had come to pick him up 
on an earlier misdemeanor. When he refused to 
show them identification, they searched his house 
and garage, where they found a flare gun and 
illegal ammunition that Mosher had apparently 
left behind. Now facing a new string of felony 
charges, JJ panicked, jumped bail, and fled with 
his portable radio to Guevara Ranch, where he hid 
out in the makeshift cabin near the rocky crest 
of the mountain. Mosher visited whenever he 
could, using the unwitting JJ as his onsite eyes and ears.

Tom's chief target in those concluding months of 
1970 was a brilliant, brawny, sweet, and 
often-terrifying black superman named Jimmy Carr. 
One of George Jackson's prison mates and a former 
bodyguard for Huey Newton, Carr had just gotten 
out on parole, when - according to rumors - he 
helped plan Jonathan Jackson's ill-fated raid. In 
any case, Carr married Jonathan's friend Betsy 
Hammer and took a job teaching black studies at 
the University of California at Santa Cruz, where 
he began advanced work in both mathematics and electronics.

As might be expected, the brainy ex-con soon made 
his way to Mosher's guerrilla training camp at 
Guevara Ranch, where he found Mosher's sidekick 
JJ. In time, Carr came to trust the young 
fugitive and recruited him for a new and 
extremely dangerous mission. Flying the banner of 
the Movement of August 7, in memory of the day 
Jonathan Jackson died, Carr planned to kidnap 
some important hostage, break George out of San 
Quentin, hijack an airplane, and fly to freedom.

According to JJ, Carr talked of shorting the 
prison's power supply by driving a spike into the 
ground and throwing a chain from it over the 
power line. George would then use smuggled 
weapons to force his way out of maximum security, 
while Carr used explosives from Guevara Ranch to 
blow a hole in the prison wall. He would pick 
George up, and race into the night with machine 
guns blazing from the back of his Toyota jeep.

A sad mix of Clint Eastwood's Hollywood and Nat 
Turner's slave revolt, the plan never had much of 
a chance. But before Carr could try, Mosher 
visited JJ, caught wind of the excitement, and - 
according to official court records - notified 
Agent David Foster, his handler at the CII. In 
turn, Carr grew suspicious of Mosher, drew a gun 
on him, and chased him off the land. For all his 
Uptown bravado, Mosher admitted, he was starting 
to get scared of "dangerous murdering motherfuckers" like Jimmy Carr.

The climax came at the end of December, when Carr 
trudged up to the cabin with a tall, thin black 
man in an Air Force jacket. As JJ watched, the 
two men disappeared up the hill behind the cabin. 
Two shots rang out. Minutes later Carr came into 
the cabin alone, a .357 Magnum in his hand. He 
had just shot an informer, he said. He was 
feeling queasy and sent his little friend "to 
make sure the pig is dead." Doing as he was told, 
JJ found the man unmistakably dead, his head 
splattered by the force of the magnum bullets. JJ 
had no idea who the victim was.

Shaken, he returned with the news, and Carr asked 
him to help get rid of the body. Carr wanted to 
dig a grave, but the ground was too rocky. So, 
they gathered a small mound of redwood, threw the 
corpse over it, poured on some gasoline, and set 
the makeshift pyre ablaze. The fire burned for 
hours in the cold December drizzle, as the two 
men watched the body turn to ash. At one point, 
the still shaky Carr had to pick up the 
smoldering leg of his victim and put it back into 
the fire, while JJ wrenched the rib cage from a 
log. The two revolutionaries smashed the 
unburnable bones to bits, and buried the pelvis 
and knee joints in the silt of a nearby creek. 
Finally, Carr could take it no longer, fleeing 
down the mountainside to his jeep, where he threw 
up over the fender. He then climbed into the 
driver's seat and charged off without a word.

Day and night into the New Year, JJ remained 
alone, deserted by Carr and horrified by what 
they had done. Not until January 8 did he see a 
living soul - his buddy Mosher, who offered to 
take him to a friend's house in San Jose. Over 
the next three days, JJ tearfully told Tom how he and Carr had burned the body.

