A Nation In Denial

Copyright © James Henry Graf, 1996-2002

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Part 1

It should come as no surprise that government agencies routinely discourage, ignore, and speciously reject complaints of human rights violations in America. Coverup is, and some would say always has been, the norm. This writer can document a long history of such devious and sophistic trickery as is experienced by many a victim and many a whistleblower in this land, but that is not the primary subject that concerns us here.

The supposed remedy for government's stonewalling and coverup is public exposure by the media and the non-governmental organizations mandated to uncover such scandals and advocate for the helpless oppressed. Given the stated intentions and frequent good works of such organizations, one assumes a certain reliable level of integrity and disinterested compassion. It is hard to imagine the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, or Pacifica Radio engaging in the same kinds of evasion employed by public agencies in suppression of human rights, but, sadly, that has been my experience.

America is a nation in denial, the dominant force in a world that daily closes its eyes to the hard realities of corruption, discrimination, and outrageously specious rationalization. There are things no major publication dares to print, no major broadcaster dares to discuss. Working largely through dummy "private" agencies, American law enforcement, military, and intelligence authorities violate human rights with absolute impunity, using 21st-Century technology to advance an inhuman, totalitarian agenda. Those who know won't speak. Those who speak are not heeded. Those who hear do not listen. Those who listen will not act.

I am a whistleblower. From 1975 until 1988, I worked as a Speech and Hearing Therapist for Manhattan Borough Developmental Services Office (currently known as Metro New York Developmental Disabilities Services Office), a facility for the mentally retarded operated by the State of New York. In 1975, I had no idea that what was then known as the Department of Mental Hygiene had been involved in classified contracts with US military and intelligence agencies, that it had caused the wrongful death in 1953 of one Harold Blauer, that it had participated in what US Judge Constance Baker Motley described in 1987 as a "20-year conspiracy" to conceal the fact that Mr. Blauer had died as a human guinea pig in an experiment to test hallucinogenic drugs as weapons of war (1).

In the 1980s, MBDSO at 75 Morton Street in New York's Greenwich Village became a hotbed of covert law enforcement and intelligence activity involving CIA, military intelligence, federal, state, county, and municipal law enforcement and corrections officials, dummy "private" agencies, and, apparently, the Republican National Committee. In alignment with Reagan Administration policies, these forces concerned themselves primarily with "fighting terrorism" and the "war on drugs." They defined "terrorism" loosely (2), bringing under its umbrella peaceful, humanitarian activists such as the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and the Sanctuary movement, a group of religious persons who tried to prevent the involuntary return of refugees to El Salvador (a deadly policy clearly violative of International Law). Among Sanctuary's leaders was Jack Elder, who had been my fraternity brother at the Catholic University of America in the early 1960s (3). At the suggestion of Colonel Oliver North (of Contragate notoriety), Philip Mabry, a former CIA agent who headed a right-wing think-tank in Texas, wrote to the Director of the FBI naming individuals and organizations as Communist sympathizers. As a result, the FBI appears to have investigated a college classmate of mine, actress Susan Anspach, as well as Susan Sarandon, who attended Catholic University after we graduated but who had grown up in my home state of New Jersey (4). Few Americans then were aware of such Mc Carthyite witch-hunts, and still fewer, here and abroad, will acknowledge them now.

The power and influence of these law enforcement and intelligence agents became weapons in the hands of egregiously unscrupulous administrators. I heard them laugh about the tragedy and disgrace of others. I could almost hear the saliva dripping from their jowls as they gleefully spoke of arrests and strip-searches. I was sickened by their utter contempt for the law -- their strutting, swaggering, snickering arrogance. Through the administrative areas adjacent to my office roamed conscienceless monsters whose callous ruthlessness bordered on the demonic and who were able to get away with anything they chose to do. They planted evidence. They falsified crime reports at will and with impunity. They suborned perjury. They bribed and intimidated, harassed and terrorized. They may have killed. Claims of "national security" and "police business" assured universal cooperation and secrecy.

Obscenely intrusive, unbelievably extensive "lifestyle" investigations became a powerful administrative tool for staff reduction through intimidation -- blackmailing, blackballing, and blacklisting. When the "evaluators" could not unearth real evidence, they simply invented it. The concepts of due notice and due process occupied no place in their lexicon.

Manhattan Borough Developmental Services administrators, in their absolute contempt for the civil liberties of workers, including myself, involved themselves with corrupt law enforcement personnel like Sergeant Richard Pike and Officer Jeffrey Gilbert of the 106th Precinct in Queens, accused and later convicted of using electric stun-guns to torture a marijuana suspect (5). My employers made it clear that they found nothing wrong with such practices. For some of us, the dreaded "1984" arrived right on schedule (6).

