By Clayton Van Lydegraf

January – February 1973

I have been summoned to appear before the San Francisco Special Grand Jury. Having been denied right of counsel, I speak as my own attorney.

People ask me why I am here. A better question is: "Why is anyone here?"

My answer is that political grand juries like this one have been invented for a special reason. The reason is fear. Those who make top level decisions for the United States Government are afraid of people and what people can do. There is reason for them to be afraid.

It is true that a good many people have more cause to hate this government than to love it. The most recent object lesson was given us during this Christmas and New Year season of 1972-73.

The government that promised peace delivered instead more war and more terror bombing. By doing that it exposed its own lack of good faith. It violated international law and all its own promises as well as its own constitutional provisions.

This law by power of the gun and order through falling and exploding bombs have not been confined to the realm of foreign policy. People here at home who acted to oppose the U.S. war in Vietnam have been clubbed, gassed, shot, and jailed. Police have shot and killed Black persons who were asleep and at home in bed. Those who did the killing have been excused, justified, and exonerated. The Governor of New York State in person ordered the shooting of unarmed prisoners who were resisting intolerable conditions. Both prisoners and guards died as the result.

Meanwhile, the President of the United States concerned himself with the welfare and legal prospects of convicted mass murderer Lt. Calley.

With such a record, the government needs a department or justification and whitewash. That is exactly the way it uses its Dept. of Justice. One example of this is the way law enforcement agencies of the executive branch and the courts jail and prosecute newspaper and TV reporters.

Actually, commercial press and TV are very prejudiced in favor or the existing system and its government. They have been grinding out the most anti-communist, anti-Black, anti-woman, anti-young people and pro-war stuff for years.

But the whole country came to feel that the war was too much – too vile, impossible to win or even carry on longer. So finally, press and TV began to carry the Pentagon Papers and some other real facts about the war and how it came about. Mostly these are Facts known to the rest of the world for a long time. So now federal police are in action to punish reporters who merely gave us facts that we would have had a long time ago if we had a really free press – or government.

It is the same with the national network of special grand juries that has been set up by the Internal Security Division of the Dept. of Justice. Supported by new court rulings, they are getting up a new grand inquisition. Government claims it is after a big underground conspiracy of bombing and violence from the left.

Government wants people to think that the danger of our times is not a massively reckless and criminal use of violence by the state itself, but the comparatively modest efforts of some of its internal opponents. This self-righteous finger pointing at others by this administration can't possibly be defended by any moral, social, political, legal or constitutional ethic imaginable.

Whatever you may think of the dress or personal life style of the people the government says it is after; whether you like the politics or the actions of “Weatherman Underground" or other actionists or not, there is one thing that is clear based on the record. For social and human values such people put the government and its military high command to total and utter shame.

This is the main reason that I and many others choose to identify not with this government but with its opponents. This is why we have to look to oppositional forces and to newer and younger people. You can't expect any kind of basic solutions from the reactionaries now in control.

This is one over-riding reason why we are all here. And this is why I refuse any part in the barely disguised witch-hunt the government is trying to put together behind the locked doors of the special grand juries.

There are also more specific reasons. One is that the government’s conspiracy charges are flimsy and contrived. Mr. Olsen, the newest head of the Internal Security Division, talks about destroying the political underground, about many bombings and heavy actions and so on.

But in the main indictment so far, they cite only one action said to have happened in Cleveland. That was in the Dec. 7, 1972 re-doing of the Detroit Grand Jury report that covers the whole country including here. This official indictment lists dozens of "overt actions" which cover going into houses, getting mail, seeing people, holding meetings, leaving town, but not much action.

Most “fugitives” the government talks about so much are actually being looked for on lesser charges like rioting or for conspiracy in general. All the force and violence that the government alleges up to now amounts to a good deal less than the effect of dropping one single medium-size bomb on the people of Hanoi. And even this is still only charges – people are still supposed to be innocent until proved guilty before a jury. But the government knows no shame – it brags about its own bombing atrocities while accusing others.

But extreme inequality of arms does not at all mean that the underlying political issues are frivolous or farcical. It simply means that there is at present no internal force in being that effectively challenges the military and police monopoly of violence held by the government at its various levels. The government is not being honest when it insinuates that there is any immediate internal military threat to its power.

But what has happened is that the policies and actions of this government have been challenged and discredited. Apologists have to defend the government with such absurdities as saying that the Vietnam war is wrong but that we had gotten into it so we had to win at no matter what cost.

Others admitted the U.S. couldn't win, but said it still had to fight on until the other side would meet all U.S. surrender terms.

Recently something less than one-third of the adults eligible to be voters elected a president; that is called a landslide and a great popular mandate. After the election it turns out that this same government often does just the opposite of what it solemnly promised in order to win votes.

Failures and strategic defeat weigh heavily on every sector of national life.

The Army and Navy, even the Air Force, seem to be full of people who don't believe in their mission or in the wars and police actions they are expected to die for. Government understands very well what this means. It sees most people at home and in the world turning against its aggressive war. It fears that people may realize that the causes, roots, and solutions are not to be found in Vietnam or even in Peking, but in Washington and the U.S. It wouldn't want our own people to find out that we always had the power to stop the war dead in its tracks. For the man and woman power and the political and material machinery that makes the war go has always been here at home close to hand and at the mercy of an aroused people.

This system and its government can't fundamentally solve that kind of problem. It can't solve many other problems in all areas or national life, social, economic, financial, health, racial, cultural, moral, sexual, political. So it fights problems and the people who want to make changes.

