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Harrisburg Defense Committee Collected Records


Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

On November 27, 1970, FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, testified before an appropriations subcommittee of the U.S. Senate regarding his request for $14.1 million to hire 1,000 additional agents and 702 clerks. He also announced "an incipient plot on the part of an anarchist group . . . the so-called 'East Coast Conspiracy to Save Lives' . . . a militant group, self-described as being composed of Catholic priests and nuns, teachers, students, and former students. . . . The principal leaders are . . . Philip and Daniel Berrigan. . . . If successful, the plotters would demand an end to United States bombing operations in Southeast Asia and the release of all political prisoners as ransom. Intensive investigation is being conducted concerning this matter." On January 12, 1971, Dr. Eqbal Ahmad, Father Philip Berrigan, Sister Elizabeth McAlister, Father Neil McLaughlin, Anthony Scoblick (a married priest), and Father Joseph Wenderoth were indicted on federal charges of conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up the heating systems of federal buildings in Washington, D.C. The government also cited as co-conspirators Father Daniel Berrigan, Sister Beverly Bell, Marjorie Shuman, Paul Mayer (a married priest), Sister Jogues Egan, Thomas Davidson and William Davidon. The defendants were arrested and jailed (the Berrigans were already in Danbury prison for their anti-war protests); five were released on bail over the course of the next few weeks.

The six defendants were arraigned on February 8, 1971 and each pled 'not guilty.' A second indictment was handed down on April 30, 1971 in which John Theodore (Ted) Glick was added to those charged (the defendants were thereafter known as the Harrisburg 8), and the charges were expanded to include destroying files and property of the federal government, and conspiracy to possess illegal explosives. On the same day, 2,000 people protested at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. in a demonstration organized by the Harrisburg Defense Committee in conjunction with other defense groups representing victims of political repression. Over 350 people were arrested for blocking the entrances to the Justice Department. The case continued for a number of months and received widespread attention. Finally, in April 5, 1972 the jury returned its verdict: Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister were found guilty on seven counts dealing with the smuggling of letters in and out of Lewisburg prison; they were unable to reach an agreement (10 to 2) about acquitting the other defendants.

This collection contains newspaper articles about the trial, and a small amount of material produced by the Harrisburg Defense Committee and other defense groups.

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is not the official repository for the archives of the Harrisburg Defense Committee.

Acquisitions information is unknown.

Processed by SCPC staff. Checklist prepared by Archivist Anne Yoder, February 1999; added to April 2023.

Swarthmore College Peace Collection
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Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
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Collection Inventory

Archival Resource Key. History: retrospective -- article "Kissinger's Kidnapper: Eqbal Ahmad, the U.S. New Left, and the Transnational Romance of Revolutionary War" by Justin Jackson ("Journal for the Study of Radicalism" 4:1), Spring 2010.
Box 1

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