Adnan Khashoggi’s Manhattan Grab

The four Manhattan commercial properties that symbolize the “hid­den wealth” of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos have become the subject of increasingly acrimonious litigation in federal District Court. An agent for Saudi arms merchant and de­veloper Adnan Khashoggi who appeared on the scene last summer claiming an interest in three of the four buildings is denouncing the New York Land Compa­ny, Marcos’s managing agent, for “looting” the properties. The reply of New York Land principal Joseph Bernstein is that Khashoggi is engaged in a fraudu­lent attempt to seize the buildings. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the Philippine government of President Corazon Aquino, says they’re both right: therefore, the court should place all four buildings in receivership.

The Khashoggi claims may represent an effort by Marcos to get around a pre­liminary injunction issued last May by U.S. Judge Pierre N. Leval. Any sale or transfer of the properties has been frozen under this landmark order, won by CCR attorney Morton Stavis, which is the first court recognition of a sovereign nation’s right to freeze U.S. assets stolen by an ousted dictator.

Karl Peterson, a business associate of Khashoggi’s, has claimed that the wealthy Saudi arms dealer and develop­er — who played a prominent role in the secret sale of U.S. weapons to Iran — ei­ther owns or controls the properties. For several weeks last fall, lawyers for the Aquino government and New York Land Company were engaged in three-way ne­gotiations with Peterson and New York land seeking a settlement disposing of the buildings, which are encumbered by mortgages and other liabilities and currently losing money. The chief evidence of Khashoggi’s interest is a “declaration of trust,” with a section whited out, dated August 8, 1985, and allegedly signed in Panama City by Gliceria Tantoco, a crony of Imelda Marcos.

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Stavis, who was first approached by Peterson last summer, originally chose to deal with him because of uncertainty that the decision by Judge Leval prohibiting any transfer of the properties would be upheld on appeal. Had the properties been sold, they might have been lost to the Philippine government permanently. But on November 26, Stavis’s original victory was ratified by the Court of Appeals.

Peterson, meanwhile, has charged that New York Land “looted” the properties, mainly by siphoning off millions in inflated legal expenses through a law firm­ — Bernstein, Carter and Deyo — that includes Joseph Bernstein.

Before the negotiations ended, a tentative settlement was reached that would have paid about $56 million to the Philippine government, and almost $19 mil­lion to the various corporations that hold title to the buildings —40 Wall Street, 200 Madison Avenue, the Crown Building, and the Herald Center. The buildings themselves would have been acquired by New York Land, whose principals, Joseph and Ralph Bernstein, had concealed the Marcoses’ interest until a congressional investigation nearly sent them jail for contempt early this year.

According to court papers filed by New York Land, the settlement fell apart when Peterson demanded an “up front” payment of $5 million to Triad International, a Khashoggi company. Court papers filed by New York Land say that Citibank then decided to foreclose on 40 Wall Street, which has defaulted on a $39-million mortgage from the bank. Prompted by the foreclosure action, Judge Level placed 40 Wall Street in receivership last week.

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Identifying himself as a longtime Khashoggi associate formerly based in Manila, Peterson has produced copies of documents purporting to show that he represents the owners of three Panamanian corporations which, through complicated holding and stock relationships, control the four buildings. Following the breakdown of settlement negotiations last month, Peterson filed suit to remove New York Land as the managing agent for three of the four buildings.

In a deposition taken last month, Peterson claimed to have met with Marcos himself four times this year in Honolulu, and said that Khashoggi indicated that he had obtained an interest in Herald Center sometime in 1985.

The Bernsteins, however, insist that Peterson and Khashoggi are not acting on authority of the Marcoses; and they add that a Marcos financial advisor, Rolando Gapud, and Marcos’s Washington attorney, Stanton Anderson, have so advised them.

In a December 2 affidavit, Joseph Bernstein accused Peterson and Khashoggi’s chief aide, Robert Shaheen, of suggesting a scheme last May in which Khashoggi would have been fraudulently portrayed in court as the properties’ real owner. This would have undermined the Philippine government’s claim to the buildings as ill-gotten gains of the deposed Marcos, and frustrated the injunction which the Aquino government had then just won. Bernstein said he declined to participate in the alleged fraud.

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Since then, he charged, Peterson has “improperly transferred assets of the four building to a Khashoggi enterprise” through a complex set of transactions involving a Swiss bank, and “engaged in death threats” against the Bernsteins “to gain his ends.” Bernstein said he received messages from Peterson that Khassoggi “plays rough,” and that he would be receiving a visit from “a notorious hit man.”

What is Khashoggi up to? Stavis, the attorney for the Aquino government, believes that Khashoggi may be acting as some kind of “commission agent” for Marcos in an effort to clean up the problem over the New York properties. Marcos may have engaged Khashoggi’s assistance to get around the court orders forbidding sale of the properties, or negotiate a settlement that would produce some cash.

Stavis certainly doesn’t believe that Khashoggi acquired control of the building before the court order went into effect and insists that any transfer of the buildings into Khashoggi’s hands violated that order. But the squabbling of Khashoggi and the Bernsteins may no longer matter much. With the favorable appellate decision in his pocket, Stavis seems confident that the Philippine people will eventually recover much of the hidden wealth that the Manhattan properties represent. ❖


Election ’79: The Cohnheads Are Restless

Led by Bronx Democratic boss Stanley Friedman and his law partner, Roy Cohn, and backed by patronage from the court of Surrogate Marie Lambert, a horde of mi­nor politicos is seeking to topple the re­formers who have dominated the Manhattan Democratic Party in the past dec­ade. These people are the leftovers of the old Tammany machine, reinvigorated by amoral young hacks like Gary Nicholson and William Todd.

Most people pay no attention to intra­party contests for district leader and judi­cial delegate any more. With Ed Koch as mayor — and for some time before — the ro­mance has left the reform movement. Re­form Democrats have become a local sym­bol of lesser evilism, elitism, and hypocri­sy. This year the Cohnheads are poised to take advantage of Democratic apathy and thus gain power and patronage for them­selves. Roy Cohn denies any personal in­volvement in Manhattan politics.

Cohnhead methods, as developed by Lambert, Nicholson and their troops, em­phasize the last-minute smear, the appeal to ethnic prejudice, and the judicious use of patronage. One longtime regular leader in Manhattan, who has little use for re­formers, told me that he’s frightened by the Cohnheads’ influence on local politics. “These people are haters. They’ll stop at nothing and they’re crazy.”

A longtime reform kingmaker, no friend of the regular quoted above, said much the same thing last fall. He called a judicial campaign engineered by Nicholson and Todd “the dirtiest thing I’ve seen in 20 year of Manhattan politics.”

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The idea of a countywide effort by the Cohnheads is no paranoid delusion. One day last week, several candidates — Nicholson, Todd, Charles Bayor from the East Village, Cora Shelton from East Harlem, and Scott Stringer from Washington Heights — all represented by Cohnhead at­torneys went to the Board of Elections to keep opposing candidates off the Septem­ber ballot and insure their own positions. The group sat together, consulted togeth­er, and used the same lawyers — Harry Pollak and Vincent Catalfo. Like most good Cohnheads, Catalfo and Pollak both worked overtime for Marie Lambert’s sur­rogate campaign in 1977. Both have re­ceived court patronage from her since. Readers may remember Catalfo as the attorney who admitted forging his client’s signature to legal document and a check. He was suspended from practicing law for two years — a lenient sanction. Last year Catalfo got more than $20,000 in Lam­bert’s court, most of it awarded after he went to court to avoid testifying about her campaign methods before the state Com­mission on Judicial Conduct. (The largest chunk of Lambert patronage received by Catalfo, incidentally, came from a mil­lion-dollar-plus estate, of which one ex­ecutor was Roy Cohn.) Catalfo is Nich­olson’s campaign treasurer.

After a long day with their political problems at the Board of Elections, Catalfo and Nicholson adjourned to Lam­bert’s Surrogate’s Court across from City Hall. Around 7 p.m. they accompanied Lambert herself down the courthouse steps to a car parked nearby. Engaged in serious talk with the distinguished judge­ — who has herself done quite a bit of election law — all three got into the car and Nich­olson drove it away. Of course, judges are not supposed to be involved in politics. No doubt Nicholson, Catalfo, and Lambert were discussing the weather.

Manhattan Democrats who will be vot­ing in the September election ought to know something about the backgrounds of their district leader candidates, something more than their literature is likely to dis­close. This is particularly critical with regard to the Cohnheads, since their liter­ature tends to be filled with distortions, omissions, and outright lies. So here is a brief examination of some of the Cohnhead candidates, by district.

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Know Your Cohnhead

The man who dreams of becoming Manhattan county leader is Gary L. Nicholson, who hails from the upstate town of Oxford. Nicholson is in a three-­way race for district leader in Chelsea. His devotion to the politics of ethnicity and religion is best demostrated by his latest ploy: Nicholson is billing himself as a Catholic; he has even begun attending mass. Those who know him well, like the pastor of the United Church of Oxford, remember Gary as a Protestant who came to church for organ practice.

But religious “conversion” may be the least of Nicholson’s offenses. He has to his credit, in a young career, two of the most offensive judicial campaigns in recent memory. In 1977, Nicholson managed Marie Lambert’s successful campaign for surrogate, a race marked by strong-arm funding solicitations from lawyers who practice in Surrogate’s Court; misleading and irrelevant ethnic campaign mailings; and a schizophrenic hypocrisy on issues of court reform. Last year, though ultimately unsuccessful, Nicholson outdid the ex­cesses of the Lambert campaign when he helped manage Helen E. Goldstein’s cam­paign for a Manhattan Civil Court nomi­nation in the Democratic primary.

Goldstein, who lives in Brooklyn, al­lowed Nicholson to put out vicious mail­ings calculated to appeal to bigotry and Jewish fear, under the phony rubric of the “Manhattan Chapter of the Zionist Com­mittee for Israel.” The mailing’s attack on reform candidate Shirley Fingerhood, for belonging to the National Lawyers Guild, was reminiscent of McCarthyism at its worst. And Nicholson’s use of a phony name and address, not only on the liter­ature itself but on Post Office documents, appears to have violated the law.

