Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

The Original Founding Church of Scientology

Scientology is a body of beliefs and practices originally conceived and launched by American science fiction author Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, more popularly known as L. Ron Hubbard.  He initially developed a program of ideas he called Dianetics, which was distributed through The Dianetics Foundation.  However, the foundation quickly entered bankruptcy, and Hubbard lost the rights to the program’s foundational publication, entitled “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.”  He then rebranded the program as a “religion” and renamed it Scientology, retaining the same terminology, doctrines, the E-meter, and the practice of auditing from Dianetics.  Within a year, he regained the rights to the book and combined both under the umbrella of the “Church of Scientology.”

On this bike ride I stopped by Hubbard’s former residence here in D.C., located at 1812 19th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood.  Formerly the residence of Senator James Jones of Arkansas, and of Virginia Congressman Claude Swanson, the house is now officially known as the L. Ron Hubbard House and is listed that way on the National Register of Historic Places.  The house was interesting, and made me want to learn more about L. Ron Hubbard, and the “church” he founded.

The 19th Street house was not Hubbard’s first residence in the city.  He also lived in D.C. while briefly attending George Washington University in the 1930’s, before dropping out to focus on his career as a science fiction novelist.  But the house is where Hubbard lived in the mid to late 1950’s, during which he incorporated the Church of Scientology, and the house as its first official “church.”  It is also where the first Scientology wedding ceremony took place.

Additionally, the house was the site of a raid in 1963 by the Food and Drug Administration that resulted in the seizure of more than 100 electropsychometers, or “E-meters.”  These devices are used as part of the church’s “auditing” process in which auditors measure the electrodermal activity of a prospective new member, referred to as a “preclear,” in order to identify “engrams,” or detailed mental images or memories of traumatic events from the past that occurred when the person was either “partially or fully unconscious.”  According to Scientology, the auditing process “lifts the burdened individual from a level of spiritual distress to a level of insight and inner self-realization.”

The 1963 Federal raid at the house would be a sign of things yet to come.  Scientology is seen as one of the most controversial and secretive “religions” in the United States.  But its mysterious and paranoid character, combined with its connection to celebrities like Tom Cruise, make it an inherently intriguing entity.  The following are just a few of the beliefs, events, scandals, and other unusual and interesting facts about Scientology and its founder:

