Harrisburg: The Politics of Salvation


In 1849 a maverick priest in the town of Béziers, France, founded an order of nuns which he called “Les Religieuses du Sacré Coeur de Marie,” whose aim would be to educate young girls to work among the poor. Father Jean Pierre Gailhac was an eccentric and a social activist. He had chosen to be chaplain at the local hôtel-Dieu rather than preach or teach, and had also set up a rehabilitation center for prostitutes. Like the order he founded, Gailhac seemed destined for occasional trouble, and was even accused, midway in his career, of poisoning some nuns. Notwithstanding his personal tribulations, his order flourished, and a small mission was sent to the United States in the 1880s to establish a convent on these shores.

Its arrival was forlorn. The American sponsor of the mission, a rich Cincinnati widow, had died while the nuns were en route from France, and they were left stranded at the docks. A priest took pity on the sisters and offered them his house in Sag Harbor, Long Island. But their troubles were not over. The priest fell in love with the youngest of the nuns, who had not yet taken her vows, and the group’s mother superior had to return to France for further counsel. This episode is documented in the archives of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) under the title “Les Tristes et Douloureuses Epreuves de la Maison de Sag Harbor.” Such afflications did not prevent the order from opening many distinguished schools and colleges throughout America, one of the most noted of which is Mary-mount College in Tarrytown, New York. It is at Marymount that Sister Elizabeth McAlister, recently convicted in the Harrisburg Seven conspiracy trial for smuggling letters into a prison, attended college and later taught.

Elizabeth McAlister is one of seven children of Irish immigrants who had come to the United States in the 1920s, and had set up a successful construction business in Montclair, New Jersey. Her childhood was peaceful, uneventful, and fairly prosperous. She had always loved to draw, and early in her college life she designed holy name day cards and place cards for the nuns’ religious holidays—the feast of Saint Joseph, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The only seed of nonconformism to be found in her early life is that she loved contemporary art and made abstract designs on these greetings which her order found “highly unacceptable” because of their avant-garde tenor.

The call for a religious vocation had come to Elizabeth in the most traditional way. Sometime in her freshman year, while in prayer, she received what she believed to be a call from God. It had come as a surprise to her and as a discomfiture to her parents, who looked upon the rules of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary as harshly restrictive. Until 1962 or so the regulations of this semi-cloistered order forbade the nuns from ever entering their parents’ house again after they had taken their vows, short of a death in the family. They were also prohibited from seeing any films, or reading any newspapers or any books beyond the slim collection of Saints’ Lives on the convent’s shelves. There was a single radio set in the convent on which the sisters were allowed to listen to only one program: Fulton Sheen’s. Older members of the RSHM vividly recall the great excitement with which they greeted a showing of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which Joseph Kennedy, whose ailing daughter Rosemary was at the college, once brought to Marymount on a Tuesday of Holy Week as a special dispensation for the community.

Elizabeth McAlister, a tall, long-limbed girl with blue eyes and thick dark brown hair, was an intense, compulsively disciplinary, exemplary nun who spent her early twenties perfecting herself in her vocation. She did not even chafe against such rigid convent customs as the “amende honorable,” a penance which she had to recite publicly, kneeling on the floor of the refectory at breakfast time to confess any small instance of misdemeanor: turning a light out too late, breaking a tea cup. It went this way: “Reverend Mother, I most humbly ask your pardon for all the pain I have caused you since I came to this house, by my disrespect and disobedience. I also ask pardon of the community for the bad example I have given them by my continued failings in the Holy Rule. I ask you all to pray for me that I may be sincerely converted and become a good and fervent religious.”

The order having shrewdly perceived Elizabeth’s talent, she was sent to Hunter College in 1962 to acquire a master’s degree in art history. The head of the department, Eugene Goossen, remembers her as “a person with fringes of great firmness and stubbornness, full of idées fixes, but with very radical tastes in art for a nun.” Religious orders are noted for overworking the few specialists they have. Returning to Marymount in 1963, Elizabeth taught Medieval, Renaissance, Oriental, and American art within the same semester. Her greatest pleasure was to lecture on her favorite twentieth-century masters—Jackson Pollock, Joan Miró, Barnett Newman, David Smith.

In those early years Elizabeth was still dressed in the vestments that had been traditional to her order since the nineteenth century: a floor-length habit of blue serge, over which hung a highly starched white linen pèlerine which reached halfway down to her waist. On her head she wore a serretête, or cap, of white muslin to which she pinned the enormous coif of starched white linen that framed her face. Over the coif she wore a third layer of white veiling reaching to the waist, and a fourth layer of black veiling would be added when she attended chapel. She rose at 5:30, and until 1968 her daily schedule would remain the following: a period of meditation at 6 A.M., mass at 6:45, and three more hours of meditation and prayers interspersed throughout the day.

During the political turbulence of the 1960s, persons like Elizabeth McAlister underwent transformations that were unnatural in their intensity. The revolution in the Church, the boiling pot of the Sixties’ dissent induced in her a mysterious personal growth of terrifying rapidity. Elizabeth had been against the Vietnam war since 1965, and in May of 1968 she was on the verge of joining Philip Berrigan and the Catonsville Nine in their foray on draft board files in Maryland. She desisted from so acting only the night before, with characteristic dutifulness toward her order. Her desire to join her friends in civil disobedience was “an instinctive yes-saying trust” which she could not have explained to her community, at that time, in rational terms. But the compulsive rigor and dedication that she had brought to her nun’s vocation were now put to the uses of the Movement.

A characteristic image of the 1970 Elizabeth McAlister: She drives with a friend down the highway toward a Movement meeting, high beyond the speed limit, the window open. She is now clothed in a brief-skirted sport dress; on her lap is an open copy of the New Testament which she looks at frequently during her voyage. It was during such a trip, on January 12, 1971, as she was getting into a car in a parking lot in Newark, New Jersey, that seven FBI men walked up to her and said: “You’re under arrest, Sister Liz.” “Please,” she replied, her Irish temper rising, “my name is Elizabeth—my friends call me Liz.” They read her the charges: conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up heating ducts in Washington, D.C. “Over, over,” the agents radioed when she had entered the car, “we’ve got the package, over.”