The murder and barbeque, as Mosher called it, was 
exactly what the COINTELPROS wanted to discredit 
the Left, but the tale sounded so bizarre that 
Mosher thought for a time that JJ might have 
wigged out. According to court records, he talked 
with the CII's Foster on January 8, the day he 
brought JJ down from the mountain. Officially, 
the informant warned the state lawman about 
explosives on the land and the presence there of 
the fugitive Jimmy Johnson. On his own, he put JJ 
on a bus to Eugene, Oregon, to stay with another of Mosher's many friends.

Carefully planning his next move, Mosher talked 
to Foster again a few days later, then went back 
to the land, picked up a stick and a half of 
plastique, which he brought to Phil Duncan, his 
old FBI contact. Duncan passed the explosive on 
to Foster. How much Mosher had learned about 
plans for the jailbreak, or how much he told the 
CII's Foster and the FBI's Duncan, remains 
unclear, but Foster followed up by getting a copy 
of an alleged letter from George Jackson laying 
out ideas for the escape. According to the 
official story, a dry cleaner in San Cruz had 
found the letter in a pocket of a pair of Carr's 
trousers, along with an envelope from Soledad attorney John Thorne's law firm.

With the plastique and the letter as evidence for 
a search warrant, Foster led a two-day raid on 
Guevara Ranch on January 14 and 15. Mosher went 
along, helping investigators unearth 80 pounds of 
the dynamite, nitroglycerine, and bombing 
paraphernalia that he had helped stash there. The 
searchers found enough explosives, one official 
said, to do "a beautiful job of blowing up a 
building as large as the Santa Clara County 
courthouse." Given the rough terrain, they found no trace of the burned body.

In early February, Mosher flew to Oregon to talk 
with JJ, suggesting that the state would drop all 
felony charges if JJ testified against the black 
Communist Angela Davis, who was facing trial for 
allegedly helping Jonathan Jackson with his 
ill-fated raid. JJ flatly refused, still unaware 
that Tom was working for the law. Mosher then 
arranged for JJ to fly to Vancouver, where he 
would stay with Rodney, who had moved to Canada.

Back in Northern California, Mosher returned to 
the land accompanied by a friend - probably Kent 
Mastores - to look again for what remained of the 
burned body. The two searched for several hours 
and finally, in the midst of a burnt patch of 
earth, they found a set of keys, some change, 
some metallic objects, the charred button of an 
Air Force jacket, and several ounces of bone. 
Mosher put the grisly treasure into a plastic bag 
and gave it to Duncan, who passed it on to 
Foster. Returning for a second look, Foster led 
another search of the land on February 10, and 
this time he found a wedding ring, other personal 
effects, and two-and-a-half pounds of bone 
fragments. It was enough to make a positive 
identification. The victim was Fred Bennett, a 
well-liked Panther who had headed the Soledad Defense Committee.

Foster kept the killing secret, while Mosher was 
flown to Washington to testify in closed session 
before the staff of the Senate Subcommittee on 
Internal Security. He told his story that day and 
the next, and again in mid-March, when he was 
accompanied by Kent Mastores, who had so recently 
worked on legal defense for George Jackson.

The public exposé took longer to engineer. At the 
time, the FBI maintained a large network of what 
the COINTELPRO memos called "reliable and 
cooperative news media sources." The Bureau would 
give selected scoops - true or otherwise - to 
these reporters and publishers, who would print 
the stories as news, exposing and disrupting the 
Left's "obvious maneuvers and duplicity."

In Mosher's case, the cooperative journalist was 
Ed Montgomery, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter 
on Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner. Over 
the years, the veteran newsman had specialized in 
stinging exposés against the Left, from 
communists in the Kremlin to Bruce Franklin, the 
Maoist English Professor at Stanford, a story 
that had come in part from Mosher. But some of 
Montgomery's juiciest scoops came from revealing 
selected parts of Mosher's still-secret senate testimony.