  • According to L. Ron Hubbard, 75 million years ago an evil alien named Xenu was the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy.  Xenu brought millions of immortal disembodied spirits, or “thetans,” to “Teegeeack” (a.k.a. Earth), and placed them around volcanoes.  Thetans have had innumerable past lives, including in extraterrestrial worlds and cultures.  The thetans remained trapped on Teegeeack, and jumped into newborns’ bodies.  Xenu then implanted the newborns with false images of historical events, which Hubbard claimed never occurred like the death of Jesus Christ.  These thetans, according to Hubbard, are human souls.
  • Scientologists believe mental illness doesn’t exist and, therefore, do not believe in psychology and are vehemently against using psychiatric medication.  Hubbard believed that psychiatrists were evil and even characterized them as terrorists.  According to Hubbard, multiple thetans crowded in our bodies are the source of our anxieties and fears.
  • The Church of Scientology believes that there is no set dogma on God and everyone can have one’s own understanding of God. There is more of an emphasis on the godlike nature of people and to the workings of the human mind.
  • Scientologists also celebrate holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and many other diverse religious holidays depending on other religious beliefs, as Scientologists very often retain their original affiliations with faiths in which they were raised.
  • When Sara Northup, Hubbard’s second wife, threatened to leave him unless he got psychiatric help, he reportedly kidnapped their daughter Alexis. According to written accounts from Northup, Hubbard told her he “cut [Alexis] into little pieces” and dropped her in a river. Then he would call back and tell Sara that their daughter was alive.
  • On July 8, 1977, the FBI raided Scientology’s Los Angeles, Hollywood and D.C. offices, which at the time was the biggest raid in the history of the Bureau.  The raids were part of “Operation Snow White,” in which Scientology operatives infiltrated, wiretapped, and stole documents from government offices, most notably those of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, in an attempt to protect their public image.  Eleven highly placed Church executives, including Hubbard’s wife and second-in-command of the “church,” Mary Sue Hubbard, pleaded guilty and were convicted in Federal court of obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property.
  • In furtherance of protecting Scientology’s public image, the church tried to censor Wikipedia by repeatedly attempting to remove information critical of it.  Because of this, the website has banned any organization affiliated with Scientology from editing its articles.
  • The Church of Scientology engages in what’s called “Dead Agenting” to combat any negative comments about the Church of Scientology and Scientology itself. The church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, created the church’s “Dead Agent” Doctrine with rules on how to govern and retaliate against negativity.
  • One of the Church’s longtime goals was to be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a fully tax-exempt religion.  It is alleged that in pursuit of this goal, Scientology members filed approximately 2,400 total lawsuits against IRS employees, and private investigators were sent to IRS conferences and conventions to dig up information.  Eventually, in October of 1993, the church and the IRS reached an agreement under which the church discontinued all of its litigation against the IRS and paid $12.5 million to settle a tax debt said to be around a billion dollars, and the IRS granted 153 Scientology-related corporate entities tax exemption as well as the right to declare their own subordinate organizations tax-exempt in future.
  • Many other countries, including Germany, France, Canada, and the United Kingdom, have rejected Scientology and its applications for tax exemption, charitable status, and recognition as a religion.
  • The Cult Awareness Network listed Scientology as the number one most dangerous cult. The Church of Scientology responded to this “label” by suing the Network into bankruptcy and now owns the Network. 
  • Believing that if it gets celebrities to endorse Scientology then the public by and large will follow suit, the church has a long history of seeking out actors, writers, artists, and musicians, stating that it can improve their careers and lives.  Hubbard developed a program in 1955 called ‘Project Celebrity’ which governs celebrity recruitment and offers rewards to Scientologists who recruit targeted celebrities.  The Church of Scientology also runs special “celebrity centers,” with the main ones being in Los Angeles, Florida, Paris, and Nashville.
  • Famous people who are or have previously been involved in Scientology include: actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Kelly Preston, Anne Archer, Catherine Bell, Priscilla Presley, Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, Bijou Phillips, Juliette Lewis, Alanna Masterson, and Laura Prepon; musicians Sonny Bono, Beck, Chick Corea, Isaac Hayes, Edgar Winter, and rapper Doug E. Fresh; TV show host Greta Van Susteren, and; cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson.
  • After L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, a Scientology publication was released which stated that he invented music three million years ago, making him the original musician.
  • Scientologists are obsessed with the apocalypse and are constantly preparing for it by building secret bunkers deep in the woods. These bunkers have huge vaults with footage and images of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and nuclear-proof shelters.
  • L. Ron Hubbard has written over 275 published books in topics ranging from science fiction to romance, making him a Guinness Book of Records holder for the most published and translated books by one author.
  • The works of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, are protected in a huge vault built into the side of a mountain. His writings, engraved on stainless steel tablets, are safely stored in thousands of heat-resistant titanium boxes. The tablets are even playable on a solar-powered turntable. The mountainside where the tablets are stored, called Trementia Base near Trementia, New Mexico, is guarded by the Church of Spiritual Technology, a division of the Church of Scientology that manages the church’s copyright affairs. Hubbard’s other writings, films, and recordings are also archived here for future generations.
  • L. Ron Hubbard claimed that he was many people before he was born on March 13, 1911. He told his associates he was once Cecil Rhodes, the British businessman and diamond mining magnate. Hubbard also once said, “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”  According to an estate filing after his death in 1986, Hubbard was worth $26 million.

The Original Founding Church of Scientology

The Paul Robeson Mural

As I was riding along the U Street corridor during this bike ride, I looked down an alley next to the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute, located at 1351 U Street (MAP), and caught a glimpse of a mural that necessitated turning around and going back to get a closer look.  The mural is entitled “Living Time Line: Paul Robeson,” and is the work of lead muralists Cory L. Stowers and Andrew Katz, their artist conclave known as ART BLOC (comprised of Eric B. Ricks, Maria Miller, Serena Z, Ernesto Zelaya, Jaa), and made possible with the permission of the building owner, and funding from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

The mural depicts the life of Paul Robeson, who became famous as an American bass baritone concert artist and a stage and film actor known for productions like “The Emperor Jones” and “Othello.”  But in addition to his cultural accomplishments, he was also equally famous for his political activism.  An example of a 20th-century Renaissance man, his talents made him revered during his time, but his radical political beliefs and activism all but erased him from popular history.