That same evening a posse of FBI men came to arrest Eqbal Ahmad, a Pakistani scholar living in Chicago. In Baltimore, the FBI went to the apartment of Anthony and Mary Scoblick, and to the apartment shared by Fathers Joseph Wenderoth and Neil McLaughlin. The best known of the Harrisburg Seven, Father Philip Berrigan, was told of his indictment at the Federal Penitentiary at Danbury, Connecticut, where he is serving a six-year sentence for the destruction of draft files in 1967 and 1968.


The indictment brought against these seven persons in January, 1970, relied solely on conversations reported by an FBI informer, Boyd Douglas, a convict with a long record of lying and of violence, and on letters exchanged at Lewisburg Prison between Elizabeth McAlister and Philip Berrigan. The charges against this predominantly Catholic group—whose vast indiscretions were caused in good part by their political innocence and previous isolation—were ironically Catholic in nature. The charges implied, as does the old Church teaching, that one can be as guilty for thinking sinful thoughts as for committing thoughtful sins. The indictment blurred all distinction between discussion and agreement, between conversation and action, and invaded that most private and sacred part of man which is his fantasy life. And it had been triggered, in turn, by the fantasies of the angry spy master, the late J. Edgar Hoover, who was seeking to reestablish his prestige at the wane of a long career.

When Hoover appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations on November 27, 1970, to make the allegations that led to the Harrisburg indictment, it was his first visit to any Senate group in fifteen years. He had come under the pretext of asking for additional funds for the FBI which had already been voted to him by the House. Hoover announced, that day, “an incipient plot on the part of an anarchist group” which, led by the imprisoned Berrigan brothers, was planning to blow up government heating systems and kidnap a high government official.

One must sense the full measure of Hoover’s desperation. He had made several previous attempts to force an indictment of the group, but neither the White House, the Republican Policy Committee, nor the Internal Security Division had wanted to make his charges public. Hoover’s stubborn determination to obtain an indictment seems to reflect his frustration at the Justice Department’s failure to indict Daniel Berrigan under the fugitive law. Berrigan had evaded the FBI for nearly four months, had mocked and derided it. But the Attorney General wisely saw fit not to enlarge this priest’s well-publicized martyrdom.

The Justice Department is reported to have been appalled by Hoover’s public revelations of November 27, and dead set against an indictment at the time because of insufficient evidence. The group was simply one of several that were continually being watched and followed by the FBI. But Hoover’s Senate appearance forced Justice to take very swift face-saving action. The first handwriting and fingerprint analyses on documents compiled by the informer Boyd Douglas and the FBI were undertaken on Monday, November 30, the first available week-day after Hoover’s allegations of Friday, November 27. A grand jury was convened in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the very next day, on December 1, and held hearings from December 20 into the second week of January. On January 12 a hasty and sloppy indictment was handed down after the case was put to the grand jury by Assistant Attorney General Guy Goodwin, Justice’s most passionate hunter of political dissidents. To correct the legal imprudences of this first indictment, a shrewder superseding bill was issued on April 30.

In the first indictment of January 12, which included a special conspiracy-to-kidnap section carrying a possible life sentence, a jury, if it were to satisfy Hoover’s allegations, would have had to find the defendants guilty of the particular charge of conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger. William Lynch’s much broader superseding indictment had as Count 1 a general conspiracy charge with a maximum penalty of five years. Under this indictment a jury need only find the defendants guilty of any one of the three illegal objects of the count—conspiring to raid draft boards, conspiring to blow up heating tunnels, or conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger—for the general conspiracy charge to hold.

Lynch’s insertion of conspiracy in draft board raids that had never been previously prosecuted—and had not been mentioned in the first indictment—was his attempted coup de grâce. Presumably he thought it a charge easy to prove because all the defendants save Eqbal Ahmad had had some associations with such raids: it served as a sugar coating that might help a jury to swallow the more damning medicine of bombing and kidnaping charges. Counts 2 and 3 of Lynch’s indictment charged Elizabeth McAlister and Philip Berrigan with threatening Henry Kissinger in letters they wrote to each other; Counts 4 through 10 had to do with these two defendants sending unauthorized correspondence in and out of Lewisburg Federal Prison.

The Harrisburg Seven went to trial the following year, on January 24, 1972. The man who had triggered Hoover’s ire and indiscretions—the elusive Daniel Berrigan—had been dropped from his status of co-conspirator in the new indictment and would come to court only as an infrequent visitor to the spectators’ gallery.


The courtroom of the Harrisburg Federal Building is like an ultramodern mortuary. Its carpeting is slime green; the benches have the thinness of imitation hickory coffins; the ceiling is an expanse of fifty-four squares of flood-lit panels that give off a garish light; the sole adornment is an enormous American flag. It is the third time in recent years that I sit in the press section of a courtroom seeing a group of Catholics—all of them acquaintances, some of them good friends—prosecuted for their activities against the Indochina war. In this bleak courtroom I am filled with a despair that I never experienced at the trials of the Catonsville Nine or the Milwaukee Fourteen.

In 1968 and 1969 the defendents at such trials were clearly the moral aggressors, having deliberately brought punishment upon themselves by the sacrificial gestures of draft board raids. Their triumphant courtroom testimonies expressed their hopes that the war could be ended, the “system” reformed by acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. With the same joyousness with which they sang civil rights songs over mounds of burning draft files, they elaborated on the evangelic mystique that their witness in jail could move the conscience of the nation and abate the violence of its rulers.

Four years later, at Harrisburg, the government is the aggressor, and the rulers’ violence has increased. The numerous draft board raiders who have gone to jail over the past four years may have sacrificed their freedom for no result whatever. The war they contested has grown in hypocrisy and in technological brutality. The peace movement feels more powerless than than ever before. At Harrisburg in 1972 the government is the inquisitor, prosecuting not disobedience but absurd fantasies of disobedience. Sitting in this cavernous, heavily guarded courtroom, I am haunted by the fact that this could be the trial of any antiwar citizens seeking possibilities for action: If the government came for them in the morning, it may come for us at night.

The thought that Fathers Joseph Wenderoth and Neil McLaughlin may be convicted fills me with a particular sense of dejection. They sit next to each other alongside the left wall of the courtroom, wearing their white collars throughout the trial. They remind me of Bernanos’s “petit curé,” conventional, devout, dedicated pastors who work themselves to the bone in service to others, the kind of priests who used to get the longest line at the confessional. Neil McLaughlin is a slight, frail, cerebral young man given to rigorous theologizing. Joseph Wenderoth is an athletically built Boys’ Town type with a scrubbed, ingenuous face. He tells me that when he kneels down by his bed every night he includes Guy Goodwin in his prayers.