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Nicholson signed his own name to a bulk-rate postal form for the phony Zion­ist committee. The delegate slate which used this mailing was endorsed by another phony, “non-political” outfit, the “Com­mittee for Integrity in Judicial Selection.”

Lately Nicholson has spent a lot of time at the Board of Elections, accusing his opponents of submitting election petitions “permeated with fraud” and “forgeries.” Not so long ago, Nicholson himself was facing similar charges of fraud after he had collected petition signatures for a can­didate and it was discovered that he had voted in two places the same year. Because Nicholson had voted in his home­town of Oxford that year, a court referee found that “Gary L. Nicholson was not a duly registered voter in the 70th Assembly District at the time he witnessed signa­tures and gave his own signature on the … designating petition.” By stating that he was a duly registered voter on the petition, Nicholson left himself open to charges of fraud.

Nicholson’s source of income for his current campaign is mysterious. His most recent “employment” was a no-show job in the office of former Assembly Minority Leader Perry Duryea — a Republican pa­tronage job provided to Democrat Nicholson by Vincent Albano. Albano is a good friend of the Cohnheads, and his lawyer cronies have been suitably rewarded with patronage by Marie Lambert. Nicholson’s no-show with Duryea, for which the tax­payers lost $250 a week, ended when Duryea was replaced by James Emery as minority leader.

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By press time, Nicholson’s campaign committee had failed to file a financial disclosure statement with the Board of Elections; one was due more than a week ago. Last spring he held an unheard of $50-a-head fundraiser at the posh Galleria on 57th Street, but not that many people showed up.

Yet somehow Nicholson can afford the constant legal attention of Vincent Catalfo to help throw his opponents off the ballot, though Catalfo has stated in Surrogate’s Court papers that his time is worth $125 an hour. At one point, Nicholson and Catalfo even brought in a handwriting expert at a cost of $80 per hour. This expert told Nicholson’s opponents that he has worked for Roy Cohn.

Nicholson is facing two primary oppo­nents thanks to his contempt for the vot­ers: After living in Chelsea less than a year, he came to one of the local Demo­cratic clubs and demanded nomination as their candidate for leader against the incumbent reform leaders. The club refused and eventually expelled Nicholson. He of­fered them a deal: He would run for male leader, and they could nominate the female leader. They told him no.

Gary Nicholson has been challenging a subpoena from the Commission on Judi­cial Conduct for more than a year. Enormous sums of money have been spent so that he won’t have to testify under oath about apparent violations of judicial eth­ics committed in the Lambert campaign. During the litigation surrounding his re­fusal to testify, Nicholson complained that the commission inquiry might “chill” a person’s interest in politics. Unfortunate­ly, it didn’t chill his.

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Working most closely with Nicholson in many of these endeavors has been Wil­liam F. Todd, although Todd has always taken the back seat. Ironically, Todd is almost certain to be a Harlem district leader now because incumbent leader Matt Turner dropped out of the race under mysterious circumstances. (Nicholson’s race is anything but settled, and he is considered likely to lose.)

Todd began as a volunteer in the Lam­bert campaign, handing out literature. The Cohnheads promoted him to a paid position in the Goldstein campaign a year later, giving him the title of campaign manager although Nicholson was really running the show. At $150 a week, wasn’t paid much, either. He had another source of income, though: He was on home relief.

Todd’s welfare status was discovered last October, when he was about to go on the payroll of Manhattan borough president Andrew Stein — another Cohnhead friend — as a “business development spe­cialist” at $14,000 a year. When Stein learned that the able-bodied Todd had been getting welfare checks since 1976, he withdrew the job offer. At the time of Todd’s firing, his file at the St. Nicholas Welfare Center was still active. It no long­er is.

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Running for district leader on the Lower East Side is Mitchell Mund, brother of Gary and son of Walter. The Munds were among the most active workers in the Lambert campaign; they contributed money, and Walter and Gary received legal patronage from Lambert. Walter Mund prepared a lengthy opinion on the question of soliciting campaign funds. Eventually, Gary Mund also received a $17,000-a-year job in the Surrogate’s Court from Lambert. According to the petitions filed by Mitchell, his brother Gary collected more than 100 signatures on June 19 — a Tuesday when he was supposedly working in the court. Under ques­tioning by an opposing attorney, he couldn’t remember whether he had gone to work that day.

The Cohnheads’ man in Washington Heights is Scott Stringer, the offspring of former councilmember Arlene and former Beame counsel Ronald. His mother’s los­ing primary campaign in 1977 was closely allied with the Lambert effort, and his own campaign for a state committee post in 1978 was enmeshed with the Goldstein campaign. In fact, Scott’s campaign re­ceived a $2000 fee from Goldstein for its work on her behalf, and the Stringer peo­ple helped mail out the “Zionist Commit­tee” smear piece against Shirley Finger­hood.

Cohnhead allies running in the next district below Stringer, south of 181st Street on the West Side, Hansi Pollak and Harry Fotopoulos. Pollak and her son were diligent campaign workers for and contributors to Lambert, and the son received Lambert’s patronage. Fotopoulos is a wealthy insurance broker who has pre­viously run for office as a Republican-Con­servative. He only recently became a Democrat.

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Apparently affiliated with the Cohnheads in the East Village are Charles Bayor and Theresa Bussichio. Bayor and Bussichio are trying to oust the incum­bents Phil Wachtel and Katherine Wolpe. Bayor is a longtime friend of and contributor to Lambert. He and his wife, Rita, who once lived in the same building as Lambert, worked hard for her victory. On the night before the primary last fall, Nicholson took care of the printing for a last-minute smear of Carter Burden which was handed out by members of Bayor’s club, the East Village Community Demo­crats.

Bayor is also a member of Community School Board One, where he has run true to Cohnhead form, using ethnic tensions to bolster himself. As usual, this has only hurt the community: a large federal grant for bilingual education was rejected by the board, although a huge number of Board 1’s kids speak Spanish. 

This isn’t a complete picture of the district leadership races in Manhattan — to give that would take much more space than is available, and would probably bore anyone but the most fanatical politico.

The reason for writing about these races is not that they have net importance, nor that the reformers are a wonderful group deserving of eager support. It’s that the Cohnheads are dangerous, lacking any political ideology or morality other than desire for influence and patronage. They out-reform the reformers, making un­founded accusations of corruption; they out-regular the regulars, telling old-line district leaders they have the backing of Carmine DeSapio, the mob-linked leader of Tammany Hall. Rarely, if ever, do they raise an issue, and when they do it’s likely to be spurious. Unless they’re defeated, this borough’s politics are about to become sleazier. We can’t afford that. Politics in New York are sleazy enough. 

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Heeling the Wards 

District Leaders are small fry, but they matter. From among themselves they elect the county leader. They also select mem­bers of the party’s judicial screening panels, which in turn examine and select candidates for the bench. They represent the Democratic party in each neighbor­hood, which can be very significant in trying to solve a community problem, in sanitation, housing police or fire protec­tion. In a Democratic city where neighbor­hoods have terrible problems, a good dis­trict leader may make the difference. A bad one doesn’t, because he or she is too busy making deals to climb higher. A bad district leader spends more time getting judges appointed than worrying about dir­ty streets or decaying parks. Sometimes, as Wayne Barrett revealed about Stanley Friedman’s Bronx leaders (Voice, August 13), the worst ones don’t even live in New York City, let alone the neighborhood. That’s an indication of what can be ex­pected from the Cohnheads.

One good district leader is Kathy Freed, now seeking re-election in the Low­er Manhattan area. She has been aggressive in pursuing her constituents’ complaints about poor services, rapacious loftlords, and lack of parks and other amenities, even while she tried unsuc­cessfully to win last year’s primary race for the Assembly. Freed has been more de­voted to her constituents than to the party line, an attitude which hasn’t been politi­cally rewarding for her. She’s more in­terested in issues than in patronage. 

Of course, that’s not the only kind of decent district leader in Manhattan. The more traditional type is represented by Jim McManus, who has led the Eugene E. McManus Democratic Club in Hell’s Kitchen (named for his father) since 1963. McManus sees the main task of the leader as “delivering the vote for the party’s candidates.” In his neighborhood, that means “getting down to the nitty gritty: a personal favor here, a personal favor there.” But nobody doubts McManus’s concern for the people who live in his neighborhood. And the difference between a “personal favor” and a “neighborhood problem” is sometimes slight.

Judicial delegates run on slates, usually in tandem with a candidate for district leader. After they’re elected, the delegates from Manhattan join with those from the Bronx to nominate candidates for Su­preme Court in New York’s First Judicial Department, which includes both coun­ties. Last year, Stanley Friedman’s Cohnhead allies in Manhattan ran on ju­dicial slates all over the borough, hoping to give Friedman and Cohn control of the judicial convention. They were badly defeated, and the reformers retained control of the Supreme Court nominations. Right now, it seems unlikely that the Cohnheads will do much better this year. But they’re making gains. ■ 


Body Count: How the Reagan Administration Hides the Homeless

Cold weather is coming, and the streets of American cities are decorated for the holiday sea­son with homeless people and their meager belongings. Shop­pers often feel affronted by the sight of the homeless. Most stare straight ahead; a few make gestures of contempt. Our unspoken desire is for these spectral presences, these Dickensian ghosts, to disappear.

In its way, the Reagan administration has acted on that wish. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has tried to make the homeless vanish with numerical sorcery. During the winter of 1984, HUD undertook a $138,000 study designed to refute the claim by advocates of the homeless, in particular Washington’s Community for Creative Nonviolence (CCNV), that over two million Americans have no place to live. CCNV spokesman Mitch Snyder has become one of America’s most visible and relentless advocates for the homeless (see “The Flatbush Faster,” below), and until HUD released its findings in May 1984, Snyder’s two-mil­lion figure was widely accepted as a rough estimate.