The above was written before the cease-fire. Since then, the government has been moved to agree to a truce in Vietnam. But instead of admitting that it has been wrong or trying to relax tensions at home, the administration is moving toward a get-tougher policy. There will be no amnesty for pre-mature war protesters. There will be cuts in the budgets for health and educational services and welfare, especially for Black and Brown people and for children and women. More racism and sexism and more money for the police and the military.

Oppressive and repressive moves like these won't succeed for very long; people will be forced to find ways to resist. More police and more massive weapons don't solve social and political problems any better at home than they did in South East Asia.

So what does it mean when the government wants to force me and others to testify and to swear to tell all, fully and truthfully, or else.

The truth is that forced testimony and oaths are nothing but a survival to the present times of the torture chambers of the grand inquisitions of the middle ages when church and state together or separately were hunting witches and religious and political heretics.

Behind closed doors, not only in Spain but in England too, judges were forcing people accused of heresy to answer all questions fully and to confess to all charges or suffer imprisonment and torture until they either satisfied the inquisitors or died. They could have no attorneys, no right to hear charges against them or the evidence, no right to offer witnesses or to cross-examine accusers, no right to refuse the oath or remain silent. Or when silent, that was taken as an admission of guilt.

The same judges were the accusers, prosecutors, the jury and at times even the torturers and executioners. They were also prepared to play the father confessor. They had power to absolve each other. They used faceless informers who never appeared in person, and who replaced the common law practice of right to confrontation by open accusers.

The grand jury here and now is not being used to verify the adequacy of evidence or to investigate dishonest officials, but to search out political heresy and to hunt witches. The government is not accusing defendants; it is attempting to create them to order.

Check out the inquisition list: Compulsory testimony, compulsory oaths (legally known as the oath ex-officio), secret hearings, no right of attorney, no cross-examination, no right to knew anything, no right to silence, or privacy, or free speech and association, and at the end, no right of a trial by jury – there is no Bill of Rights behind these doors; anything goes.

The 5th Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights are in the U.S. Constitution because for over 650 years people in Europe and America did fight and die and persist: went to prison; died in disgrace and in horror; burned at the stake. They fought for their beliefs and their friends and associates and refused to sell-out to buy their own lives.

Make no mistake – the inquisition is not for punishing crime. It is an instrument of intimidation and terror.

In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, 19 people, most of them women, were hanged as witches. They were innocent and none of them confessed. 50 men and women who did confess were not executed; they only sent others to their deaths. Forced testimony is false testimony. Especially when, as here, no crime was involved – except a Challenge to the total authority of an oppressive class jealous of its power. In difficult times, heresy, sedition, disloyalty, witchery become the greatest of crimes.

Formally and legally the Constitution and the Bill of Rights forbid the U.S. government to do such things. But for long years Black slaves, Red Indians and Women and Children did not have even formal rights. This expressed a dualism in the early U.S. social system, a gap between ideas of natural and equal rights and oppression or slavery and genocide in deeds. Such basic contradictions remain to this time. The most important rights are seldom enforced in the crises when they are most needed.

As an example, during the administration or Harry S Truman, David Greenglass confessed to an act of atomic espionage. He went on to accuse his sister, Ethel Rosenberg end her husband, Julius Greenglass lived. But his sister and brother-in-law were executed for a crime that is scientifically and technically impossible and that never happened. The charge was espionage in time of war, but they were alleged to have helped an ally, not the enemy. But the government needed cold war hysteria against the Soviet Union at that moment, not against Germany or Japan.

So it is also with the conspiracy and witch-hunt indictments of the present time. Any physical acts are strictly secondary and minor as compared to the primary and major crime of a political challenge to the state which is treated by the U.S. exactly as kings of England treated defiance of the divine right of kings.

I have had personal experience with government witch-hunting. On Dec. 13, 1956, in Seattle, Washington, I was ordered to answer questions about my military record as an Air Force pilot in World War II. Before the event was over, I found myself publicly charged by an authorized representative of a branch of the U.S. government with being a trained and expert assassin and an instructor of assassins in a country where I have never been in my life.

Those false and "infamous" charges made in public have never been withdrawn nor apologized for, nor tried, nor compensated for. I have no desire nor intention to repeat the experience.

There is no authority to compel one to testify or to take any oath ex-officio anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, but there is a prohibition of such things in the 5th Amendment. Further, all rights and powers not specified are reserved to the people. I shall neither take the oath nor testify, which is my unconditional right if the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. I shall not allow myself to be illegally held to answer either for myself or for any other person. Since the government has no right to require the oath, nor to ask such questions, any so-called immunity is irrelevant as well as unconstitutional and inhuman.

I strongly feel that one of the worst things that anyone can do is to falsely betray good people into the hands of an oppressive government that is out to catch witches.

Since the government knows all this, and it knows that I know they do, these efforts to compel me are a denial of due process; they are illegal and cruel punishment without trial by jury and they are illegal arrest and torture.

If the government tries to hold me to answer and to imprison me in violation of its own "supreme law" then I shall still say: where are the charges, where is the trial by jury, and shall demand compensation for damages and false arrest, as an inalienable right.

There is more to be said in this matter; I submit supporting material in writing.


In 1537, John Lambert was chained to a Smithfield stake and burned as an heretic. A part of the charge was the accusation that he believed that his judges had no right to compel him to swear an oath to tell the truth. He replied, in part:


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