Joe raided a draft board in Philadelphia a few months after Neil had raided one in New York. They spent their priesthood years in Baltimore’s black ghetto, and the dilemma of integrity and identity that has pervaded the radical clergy since the Sixties recurs often in their exegesis of their actions. “What was I supposed to do, sit around the parish and be a parasite on the black community?” “I was sick and tired of leeching off the poor.”

Anthony and Mary Scoblick fell in love on the way to raiding a Boston draft board. They are a clean-cut, ebullient, savvy pair. Like Wenderoth, McLaughlin, Philip Berrigan, and most other religious of the Catholic left, they have been radicalized by their years of work in the black ghetto, and argue emotionally about links between the race problem and the war. Tony, the son of a former Pennsylvania congressman, has a Mediterranean handsomeness and enormous dark eyes. He is the wit of the group, and regales me out of court with Robin Hood tales of his years in the inner city, when he used to raffle off his parish’s furniture on Bingo nights and distribute the earnings to his black parishioners. Mary is a slight, pretty, red-haired former nun who is a doctoral candidate in French literature. Her specialty is contemporary French drama and the theater of the absurd. She softly hums Gregorian chants to herself throughout the trial, requiems she remembers from convent days.

Cast in Harrisburg as the sinister alien, the foreigner brought in to foster American paranoia about outside agitators, Eqbal Ahmad of Pakistan has been given a role familiar to conspiracy trials. During the voir dire, the hostility of the Harrisburg jurors, many of whom testify that they have barely heard of the Vietnam war, centers not around the defendants’ ideologies but upon the “spooky Asian” in their midst. One of the marshals refers to Eqbal as “that camel driver.” Riding in the elevators of the Federal Building one day, a Harrisburg citizen tells me “that Pakistani should be shishkabobed for bringing the country more trouble than it already has.”

Eqbal is an exquisitely polite man with dazzling white teeth and large dark divergent eyes which give him an abstracted look. The inclusion of this sophisticated, agnostic Third World radical in the unschooled Catholic melee is another oddity of the Harrisburg trial. Eqbal traveled for a year with Mahatma Gandhi, writes and speaks fluent English, French, Arabic, and Urdu, received his doctorate from Princeton with highest honors, and was offered a diplomatic position in Bhutto’s government. I have come to admire his sense of honor. When I ask him why he does not skip to Pakistan rather than suffer through the absurdities of this trial he puts out his hand in a severe, categoric gesture and answers: “ça ne se fait pas.”

For recurring periods since his first draft board raid of 1967, Philip Berrigan has been shuttled between prison cells and courtrooms, hands and feet shackled, surrounded by a posse of federal marshals. In Harrisburg his temporary residence is the Dauphin County Jail, which looks out upon gigantic branches of Gimbel’s and Wanamaker’s. He is thinner than I have ever seen him. There is the pent-up rage of the caged lion in the hulking movements of his body. We have been friends for almost four years. During this time he has needled my conscience by the absoluteness of his commitment, his gigantic fortitude.

In 1972, with the war still expanding, I am further haunted by the possible futility of any sacrificed freedom. On my last visit with Philip Berrigan before the Harrisburg trial began, he talked with a new sense of disenchantment and isolation. “You become increasingly modest about the effects that any actions can have on the monolith of the American empire,” he said. “You have to draw some conclusions about what social change people want…the record proves that they don’t want very much. I used to have a hopeful view of resources in church or in student coalitions, or in minority group militants. This hope was unfounded. We found these coalitions had no roots, that they died like a desert flower, bloomed and died overnight, that there was no space for them to get any roots…. I have absolutely no regrets about what I have done, and no regrets about doing it twice. But would I do it again? Probably not.” He became silent, and I sensed some loss of that great hopefulness which had shaped the savage courage of his past five years.

In the Harrisburg jail Philip Berrigan can receive visits only from codefendants and relatives. We occasionally look at each other across the courtroom, and I flash him a peace sign as old and as worn as the decade.

Elizabeth McAlister sits next to Philip Berrigan every day in the Harrisburg courtroom, taking notes on the trial with academic punctiliousness. There is wit and great stubbornness in her mercurial blue eyes. Her hair has grayed much since her indictment. I have grown to love her in the past year. Throughout the trial I remain tortured by a dilemma facing many writers in this time of crisis: whether I can remain critical of this defendant while remaining her friend, whether I can see her actions in both their nobility and their rashness.


A day in court, at mid-trial, in early March. Boyd Douglas is about to take the stand. Judge R. Dixon Herman sits at the bench. He is a sixty-one-year-old Nixon appointee with a grim and skull-like face, who is an American Legionnaire, a Veteran of Foreign Wars, a Moose, a Lion, and a Mason, has a license to make elderberry wine, and goes swimming in the nude at the YMCA every day, vigorously spanning forty laps.

To the right of the courtroom sits the jury, three men and nine women who look amazingly cheerful notwithstanding the fact that they have been sequestered and given the longest list of forbidden television programs in legal history. Lodged at a nearby motel, they are prohibited by the judge from watching “Hawaii Five-O,” “Dragnet,” “Ironside,” “Perry Mason,” “Mod Squad,” “The DA,” “Cade’s County,” “Sarge,” “Mannix,” “Cannon,” “O’Hara, US Treasury,” “Adam-12,” the lawyer segment of “The Bold Ones,” and any news shows or talk shows, including “Meet the Press,” David Frost, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, and even Johnny Carson.

The prosecutor of the Harrisburg case, William Sebastian Lynch, is a short, fleshy, high-strung man with straw-colored hair, a rose-hued complexion, and an exceedingly curt handshake. He exudes pugnaciousness, craftsmanship, a fanatic professionalism. He is a graduate of Brooklyn parochial schools, Fordham University, and Harvard Law School, class of ‘53. His only private practice consisted of brief stints in stock market and admiralty law. His features are somewhat puffy, one can barely discern the pale blue of his spectacled eyes underneath the heavy pink eyelid and the streak of blond eyebrow. He favors fastidiously traditional clothes. One of his favorite costumes is a very pale gray suit, a white shirt, and a checkered tie of two alternating hues of light silver, in which he presents a spectral image of shimmering, flaxen roundness.