The HUD findings, published as A Re­port to the Secretary on the Homeless and Emergency Shelters, stated that probably no more than a quarter of a million Americans were homeless on any winter night last year. The report imme­diately provoked charges of fraud and deception. Snyder, joined by other home­less advocates, sued in Federal court to stop distribution of the report. That suit was summarily dismissed, but an appeal is still pending.

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Last week, after waiting six months for HUD to respond fully to his requests for data underlying the report, Snyder filed another action to force the agency to sur­render more documents. But the hunt for hidden information is only one more step toward his ultimate goal. Assisted by vol­unteer counsel Terry F. Lenzner (former­ly of the Senate Watergate Committee staff) and James H. Rowe III, Snyder is seeking a grand jury investigation of at least two administration officials on charges of criminal perjury and conspiracy.

Snyder and his co-workers in CCNV have worked with street dwellers for more than 10 years. Snyder’s frequent dealings with the federal government, as well as the local bureaucracy, have added considerable political experience to his street wisdom, and he is convinced the report’s conclusions were a predetermined attempt to “deprive the homeless of the only thing they have: their exis­tence.” HUD’s claim that there are far fewer homeless than previously believed, he says, is meant to ease pressure for federal relief. The homeless, after all, are not simply an affront to other Americans; they are also a living rebuke to the “suc­cess” of the president’s economic program.


When HUD’s Report to the Secretary was released, it was front-page news. Its assessment that there were only 250,000 to 350,000 homeless persons seemed to justify Reagan administration policy, which regarded these people as a problem for the states, localities, and private sec­tor — not the federal government. This view is reflected in the skewed funding of homeless programs: over the past three years, the Reagan budgets have allocated a total of $218 million — about the same amount that New York City spends on its homeless in a single year (see “The Federal Failure,” below).

On the frontlines of opposition to the Reagan policy stands CCNV, which along with local officials and other homeless advocates insists that only federal re­sources can provide adequate food and shelter. For more than a decade, CCNV has cared for the capital’s homeless with a combination of donated goods, hip in­genuity, and a defiant, prophetic activ­ism. While local communities including Washington were still ignoring the grow­ing numbers on the streets and in shel­ters a few years ago, CCNV activists went public with hunger strikes and other ac­tions intended to penetrate public apa­thy. Snyder’s style doesn’t charm every­one in official Washington. Some politicians and pundits are offended by his bold challenge to authority, accompa­nied by caustic remarks about our “little Western minds that have to quantify everything in sight, whether we can or not.”

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But in 1982 Snyder did try to count, admittedly unscientifically, the ranks of homeless Americans by calling shelter providers in other cities and projecting their estimates nationally. From that telephone survey came the figure Snyder used in congressional testimony, of “two to three million.” It was a neat statistic that rounded out to about 1 per cent of the U.S. population, and was intended to reflect the number of people without shelter during the course of a year.

What irritated HUD officials was that the little Western minds of the media had, by early 1984, latched onto Snyder’s figure and used it — in editorials, in news stories, on TV and radio. One way or another these stories all posed the same question: If there are two million home­less, why isn’t the government doing more to help them? The HUD report was Washington’s answer: turn the debate about what to do into a dispute over numbers.

When Mitch Snyder and his colleagues around the country read the report, it didn’t make sense to them. Many of them had been interviewed by HUD and were convinced that the numbers they’d given had been misused. Snyder angrily disput­ed the report’s techniques as well as its findings and purposes; he said it was “a political document” intended to “mute the atmosphere of urgency” that he and others had fought to create.

A few weeks after the report’s release, Snyder accused HUD officials of fraud before a special joint hearing of the House Banking Committee’s subcommit­tee on housing and community develop­ment and the Government Operations Committee’s subcommittee on manpow­er and housing (which will reopen its probe of the HUD report December 4). He and other CCNV members called shelter operators around the country, in­cluding colleagues in the National Coali­tion for the Homeless and discovered they too were furious. Snyder organized them to join a lawsuit against further distribution of the report, the first volley in his legal war against an administration whose top officials, as he told Congress, “remind me of nothing so much as a school of piranha circling, waiting to tear the last ounce of flesh.”

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Snyder has a dramatic flair. In another life, years ago, he worked on Madison Avenue. But the former ad man has gone much further in combating HUD than Secretary Samuel Pierce or his advisers must have expected. Not satisfied with discrediting the report itself, he is pursu­ing those whom he accuses of writing the homeless out of existence. And if the Jus­tice Department doesn’t probe his charges, Snyder says he and Lenzner will seek their own hearing before a grand jury and the appointment of a special prosecutor. In the meantime, he has con­vinced banking subcommittee chairman Henry Gonzalez to reopen his investigation.


Secretary Pierce has never been a White House favorite. He is the Cabinet member who, early in his tenure, was mistaken by the president for a black mayor, and under his tenure HUD has suffered the heaviest cuts in the Reagan budgets. Pierce has also been lambasted annually on Capitol Hill for HUD’s fail­ure to assist the homeless.

In January 1984, Pierce’s boss suc­cinctly entered the debate with his own assessment on Good Morning America: “What we have found in this country­ — and maybe we’re more aware of it now — ­is one problem that we’ve had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice.” This was the presidential reac­tion to a media blitz — including pictures of homeless families with small chil­dren — that took place that same month.

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Pierce’s response to the growing public relations problem was to study the issue. In early 1983, a HUD deputy had pro­posed a small study of how HUD initia­tives were helping the homeless and how innovative programs in 10 cities were preventing homelessness or assisting homeless families to find permanent homes. But Pierce instead ordered HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research to formulate a national estimate of the homeless, ascertain who they were and what was being done to help them. The study was undertaken by Dr. Kathleen Peroff, then deputy director of the office’s division of policy studies, and the official Mitch Snyder would later ac­cuse of criminal perjury.

Under her direction, HUD staff and an independent consulting firm, Westat, used four techniques to estimate the total number of homeless. HUD had already decided that what they wanted was a “snapshot” of how many homeless there were on an average night in January or February 1984 — a number that would certainly be lower than a count of how many people were without shelter for any extended period during a year. Many people are homeless for a few months, then stay with friends or family before they hit the street again. Others end up in jails, hospitals, or vouchered housing for periods during the year, but adminis­tration policy is to consider none of these people officially “homeless.”

The derivation of social statistics such as the number of homeless, hungry, or illiterate is often difficult to comprehend. To lay readers, disputes over methodolo­gy may seem arcane or even irrelevant, but they lie at the heart of the political struggle over who should help the home­less and how much they should be helped.

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HUD’s estimate was an extrapolation based on previous estimates — and in a very few instances, actual headcounts — done by other agencies. Each of the four methods used was, in essence, a survey of other surveys, manipulated statistically into a national estimate:

  • HUD’s researchers took published estimates for 37 localities, most of them large urban areas, added them together, and divided by the combined populations of the cities surveyed. That came to one-­quarter of 1 per cent of the population which, when multiplied by the total U.S. population, yielded an “outside esti­mate” of 586,000 homeless. HUD consid­ered this number its least reliable, since it relied wholly upon newspaper and oth­er published accounts, and focused on large cities where the homeless tend to be concentrated.
  • Westat’s employees conducted tele­phone interviews with 200 operators of homeless shelters in 60 cities — 20 small, 20 medium, and the 20 largest — and asked dozens of questions, mainly con­cerned with how the shelters operate. The next to last question was: “On an average night last week, how many home­less (including those in shelters, using vouchers to live in hotels, in cars, streets, parks, etc.) would you estimate are living in this metropolitan area?” The answers were added together and extrapolated to a national figure of 353,000.
  • HUD staff conducted 500 interviews in the same 60 cities, asking local offi­cials, advocacy groups, researchers, shel­ter operators, social service agencies, and police departments to offer their best guess as to how many homeless were in their cities or counties. Many refused, but the answers received were analyzed for “reliability” based on the perceived experience and knowledge of the inter­viewee, given a weight based on city size, and then added together and extrapolat­ed. This figure came to 254,000.
  • Three studies by local homeless ad­vocates which attempted to count the number of people on the streets in Bos­ton, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix, along with a 1980 census “casual count” were used to derive a national figure of 192,000.

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All these methods suffered from a vari­ety of technical, practical and even arith­metical errors, according to two statisti­cal specialists — Eugene Ericson of Temple University and Richard Appel­baum of the University of California, Santa Barbara — who examined the re­port and some of the underlying documentation at Snyder’s request. Several of the shelter providers and experts inter­viewed by HUD and Westat complained that their estimates had been misquoted or misused. Nine of the 20 largest cities were assessed on the basis of one or two local estimates. And the authors of the Boston and Phoenix studies — Valerie La­nier and Dr. Louisa Stark — blasted the report for ignoring the limitations of their estimates, such as the fact that in Boston, for example, the counters only examined a limited area and not the whole city. Lanier and Stark are plain­tiffs in Snyder’s lawsuit demanding that the report be withdrawn.

Ericson and Appelbaum both criticized the weighting system used by HUD, which gave the highest weight to the smallest cities surveyed, and the lowest weight to the country’s five largest cities. Ericson, who assisted the city of New York in analyzing the 1980 census, told the Voice he believed this was a deliber­ate attempt to understate the number of homeless.

But both Ericson and Appelbaum were most vehement about what Snyder calls the “smoking gun” in HUD’s calcula­tions — an arcane geographical measure known as the “Rand-McNally Metropoli­tan Areas” or “RMAs,” which were used by HUD to arrive at a ratio between local estimates of homelessness and the coun­try as a whole. Each of the 60 cities sur­veyed for the HUD report belongs to an RMA, which is a large geographical unit, usually used for marketing purposes, similar to the better-known Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area. The New York City RMA includes the city’s seven million people, plus another 10 million spread across 79 other cities in 10 coun­ties spread across three states. The Los Angeles RMA also comprises about 80 cities; Boston includes 40 cities; Chica­go’s RMA stretches across three states, and includes 10 counties and 46 cities.