On April 20 and 21, 1971, Montgomery broke the 
gruesome story of Fred Bennett's death, 
conveniently timed to coincide with Bobby Seale's 
torture-murder trial in Connecticut. As 
Montgomery told it, Chairman Bobby had ordered 
Bennett killed because he was having an affair 
with Seale's wife Artie. Whether on his own or 
from his friends in law enforcement, Montgomery 
had given the story a new twist. Was it true? 
Probably not. The Panthers insisted that both the 
party and Bobby, who was in jail awaiting trial, 
had approved the relationship. If the Panthers 
ordered the killing, which they denied, the FBI 
had more likely led them to believe that Fred 
Bennett was "a pig." In an earlier COINTELPRO 
memo on May 11, 1970, FBI headquarters had urged 
its San Francisco office to work with local 
police to plant fabricated documents and other 
"disruptive disinformation ... pinpointing 
Panthers as police or FBI informants." The G-Men 
called this "planting a snitch jacket," which 
they and allied police agencies did to several 
Panther leaders, marking them for death while 
exacerbating splits within the Black Panther Party.

In his April articles, Montgomery provided the 
gory details of Bennett's murder, naming Carr and 
Jimmy Johnson as targets of the police 
investigation. He also tied JJ to the arson at 
Stanford's Behavioral Sciences Center. He did not 
cite Mosher's name or testimony, but mentioned as 
a source "an informer from within the 
radical-militant faction at Stanford." Since no 
one else at Stanford knew nearly as much about 
either JJ or the land, this pointed directly at 
Mosher. So, to maintain Crazy Tom's cover, 
Montgomery ran a new story on April 25 telling of 
a manhunt for that well-known militant Tom 
Mosher. As Montgomery wrote it, "There is some 
speculation Mosher may also be in Algeria."

The entire story was a lie. According to Mosher, 
Montgomery knew him personally, knew he was an 
informer, had helped in trying to work out the 
deal for JJ, and had even accompanied Tom on a 
bizarre trip to the San Francisco morgue in early 
March to look at a badly mauled black corpse 
pulled out of San Francisco Bay. Tom could not identify who it was.

Mosher remained in touch with Montgomery, giving 
him an exclusive interview in June, just before 
the senate subcommittee brought out two volumes 
devoted entirely to Tom's explosive testimony. 
Montgomery's article - followed by the official 
Senate publication - confirmed publicly for the 
first time that Mosher had worked for the FBI and 
CII. With encouragement from Montgomery, Mosher 
also gave a ghostwritten rehash to Reader's 
Digest, which gave him their "First Person Award" 
and $3,000 to supplement his income from official sources.

In all this coverage, Mosher scored a major 
propaganda coup for the FBI's Counterintelligence 
Programs, spicing his testimony with horror 
stories about the exploits of Bruce Franklin, the 
Black Panthers, JJ, and Carr, and the plan to 
free George Jackson. Tom also mixed his own 
rather sophisticated insights about the homegrown 
roots of the New Left with what some of his more 
conservative superiors wanted to hear about 
party-line directives from Moscow, Hanoi, and 
Havana. "The Black Panther Party, the faction of 
SDS known as Weatherman, and other independent 
groups are now being effectively directed and 
maintained by Cuban intelligence," he declared. 
Naturally, he ignored the FBI's 
Counterintelligence Programs with their deadly 
snitch jackets and assaults on civil liberties, 
and completely failed to mention his own role as a classic agent provocateur.

Two, Three, Many Crazy Toms

Following the release of his senate testimony, 
Mosher fled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to live 
in fear as Edward "Tim" Cox, protected from 
vengeance-seekers by a burly bodyguard. But even 
in hiding he had his uses, especially after 
August 21, 1971, the day prison guards at San 
Quentin shot and killed George Jackson. According 
to official accounts, Jackson had finally tried 
his long-expected bid for freedom, falling victim 
to his own ill-fated plan - or to betrayal by his comrades.

Almost immediately, the CII stepped up pressure 
on Jimmy Carr, who had been sitting in jail ever 
since April for an outburst during one of George 
Jackson's last court appearances. The CII wanted 
Carr to testify against Angela Davis for her 
alleged role in helping Jonathan Jackson in his 
earlier attempt to break George free. Publicly, 
the pressure began when Ed Montgomery broke the 
story of the letter from George Jackson 
supposedly found in Carr's back pocket, 
implicating Carr in helping plan the August 21 
break-out attempt. If the letter was real, CII 
had kept their knowledge of it secret until the 
Montgomery story, as if wanting Jackson to try to escape.