Although guarded at first, now, toward the end of the trial, Lynch banters occasionally with the press. One learns that he is a lector at his parish. That he sees Pope John XXIII as the destroyer of his Roman Catholic Church. That his favorite reading is naval history. Also, he and Mrs. Lynch are dedicated cyclists, and Mrs. Lynch is totally preoccupied, down in Virginia, with her own Movement—the Movement to build a continuous bicycle path from Alexandria to Washington. William Lynch likes to joke. “Were you involved in the Yablonski case, Mr. Lynch?” “In the murder, no. In the prosecution, yes.” “What kind of a job did Boyd Douglas have while in FBI custody?” “Vice-President of ITT.”

Lynch seems a man straight out of the Fifties, totally untouched by the events of the past decade. When he occasionally bumps into a reporter at one of the modest diners he frequents to avoid the press, he raises the index and pinky of his hand in that old fraternity sign that used to communicate “up yours.” Prosecuting Catholics transformed by the turbulence of the Sixties, he appears determined to remain untainted by their contact, refusing throughout the trial to even acknowledge the defendants’ greetings. In this encounter with nuns and priests freeing themselves from traditional molds of Church authority, Lynch remains an entrenched example of the autocratic, disciplinarian Catholic ethos. Anthony Scoblick has an interesting view of the prosecutor: “He hates us for not behaving like priests,” Tony says. “He hates us because he can’t look up to us and be dominated by us.” Lynch, Scoblick tells me, exemplifies a new stage of the Grand Inquisitor theme: he is the oppressed who hates the oppressor for ceasing to fulfill his need for authority.

Lynch’s Catholicism even seeps into his conversations about the Justice Department, whose Organized Crime Section he joined in 1961, and whose internecine affairs he enjoys discussing. I once asked him how former Attorney General Mitchell would enjoy returning to private practice. Didn’t a man of that mettle wish for power rather than money? The question interested Lynch. “Well, what about the Jesuits,” he replied, “they used to renounce power in order to reband. The provincial general used to resign, become one of the boys, work behind the scenes….” Lynch’s four assistant prosecutors at Harrisburg are Catholics—two Irishmen, one Italian, one Pole—just as the Rosenbergs’ prosecutors were all Jewish.

Lynch was well remembered for his statement, during a pretrial motion in 1970, that the defendants were “more dangerous than the mafia.” A few days before his appointment as prosecutor of the Harrisburg case was announced, the Justice Department had shrewdly switched Lynch from its Organized Crime Section—of which he was the head—to its Internal Security Division. A matter of image. He would express, both in and out of court, his fervent belief that he was prosecuting dangerous and common criminals, and defending not only his nation but his Church against the infidel. To someone challenging his assertion that the chief government witness, the informer Boyd Douglas, had a “sterling character”: “Boyd Douglas,” Lynch countered with unaccustomed softness in his voice, “is a man of compassion and growth.” “There’s cancerous growth, too,” someone quipped. “Yes,” Lynch said, his complexion rising, “as in the case of Philip Berrigan.” “What do you mean, Mr. Lynch?” “Philip Berrigan is an example of growth in violence.”


When I first watched Boyd Douglas walk into court, he gave the impression of great confidence and surliness. His chest was thrust rigorously forward, his mouth twisted into a defiant pout. He is about five feet nine and solidly built, has a strong rectangular face, medium-cut, neatly parted, glossy dark brown hair, the beginning of sideburns. He has a slightly jutting chin, heavy-lidded chestnut brown eyes, an unusually handsome nose, sharp and fine. He emanates a powerful all-American-boy sexuality. He favors flamboyant clothes, and my most vivid recollection of him is in a Chagall-blue hunting style jacket, an orange shirt, a purple-lozenged tie.

He has gained some thirty pounds since entering FBI custody in January, 1970, when some of the defendants had last seen him. Stripped of this new corpulence he could be a very handsome man. His expression remains predominantly arrogant and scowling throughout the trial, although it occasionally becomes coquettish: when he is not being questioned, when the lawyers read some document and his eyes are free to roam the room, he scrutinizes the jurors with a sly, flirtatious look.

Boyd Douglas is a high-school dropout whose mother committed suicide by drowning when he was eight years old. He enlisted in the US Army in 1959, at the age of eighteen. His father, a restless, itinerant pipeline worker with whom Boyd traveled until he joined the army, and whom he never saw again after that time, once commented that his son had never told the truth in his life. As the facts of this informer’s astonishing record of crime, fraud, and impersonation were revealed in the Harrisburg courtroom, I could only see his life as the pathological story of a child who had never been loved by anyone, a man too estranged from reality to know the difference between truth and lying, who did not have enough self-knowledge to experience guilt.

Boyd Douglas had already stolen money while still of school age, but his first serious conviction occurred while he was stationed in Korea. Charged with committing larceny in Hong Kong, he was sent to the Presidio Stockade for inquiry, and escaped six days later. Within the following two years he escaped from another military stockade, was charged with AWOL, defrauded hotels, and, under a variety of aliases, passed $60,000 worth of bad checks in nine states before skipping to the Acapulco Hilton, where he was caught in December, 1962. Throughout the Sixties Douglas impersonated others and lived out numerous dreams of power. He posed as an army officer. He used forged checks and stolen money to go bear hunting in the Northwest, to charter private planes to fly from Mexico to Canada, to live it up at hotels in Acapulco, Reno, the Caribbean islands, and Miami. Usually he was unmasked and sent back to prison.

Having received an unsuitable discharge from the army, Douglas first arrived at the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in April, 1963. While in Lewisburg he volunteered as guinea pig for a National Institutes of Health experiment to study genetic properties of human proteins, which called for several injections of emulsions into his muscles. His reactions were severe, and he was left with long deep scars on his legs and arms. Having sued the government for $2 million in damages, he absconded from the institute illegally a few months before he could have had his freedom. He was again arrested for interstate transportation of some $20,000 worth of forged checks in two states and for pulling a Beretta gun on the FBI agent who apprehended him in Milwaukee.

Douglas received sentences of five years, to run concurrently, on each of three charges. After another attempted escape from the Federal Reformatory in Reno, Nevada, he returned to Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary—known as “The Wall”—in January, 1968. For the previous eight years, he had lived his brief periods of freedom under the aliases of William Cook, Robert Hall, Meredith Dickinson, Charles Gray, Ronald Gray, Bob C. Hill, Jr., Frederick Gordon, David Summerfield, Robert Blake, James Brow, Captain Robert Edward Gray, Donald Rogers, Dr. James Link Shipley, Carl Strand, James Scranton.