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The problem, according to Ericson and Appelbaum, is that HUD used the RMAs this way: They took already dubious esti­mates of homeless populations in the sur­veyed cities and counties which are part, but only part, of the RMAs, added them, and used the total as the numerator in a gigantic fraction. Then they added up the total populations of the 60 RMAs, includ­ing cities which were never surveyed or surveyed only superficially, and used that total as the denominator. The resulting fraction, which supposedly represented the ratio of homeless population to total population in the 60 RMAs, was then multiplied by the entire U.S. population, supposedly yielding a national homeless figure.

Appelbaum and Ericson both say that if the estimates gathered by HUD had been applied solely to the central cities from which they were taken, and not to the RMAs, the final figures on national homelessness would have been anywhere from 2.5 to five times as high, or from 650,000 to 1.6 million. This is because the number of people in the 60 central cities surveyed is about 30 million, while the 60 RMAs have a population of 90 million.


Peroff was obliged to defend her study in two separate forums. On May 24, 1984, she and other HUD officials and consul­tants testified at a joint hearing of the House Banking and Government Opera­tions subcommittees. Six weeks later, she gave a sworn declaration as a defendant in Mitch Snyder’s federal lawsuit to have the HUD report withdrawn.

Snyder and his lawyers examined both the congressional testimony and the sworn statement carefully, and he says he has found at least 13 instances of perjury by Peroff. Whether Peroff lied intention­ally is a matter to be decided by a jury, but there are serious discrepancies in some of her statements — enough so that Gonzalez subcommittee director Gerald McMurray says discreetly that he “hopes HUD will be more forthcoming on how they put together the report” at next month’s hearing.

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Among the discrepancies is Peroff’s de­scription, in her sworn statement to the U.S. District Court, of the HUD report’s definition of “homeless” and her asser­tion that that definition, which included homeless people temporarily in jails and hospitals, was explained to the local ex­perts surveyed by HUD and Westat. The questionnaires used by interviewers show this isn’t true, and several of those interviewed say it was never explained to them.

Most of the accusations of perjury, however, revolve around the issue of RMAs. Some of these could be dismissed as differences of interpretation, but there certainly are contradictions between the report itself, HUD’s congressional testi­mony, and Peroff’s account in her sworn statement.

Although the word “metropolitan” ap­pears nowhere in the seven-page ques­tionnaire strictly followed by the HUD interviewers, Peroff claimed in her sworn declaration to the U.S. District Court that they “always noted what the area basis of the estimate was so that the com­putation of the final metropolitan reli­able range was based on: 1) an entire metropolitan figure; or 2) adding esti­mates obtained for separate jurisdictions within the metropolitan area.” In the same declaration she also referred to the “metropolitan estimates provided in these interviews (which) resulted in a na­tional estimate…” And she claimed that in the largest metro areas, such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, “calls were made by HUD staff to central cities and to all jurisdictions outside the central cities but within the RMA, to obtain additional homeless estimates for these jurisdic­tions.” In fact, HUD interviewers did call some of the counties surrounding the central cities in each RMA, but this was far from surveying “all jurisdictions.” Several of the shelter operators and other professionals interviewed by HUD dis­puted Peroff’s assertion that “those in­terviewed… were asked only to give es­timates for the particular jurisdiction within the metropolitan area which they were knowledgeable about.”

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The defense of the estimate for New York City, in Snyder’s view, is the clear­est example of an outright lie. Peroff claimed in her sworn declaration that “Forty interviews were held with persons knowledgeable about specific suburban areas in order to obtain estimates of the extent of homelessness in each of the sep­arate jurisdictions. These separate esti­mates were then added to the New York City estimate to arrive at an estimate for the entire metropolitan area.” Assistant HUD Secretary June Q. Koch repeated the same claim in a statement submitted to Congress.

But Appelbaum, after examining HUD’s documents, could find only 32 in­terviews with suburban New Yorkers — ­and only 18 of these offered homeless estimates. The others all refused, yet the jurisdictions served by their agencies were counted in the total population figures.

Peroff, who has moved from HUD to the Office of Management and Budget, is indignant at Snyder’s charges and the criticism of her work. “I simply didn’t perjure myself,” she says. The RMA method was chosen, she says, because it best represents the country’s urbanized areas where most of the homeless are lo­cated, adding that “critics of the report… don’t have a statistical background.” The smaller RMAs were given greater weight, she explained, because they had “a lesser probability of being sampled. There was a greater probability that we’d select one of the large RMAs, of which there are few, than the small RMAs, of which there are many.” But nowhere in the report is the precise rationale for the weighting scheme explained — that is, why a small RMA was given 20 times the weight of a large one.

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Peroff agrees that HUD only got 18 estimates for the urbanized areas outside New York’s five boroughs, but insists that “we made an attempt to call every person whose name came to us and in New York City we had good statistics made available to us on the number of people in shelters.” Peroff hasn’t re­tained a lawyer to defend her; she says there’s no need to. June Koch, her supe­rior at HUD, failed to return repeated calls from the Voice.

On August 27, 1984, Snyder filed a for­mal complaint against Peroff and Koch with Joseph DiGenova, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, alleging that the two HUD officials had committed multiple acts of conspiracy and perjury. He asked DiGenova to investigate and present his findings to a grand jury. Sny­der offered evidence and witnesses to cor­roborate his charges, but received no re­ply from DiGenova. Last March, seven months after the charges were filed, Sny­der again wrote to DiGenova — whose of­fice had successfully defended HUD against Snyder’s civil lawsuit in U.S. Dis­trict Court.

“We were hesitant to file the complaint with you, knowing that your office was representing HUD — and still is — in U.S. District Court,” noted Snyder. “We doubted that you would deal fairly — or at all — with these criminal activities, since you would be both representing and in­vestigating/prosecuting the same HUD officials.”

A few weeks later, Snyder got a reply from Charles Roistacher, a DiGenova as­sistant. Roistacher referred to his own office’s declaration in defending HUD against the civil lawsuit, saying, “We re­sponded to your complaints of flaws in the report’s methodology.… Upon review, I have concluded that the investigation you request is not warranted.”

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Lenzner and the other attorneys repre­senting CCNV charge that DiGenova’s decision was tainted by a conflict of in­terest. Last month they asked the ap­peals court to exclude the U.S. Attorney’s office from continuing to represent HUD in the civil suit brought last year to force the withdrawal of the report. They point­ed to Roistacher’s letter as proof of the conflict, protesting that “No distinction whatsoever was drawn between the U.S. Attorney’s undertaking of HUD’s defense in the civil action and its responsibility as a neutral, investigative body to expose criminal activity.” No ruling has been handed down yet, but if the court agrees with CCNV, HUD will be forced to retain outside counsel, and DiGenova may have to reconsider Snyder’s allegations of per­jury and conspiracy.

Two weeks ago, Lenzner and Rowe filed a new complaint in federal court seeking an injunction to force HUD to release the records and files they request­ed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) six months ago. Lenzner is also assisting congressional staff to prepare for the appearance of HUD officials for further questioning on December 4. The House subcommittees investigating the report are chaired by Texas Democrat Henry Gonzalez and Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, who will be trying to determine how the report was shaped, the extent of involvement, if any, of the White House, and whether HUD officials told the truth when they testi­fied about the report after its release in May 1984.


Although administration officials may consider him disreputable, Mitch Snyder has contacts in the White House. Before mounting his war against HUD, he met with one of them and warned that Secre­tary Pierce should be quietly forced to withdraw the report on homelessness. But Snyder realized the administration was committed to defending the report when the right-wing Heritage Founda­tion, the Reagan administration’s private sector arm, tried to bolster HUD with an attack on the report’s critics.

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The Heritage paper, written by Anna Kondratas, seems to have done little to resuscitate the report’s credibility. Local and state officials across the country told the Voice that HUD’s estimates were useless and had not influenced their decisions about aiding the homeless. No one on Capitol Hill, in the press or even in the White House has dared to cite the report as a policy guide. In that sense, Snyder’s war has already been won.

Why then have Snyder and his allies continued to press for withdrawal of the report and investigations by a grand jury and Congress? They are prompted in part by a belief that government shouldn’t lie, and that if government officials do lie they should be held accountable.

Mitch Snyder has taken HUD’s at­tempt to conceal the dimensions of homelessness and used it for the opposite end: to make us face how great a disgrace it is, and how our country is dishonored by manipulations and excuses. Most of all, he feels attention must be paid, not to numbers but to the men, women, and children we forget when we aren’t forced to see them. When the city streets turn to ice, and people we ought to be caring for begin to die, maybe we’ll remember what he tried to tell us.

Research assistance by Ellen McGarrahan.

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The Flatbush Faster

Mitch Snyder has been labeled a “zealot” on the editorial page of the Washington Post, and last year the paper published an op-ed piece which called his threat to fast until he died­ — unless the government provided facili­ties for the city’s homeless — “a fancy form of terrorism.” But on the streets of Washington, where his face is well known, people constantly approach him to say things like “God bless you. We’re praying for you.”

Snyder, 42, is the high school dropout from Flatbush who began what could have been a successful Madison Ave­nue career in the ’60s. One morning in 1968, he woke up and decided he didn’t like his life. Snyder left his fam­ily — he is now on good terms with his ex-wife and two grown sons — and drifted around the country for a cou­ple of years. He was arrested in 1969, under the since-repealed Dyer Act, which made it a federal crime to ride as a passenger in a car rented with a stolen credit card. Convicted in 1970, Snyder spent most of the next two and a half years in Danbury prison, where he met Philip Berrigan, did a lot of reading, fasted for 72 days to protest the Vietnam war, and emerged in 1972 prepared for a life of commit­ment. Snyder says he’s fasted for peri­ods totaling about two years, sometimes for political purposes, mostly just to “cleanse my system and get in touch with those people in the world who don’t have enough to eat.” After one fast protesting the Navy’s plans to name a nuclear submarine “Corpus Christi” — literally, “Body of Christ” — Snyder nearly lost his sight. But surgeons at Johns Hopkins donated their services to save his eyes. The Navy called their sub “City of Corpus Christi,” and Snyder called off his fast.