Paul Leroy Robeson was born on April 9, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey, the youngest of five children born to Maria Louisa Bustill, who came from an abolitionist Quaker family, and William Drew Robeson, an escaped slave who became a Presbyterian minister.  After his mother, who was nearly blind, died in a fire when he was only six years old, his father moved the family, eventually landing in Somerville, New Jersey, where he grew up.  After high school, Robeson won a four-year academic scholarship to Rutgers University, where he won 15 varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track, before graduating as the valedictorian of the class of 1919.  He then went on to from Columbia University School of Law.  While attending law school he sang and acted in off-campus productions, and also played football for the National Football League.  It was also while at Columbia Law School that he met and married his wife, Eslanda Cordoza Goode.  He graduated from Columbia with an LL.B. in 1923.

After completing his education Robeson took a job with a law firm.  But he resigned when a white secretary refused to take dictation from him.  It was at this pivotal time that he left the practice of law, and decided to use his artistic talents in theater and music to promote African and African-American history and culture.  This decision would define the rest of his life.

After leaving the practice of law, Robeson began his career as an actor and a singer.  It was a career that would take him around the world during the 1930’s.  In London, he earned international acclaim for his lead acting role in “Othello,” for which he won the Donaldson Award for Best Acting Performance, and performed in Eugene O’Neill’s plays, “Emperor Jones” and “All God’s Chillun Got Wings.”  And he used his deep baritone voice to sing black spirituals, to share the cultures of other countries, and to benefit the labor and social movements of his time.  He sang for peace and justice in 25 languages throughout the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union, and Africa, and became known as a citizen of the world, equally comfortable with the people of Moscow, Nairobi, Helsinki and Harlem.

But it was during these travels that he learned racism was not as virulent in Europe as it was back in the United States.  Back at home, it was difficult to find restaurants that would serve him, theaters in New York would only seat blacks in the upper balconies, and his performances were often surrounded with threats or outright harassment.  It was a lesson that profoundly affected him and never left him.

During the 1940’s, Robeson continued to perform and to speak out against racism.  He was a champion of working people and organized labor. He spoke and performed at strikes and rallies, conferences, and labor festivals worldwide.  And as a passionate believer in international cooperation, Robeson protested the growing Cold War and worked tirelessly for friendship and respect between the United States and the Soviet Union.  It was during this time, when dissent was scarcely tolerated in the U.S., that Robeson openly questioned why African Americans should fight in the army of a government that tolerated racism.  Because of his outspokenness in supporting civil rights causes and pro-Soviet policies, he was investigated by the FBI, and later accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee of being a communist.  The accusation caused his income to plummet and nearly ended his career.  The attempt to silence him, however, did not succeed.

In 1950, the U.S. revoked Robeson’s passport when he would not recant his public activism and advocacy, leading to an eight-year battle to have it reinstated so he could travel again.  His passport was eventually restored as a result of the 1958 United States Supreme Court decision, Kent v. Dulles.  During those intervening years, Robeson moved to Harlem and published a periodical entitled “Freedom,” which was critical of United States policies.  He also studied Chinese, met with Albert Einstein to discuss the prospects for world peace, published his autobiography entitled “Here I Stand,” and sang at Carnegie Hall.  Robeson made his last concert tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1960.  In ill health, he retired from public life in 1963.  Robeson died on January 23, 1976, at age 77, in Philadelphia.

The Robeson mural concept stems from the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute’s efforts to introduce Paul Robeson to the current generation and re-introduce him to previous generations through the Paul Robeson “Here I Stand” Award galas at the nearby Lincoln Theatre.  The two-story mural features two large portraits of Robeson at opposite ends of the building’s dark grey wall, which bookend smaller depictions of him at different stages of his life.  One of many quotes attributed to Robeson, “I make no distinction between my work as an artist and my life as a human being,” is also prominently featured in the mural.

Much like the mural, this blog post is just a short introduction to the fascinating career, activism and life of Paul Robeson.  I suggest you go down and see the mural it for yourself, if you haven’t already.  And then for a more thorough understanding of the vastness of his thoughts and experiences, read Robeson’s autobiography, entitled “Here I Stand.”