The career of this shrewd, handsome swindler who had spent the Sixties shuttling between the American Dream places and prison is a curious mixture of successes and defeats. It seemed easy for Douglas to persuade hotel cashiers or bank clerks that he was a rich playboy, but impossible for him to continue to play the role convincingly for more than a few months. Always living in the fantasy of a still future role, Douglas would overstep his bounds, become too greedy, get arrested and unmasked. One could see Boyd Douglas as a man driven by fantasies of power and self-indulgence which had been tragically lacking in his lonely, motherless childhood; also as someone who perpetually needs to return to jail as if prison offers him the only protection he knows, the sheltering security he never experienced as a child.


In 1970 life suddenly changed for Boyd Douglas, and the prison system seemed to offer him his first chance at rehabilitation. The previous fall, while still in medium security at Lewisburg, he applied for the student release program at Bucknell University, a small liberal arts college by the bank of the Susquehanna River, two miles from the prison. He was admitted there as a “special student” in January, 1970. The privileges conferred upon him were extraordinary for a man with his criminal record: he was allowed out of prison six days a week from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M., and often given dispensation to stay at the college until later hours. He was even allowed to rent an apartment off campus for which he paid with money earned from his suit against the National Insitutes of Health.

Immediately upon his arrival at Bucknell, three months before Philip Berrigan was captured and sent to Lewisburg, Douglas went out of his way to frequent antiwar students and teachers, particularly Professor Richard Drinnon, chairman of Bucknell’s history department, and Professor Gene Chenoweth, head of political science. In his métier of impostor, Douglas had always been most skillful at the first stages of conning—charming and seducing his victims. Introducing himself to Philip Berrigan after chapel the first Sunday after the priest’s arrival at Lewisburg Prison, Douglas posed as a fervent new convert to the peace movement. And he became the courier for the unauthorized and wildly incautious correspondence between Elizabeth McAlister and Philip Berrigan within a week of the priest’s arrival at prison. Berrigan had been placed in maximum security, and denied the right to any correspondence beyond his immediate family. Boyd Douglas, who bicycled between prison and campus, carried the letters out in his college notebook, had them copied by two of his Bucknell girlfriends, and made Xerox copies which he later gave to the FBI.

Quite a witness you have there,” someone says to Lynch at a court recess during Boyd Douglas’s testimony. “We didn’t choose him,” the prosecutor snaps. He points to the defendants. “They did.”

The government at the Harrisburg trial, and Douglas himself, argued that he had frequented antiwar persons at Bucknell because he wanted “freedom of movement.” He said he had copied the Berrigan-McAlister letters for a while out of patriotic duty, because he was alarmed by their implications, with the eventual prospect of turning them over to the FBI when there was enough evidence; and that he was forced to turn informer to avoid prosecution for contraband, after one of the letters he had smuggled was found inside a copy of Time Magazine during a routine shakedown of Philip Berrigan’s cell.

I believe, along with many of the Bucknell and Lewisburg people, that the government’s story is untrue, that Boyd Douglas was a plant from many months back—not necessarily a plant to keep watch on the Berrigans, but to infiltrate the general campus and prison complex in a small university town with a tiny but fairly vigorous antiwar community. There are simply too many unanswered questions, which remain all the more obscure because of the defense’s decision not to call any witnesses.

How could a high-school dropout with a criminal record of violence and three evasions, who had emerged from maximum to medium security in the spring of 1969, be the only one of Lewisburg’s 1,400 inmates admitted to the student release program that same year? (The only prisoners admitted to the program during the preceding two years were two disbarred lawyers in minimum security.)

Without an intimate connection with FBI and prison authorities, how could Douglas get access to the highly classified prison records which he brought Professor Drinnon between February and April? These included photocopies of his list of convictions, of the ethnic breakdown at Lewisburg Prison, and of special processing orders for Philip and Daniel Berrigan which Douglas brought to Drinnon before Philip had even arrived at “The Wall.”

Why has the Justice Department clamped a heavy lid on Douglas’s federal records? Why were other crucial FBI memos on Douglas never released to the defense?

One of the most interesting theories is that the government offered Douglas the privileges of being an informer in order to silence his suit against the National Institutes of Health, which had ended in a $15,000 settlement too measly for Douglas. (The defense suggested in court that he had scratched his scars to initiate the suit.) Other theories argue that he was a CIA or a CIA-FBI informer of the kind common to many universities. Still others speculate that he was originally a Federal Bureau of Prisons-FBI plant assigned to survey the community of antiwar resisters at Lewisburg and their supporters outside the wall, and only later enlisted to run down Daniel Berrigan.

In the first political impersonation of his life—that of the convict eager to work in the antiwar movement—Douglas was quickly and remarkably successful in making his way into the Berrigan milieu. Within a week of the priest’s arrival at Lewisburg on April 30, 1970, he had not only talked with Berrigan but had become a trusted member of Berrigan’s inner circle. Meeting daily with Berrigan in prison, Douglas also met at Bucknell with Elizabeth McAlister, Neil McLaughlin, Anthony and Mary Scoblick—all of whom visited the campus from time to time. He talked even more frequently with Joseph Wenderoth, who had decided to serve as liaison man between the Bucknell community and the Catholic left at large. Wenderoth made the hour and a half drive from his Baltimore parish to Lewisburg every fortnight or so during that spring and summer to meet with Douglas, and evolved what he thought was a deep friendship with the convict.

It is possible that Boyd Douglas, a master at fraud, could have deceived a group of trusting religious people at any moment in the past years. But the cunning of government and of informer were sharpened by a curious historical coincidence: Boyd Douglas had infiltrated the Catholic left at its moment of greatest disarray, and was able to exploit its bitter confusion. In May and June, 1970, after the invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State killings, the peace movement in general was in a mood of desperation. The Catholic left in particular had been thrown into a state of turmoil when one Berrigan went underground and the other was finally imprisoned, held incommunicado in a maximum security cell. Many Catholic radicals were beginning to sense the futility of the draft board raids which they had been the first to carry out. The raids were being ignored both by the government, which did not wish to dramatize their frequency by prosecuting them, and by the satiated press.

There was also the growing realization that the tactics of 1968 had brought pitifully little change. The mystique of bearing witness by going to jail was also losing its force. Many of the men who had sacrificed their freedom had come out of prison with shattered marriages, shattered lives, lost to the Movement. About ten of the original draft board raiders, including Mary Moylan of the Catonsville Nine, had chosen to go underground and were at large, extolling a new strategy of underground action. The Catholic left was attempting alliances with militant ethnic and student coalitions which did not share the Catholics’ views on nonviolence.