The Community for Creative Non­violence was founded in 1970 as a pacifist commune dedicated to resistance against the war. By the time Snyder joined them soon after his release from prison, the group had discovered “a direct equivalent at home to the war abroad” — the homeless poor. They opened a soup kitchen in 1972, and over the next couple of years es­tablished a “hospitality house” where anybody could find food and shelter. During the 1975 recession they opened their first shelter, in the living room of the commune’s old house on a run­down street in northeast Washington. In addition to about 1000 volunteers who help when they can, CCNV has 50 members, mostly in their twenties and thirties. About 35 of them, including Snyder, live in the giant shelter on Second Street, which the federal gov­ernment is now trying to shut down.

The confrontation over this dilapi­dated building, formerly Federal City College, began a few hours before President Reagan’s 1983 State of the Union address, when 160 CCNV mem­bers and friends were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda where they were demonstrating to win the use of feder­al buildings to house the homeless. The following month, Reagan ordered HUD and the Pentagon to prepare a list of suitable buildings, but it took until December for CCNV to obtain the use of the empty college, which the feds were planning to sell the follow­ing year. With more than 800 people using the building that winter, CCNV decided that they would refuse to get out when their “lease” expired on April 1, 1984.

Government officials extended the lease, but refused CCNV’s demand that the run-down shelter be renovat­ed to make it decently habitable. On September 15, 1984, Snyder and other CCNV members began a fast that ended on November 4, with a federal commitment to transform the shelter with extensive repairs, thanks in part to the intervention of Susan Baker, wife of presidential aide James Baker.

According to Snyder, the feds have reneged on their commitment to re­build; he wants to hold them to their promise of a “model shelter.” The government says it never contemplat­ed the $10 million worth of work Sny­der has demanded. CCNV has refused to let the government make a partial repair, and the feds have responded by opening a smaller shelter in the remote Anacostia section of the city, threatening to evict the hundreds who live at the CCNV shelter.

Snyder has warned that some shel­ter residents, including a number of Vietnam veterans, might become vio­lent if the government tries to throw them out. He has gone to court to forestall the eviction, which could happen within days after a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals, which now has the case. Like the legal battle over the HUD report, the shelter dispute is, for the moment at least, a stand-off. — J.C.

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The Federal Failure

Getting the Reagan administration to request funds for America’s home­less is an uphill battle, but Represen­tative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, has a strategy. “Per­haps if someone could discover a Com­munist threat among the homeless…,” he said, Washington would be persuaded to take them seriously.

Although the administration is not exactly waging a war on poverty, the United States Armed Forces have al­ready been pressed into service. In fis­cal 1984, Congress gave the Depart­ment of Defense $8 million for the conversion of empty military struc­tures into shelters for the homeless. When the Voice first called the Penta­gon to inquire whether that $8 million had been used for homeless relief, press spokesperson Jim Trimmer said he “personally knew nothing about” that appropriation, explaining, “Eight million dollars is not very much around here.”

In fact, only $900,000 of the con­gressional appropriation was ultimate­ly used to provide shelters; the remaining $7.1 million was “turned back into the Army Reserve funds, where it was used for [military] construction” according to another Pentagon aide, Glenn Flood. The small amount spent as intended created nine shelters in six states. Because DOD had used only $900,000 of the original appropriation, Flood explained, this year Congress appropriated just $500,000 — a far cry from the original $8 million which, although small by military standards, was significant enough to be men­tioned in the HUD report on home­lessness as evidence that “other Fed­eral Agencies have also acted to address the issue.”

But the DOD program is not the heavy artillery in the federal govern­ment’s order of battle for the homeless. Over the past three years, Con­gress has allocated a total of $210 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pro­vide food and shelter to the homeless. These funds have in turn been distrib­uted through agencies such as United Way and the Salvation Army. The money is spent primarily on cots, blankets and food. This distribution process is the administration’s show­piece aid effort, but FEMA itself has no desire to see the program become a permanent fixture, and has neglected each year to ask Congress to renew the appropriation. So far, no funds have been formally approved to continue the food and shelter program in fiscal 1986.

Indicative of the FEMA program’s makeshift nature and cosmetic intent is the fact that the appropriations have held steady at about $70 million a year over the past three years, de­spite documented growth in the num­bers of homeless. Concern about the size of the deficit is ostensibly what has kept the funding unchanged, but the allocation process itself is arbi­trary. “We determine funds by previ­ous funding amounts rather than by statistics of need, which may or may not be accurate,” said Paul Thomp­son, a staff assistant to the HUD ap­propriations subcommittee of the House.

Given the dubious accuracy of HUD’s statistics, that might seem rea­sonable. Even the House appropriations subcommittee felt compelled to ask for a second opinion on the HUD report’s conclusions and ordered FEMA to prepare its own study last March. FEMA reported back that homelessness had increased by 16 per cent over the previous year. In Sep­tember the same congressional sub­committee that had authorized the re­port ignored FEMA’s conclusions, blindly allocating the same sum as in years past.

Since Reagan took office, his admin­istration has drastically cut the Sec­tion-8 federally subsidized low-income housing program. At its peak Section­-8 supplied $3.2 billion a year to New York State, providing rent subsidies to 47,000 low-income families. The present level of funding is sufficient for only 8000 families — a cut of over three-quarters in the number of fam­ilies aided. Other federal cuts include $5.2 billion from child nutrition pro­grams, $4.6 billion from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, $1.8 billion from housing as­sistance programs, and $6.8 billion from the food stamp program. With the decrease in federal funding for these programs, the states have been hard-pressed to pick up the slack. Ac­cording to HUD spokesperson Peter Centenari, “that’s what the Reagan administration bas been trying to do all along — to drive all of this back to the state and local level.” — Ellen McGarrahan


To Catch a Nazi

“SUBJECT D” IS THE LABEL MOST RECENTLY used by the federal government to de­scribe a certain high-ranking Nazi collab­orator, an alleged war criminal whose co­operation with the Central Intelligence Agency allowed him to enter this country in 1949 and later become a U.S. citizen. Subject D’s history was supposed to remain hidden; indeed, he felt so secure that his telephone number is listed under his real name. Now, after nearly 40 years, his secret is out.

Last June, the General Accounting Of­fice (GAO) completed a three-year inves­tigation of the illegal postwar immigra­tion of Nazis and Nazi collaborators, and of the secret assistance they allegedly re­ceived from U.S. intelligence agencies. This sensitive federal study was ordered by the House Judiciary Committee to supplement a 1978 review of accusations that federal agencies obstructed the pros­ecution of alleged Nazi war criminals.

After reviewing voluminous files and conducting many interviews, the GAO found “no evidence of any U.S. agency program to aid Nazis or Axis collabora­tors to immigrate to the United States.” But among the 114 cases it reviewed — ­dealing with a small fraction of the sus­pected war criminals — the GAO did dis­cover five cases of Nazis or collaborators “with undesirable or questionable backgrounds who received some individual as­sistance in their U.S. immigrations.” Al­though the 40-page report said that three of them were already dead, it named no names, or even nationalities, and referred to the five only as Subjects A through E. Much of the information about them and their activities remains classified. In two cases, the assisted individuals were pro­tected by their intelligence contacts from authorities seeking to enforce immigra­tion laws that prohibit the entry of war criminals and other persecutors.

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The authors of the GAO report seem eager to justify the actions of the govern­ment, and regardless of bias, their effort hardly represents a comprehensive ex­amination of this historic problem. Yet despite its shortcomings, the report is a landmark — an official admission that Nazis and Nazi collaborators were assist­ed in entering the United States by the CIA.

The Voice has learned that the collaborator discussed in the GAO report as “Subject D” is a prominent Ukrainian nationalist. In 1934, he was imprisoned for attempting to assassinate the interior minister of Poland; he ran the security force of a Ukrainian fascist organization and has been accused of ordering the murders of many of his countrymen; he attended a Gestapo training school where Jews were murdered for practice. He was considered an extremely valuable intelli­gence asset by the CIA, which protected him from war-crimes prosecution by the Soviets, brought him to this country under an assumed name and concealed his true past from the Immigration and Nat­uralization Service. So important was his case that in 1952 Attorney General James P. McGranery, the director of Central Intelligence, General Walter Bedell Smith, and the commissioner of the INS, Argyle R. Mackey, secretly agreed to permit his residence here. In 1957, he became a U.S. citizen.

His name is Mykola Lebed, and he lives in Yonkers.

MYKOLA LEBED IS 75 YEARS OLD, AND HAS resided in this country for nearly half his life. Several years ago he moved from Washington Heights, a largely Jewish neighborhood, to a modest two-family brick house on a pleasant Yonkers hill­side. Short, wiry, and bald, with alert blue eyes, the retired Lebed spends most of his days at home, where he is working on his memoirs.

His recollections are likely to be cast in the heroic, patriotic light that illuminates most histories written by adherents and defenders of the Organization of Ukraini­an Nationalists (OUN) that he once helped lead. All that can be seen in these accounts is a fiery commitment to an in­dependent Ukrainian state and the resulting conflicts with both German and Soviet oppressors. Obscured is the more complex story of OUN collaboration with Nazi war crimes, and the OUN’s own fas­cist and racist ideology.

Details of Mykola Lebed’s involvement with the OUN have been pieced together from Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) files, other military archives, and immigration records; from interviews with Ukrainians; and from histories of the period, including an eyewitness ac­count in the files of the Holocaust docu­mentation center at Yad Vashem in Isra­el. Large portions of pages from the CIC file on Lebed, obtained under the Free­dom of Information Act, were “sanitized” (that is, obliterated) by the Army before being released to the Voice. To justify the withholding of certain facts, the Army cited FOIA exemptions pertaining to pro­tection of “intelligence sources” and “na­tional security.” One document was ap­parently withheld at the request of “another government agency,” and an­other document had been removed from the National Archives by the CIA.