Letters to my union, Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO, produced only futile grievances that encountered delay, obfuscation, and arbitrary denial. Union representatives refused to appeal these to the highest possible level. Their lack of support likewise truncated the progress of several more grievances filed personally by myself, which, in the end, they joined the State in actively suppressing (7).

I then tried the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, writing several letters to ACLU summer intern Mary James. I described a pattern of political repression starting in the late 1960s, when I first wrote letters to the editor against the war in Vietnam. I noted the intensified harassment consequent upon my participation in a 1982 demonstration sponsored by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). I told of unconstitutional investigative techniques, break-ins of my home and car, secret, non-adversarial "evaluations," interception of mail, possible phone taps, suspected drugging and poisoning, electronic surveillance at the workplace and at home, and a campaign of ridicule and defamation among my neighbors [scan of my last letter to Ms. James].

On December 4, 1984, Daniel D. Schechter of ACLU of NJ wrote to me: "I believe that your action in retaining your union's services is proper and, I hope, effective. If, however, you are dissatisfied with their progress, I suggest that you retain private legal counsel of your own selection. Thank you for writing to us [scan]." In other words, get lost.

In 1985, I began writing to the New York State Special Prosecutor (8) and, later that year, filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the US Department of Health and Human Services, triggering a campaign of unimaginably vicious retaliation that continues to this day.

My July 22, 1985 correspondence with ACLU's New York office [scan] supplied copies of my letters to the Special Prosecutor, accusing the State of New York of maliciously and relentlessly utilizing the immense powers of government to harass targeted employees out of their jobs. It noted also the union's ineffectiveness and the State's obstruction of the grievance process. Experiencing already the disabling health problems -- probably maliciously-induced -- that have impeded me ever since, I wrote: "I simply do not know where to turn. I have fought well, but I can't fight alone any more. Please help me, or tell me who can."

A card arrived, postmarked July 26, acknowledging receipt of my request for assistance, telling me that it had been forwarded to the National Prison Project in Washington, DC and suggesting that I should henceforth contact that office directly [scan].

On August 1, 1985, however, Mr. Ed Martone of New Jersey ACLU wrote to me that my letter to New York ACLU had been redirected to his office [scan]. "As the incidents occurred in New York State, it is out of the jurisdiction of the ACLU of NJ," he advised, appending the further insult: "Additionally, there don't appear to be questions of constitutional law in your complaint which would warrant ACLU intervention." My August 2 response [scan] insistently reminded Mr. Martone that incidents had occurred in both states and that my complaint involved very clear constitutional issues. He never answered.


  1. Associated Press, Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ, May 6, 1987, p. 5.
  2. Ross Gelbspan, Break-ins, Death Threats, and the FBI (Boston: South End Press, 1991), pp. 87-95.

  3. Robert Tomsho, The American Sanctuary Movement (Austin Texas: Texas Monthly Press, Inc., 1987), pp. 137-143.

  4. Gelbspan, pp. 186-187.

  5. Associated Press, Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ, July 18, 1986.
  6. On July 6, 1984, at my workplace, Manhattan Borough Developmental Services Office at 75 Morton Street in New York (currently known as Metro New York Developmental Disabilities Services Office), I met with Mr. Darlton Haskins, my supervisor's supervisor, and Mr. Robert Shaut of the Governor's Office of Employee Relations. They will deny that the meeting took place. I expressed concern over the "lifestyle investigations" conducted against employees, including myself. These involved stalking, spying at work and at home, and burglary. Mr. Shaut, whom I had seen months earlier in my next-door neighbor's backyard apparently talking about me and my personal habits, menacingly voiced his intention to launch a probe of my fitness for duty. Thus began a relentless campaign of psychiatric discreditation that continues to this day. While trying to make me crazy by terrorizing me, New York State officials and their associates have sought to convince others that I am out of contact with reality and should not be taken seriously. This is similar to much-condemned practices that took place in the Soviet Union (see "When Justice is Just Another Form of Insanity: Case Histories in Soviet Psychiatry," New York Times, January 24, 1988).

  7. I eventually filed an Improper Practice Charge under New York State's Taylor Law, Case Number U-10571, submitted on December 17, 1988 to the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. The complaint received highly irregular treatment. My charges were arbitrarily dismissed without a hearing, in violation of the Board's own Rules of Procedure. The Board then denied my appeal, also without a hearing. My Brief In Support of Charges, dated May 10, 1989, and my Brief In Support of Exceptions, dated June 5, 1989, clearly delineate this eccentricity of process and set forth my arguments and observations.
  8. The Special State Prosecutor was mandated by law to prosecute cases of corruption within the Criminal Justice System. I wrote ten letters to this office, the first to Special Prosecutor Thomas Duffy, the second and third to his successor William Dowling, and the rest to his successor Charles J. Hynes. The Special Prosecutor's office no longer exists. Mr. Hynes is presently the Brooklyn District Attorney.

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