It is in this period of great dishevelment that the Berrigan milieu had entered into discussions about new methods of escalation, attempting to evolve nonviolent but more dramatic methods of sabotage than were offered by the previous draft board raids. And it is in this setting of desperate confusion that Boyd Douglas, only months after he arrived at Bucknell, was able to participate in the rambling colloquies that Philip Berrigan and his friends had initiated about several bizarre methods of action. Prominent among these was a discussion—which, however extensive, never seems to have gone beyond the investigative stage—concerning the possibility of destroying heating tunnels in Washington, DC, federal buildings. Later, as we shall see, he was able to report to the FBI an even more ephemeral fantasy about kidnaping Henry Kissinger.

Boyd Douglas is remembered by the peace people at Bucknell as a mild-mannered, quiet, pleasant though occasionally moody man who always wore dark glasses. To Philip Berrigan’s friends he was a desperately needed link to the imprisoned priest. Inside The Wall this convict who bicycled out of jail every morning seems to have become the priest’s alter ego, a substitute for his lost freedom. Amiably meddlesome, perpetually offering his services, constantly producing more than he was asked for, a real Movement busybody, Douglas instigated many of his Catholic friends’ conversations about antiwar actions. He also organized many of the visitors’ meetings at Bucknell which would later be cited in the indictment of the Harrisburg Seven as conspiratorial acts.

It is interesting to note that the person most heavily implicated by Boyd’s testimony at the trial, next to Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister, was Joseph Wenderoth, Douglas’s most frequent visitor. Whereas Mary and Anthony Scoblick, who came to Bucknell only two or three times, were the least implicated of the group, along with Eqbal Ahmad, who never came to Bucknell at all, and never even heard of Boyd Douglas until after the indictment came down. It was a most untraditional conspiracy. Eqbal had never even heard of the tunnel project until after the indictment. “Why didn’t you tell me about that idiotic tunnel idea?” he asked Joseph Wenderoth when they met after the indictment. “How could we, Eq,” Joe had replied, “we were never serious about it.”


However tortured 1970 may have been for the Berrigans’ friends and the Catholic left, it was the cushiest year of Boyd Douglas’s life. After a decade of impersonating at great risk, he could, for the first time, impersonate with no risk at all under the government’s protection, and even be paid for it. For the first time, lying offered him unmitigated freedom. Besides, he must have liked the campus’s Movement life, with its easy access to pot, liquor, and chicks—three important ingredients in Douglas’s periods of freedom. For Douglas’s talent for sexual seduction seemed as great as his gift for role-playing. According to a Bucknell professor, Douglas “prided himself on being a cocksman.”

In Bucknell’s small antiwar community Douglas shrewdly used his girls to build himself up as a Movement hero. He told them that he was serving sentence for conspiring to blow up an army convoy in the California desert, and that he had been given away by a girl friend turned informer. He explained that he had received his scars in a jeep in Vietnam from an explosion which had killed his best buddy. He gave one of his girls, Jane Hoover, Willard Gaylin’s book In the Service of Their Country, and told her that part of it was about him. (“I felt that this was a good thing to tell the Movement,” he would testify in court, “that I was involved in political crime rather than in criminal crime.”) His political lies were mixed with many others: He had been a football hero at Ohio State, he had cancer and six months to live and wished Jane Hoover to marry him and give him six months of happiness.

Living an 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. life at Bucknell, where he ate his meals at the Phi Lambda Theta fraternity, Douglas became a big man on campus by talking profusely about his antiwar activism and his friendship with Philip Berrigan. He also had an off-campus apartment, which he shared with a draft card burner named Tom Love, asking no rent. Douglas took easily to Movement sloganeering. He wrote a letter to Susan Williams, a Rochester activist, in which he described himself as “a committed nonviolent revolutionary who believes in strategic sabotage” (signing the letter, “Take care—right on—peace—Boyd. P.S. Please destroy this”). In his notes to Movement persons he also copied slogans from Elizabeth McAlister and Philip Berrigan which he had acquired from studying their letters, such as the phrase “Z lives.” When asked in court what it stood for, he ventured: “Zorro.”

Throughout the months of 1970 when he was informing on the Berrigan milieu, Boyd Douglas would report his findings to a trio of Lewisburg FBI agents: Richard Rogers, Philip Morris, and Delmar (Molly) Mayfield. Mayfield, a tall, mournful, beaten-faced man of thirty-seven who looked fifty and whose wife was a leader of the League of Women Voters in Lewisburg, was Boyd’s “handling agent.” Boyd and Molly—who referred to FBI headquarters as “SOG” (“seat of government”)—were each other’s meal ticket. Molly had recently been transferred from Philadelphia to Lewisburg, hardly a promotion. He seemed to relish this first important assignment as a great boost to his career, and said on the stand that he hadn’t been bothered by Douglas’s criminal record.

As for Boyd, he would pressure Molly to get him as much money as possible from the FBI headquarters (the funds were paid for “information on crimes against the United States”). Molly would pass on Boyd’s requests. The FBI would then wheedle them down by a large percent, as in its payment for the disclosure of the Rochester draft board action, for which Boyd had asked $2,000 and received $1,500. In this soukh where they bargained over the price of others’ freedom, Boyd knew that he was getting the raw deal, and kept a few cards hidden up his sleeve. In October, 1970, Boyd wrote Molly a letter asking for $50,000 tax free and an honorable discharge from the army in exchange for his services. When the government released this embarrassing letter during the trial, defense lawyers speculated, out of court, that Boyd had kept a copy of the letter and had been threatening to release it himself, with some form of blackmail toward the government in mind. Boyd’s letter read, in part:

Dear Molly,

Thank the bureau for the reward and thank you. This will be used for a new car soon. I have never owned a car. Can you get me some expense money this month.

After my cover is gone, I will need an honorable discharge from the army so that I can settle out west and it will look as though I just returned from Asia, etc. I will obtain a transcript of my grades here at Bucknell at the end of this semester, should I wish to continue at some university out west. I may either continue at a university or go into a small business out west.