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Four decades after the terrible events of the war, the history of fascism in East­ern Europe is no academic matter. In recent years, the U.S. government has finally begun to prosecute individual war criminals among the Nazi collaborators who found refuge on our shores. Most of the 45 cases brought so far by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investiga­tions (OSI), set up in 1979 to find and deport immigrants who committed war crimes, involve not German Nazis but collaborators from other nations.

The East European émigré communi­ties have reacted with a ferocious cam­paign to abolish OSI, though very few of their members are threatened in any way. (Only in the Polish-American community has the crusade against OSI failed to gain significant support, perhaps because so many Polish gentiles were also victims of Nazism.) Each prosecution of a Nazi col­laborator from Eastern Europe discredits the version of history upheld by some émigrés: that all the “anticommunists” of Eastern Europe were noble and free of any guilt for the crimes of Nazism.

Ukrainian leaders have outspokenly denounced the OSI, partly because the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists still exists and remains influential in the Ukrainian communities here and abroad. The OUN’s founders are revered by Ukrainian publications and groups, while their collaboration with Hitler is not discussed. The OSI has made such evasion far more difficult. According to Nazi War Criminals in America, the authoritative handbook published last year by Charles R. Allen Jr., about one-fourth of the 45 OSI deportation or denaturalization cases have been brought against Ukraini­ans; in at least two cases, the individuals accused of participating in Nazi persecu­tions and murders were proven to be members of the OUN.

The Ukrainian targets of the OSI have so far been minor figures — “policemen” in the service of the Nazi occupiers of the Ukraine, who don’t figure as individuals in any of the histories of the period. Most wartime leaders of the OUN are dead, and thus safe from the varieties of justice meted out in U.S., Soviet, Polish, or Is­raeli courts. Mykola Lebed is an excep­tion. For years he was the OUN’s third-­in-command, and he ran the Sluzhba Bezpeky, its reputedly murderous securi­ty force.

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Justice Department policy, which ap­plies to the OSI, strictly prohibits any comment about pending cases. But the Voice has learned that the OSI maintains an open file on Lebed, making him a potential defendant in denaturalization proceedings. Materials pertaining to his case from the GAO probe, gleaned from the files of military intelligence and the CIA, were turned over to the OSI last summer.

If the OSI determines that Lebed ought to be stripped of his citizenship and deported, the information in those files may become public. Although much of Lebed’s history remains murky, con­cealed in still-classified government ar­chives, there is little doubt that such a display would severely embarrass not only the OUN and its supporters, but the U.S. government as well — especially the CIA.

Under long-standing U.S. immigration laws, strengthened in 1978, those guilty of persecuting other people on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or politi­cal belief are barred from entering this country and are to be deported if they gain entry. Lebed escaped these sanc­tions because his sponsors mercifully cited Section 8 of the CIA Act of 1949. An obscure portion of the legislation that es­tablished the CIA, Section 8 permits the agency to bring 100 individuals a year to the U.S. for reasons of national securi­ty — regardless of their past. Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman, who issued a seething critique of the GAO report, found this revelation about Subject D’s immigration “extremely dis­turbing.” As a member of Congress in 1978, said Holtzman, “the CIA… assured me in a meeting and in a Congres­sional hearing that it never used the 100 numbers provision to facilitate the entry of Nazis.”

Patti Volz, a spokeswoman for the CIA, declined to comment about Lebed or the GAO report. “We don’t get into details,” she said. “We don’t confirm or deny that someone has worked for us. We wouldn’t have any comment on him.”

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REPORTS FILED WITH THE ARMY Counterintelligence Corps in the late ’40s give various dates for the birth of Mykola Lebed, but his naturalization papers say November 23, 1910. He was born in the western Ukrainian province of Galicia, an agricultural area controlled at various times by Poland, the Soviet Union, and Germany. From his early school days in L’vov, the provincial capital, Lebed was involved in the right wing of the Ukraini­an nationalist movement, which from the early ’30s to the present has been domi­nated by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The secretive, authoritarian OUN has constantly overshadowed Ukrainian politics, despite incessant fac­tional strife in its ranks, both in the Ukraine and abroad.

Polish rule in the Ukraine during the ’20s had been harsh, and the OUN’s younger members included a number, who, like Lebed, were inclined to terrorism. Among them was the OUN’s eventu­al would-be führer, Stefan Bandera, who in 1934 joined with Lebed and several others in plotting the assassination of Polish interior minister Bronislaw Pieracki. U.S. Army Counterintelligence reports say that Lebed initially escaped from Warsaw but was captured in Stet­tin, Germany, and returned to Poland by the German authorities. Convicted in a mass trial, Lebed, Bandera, and several others were condemned to death; but their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.

The most sympathetic, scholarly ac­count of the Ukrainian nationalist period is by John A. Armstrong, a strongly anti­-Soviet and pro-Ukrainian historian who now teaches at the University of Wiscon­sin. His Ukrainian Nationalism 1939–1945 notes that during the period Lebed and Bandera were imprisoned, the Ukrai­nian nationalist movement was solidify­ing its ties to the Nazi regime in Germa­ny.

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“For many years,” wrote Armstrong, “the OUN had been closely tied to Ger­man policy. This alignment was fur­thered by the semi-Fascist nature of its ideology, and in turn the dependence on Germany tended to intensify Fascist trends in the organization.” In fact, most historians regard the OUN as wholly fas­cist — and tied to German intelligence — from its inception. It was the Nazi inva­sion of Poland in September 1939 that allowed Lebed and the other convicted plotters to escape from Warsaw’s Swiety Kroyc prison after serving five years.

The xenophobic, antidemocratic, and anti-Semitic nationalism of the OUN meshed easily with Nazism. The compli­ment was not always returned, however. Within the Nazi hierarchy, opinions about the Ukrainians diverged. Powerful Nazi figures considered the Ukrainians an inferior people, unfit to govern them­selves. Lebed and the other OUN leaders hoped that they would be able to set up an autonomous fascist state, as part of Hitler’s “New Europe,” under a German protectorate.

Such aspirations congealed into a mili­tary, political, and espionage alliance be­tween the OUN and the Nazi war ma­chine. Even after 1940, when the OUN split into two feuding factions — the more extremist led by Bandera, Lebed, and Yaroslav Stetsko — both sought an ac­commodation with the German occupi­ers. Later in the war, the Germans alter­nated between courting and repressing the Ukrainians, but many OUN members served continuously in Nazi formations, from the Waffen-SS to the local police forces, which murdered thousands of Jews, Poles, communists, and socialists.

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DURING THE MONTHS FOLLOWING THEIR release from prison, Lebed and the other OUN leaders chafed under the temporary constraints of the 1939 treaty between Hitler and Stalin. According to Armstrong, they eagerly abetted the secret Nazi preparations for war against the So­viets, sending their young adherents for German military training in mountain camps set up as early as 1939. Sources friendly to Lebed — whose slanted ac­counts may be found in memoranda of the Army Counterintelligence Corps be­tween 1947 and 1948 — understandably pass over this period.

Only hints of what Lebed was actually doing in 1940 and 1941 appear in the CIC file. A September 30, 1948, memo does mention that “For a short time, [Lebed] attempted to get an insight into the tac­tics of the German State Police and suc­ceeded in joining the GESTAPO school in ZAKOPANE (District of Krakow), from which he ultimately fled.” And a card in the CIC file identifies Lebed as “a graduate of the Zakopane, Poland crimi­nal police school.”

A former OUN member, now dead, wrote in 1958 a different and more de­tailed eyewitness version of Lebed’s so­journ with the Gestapo. Retrieved from the files of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the declaration of Mykyta Kosakivs’kyy por­trays both Lebed and the OUN as eager pupils of the Gestapo.

Kosakivs’kyy joined the OUN in 1933, and after sojourns in Czechoslovakia and Germany, returned to the Carpathian Ukraine late in 1939. He was among the older OUN officers present when the “Ukrainian Training Unit” was estab­lished at the Gestapo school in Zakopane that November. According to his declara­tion, the Ukrainian unit was “organized by the OUN leadership and by permis­sion of the German Security Service.” It included 120 specially selected trainees, under the guidance of a Gestapo officer named Walter Kruger and his assistant, Wilhelm Rosenbaum, both Germans. “The Ukrainian commandant of the en­tire unit was Lieutenant Vil’nyy,” wrote Kosakivs’kyy, “whose real name was My­kola Lebid [another transliteration of Lebed].” The curriculum included drills, intelligence and counterintelligence training, and interrogation techniques, but emphasized “exercises in the harden­ing of hearts.”

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“At sundown,” recalled Kosakivs’kyy, “Kruger, Rosenbaum, Lebid and a few students would go to Zakopane, enter some Jewish home on the way, grab a Jew, and bring him to the Unit. One eve­ning, late in November or early in De­cember 1939, they returned with a young Jew. In the presence of Ukrainian seniors, including myself, Kruger and Ro­senbaum, fortified with alcohol, proceed­ed with their demonstration of the proper methods of interrogation.”

Seeking to induce the innocent Jew to confess that he had raped an “Aryan” woman, the German officers beat and tortured him, using their fists, a sword, and iron bars. When he was bloody from head to toe, they applied salt and flame to his wounds. The broken man then confessed his fictional crimes, but that was not the end.

“Thereupon,” Kosakivs’kyy continues, “he was taken to the corridor of the house and the ‘co-eds’ (three women members of the unit) were called in. In their presence, Rosenbaum beat the Jew again with an iron pipe and Lebid too assisted manually in that ‘heroic action.’ One of the senior Ukrainians and I with­drew from that spectacle to our rooms. We learned afterwards that the tortured man was stripped naked, stood up in front of the school as ‘a sentry’ and doused with water in heavy frost.”

Kosakivs’kyy and his friend protested to Lebed the next day, but the comman­dant told them bluntly that “it was the duty of every member of the OUN to show the Germans that his nerves are just as tough as a German’s and that the heart of any nationalist is as hard as steel.” Such “practical exercises” continued unabated, according to Kosakiv­s’kyy’s testimony, and he fled Zakopane in early January 1940. Others equally sickened, he learned, left later, but Lebed remained until at least March of that year, when the unit moved from Zakopane to the nearby town of Rabka, where the Gestapo’s depredations continued.

