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The Spies Who Thought We Were Messy


With illegal government break-ins and wire tapping back in the news, (it seems even the Patriot Act is too contaminated by concessions to ACLU-card carrying liberals for Bush) I can’t resist reminiscing about my documented adventure in the land of super surveillance. The time period ranged from 1973-75 and Judy and I were living in an isolated Catskill cabin, way off the main road. Our only neighbor’s were a brisk hike away.

Naturally the Feds assumed that we had moved to such an isolated turf because we wanted to set up a terrorist training camp. We actually decided to to live there because we fell in love with the blazing beautiful lasting forever fall of 1973. And so a period of break-ins and monitoring ensued which had the Feds practically sharing our cabin, reading our mail, installing listening devices, following our friends, tapping our phone calls, and checking on our bank account. All this chicanery was executed without any Judge’s permission.

Everything fell apart for the Feds when Judy discovered a homing device on our car. We took civil action. They admitted some crimes and turned over a massive literary account of their adventure in our home. True the FBI files were quite blacked out but enough remained to give the reader an interesting account of what could easily be called a Clash of Cultures, if not Civilizations.

Boy, did the Feds hate our messy house. There are pages of complaints about our sloppiness. How are they supposed to find that secret document from Fidel Castro instructing us in the use of exploding cigars? And they really hated our irregular life style. They would get a solid piece of information that we were planing to leave town and so they would show up at our cabin all bright and ready to break in only to discover we had changed our plans. That left them nothing much to do but bag a few deers and get drunk.

Our reading habits drove them crazy. What the hell was False Promises by Stan Aronowitz anyway? We referred to it in a letter. Is it real book? A secret code? How come no other terrorist suspect had that “book?” A national question was asked of all the major Field offices but nobody had ever heard of False Promises.

The Feds also hated that –being Yippies –we weren’t in a disciplined organization. And so we required much more personal attention and expense. For us, it wasn’t enough to put one agent in some movement bureaucracy. They had to live next door.

Of course we learned some personal stuff about the Feds. Like they weren’t the heartiest warriors. As the Catskill weather grew colder, icier and snowier, they tended to reduce and then halt their monitoring. One agent slipped on the ice and broke his arm, another was scratched by our cat. The results they were getting about our “terrorist training camp” weren’t worth freezing their ass off.

The field agents actually wanted to call the whole thing off but the high command replied that the less it appeared that we were engaged in terrorist activity the more likely it was that we were engaged in terrorist activity. J.E. Hoover described us as recidivist New Leftists.

The monitoring continued till Judy found their device. We sued. There was an out of court settlement and we used the money to buy a new car. Those were the good old days when there still was a Constitution and Dubya only dreamed of owning a baseball team.

STEW ALBERT runs the Yippie Reading Room. His memoir, Who the Hell is STEW ALBERT?, is just out from Red Hen Press. He can be reached at:


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