Considering what I will go through before and after the trial or trials, I request a minimum reward of $50,000 (tax free). $5,000 be paid me the first week in December, 1970, and the rest at the start of the trial or when things are blown wide open. With this I could start a small business or continue at college. This figure may sound a little high, but considering everything, I feel it is worth it to the government and it will make a life for me. I will do all I can to help the government obtain enough evidence to prosecute these people concerned. However, I don’t want to feel that I am just being used. I know these people may not bother me, but the only way I will be able to feel comfortable, is to take some precaution as they are the cream of the Catholic left. This figure doesn’t account for expenses between now and the time for trial….

Boyd douglas was not always told what specific disclosure he was being paid for. The government’s financial niggardliness toward its informer came out most clearly when court testimony revealed that he had been awarded only $200 for enabling the FBI to capture Daniel Berrigan through a hint dropped in one of Elizabeth McAlister’s apprehended letters. A small pittance, since the capture of Daniel Berrigan had been the principal target of the FBI’s surveillance system at Lewisburg throughout the spring and summer of 1970, and since all information compiled by Douglas had been placed in a “Daniel Berrigan file” at FBI headquarters.

This is the first time officially I had any knowledge that I led to his capture,” Douglas announced on the stand when he learned of this fact. And his voice had that ambivalence of pride and petulance which seemed characteristic of him, the fantasy of self-importance mingled with anger toward the authorities who had duped him once again. Indeed, the way the government and Boyd Douglas conned each other is one of the most interesting and least revealed stories of the Harrisburg case—one that we may expect to read when Boyd writes his memoirs.

To what extent was the government aware that Boyd Douglas was not only an informer but a provocateur? This remains another one of the mysteries of the Harrisburg trial. Molly Mayfield mournfully claimed under oath that the FBI did not know the following facts:

Boyd offered a gun to Elizabeth McAlister when he heard of the alleged kidnaping project.

In an attempt to resurrect his Catholic friends’ dormant or rejected plans, Boyd initiated most of the telephone conversations he had with the defendants from the Lewisburg laundromat where he conducted much of his business.

He wrote Professor Richard Drinnon a letter suggesting that he stage a destruction of Bucknell’s ROTC building, and verbally incited many other Bucknell persons to civil disobedience. The defense implied in cross-examination that Boyd had even suggested to a Bucknell coed that she blow up the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Nor did the FBI know—according to Molly Mayfield—that Boyd had submitted as his own, for publication in The Bucknellian, an article about the Movement which had actually been written by Philip Berrigan. (Boyd had asked that it be signed anonymously, “By a Revolutionary,” yet with characteristic panache he had also asked that it be broadcast about campus that he was its author.)

Boyd’s most serious act as a provocateur was handing two ROTC manuals on explosives to Joseph Wenderoth, whose few fingerprints on these volumes became the principal material evidence for the alleged tunnel plot. In accordance with Douglas’s wish to pose to the Berrigan milieu as an expert on explosives, Molly Mayfield had non-chalantly acquired the manuals for the informer from the Bucknell ROTC office, an interesting instance of the government’s uses of university facilities. According to Molly, Douglas did not confess this act to the FBI until March of 1971, when, in preparation for the second indictment, Molly and Boyd talked for five weeks in Phoenix, Arizona, to “straighten out discrepancies” in Boyd’s testimony.

The FBI’s indifference, its lack of control over Douglas’s acts, is appalling even if it had not been aware that he was also a provocateur. This use of a man with a pathological record of lying and violence, let loose upon a sheltered campus, offering guns, explosives manuals, and advice for the destruction of buildings to students, teachers, and visiting priests, seems to me one of the shoddiest chapters to date in the annals of government infiltration.

As for Boyd’s conduct, it remains singularly interesting even if the government had not been apprised of the ways he tried to incite people to take violent action. It reveals the psychology of the informer who, not sharing the language or values of the infiltrated group, and threatened by mistrust, may become a provocateur to prove his commitment. It also expresses that simultaneous drive toward power and self-defeat peculiar to Boyd. For nothing more greatly weakened his credibility as a government witness—and his future as an informer—than his admissions that he worked behind the FBI’s back. Given a blank check on freedom for the first time in his life, Boyd again lapsed into fantasies of future power. He again ran grave risks by raising the ante too fast, too high.

A remark of Douglas’s quoted by the defense at the trial, that he “wanted to get even with the United States,” is one of the clearest windows into his soul. For, as his record of the decade shows, he was a man who needed to beat the system every minute of the day, and in the most menial of ways. According to one of the Lewisburg residents who saw him frequently at Bucknell, he poured himself a tumbler of neat Scotch every day a few hours before returning to the prison, a flagrant violation of student release privileges. “You’re mad,” she once said, “they’ll smell it on your breath.” “Never mind,” Boyd replied, “I chew Sen-Sen.”

Boyd Douglas disappeared from Bucknell overnight in early January, a few weeks after he was released from prison: upon leaving jail he had bought a $4,000 light blue javelin sports car, and was carried out blind drunk from the “coming out party” he had given himself at the apartment of a Bucknell librarian. A few days after the party he went to Washington, DC, with Betsy Sandel to attend a demonstration at the Justice Department protesting Hoover’s charges against the Berrigans—charges overwhelmingly based on his own work. Shortly after that event, unbeknown to his acquaintances, he entered FBI custody and began to testify before the Harrisburg Grand Jury.

One wonders to what extent Boyd Douglas had been touched by the Movement people who had offered him affection and warmth, perhaps for the first time of his life. Bucknell’s head librarian, Zoia Horn, says that he had always talked of Philip and Elizabeth, Joe and Neil, with tears in his eyes. Was this simply brilliant acting? Or is Joe Wenderoth accurate in estimating that Boyd had a strong and equal need to form friendships and to destroy them? On February 15 he called Betsy Sandel, a Bucknell girl he’d offered to marry, and talked for forty-five minutes about the “patriotic duty” that had compelled him to disclose the Lewisburg events. He grew violently angry, Betsy reports, at her suggestion that he had acted for money, and hung up.

Four weeks later—after a brief FBI-managed stay in Omaha, where he was discovered by the press—Boyd Douglas was married and living in Phoenix, Arizona, where the FBI had provided him with a job at Motorola and a Master Charge Credit Card. Joseph Wenderoth, who knew Boyd as intimately as any of the defendants, believes that the FBI also suggested that he get married, to keep him out of scrapes and improve his image. Boyd’s new alias was Robert Dunne, and he had grown a mustache. The FBI took him next to Des Moines, where it got him a job as a men’s wear salesman in a department store. In December, 1970, the government started paying him a $36 a day witness fee in preparation for the trial. In his next role, that of government witness, Boyd Douglas seemed to enjoy impersonating the conservative, law and order young American for the benefit of the stolid Harrisburg jury. “What do you mean by the Movement?” he was once asked in court. “Panthers, SDS,…all the nuts in this country,” he answered.