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When he finished his statement on De­cember 14, 1958, in Germany, the former OUN member already knew he was dying of heart disease, according to the intro­ductory note written by the late Dr. Panas Fedenko, a Ukrainian liberal and implacable critic of the OUN. “I owe it to my conscience to make this declaration public, to report openly the facts I wit­nessed myself,” Kosakivs’kyy concluded. “Mykola Lebid evidently believes that his infamous accomplishments in the Ukraine and elsewhere are forgotten and
so are the multitudes of his innocent vic­tims, that every witness of his torture activities is either murdered or dead. Only Lebid is mistaken right there.”

Kosakivs’kyy’s angry testament must be read in context, as the product of one man’s remorseful memory, and of Ukrai­nian émigré rivalries as well; obviously it was published to discredit Lebed and the OUN. Yet there is supporting evidence for his story in the historical record. The Zakopane school existed, according to Dr. Aharon Weiss of Yad Vashem, and was moved to the nearby town of Rabka in 1940. There was a Captain Kruger, men­tioned above, who commanded a Gestapo unit in the area, and helped lead a joint Nazi-OUN pogrom when the German Army’s Brandenburg regiment occupied the Galician capital of L’vov in late June 1941.

And there is also no question that a German officer named Wilhelm Rosen­baum was a commandant at Zakopane and Rabka during the training of Ukrai­nians. In 1964, that same Rosenbaum was arrested in West Germany and charged, among other crimes, with the murder of 200 Jews at Rabka between May 1942 and January 1943. According to Simon Wiesenthal’s 1967 book The Murderers Among Us, the unit was a “training cen­ter for future cadres of SS killers… SS men at Rabka were being hardened so they would not break after a few weeks of duty. They had to become insensitive to the sight of blood, to the agonized shouts of women and children. The job must be done with a minimum of fuss and a maxi­mum of efficiency. That was a Führerbe­fehl — the Fuhrer’s order.” Rosenbaum was convicted in Hamburg in 1968 and sentenced to hard labor for life.

Lebed declined to be interviewed by the Voice about Zakopane or any of his wartime activities. But in a brief conver­sation on the doorstep of his Yonkers home last month, he conceded that he had been at the Gestapo school, although he believed it had been during the winter of 1940–41, not 1939–40 as Kosakivs’kyy stated. “Oh yes,” he said. “I left after five weeks. I have exactly the dates. I quit.”

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LEBED’S TRAINING AT ZAKOPANE, HOWEVER cursory, was soon recognized by his fel­low leaders in OUN-B, whose acronym designated its domination by the nationalist führer Bandera. When their split from the old leadership became irrevoca­ble in 1941, Bandera commissioned the creation of a “security service,” the Sluzhba Bezpeky, under Lebed’s com­mand. Historians of the OUN-B agree that he ran the SB not only during the war, but long afterward. Armstrong, who interviewed Lebed at length, stated the facts with characteristic discretion: “In Lebed — small in stature, quiet, yet deter­mined, hard — the SB found a well-quali­fied leader, but one who was to acquire for himself and his organization an unenviable reputation for ruthlessness.” In an interview last month Armstrong was still sympathetic to Lebed, but more candid. “He grew up fighting against the Poles,” explained the historian, “and he developed a terrible terrorist complex. He killed other Ukrainians, rivals in the organization [OUN].”

Yet Lebed told the Voice that he had never commanded the SB. He claimed that the SB had instead been run by someone named “Artanych… He’s dead now.”

Such reluctance to assume the SB’s legacy is understandable. Even those Ukrainians who ignore the fascist brutal­ities against Jews and Poles are still trou­bled, and in some cases outraged, by the SB’s infamous assaults on Ukrainians who dissented from the OUN-B leadership.

Lebed’s direct responsibility for crimes attributed to the OUN-B is difficult to establish. Perhaps the lowest point of the Banderites’ alliance with Nazism was the occupation of L’vov in June and July 1941, when Yaroslav Stetsko and a large contingent of OUN-B troops entered that city along with the Brandenburg regi­ment and other German detachments. Several days of mass murder followed. L’vov’s Jewish population was decimat­ed, but Polish university professors and anyone who could be tied to the Communists were also killed. Survivors reported that the Ukrainians were even more bloodthirsty than their German patrons: According to German Rule in Russia, by historian Alexander Dallin, “Bandera’s followers, including those in the Nachti­gall regiment (a Ukrainian SS detach­ment), were displaying considerable ini­tiative, conducting purges and pogroms.”

Ironically, the alliance between the Na­zis and the OUN-B came apart that same week in L’vov, after Stetsko proclaimed an independent Ukraine. Loyal to the Führer, who was in their view creating a glorious new Europe, the Ukrainians still dreamed of their own state. Bandera, the Ukrainian führer, named Stetsko prime minister and Lebed minister of security. But the new regime didn’t last long.

By July 9 the Nazis would no longer put up with this “independent” charade, and arrested Bandera, Stetsko, and other members of the leadership. Lebed es­caped; the others were held under “house arrest” in Berlin but they were not mis­treated. According to Armstrong, the OUN leaders “were allowed to carry on their political activities in Berlin; Stetsko was even able to go to Cracow, where he consulted with Lebed, whom he had se­cretly delegated to take command of all activities in the Ukrainian lands.” Even pro-OUN writers admit that the German repression of the Ukrainian nationalists was mild, and cooperation continued on many levels throughout the war.

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There were periods when some of the nationalist Ukrainians, formed into guer­rilla groups, fought the Germans as well as the Soviet partisans, and there is evi­dence that Lebed took part in those ac­tions, especially after 1942. But by 1943, the Banderites were cooperating in the formation of a new Ukrainian SS divi­sion, and in 1944 Bandera himself — although he had been interned at Sachsen­hausen concentration camp — was still as­sisting the German war effort against the Russians.

Lebed, who had meanwhile adopted the nom de guerre Maxym Ruban, tried to seize control of all factions in the na­tionalist movement. Independent nation­alist bands were carrying out guerrilla actions in Volhynia and the western Ukraine under the name of the Ukrainian Partisan Army (UPA). This was intoler­able to Lebed, who demanded that all the Ukrainian guerrillas come under his com­mand. The result was vicious internecine warfare among the nationalists, a period from which Lebed’s reputation did not emerge unscathed. Leading figures of the non-OUN forces were “liquidated,” ac­cording to a 1948 CIC memo: “As a result, the Ukrainians now have difficulty forgetting the fact that Lebed killed some Ukrainian partisans who were fighting for the same cause.”

Other writers, like the Ukrainians Panas Fedenko and O. Shuliak, con­demned Lebed in harsh terms for these killings after the war. Shuliak wrote in 1947 that Lebed’s SB men carried out the murders of dissenters from the OUN line. “It is perfectly evident that neither sol­diers nor officers of the UPA had anything to do with these atrocities. The doers were the Security men under the orders of Lebed.” Massacres and other acts of terror were also carried out against civilians, against Soviet prisoners of war, against entire Polish villages in the Ukraine, and against Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution.

In his own booklet on the history of the UPA, published in 1946, Lebed says its aim was “to clear the forests and the surrounding areas of foreign elements.” According to the late historian Philip Friedman, this meant not only Poles but Jews and Russian partisans as well. Friedman says that postwar OUN efforts to disclaim responsibility for anti-Jewish atrocities “cannot be taken seriously.”

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LEBED’S CAREER IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE war is difficult to trace. By then the OUN had established a new front-group, the Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council­ — known by its transliterated initials, UHVR — of which Lebed became “For­eign Secretary.” Several CIC documents report that his wife and daughter were held in Buchenwald concentration camp by the Germans for several months as hostages against Lebed’s guerrilla activi­ties, but they were released in 1944, well before the war’s end.

After 1945 he mainly lived in Rome and Munich, seeking Allied support for the remnants of the UPA to fight against the victorious Soviets. A “political histo­ry ” in the CIC file says that he traveled illegally around Western Europe, orga­nizing the foreign offices of the UHVR. By the end of 1947, conditions in Rome were growing uncomfortable for Lebed, who was afraid that the Soviets might attempt to seize him there. He sought and apparently received the help of U.S. intelligence to leave Rome safely.

Lebed’s file also shows that around the same time, he and other OUN leaders began to proclaim the evolution of their politics in a more democratic direction. The motive behind such declarations is clear. In the cold war that was already taking shape, only self-styled democrats could partake of Uncle Sam’s largesse.

But whether Lebed actually converted to Western liberalism is unclear from the CIC file. Several reports note that when the OUN-B split at a Munich conference in 1947, Lebed gave a speech berating the “weakening and democratization of the party line,” which other members in turn denounced as redolent of fascism.

Regardless of his postwar political views, however, it is clear from the GAO report that Subject D was used as an American agent soon after the war’s end. (Bandera, too, obtained a post with a Western intelligence agency — the West German BND, run by the former Nazi Abwehr chief Reinhard Gehlen, who re­cruited scores of ex-Nazis and collabora­tors for his network. In his memoirs, Gehlen identifies Bandera as one of his men.)

“Because of fear for his personal safety and his familiarity with U.S. intelligence operations,” the section in the GAO report on Subject D explains, “the CIA brought him to the United States under an assumed name.” His naturalization papers, filed in January 1957, show that Lebed arrived in New York harbor on October 4, 1949. The truth about his identity and history was concealed from the Immigration and Naturalization Ser­vice. But two years later, the INS learned who Lebed was and opened an investiga­tion that, the CIA was informed, might lead to his deportation. “According to the CIA file,” says the report, “INS had learned that the subject’s conviction had been for involvement in an assassination and that allegations of terrorism existed against him.” To protect Lebed the agen­cy invoked Section 8 of the CIA Act.