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Other Paul Robeson quotes:

  • “We must join with the tens of millions all over the world who see in peace our most sacred responsibility.”
  • “As an artist I come to sing, but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace, and no one can silence me in this.”
  • “I do not hesitate one second to state clearly and unmistakably: I belong to the American resistance movement which fights against American imperialism, just as the resistance movement fought against Hitler.”
  • “Yes, peace can and must be won, to save the world from the terrible destruction of World War III.”
  • “Four hundred million in India, and millions everywhere, have told you, precisely, that the colored people are not going to die for anybody: they are going to die for their independence.”
  • “In Russia I felt for the first time like a full human being. No color prejudice like in Mississippi, no color prejudice like in Washington. It was the first time I felt like a human being.”

 

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The FBI’s Washington Field Office

In honor of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who would have turned 98 years old today, on this bike ride I rode to the FBI Headquarters building, and from there to the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is located at 601 4th Street(MAP).  Mr. Zimbalist was an actor who is arguably most widely known for his starring role as Inspector Lewis Erskine in the television series “The F.B.I.”, which premiered on September 19, 1965 and closed with the last episode on September 8, 1974. The series was an authentic telling of fictionalized accounts of actual FBI cases, with fictitious main characters carrying the stories.

Mr. Zimbalist developed and maintained a strong personal relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the real-life Director of the FBI at that time.  Although he was never seen in the series, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover actually served as series consultant. Mr. Hoover requested technical accuracy for the show, and that Agents be portrayed in the best possible light. Actors who played F.B.I. employees were required by Hoover to undergo a background check. Mr. Zimbalist passed his background check with ease. He subsequently spent a week in D.C., where he was interviewed by Hoover, and at the F.B.I. academy in Quantico, Virginia. Hoover and Zimbalist remained mutual admirers for the rest of Hoover’s life. Hoover would later hold Zimbalist up as an image role model for FBI employees to emulate in their personal appearance.

The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, Inc. honored the character of Lewis Erskine in 1985 with a set of retired credentials. On June 8, 2009, then FBI Director Robert Mueller, presented Mr. Zimbalist with a plaque AS an honorary Special Agent for his work on the TV series.

Other notable people with a connection to the FBI and also share today’s birthday with Mr. Zimbalist are: G. Gordon Liddy (former FBI Agent and Watergate conspirator), who turned 87 today; Dick Clark (host of American Bandstand known as America’s oldest teenager, on whom the FBI maintained a file and conducted investigations in 1962 and 1985 into threats of violence against him), who would have turned 87 today; Abbie Hoffman (political activist who was investigated by the FBI), who would have been 81 today; Richard Crenna (actor who performed on the “This Is Your FBI” radio program) would have turned 90 today, and; Mandy Patinkin (actor who played FBI Agent Jason Gideon on the TV series “Criminal Minds”), who turned 65 today.

         

         
[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

National Police Week Tributes (Part 2)

I enjoy various aspects of how National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day are recognized here in D.C.  Things such as The Annual Blue Mass at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church and the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service provide a level of solemnity.  And the arrival of the Police Unity Tour, and seeing different National Police Week Vehicles on the streets of the city, are also highlights.  But perhaps the most meaningful and poignant aspect of the occasion is the leaving of mementos and tributes by visitors to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

As I walked through the memorial and took in both the memorial and the tributes people have left there this week, I try to imagine the stories behind the items.  Some of the items are very official looking, and remind me of the honor due to the officer memorialized there, and the debt of gratitude owed to not only that person but all the others who are also inscribed on the walls of the memorial.  Examples of this include plaques, flags and patches.  Other items left at the walls are so personal and intimate in nature, such as photographs, letters and stuffed animals, that I feel almost like I’m intruding.  I was also particularly moved by the helmet for a police bike officer which someone had left, along with blue and white roses which had been laid on top of it.  Regardless of the official or personal nature of the tributes, all of the items left at the memorial add to the experience, and make visiting the memorial during this week especially worthwhile.

Finally, as this year’s National Police Week is coming to a conclusion, I’d like to encourage everyone to please take a moment to remember all of the Federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation, as well as the more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers currently serving throughout this country.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

National Police Week Tributes

There are currently more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the United States, about 12 percent of whom are female.  These are the highest numbers ever.  And according to the preliminary FBI’s Uniform Crime Report from January 2015 to June 2016, an estimated 507,792 violent crimes occurred nationwide, an increase of 5.3%.  So with an increasing number of officers dealing with this much violence, which is also on the increase, the consequences can all too often be tragic.

Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 20,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.  As of April of this year there were 21,183 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty whose names are engraved on the walls of The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  This includes 768 officers from New York City, the police department that has lost more officers in the line of duty than any other. Texas has lost 1,706 officers, more than any other state. The state with the fewest deaths is Vermont, with 23.  In addition to local law enforcement officers, the total number also includes 1,117 Federal officers, as well as 689 correctional officers and 39 military law enforcement officers. These numbers include 309 female officers, six of whom were killed in 2016, including a local female police officer named Ashley Guindon, who was killed in February of last year on her first day on the job.

With this week being designated as National Police Week, and the corresponding activities going on here in D.C. during this time, there has been a significant increase in  the number of visitors to the memorial.  And many of the visitors include families of the fallen as well as fellow police officers who knew or had a close connection to the officers being honored at the memorial.  So with the increased number of visitors with direct connections to the fallen officers whose names are chiseled on the walls of the memorial, the number of tributes being left at the memorial increases during this week.

I wrote in this blog last year about Tributes Left at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, but because of the ever changing nature of the visitors to the memorial and the tributes which are left there, I visited the memorial again this year.  The following photos show some of the thousands of those tributes.  I find them interesting because some are official in nature, such as plaques, uniforms, or even car doors from police cruisers.  Others, however, are very personal.  These include family photos, letters from children, and even stuffed animals.  Cumulatively the tributes show the magnitude of the commitment and sacrifice of the fallen officers, who were more than just names on a wall.  They were people.  And these people truly deserve to be honored.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Note:  There was such and outpouring of respect, as evidenced by the number of tributes left at the memorial, that when I finished my visit I realized I had so many photos that it would be best to break it up into a couple of days.  So come back tomorrow for  part two of National Police Week Tributes.

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Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity

On this bike ride I was able to see a public sculpture that most people are no longer able to see.  The sculpture is entitled “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity” and was created by Frederick Charles Shrady, an American painter and sculptor who is best known for his religious sculptures.  Most people can no longer see it because it is located in the courtyard of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters building, which was once accessible to the public but was closed off years ago due to security concerns.

In January 1975, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI passed a resolution to create a memorial to J. Edgar Hoover. The memorial, which cost $125,000, was funded through private contributions.  The artist was selected through a design contest, and the sculpture was dedicated on October 13, 1979.

The statue, made of bronze, is 15 feet 7 inches wide and 5 feet 7 inches deep.  The sculpture rests on a rectangular base 2 feet 6 inches by 10 feet 3 inches by 7 feet 4 inches made of slabs of black marble and mortar. The front of the base is carved and painted with the words “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity”.

The piece depicts three figures which represent Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.  These are intended to not only represent the acronym of the FBI, but the core values of the Bureau.  The figures are placed against a backdrop of a large United States flag, which appears to be waving in the breeze.  Fidelity, a female, is on the right, seated on the ground and looking up at a male figure of Bravery. To the left of Bravery is Integrity, a male figure who kneels on one knee, with his left hand on his heart. He looks towards Bravery, who stands flanked by the two other figures. The figures are simple with little detail, but none the less evocative based on their pose and appearance.

In 1993, the piece was surveyed as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Save Outdoor Sculpture! program and was described as needing conservation treatment.

It’s unfortunate that the public no longer has access to view the sculpture and other displays in the courtyard of the FBI Headquarters building.  Much like the old FBI tour, which was one of the most unique and popular tours in the city prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it has succumbed to the need for greater security to protect FBI personnel.  But I’m glad I was allowed the opportunity to see the sculpture, and to share what I learned about it with you here on this blog.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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The Flags of History Display

Most people walking by don’t even to bother to look up and notice the display of historic flags along the front of the FBI Headquarters building.  But they should, because they tell quite a bit about the proud history of the United States.  Located along Pennsylvania Avenue, also known as “the Nation’s ceremonial route”, are ten historic flags, flanked on either end by today’s 50-star flag representing the 50 states of the Union.  And on today’s bike ride, I rode there to see the display that illustrates the development of the “Stars and Stripes”.  While I am not a vexillologist, I found all of the historic flags displayed outside the FBI building interesting and informative.