In his opening statement, William Lynch argued, with gestures curiously reminiscent of a priest at the pulpit—his hands first clasped, then opened out in “orate Fratres” gestures—that there was a “unitarian” character to the three objects of his indictment’s first count. The old draft board raids, he claimed, were “training grounds” for the escalation of tactics to the tunnel and kidnapping plots. He then brought witnesses to testify that the draft board raids had indeed existed, that the Berrigan-McAlister correspondence had in fact been apprehended at Lewisburg, and other witnesses who testified that they remembered hearing Joseph Wenderoth discuss something about tunnels.

Out of court, one learned of some of the desperate methods the government had used to approach such witnesses. Kenneth Filarski, a student and track star at Catholic University, who later testified he had attended an antiwar meeting with Wenderoth, was confronted right on the college track, during practice, by William Connelly and J. Philip Krajewski, Lynch’s bland young assistant prosecutors. Filarski at first refused to talk to them, saying he wanted to consult his own lawyers. They advised him he had better talk to his parents. The student received a tearful call two hours later from his mother, a federal employee in Cleveland who had been called in the interim by the FBI to urge her son to cooperate.

One further sensed the government’s quandary when it offered as surprise witness a young blond housewife—acquired overnight in Harrisburg—who came to testify that she had once heard Elizabeth McAlister talking about civil disobedience at a women’s antiwar meeting in a Westchester branch of Schrafft’s. One wondered why the government had taken such pains to call these witnesses at all, for they mostly sounded like witnesses for the defense, testifying to the existence of meandering discussions—more often than not held at open public gatherings—that had never jelled into concrete plans or solid agreements.

William Lynch struck me throughout as a remarkably skillful technician stuck with an obvious lack of hardcore evidence. His principal technique in the trial—one that could have been brilliantly effective if Douglas had been more believable—was to try to back up the Berrigan-McAlister letters with Boyd’s testimony. Lynch would read the letters in a’ clear, flat monotone, during which time Philip and Elizabeth would look glumly at the floor. Then Douglas, in an equally flat, bored voice, would elaborate on the conversations and activities of the Catholic left that had been mentioned in the letters. Having met with Lynch for some thirty hours previous to the trial, he would deliver in direct examination long, extraordinarily glib and detailed answers, such as the following testimony concerning the alleged tunnel plot:

I asked Joseph Wenderoth if he knew the number of the generator plants in the tunnels. He told me he did not know, but that he thought there were between three and five. I asked Joseph Wenderoth about the entrances to the tunnel system. He told me that there was no problem in going into the tunnel during the day-time. I told Joseph Wenderoth that if it was all right, that we would use primer cord…. I asked Joseph Wenderoth whether ten feet wide and eight feet tall was the correct dimension of the tunnel. Joseph Wenderoth told me that he had no problem in walking down in the tunnel, or walking around in the tunnel.

Lynch: You mentioned that primer cord was discussed. Did you discuss how much would be needed…to effect what you intended to effect in this project?

Douglas: Yes. Joseph Wenderoth told me that we would use primer cord in approximately five locations of the tunnel system.

If the defense had decided to present a case, and Joseph Wenderoth had taken the stand, his testimony in rebuttal would have been somewhat as follows: “Boyd would return and return to the tunnel theme we had discussed and scrapped by mid-summer. I’d tell him, ‘We’ve scrapped the idea, Boyd, forget about it.’ But there was no telling Boyd no. He’d bring it up again and again and after months of persistence when we finally got it into his head that it was scrapped, he said, ‘I’ll do it myself.’ ”

In cross-examination Douglas’s style was vastly, different. He was questioned, in turn, by defense lawyers Ramsey Clark, Terry Lenzner, Thomas Menaker, William Cunningham, S.J., Paul O’Dwyer, and Leonard Boudin. He would cock his head toward the ceiling, and offer interminable pauses before answering—understandably, for he often contradicted himself. Douglas had told the grand jury that he himself offered to carry letters from Berrigan out of the penitentiary: he told the court that it had been Berrigan’s idea. He had told the grand jury that Drinnon had asked him to contact Elizabeth McAlister: he told the court that Berrigan had instructed him to do so.

He contradicted his, own court testimony with equal ease. One day he testified that he had expressed approval for Philip Berrigan’s antiwar position and his philosophy of draft board raids upon first meeting him. A few days later he vehemently denied he had ever talked to the priest about the war in the first month of their acquaintanceship, and said that, although they met daily, they mostly “played handball and went to movies.” He remained cool when faced with his contradictions. “There’s a lot of testimony I’m giving in this courtroom,” he once explained, “that refreshes my memory when I testify.”

Paul O’Dwyer, the most experienced trial lawyer of the defense team, gave Douglas the most grueling cross-examination of his two and a half weeks in the courtroom. Standing by the informer, his great black eyebrows shielding his eyes, he would alternate a demanding, harassing tone with a patient, paternal one. Douglas, his chin thrust forward in an angry pout, would frequently glance toward Lynch. And even in this most skillful of cross-examinations, the truth of Boyd’s intentions—and of the FBI’s—remained shrouded in the shrewd vagueness of his adverbs. A typical example:

O’Dwyer: Did you tell them [the FBI] that you wished to continue working for the FBI after you got out on parole?

Douglas: It’s possible I said that….

O’Dwyer: Did you intend to make a career out of this?

Douglas: Possibly, yes.

O’Dwyer: Was the $1,500 you received for the Rochester disclosure an inspiration for the Molly letter?

Douglas: Partially.

Probably” and “Possibly” were such frequent responses that several times Douglas slipped and said “Prossibly.”

After almost two weeks of cross-examination by some of the country’s most gifted lawyers Douglas grew impertinent and restless, but remained as controlled as ever. One was dazzled by his resilience. I understood at the end of the trial why some former Lewisburg convicts admire him as a cool, accomplished artist. A man, they add, who could no longer remain alive for one hour in any of the nation’s jails.

Some questions remain: how did people outside Lewisburg prison come to trust Boyd Douglas so blindly? How did Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister become his victims?

(This is the first of two articles on the Harrisburg trial.)