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All this because, according to the GAO, “The subject was considered extremely valuable by U.S. intelligence.” And after Lebed had been employed by the CIA for a few years, it became impossible to let him go, because of “fear for his personal safety and his familiarity with U.S. intel­ligence operations.” Once he knew the CIA’s secrets, the Soviets couldn’t be per­mitted to capture him — so Lebed was smuggled into the U.S.

Lebed became a citizen on March 18, 1957. His application listed an address in Washington Heights as his home, and “journalist” as his profession. He had two witnesses: Bohdan Czajkowskyj, also a writer and a longtime friend of Lebed; and Alexander S. Alexander, who listed his job as “government employee.”

The new citizen was entitled to call himself a journalist because of his posi­tion as president of the Prolog Research and Publishing Association, Inc. Found­ed as a nonprofit publisher in the early ’50s, it has always specialized in Ukrainian-language books and maga­zines, many of them with anti-Commu­nist political themes. Prolog’s certificate of incorporation filed in New York in 1956 lists Lebed as a director and gives as its purposes “investigation of the history, economics, politics and culture of the Ukraine,” and “exposing to the public opinion of the world the true nature of communist dictatorship and the threat of international communism to freedom everywhere.”

Roman Ilnytzkyji, a longtime Lebed associate who worked for Prolog, says that Lebed was “completely absorbed” in his work at the Ukrainian publishing company’s tiny, cramped offices in mid­town Manhattan, although he was never an editor. Aside from keeping Prolog afloat, Lebed’s vocation until he retired in 1980 was to promote the views of the UHVR, the faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists which he headed. Prolog was, in fact, at least partly a front for the former Banderites grouped around the UHVR and Lebed.

The sources of its funding are mysteri­ous. Prolog’s current officers insist that it has always been financially self-suffi­cient, with adequate support “from the Ukrainian community.” Although the market for its books and magazines is tiny, Prolog is now a for-profit corpora­tion. It has at various times maintained offices in Munich, London, and Cairo as well as New York. During the ’70s Prolog published eight to 10 volumes annually, plus two or three small-circulation magazines on Soviet and Ukrainian affairs.

Ukrainians familiar with the workings of Prolog say that it could not have sus­tained itself solely from sales of its publi­cations — many of which were regularly smuggled into the Soviet-ruled Ukraine — and that it probably received help from a government agency. Two mentioned the CIA. Ilnytzkyji said he didn’t know whether Prolog had received any such subsidies. “They keep some things hidden,” he said. But he believes Lebed “has some connections with the American authorities. What kind of con­nections, or whether they included finan­cial help, I don’t know.” None of the other Ukrainians who discussed Prolog and its financing would let their name be used. As one put it, “People simply don’t talk about these things.”

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VERY LITTLE ABOUT SUBJECT D’S PAST ap­pears in the GAO report, although clues were present in the records available to government investigators; three years of research are boiled down to three vague paragraphs. Because it omits nearly all the significant facts, the report suffers from the same moral obtuseness that tainted the CIA’s relationship with Lebed.

Eli Rosenbaum, a former OSI prosecu­tor and now general counsel to the World Jewish Congress, recently examined the declassified CIC files and other docu­ments on Mykola Lebed. “I’m particularly dismayed,” he said, “by the absence of even the slightest indication that any of the government agencies cared to ascer­tain the truth of the damning and very specific charges against Lebed contained in these files. It’s as though they assumed the charges to be true, and proceeded to bring him here anyway.”

After 40 years, a government agency­ — the Office of Special Investigations — is finally examining the evidence against Lebed. But difficult legal and historical questions must be answered before the OSI can consider denaturalization pro­ceedings against Lebed: Did the 1949 CIA Act which permitted his entry allow him to become a citizen, superseding oth­er immigration laws which would forbid it? Can the allegations about his past be proved in court?

The confidentiality of the OSI’s opera­tions is so strict that if the case is dropped the public will probably never know why. Mykola Lebed is, and has been for 29 years, a citizen with constitu­tional rights. All we know for now is that the file on Subject D is still open. ❖

Research assistance by Ellen McGarra­han, Leslie Yenkin, and Kevin Coogan. 

From The Archives From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Beware When ‘Three Big Fat Men’ From the Trump Organization Knock on Your Door

All of our presidents did things in their youth that they were not particularly proud of: George Washington chopped down that cherry tree; Bill Clinton famously didn’t inhale, but Barack Obama did. And when he was 30, George W. Bush was caught driving under the influence. (He quit drinking for good ten years later.)

Donald Trump has been a teetotaller from the jump, but when he was 33, his company evicted a 74-year-old widow from her Queens apartment. As Joe Conason reported in the May 5, 1980, edition of the Voice, the Trump Organization sent “three big fat men” to Mary Filan’s apartment to clear both her belongings and her bedridden body out of the building on Barclay Avenue in Flushing.

Filan, who had recently suffered a stroke, told Conason, “They said they’d come to put me on the street because I owed four months rent. I don’t owe back rent. The last thing I got from Trump was a bill for $10.20, about two weeks ago, and I sent that. They just want me out because they can get twice as much rent.”

Well, Trump couldn’t give up drinking, because he never started. Maybe he should’ve given up evicting tenants who had never done anything wrong instead. —The Voice Archives

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“Trump Evicts Stroke Victim”

For more than 30 years Mary Filan — widowed, 74 years old, and half-paralyzed from a recent stroke — has lived in apartment 6B, 143-15 Barclay Avenue in Flushing. Last Friday afternoon, she answered the insistent doorbell, only to be pushed aside by the henchmen of city marshal Norman Katz, who proceeded to cart her belongings out to an idling truck. Taped to her door was an eviction notice from her landlords, the Trump Organization.

They took Filan’s sofa, chairs, TV, jewelry, dishes, and silverware, leaving nothing but a hamper for her to sit on. The marshals and the police tried to convince her to leave, but she refused to go until a neighbor, Bob Hennessy, convinced her to stay in his apartment until she could get help.

“She was distraught,” said Hennessy, and by Monday afternoon he was still unable to ascertain where her belongings had been taken. Thanks to her doctor and the Human Resources Administration, Mary Filan is resting in a bed at Parsons Hospital.

“They rang the bell,” recalls Filan, “and I was still in bed. I don’t get up much unless I have to. They rang and rang, and when I got to the door they pushed it open, and walked in, these three big fat men. They went right in the kitchen and started pulling out drawers, turning ’em upside down into one of these big cartons.

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“They said they’d come to put me on the street because I owed four months rent. I don’t owe back rent. The last thing I got from Trump was a bill for $10.20 about two weeks ago, and I sent that. They just want me out because they can get twice as much rent.” Mary Filan currently pays about $200 a month for her apartment. Her income — from Social Security and a telephone company pension — is under $500 a month.

The Trump Organization is one of the biggest landlords in this city, a dynasty passed from father Fred to son Donald. Like most dynasties, it has flourished through the exercise of power; in earlier time, mostly through the Brooklyn Democratic machine; now, through Donald’s liaisons with the governor and a variety of state agencies, particularly the Urban Development Corporation, which paid Donald Trump more than $800,000 for brokering its convention center deal. He has used political clout to obtain more than $160 million in tax exemptions for his renovation of the old Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street. Donald Trump is a very successful 33-year-old dealer and developer. So why did Trump evict Mary Filan?

“The Trumps don’t get involved in any of that,” said a spokesman at their Manhattan office. “The management corporation handles that kind of thing. It’s part of the company, but the Trumps don’t get involved with individual cases.” He didn’t know why Mary Filan had been evicted. She doesn’t give loud parties, or cause property damage, or threaten her neighbors, who are actually fond of her.

“The Trump Organization doesn’t evict people indiscriminately,” he said at last, and suggested another number to call for specific comments on the Filan case. There was no answer at that number; nobody seemed to care about the details.

Two thoughts persist: How would Donald Trump feel if some corporation evicted his ill and aging parent, without notice or compassion, removing all possessions to some unknown location? And how does Trump manage to have the taxpayers subsidize so many of his enterprises? Mary Filan’s hospital stay is being paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.

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Trump Evicts Widow, Part II
May 12, 1980

The Trump Organization has made Mary Filan an offer she can refuse. After having Filan — a 74-year-old widow semi­-paralyzed from a recent stroke — evicted from her Queens home of 31 years on April 25, a Trump official visited her last week at Parsons Hospital. Perhaps because the brutal eviction had received unfavorable notice in the Voice and on TV news pro­grams, the Trump representative offered Filan a different apartment — in Orange, New Jersey.

In the meantime Filan’s social worker, Mickey Ridlon, and her neighbor, Bob Hennessy, have managed to locate Filan’s possessions. They found her furniture, clothes, dinnerware, and personal items­ — most of them damaged beyond repair — at the Sanitation Department depot in Woodside, where they were un­ceremoniously dumped by the movers hired by Trump for the eviction.

“They ruined practically everything,” said Gary Isko, an aide to Manhattan Councilman Tony Olivieri, who has taken an interest in the Filan case. “There were broken glasses, broken plates, and broken pictures all piled in boxes. All of her furniture was broken.”

“It’s just a complete horror show,” added Ridlon angrily. “Her furniture has been mutilated beyond belief. Her clothes I
are crawling with roaches from the ware­house. This is 31 years of building a home destroyed in a couple of hours.” Ridlon said that a number of items were missing, including an expensive watch left to Filan by her late husband, a pair of silver candlesticks, and most of her personal records. Among those records were her rent receipts, which might have proved that she had been evicted unlawfully.

One official at the Department of So­cial Services who is familiar with the Filan case said he had never seen an eviction like this one in 25 years. Ordinarily, he said, evictions don’t take place on Friday afternoons or in inclement weather, nor are bedridden tenants evicted in this fash­ion. The ill Filan was thrown out, in the pouring rain, on a Friday — at 5 p.m.

Filan’s congressman, Ben Rosenthal, is also looking into the case. And Filan, as of now, hasn’t decided whether to accept the Trump offer or to look for residence in an adult home.