Beginning at the east end of the building near 9th Street and proceeding west toward 10th Street are these ten historic flags:

  • The Grand Union, or Continental Colors, serving from 1775-1777, was first raised on January 1, 1776, on Mount Pigsah, Massachusetts, about the time the Continental army came into formal existence. It combined the British Union Jack and 13 stripes, signifying Colonial unity.
  • The Flag of 1777, which had no official arrangement for the 13 stars. It was flown by John Paul Jones on the USS Ranger and was the first American flag to be recognized by a foreign power.
  • The Betsy Ross Flag, 13 stars, designed by George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Francis Hopkinson. Although rarely used, it was adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777 – the official date of the holiday which is today known as Flag Day.
  • The Bennington Flag, 13 six-pointed stars, allegedly flown August 16, 1777, over military stores at the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, when the Vermont militia beat back a superior British force.
  • The Star Spangled Banner, 15 stars and 15 stripes, immortalized by Francis Scott Key in our National Anthem during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Maryland, in September 13, 1814.
  • The Flag of 1818, 20 stars, commissioned by a Congressional Flag Act that returned the design to 13 stripes and stipulated that stars be added for each new state.
  • The Great Star Flag, 20 stars, designed by Captain Samuel Chester Reid, U.S. Navy, at the request of New York Congressman Peter Wendover and flown over the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 1818.  This flag has the stars arranged in the pattern of a star, symbolizing the motto “E Pluribus Unum”: Out of many, one.
  • The Lincoln Flag, 34 stars, raised by President Lincoln on February 22, 1861, over Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to send a message to Southern states, which were preparing to secede from the Union.
  • The Iwo Jima Flag, 48 stars, which was commissioned in 1912 but came to symbolize our nation on February 19, 1945, when U.S. Marines raised it on Mount Suribachi after fearful fighting in World War II’s Pacific campaign.
  • The 49-Star Flag, commissioned in 1959 when Alaska achieved full statehood. It flew for only one year, until July 4, 1960, after Hawaii achieved its Statehood and when today’s 50-star flag became official.

And as I was leaving, I saw one more flag, on a flag pole around the corner of the 9th Street side of the building.  It’s the current United States flag, which the FBI’s police force reverently raises each day at 5 am and then takes down again at dusk. 

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Bloodstained Men Protest

On this lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding through Lafayette Square and past the plaza in front of the north portico of The White House (MAP), I noticed an unusual looking protest.  From a distance it caught my eye because the men protesting were dressed in all-white outfits with what appeared to be red stains on their crotches.  I also noticed that the demonstration was not only getting a lot of attention, but was also prompting double-takes or shudders from some of the tourists and other passersby.  So naturally I rode over to take a closer look and try to find out more.

It turned out that the protest was by a group called Bloodstained Men and Their Friends, which is traveling around the country to protest against infant male circumcision in the United States.  And they have more than 60 anti-circumcision protests scheduled throughout this year.  That includes this protest at the White House.

Two of the main Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam, require that males be circumcised, while Christians and nonbelievers are mixed on the topic.  Others believe that circumcision has health advantages for men completely separate from religious belief.  Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have found that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, and that the benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it.

However, the organizers of the protest consider the procedure of infant male circumcision to be a violation of human rights, and want this country to follow the advice of the European medical community, which has condemned American doctors for infant circumcision.  They also contend that in the United States, the legality of the practice is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Despite being practiced in many African and Middle Eastern countries as a cultural custom, the Federal government passed a law in 1996 against Female Genital Mutilation.  In fact, just this week the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which considers it an international human rights issue, announced on its web site that it is encouraging people to come forward and report cases so that it can proactively investigate this illegal practice.  Bloodstained Men contend inasmuch as the 14th Amendment says that the law has to be applied equally, infant boys should be entitled to the same respect of their bodies that girls are.