Privately, CII threatened to revoke Carr's parole 
and indict him for the killing of Fred Bennett. 
But to pin the killing on Carr, or make him think 
they could, the authorities needed JJ, the only 
living witness to the crime. To find him, CII's 
David Foster talked to Mosher's friend Kent 
Mastores, and then wrote to Tom in Cambridge 
proposing a new deal for JJ, who had left British 
Columbia after learning of Mosher's Senate testimony.

"A lot depends on his giving the information we 
know he possesses, but if he will come in and do 
this, I am prepared to offer him full immunity," 
the plain-spoken Foster explained in his letter. 
"Think this over Tom and make some effort to 
contact JJ and get him to come in. We will get 
him sooner or later, and if he waits until after 
the Davis trial or we have a break and get the 
dope some other way, it will be too late."

Mosher agreed to try, eager to prove to JJ and to 
himself that he was really a friend. Not knowing 
where JJ was, he sent Foster's letter to the 
fugitive's parents, blotting out the mention of 
Mastores and some other embarrassing references - 
all of which we easily restored. He also enclosed 
an open airline ticket stolen from a travel 
agency in Amherst, and suggested in a separate 
note that JJ make a well-publicized surrender to 
former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, 
whose son had been active in the Stanford 
anti-war movement. "I told you that you and I 
were both going to be free men," the provocateur 
declared. "I stand by this no matter what you choose to do."

As it happened, JJ's folks never got the letter 
to their son, who had fled to Trinidad. Then, 
early in 1973, the Trinidadian authorities 
arrested him on local charges, and when they 
discovered he was an authentic mad bomber, turned 
him over to the FBI for shipment back to 
California. For all JJ's running, the state had 
no real case against him other than the testimony 
of Mosher, whom no sane prosecutor would dare put 
on the stand. So, with the cooling of passions on 
all sides, JJ served five months in county jail 
and went free. "I was under the impression that 
the insurrection was about to break out," he 
recalled, a sad, long-ago smile flitting across his face.

In the meantime, JJ's insurrectionary comrade 
Jimmy Carr fared less well. At the end of 
December 1971, he walked out of jail amid rumors 
that he had turned informer, most likely the 
result of another snitch jacket planted by the 
law. Then, in April 1972, just as the Angela 
Davis trial was getting under way, two gunmen 
ambushed and shot him outside the Hammer house in 
San Jose. Within minutes, the police caught the 
assailants, but they never revealed who had ordered the killing.

That left Mosher, who returned home to Chicago, 
where I found him in 1982 working on the staff of 
a rightwing city council member. He seemed as 
crazy as ever, leaving me to hold a fully loaded 
.45 in the middle of a crowded restaurant while 
he and a friend stepped outside to have what 
seemed like a lover's spat. At the time I was 
making a PBS film on gun control. By then, I knew 
more than I ever wanted to know about Mosher's 
personal life, and a great deal more about the 
FBI COINTELPROS and similar undercover work by 
state police and local "Red Squads." As 
Congressional investigators, courts, and 
journalists had discovered, Mosher was only one 
of dozens of provocateurs that various agencies 
paid to disrupt and discredit black militants and the New Left.

Still, I can't help seeing a perverse payback in 
the law of unintended consequences. If, as I 
believe, the chaos of those years helped turn the 
average American against the war in Southeast 
Asia, the many Crazy Toms played a large and 
unheralded role in bringing home the troops. This 
is, of course, the perfect story, one that J. 
Edgar's heirs would never want told.

[1] Investigators on the Mosher project included 
Lenny Siegel, Herb Borok, Lee Herzenberg, and Anna Weissman.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement 
and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman 
lived for many years in London, working as a 
magazine writer and television producer. He now 
lives and works in France, where he writes on international affairs.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of 
Origin for this work. Permission to republish is 
freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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