The Nation: The Berrigans: Conspiracy and Conscience

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The same theory has it that the Government's source of information on the kidnap-bomb plot was a group of non-religious in the circle who became alarmed once discussion turned seriously to use of tougher tactics than those employed in the raid that the Berrigans had led against the draft board at Catonsville, Md. The principal informer was not an infiltrator but an active member of the conspiracy, although not one of those named in last week's indictment. The details of the Kissinger plot were spelled out, astonishingly, in letters and hand-carried messages exchanged among the principal conspirators. Many of the communications were carefully sealed in double envelopes, but the informant, privy to their contents, passed the details along to the Government.

Reichstag Fire One of the alleged conspirators confronted the principal informant and accused him of spilling the plans to the Government; he denied it, and is now in protective custody. TIME learned that two whose testimony has been important to the Government—though neither is the chief informant—are a brother and a sister named Joseph Joynt and Patricia Chanel. Mrs. Chanel, described by one movement activist as "an aficionado of the Jesuits," was questioned by FBI agents at her Silver Spring, Md., home and was promised immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony. Whatever she told them may not be wholly credible. She reportedly had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized in the middle of 1970; her psychiatrist wired the grand jury that she was incompetent to testify. Her brother, who was also quizzed by the FBI, works as an elevator engineer at Washington's Forrestal Building. The agents questioned him closely about the keys he carries in his work; they open doors to at least one Government tunnel.

All the defendants are being swamped with offers to represent them. One lawyer who has spoken for the Berrigans is William Kunstler, who gained his greatest notoriety defending the Chicago Seven. Kunstler represented the Berrigans during the Catonsville trial. His presence may be a mixed blessing. Said one Manhattan attorney: "I didn't think they were guilty until I heard Kunstler was their lawyer."

The Berrigans' answer to the indictment was an angry statement released through Kunstler: "Thirty-eight years ago, the Nazi Party burnt the Reichstag in order to stampede the German people into supporting a policy of repression at home and militarism abroad. The Government of the U.S.,* for much the same purpose, [has] created a grotesque conspiracy to kidnap a presidential assistant and blow up the heating systems of federal buildings in Washington. The objective is a simple but deadly one: to destroy the peace movement by creating caricatures of those who oppose the war in Southeast Asia."

The very vehemence of the Berrigans' reply convinces most of those who know them that they must be innocent. The brothers might plot a kidnaping, their friends say, but they would not lie about it if caught. And indeed, if the Berrigans are guilty as charged, then the equation of the U.S. with Nazi Germany would seem almost as irresponsible an act as those they were contemplating.

Many in the Berrigan circle freely admit that they have discussed kidnaping —but only in an academic sense, weighing its virtues

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