However, the Bloodstained Men philosophy is not strictly anti-circumcision.  Although they do not advocate the process for anyone, the group believes the decision on whether to be circumcised should be left to the individual once he is an adult.  They also believe that protesting isn’t their main mission.  Rather, protesting is a means by which they seek to start a dialogue about the subject in hopes of educating people.  By this measure, I think their protest was a success.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

FBI Headquarters

FBI Headquarters

Tomorrow marks the 43rd anniversary of the death of J. Edgar Hoover.  After nearly five decades as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), his death left the powerful government agency without the administrator who had been largely responsible for its existence and shape. It was on May 2, 1972, as the Watergate affair was about to explode onto the national stage, that Hoover died of heart disease at the age of 77.  After laying in repose in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building, he was buried in a full state funeral on my 10th birthday.  And even though I was very young at the time, I remember this happening.

It was in recognition of this event that, as part of this bike ride, I rode from FBI Headquarters, which was named after him, back to Director Hoover’s final resting place in Historic Congressional Cemetery, just a mere three miles away. Hoover was born on New Year’s Day in 1895 in D.C., where he lived his entire life. In light of the recent controversy over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, it is interesting to note that a birth certificate was not filed at the time Hoover was born, despite the fact that it was required.  His two siblings had birth certificates, but Hoover’s was not filed until 1938, when he was 43 years old.

Hoover then grew up near Eastern Market in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood (where I stopped at one of my favorite places for lunch on my way back to my office today). Educated as a lawyer and a librarian at George Washington University in D.C., Hoover joined the Department of Justice in 1917 and within two years had become special assistant to the Attorney General.  Appointed in  1924 as the Director of The Bureau of Investigation – the predecessor to the FBI – he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935.  He then ran the FBI for an additional 37 years.

Because Hoover’s actions came to be seen by many in Congress as an abuse of power, FBI directors are now limited to one ten-year term, subject to extension by the U.S. Senate. Late in life, and especially after his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive actions became known.  His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI.  Additionally, rumors have circulated that Hoover was homosexual, which had a distinctly different connotation during his lifetime.  Despite the criticisms and rumors, however, Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.

The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters building is located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), occupying a full city block of prestigious real estate approximately halfway between The White House and the U.S. Capitol Building in D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. Unfortunately it has not been accessible to the public since 2001 when the Bureau immediately suspended public tours in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Among its many amenities the brutalist 2,800,876 square-foot structure contains, or has in the past contained: an auditorium and theater; three below-ground floors, which include a gymnasium and a two-story basketball court; an automobile repair shop, an eighth-floor cafeteria with outdoor rooftop patio dining; an indoor firing range;  a pneumatic tube system and a conveyor belt system for handling mail and files; a film library as well as developing laboratories for both still photography and motion pictures; a cryptographic vault; an amphitheater; jail holding cells; classrooms; 80,000 square feet of laboratory space; a printing plant; a medical clinic; a morgue, and; a gravel-filled dry moat which parallels the sides and back of the building.

Unfortunately, the public may never again get the chance to tour the building inasmuch as plans are being made to abandon it and move to a new headquarters building outside of the city.  Structural and safety issues with the building starting becoming apparent in approximately 2001 when it is rumored that a large chunk of cement broke off and fell within the interior of the building. It is said to have landed on and damaged an employee’s desk during the night, and was found the next morning when the employee arrived at work.  Chunks of falling concrete remain a danger, which is why many parts of the building are wrapped with netting, and scaffolding covers some sidewalk walkways. Later that year an engineering consultant found that the building was deteriorating due to deferred maintenance, and that many of the building’s systems such as heating and air conditioning, its elevators, etc. were nearing the end of their life-cycle. The consultant rated the building as in “poor condition” and said it was not at an “industry-acceptable level.” Four years later, another consultant reported that due to the building’s inefficient interior layout, it could no longer accommodate the FBI’s workforce, which by that time was scattered in 16 additional leased properties throughout the D.C. metropolitan area. This problem was compounded by the need for recommended security upgrades, building systems replacements, and other necessary renovations. At that time, the General Services Administration estimated that it would take three years to develop a replacement headquarters and identify a site, and another three years for design, construction, and to move-in. The FBI began studying the costs and logistics of moving its headquarters later that year. It has been a decade since the estimated six-year process was initiated, and current estimates are that it will take another ten years before the FBI will be able to move into a new headquarters building.

