The Nation: The Berrigans: Conspiracy and Conscience

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But how shall we educate men to goodness, to a sense of one another, to a love of the truth? And more urgently, how shall we do this in a bad time?

—Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

THE scenario read like an Ian Fleming doodle, a picaresque fantasy. The cast: a ragtag band of radical pacifists, many of them Roman Catholics, some priests and nuns, a physics professor and a Moslem from Pakistan. The leading actors: two hotly controversial priests —Philip Berrigan, 47, a Josephite, and his Jesuit brother Daniel, 49, both now in the Danbury, Conn., federal prison serving sentences for burning draft records with napalm in May 1968. The plot: a seemingly irrational conspiracy to blow up the heating systems at some five Government sites on Washington's Birthday, 1971, then next day kidnap Henry Kissinger, the President's national security adviser, and hold him hostage until Nixon agreed to speed the war's end in Viet Nam.

As early as last September, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover secretly briefed President Nixon, Attorney General John Mitchell and other top officials on the scheme. At that point, Nixon assigned Secret Service bodyguards to Kissinger. Late in November, without naming Kissinger as the intended victim, Hoover described the plan to startled members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. He attributed it to a group called the East Coast Conspiracy to Save Lives. At the time, some of Hoover's numerous critics dismissed his testimony as a grandstand play designed only to help him win funds for 1,000 extra FBI agents. Thomas Buck, 54, a writer and longtime friend of the Berrigans', accompanied Representative William Anderson, a Tennessee Democrat and former skipper of the submarine Nautilus, on a visit to Danbury shortly thereafter. "Dan said there was absolutely nothing to it," Buck reported. "Phil, who is given to putting things in a more earthy way, said it was all bullshit."

Though one largely Catholic antiwar group readily admitted to being the East Coast Conspiracy, Anderson denounced Hoover for attacking the Berrigans. If the Justice Department had evidence against them, he said, it should be put before a grand jury. Hoover made no reply, but Attorney General Mitchell needed no advice from Anderson. The case was already on its way to court. Last week a federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Pa., issued indictments naming six defendants and seven co-conspirators—the Berrigan brothers among them—as plotters who had planned to do exactly what Hoover described.

Serious Alternatives The black comedy no longer seemed quite so funny, though CBS's Eric Sevareid wryly suggested that, in the manner of O. Henry's famed story The Ransom of Red Chief, Kissinger would argue any antiwar kidnapers to a standstill and they would eventually pay Nixon to take him back. Kissinger was equal to the occasion, and reported that his overworked staff "has written a letter to the President stating that under no conditions am I to be ransomed." He had heard, he quipped, that "it was three sex-starved nuns" who were after him. Kissinger also complained halfheartedly that his new Secret Service shadows had crimped his reputation as a swinger. Said one occasional Kissinger date, Barbara Howar: "Henry is so preoccupied with his problems that the Secret Service man is good company."

By and large, however, reflective

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