But then again, despite all the studies and money already spent, the move may not happen after all. In January of this year the U.S. Congress passed the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015.” In a brief and mostly overlooked portion in Section 517 of the Act, wording was slipped in which specifically states, “Any consolidation of the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation must result in a full consolidation.” In order to comply with this requirement of the new law, the FBI will have to consolidate all of the employees and functions that are currently located in the headquarters building as well as the other 16 leased properties into any new building. The problem is, plans for the new building are that it will be approximately 2.1 million square feet. So a new building is being pursued because the current building is inadequate for the size of the FBI workforce. But the proposed new building will be 700,000 square feet smaller than the current building.   I guess we will just have to wait and see whether or not the FBI will be able to move its headquarters.

On the bright side, though, if the Bureau is not relocated to a new headquarters building it will give them the chance to finally finish construction of the one they’re in.  The construction of FBI Headquarters was nearing completion at the time Director Hoover passed away. And in what some say was intended as a slight toward the former Director after his death, funding was never appropriated to finish construction on the exterior of the building that was to bear his name. As a result, the façade of the J. Edgar Hoover Building is riddled with hundreds of holes where sheets of polished granite or marble cladding were to have been attached, and the crude concrete exterior of the building has remained in an unfinished state ever since.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

Memorial to Orlando Letelier

Memorial to Orlando Letelier

It was 38 years ago today that Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean government minister, diplomat and ambassador to the U.S., was assassinated here in D.C. I was only 14 years old at the time, but I remember it happening because of the unusual and audacious method by which he was killed – a car bomb.

Marcos Orlando Letelier del Solar was a Chilean economist, Socialist politician and diplomat during the presidency of Socialist President Salvador Allende. After a military coup d’état led by General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the government in 1973, Letelier was arrested. He spent approximately a year in prisons and various concentration camps, including the infamous Dawson Island, which was used by the Allende regime to house political prisoners suspected of being communist activists. After diplomatic pressure from Venezuelan government prompted his release, Letelier moved to D.C. at the invitation of writer and film-maker Saul Landau to work at the Institute of Policy Studies, a left-wing think tank. He then became the leading voice of Chilean resistance to Pinochet, lobbying Congress and European powers to stop trading with the military dictatorship of American-backed General Pinochet.

Approximately a year after coming to D.C., on September 21, 1976, Letelier was on his way to work like any other day, except that he was giving his assistant, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, and her husband, Michael, a ride because their car had broken down. Letelier was driving, while Ronni was in the front passenger seat and Michael was in the rear behind his wife. As they rounded Sheridan Circle in northwest D.C. at approximately 9:35 am, a violent explosion under the car lifted it off the ground and caused it to collide with another car that happened to be parked illegally in front of the Irish embassy.

Michael was able to escape from the car by crawling out where the shattered rear window. Assuming Ronni was alright when he saw her get out of the car and stumble away, he made his way around the car to check on Letelier, who was still in the driver’s seat. Letelier’s lower torso was blown away and his legs were severed, but he was still alive. Both Ronni and Letelier were taken to the George Washington University Medical Center. Letelier succumbed to the massive injuries suffered in the explosion approximately 20 minutes later.   Ronni’s died a little over an hour later, her larynx and carotid artery having been severed by a piece of shrapnel from the bomb. Michael suffered only a minor head wound.

An FBI investigation determined that the assassination had been orchestrated by agents of the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), the Chilean secret police, led by an American named Michael Townley, who was a DINA U.S. expatriate who had once worked for the CIA, along with right-wing Cuban militants who they had hired to carry out the hit. Townley was extradited to the U.S., and agreed in a plea deal to provide evidence against his co-conspirators in exchange for pleading guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit murder and being given a ten-year sentence. Townley’s wife, Mariana Callejas, also agreed to testify in exchange for not being prosecuted. The Chilean government refused to extradite two DINA officials who were involved, but they were tried and convicted in Chile, and sentenced to between 6 and 7 years in prison. The Cubans were tried in the U.S. and sentenced to life in prison. Soon after the trial, Townley was freed under the Witness Protection Program.   General Pinochet, who died in December of 2006, was never charged or brought to trial for the murders, despite CIA evidence implicating him as having ordered the assassination.

On this bike ride, I rode to the Letelier-Moffitt Memorial at the site of the bombing in which they were killed. The memorial is located in the southwest area of Sheridan Circle, near 23rd Street and Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood. The memorial consists of a small brass plaque embedded in the grass between the sidewalk and the curb where they were killed, near the Irish and Romanian embassies.

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