CHAPTER 15 "Black September" and the Frankhouser File
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In the early 1980s, Roy Frankhouser became the poster boy for the NCLC's connections to the far right after he became a paid consultant to the NCLC's Security Staff in the early 1980s. However, I am only interested here in understanding Frankhouser's background and the origins of his links to the NCLC in 1975 when the group suddenly began claiming that Frankhouser's had really been a secret agent for the United States National Security Council (NSC) who was being framed by the government after he uncovered a secret pro-Palestinian "Black September" terrorist network in Canada.
THE QUESTION OF BLACK SEPTEMBER
One of the problems with the case is that it is unclear exactly which Palestinian network "Black September" refers to. In September 1970, Jordanian military forces brutally suppressed an attempted Palestinian revolt against King Hussein. This event was dubbed "Black September" by the Palestinians. The PLO then organized a clandestine organization called "Black September" to carry out terrorist acts in the West, most famously the Munich Olympics massacre in September 1972. At the same time, letter bombs were sent to Israeli officials around the world. This organization was famously headed by the "Red Prince" Ali Hassan Salameh.
While members of other militant groups like the PLFP helped cooperate with Black September, the PLFP ran its own extensive terrorist network. In May 1973, for example, PFLP-backed terrorists from the Japanese Red Army carried out a massacre at Tel Aviv's Lod Airport. Then on 30 December 1973, "Carlos the Jackal" tried to assassinate a wealthy Jewish businessman in London named Joseph Sieff, the owner of the Marks and Spencer department store and an honorary vice president of the British Zionist Federation in another PLFP-led operation.
Whether the "Black September" network Frankhouser claimed to have encountered in Canada was part of a pro-PLO or pro-PFLP network or a figment of his imagination demands further investigation. But it seems clear that his information was deemed credible enough that he came under pressure to share his findings with both the FBI and RCMP. And given his bizarre background and controversial past, the fact alone that Frankhouser would be taken seriously itself seems somewhat astonishing. But as we shall see, Frankhouser claimed to have enjoyed a decades-long role as a paid informant for different local and federal law enforcement agencies inside the United States.
ROOTS OF A SPY
Born on 4 November 1939, Roy Frankhouser grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, a coal-mining town not far from Philadelphia.1 He dropped out of Northwest Junior High in the 10th grade. A Hitler groupie since his teens, Frankhouser would knock on doors of WWII vets to get old Nazi flags, helmets, swastikas or Iron Crosses. After leaving school, Frankhouser enlisted in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne and there are contradictory reports about his service record. A 1965 HUAC report states that Frankhouser served in the Army from 1959 to 1960 and received an honorable discharge. His discharge papers, however, show that he had been released from the military on 18 November 1957.
After leaving the Army, Frankhouser threw himself into the murky world of the ultra-right. The New York Times reported that Frankhouser became affiliated with the KKK as early as 1958.2 That same year he was arrested in Atlanta on charges of assaulting a police officer during a KKK rally. In 1961 he attended the "Institute for Bio-Politics," a Nazi-front organization located in Chicago. He also became a leading figure in the National States Rights Party (NSRP). In September 1961 he visited Atlanta and stayed at the homes of NSRP members who had recently been acquitted of bombing a Jewish synagogue there. Frankhouser also joined George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party. In 1962, however, he broke with Rockwell and denounced him – apparently without a hint of irony – as "completely ruthless" and "dictatorial." 3 He next joined an American Nazi Party splinter group called the American National Party founded by two of Rockwell's ex-storm troopers, Dan Burros and John Patler. Burros would wind up committing suicide in Frankhouser's home in 1965 while Palter would murder Rockwell two years later.
Frankhouser also served as a Pennsylvania Grand Dragon for Robert Shelton's United Klans of America (UKA) as well as a high level official of the Minutemen. In both the UKA and Minutemen, Frankhouser claimed to specialize in security and counterintelligence. In October 1965, for example, Frankhouser addressed a New York KKK gathering along with Eugene Tabbutt, the Pennsylvania-based Imperial Director of the Klan Bureau of Investigations (KBI), the counter-intelligence wing of Shelton's UKA.4
It is almost impossible to know just how many far right groups Frankhouser joined. In his court testimony in Philadelphia in 1974 on charges of dynamite smuggling, Frankhouser claimed that he had been a member of over 40 such groups inside the United States. To make matters even more complicated, he said he often did so at the behest of the government. As a 15 September 1975 Washington Star article by Norman Kempster noted:
Before his connection to LaRouche, Frankhouser was best known for the fact that in 1965 a 28 year-old long-time Nazi activist named Dan Burros shot himself in Frankhouser's Reading home. Frankhouser had recruited Burros into the KKK in the late summer of 1965. Burros then became New York State Grand Dragon and King Kleagle (organizer) for Shelton's UKA. 5
Like Frankhouser, Burros served as a U.S. Army paratrooper. He entered the service in 1955 but was released as unfit for duty in 1958. 6 He, too, threw himself into neo-Nazi activity and may have first met Frankhouser when they were fellow "storm troopers" in George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party. After Burros and Patler's tiny American National Party fell apart, Burros joined James Madole's National Renaissance Party (NRP) as well as the New York chapter of the KKK.
On October 31 1965, Burros killed himself with a .32 revolver on the same day that The New York Times published a front page story exposing Burros as coming from a Jewish family in Queens.7 In a speech at a KKK rally in Maryland shortly after Burros' death, Frankhouser declared that Burros was really a gentile and that his parents were gentiles who for some unknown reason decided to have a Jewish wedding ceremony.8 In the same speech, Frankhouser declared:
In 1973 a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer named John Hilferty visited Roy Frankhouser's house in Reading and noted that it
This unlikely setting also doubled as a church since Frankhouser was a "minister" in Robert Miles Catharist racial religion, The Mountain Church of Jesus Christ (whose parishioners no doubt took special comfort from the phrase "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition").
Along with his church, Frankhouser also ran a Minuteman camp in the area that had been raided by the government more than once. On 9 September 1970, for example, a search warrant was issued by the ATF in an attempt to find out if camp was being used by the Minutemen to make hand grenades.11 Frankhouser's Minuteman camp first attracted national attention following a June 1969 article in Playboy entitled "The Paramilitary Right" by Eric Norden. Norden had visited the camp when Frankhouser was leading a practice raid to "blow up an underground vault full of arms and ammunition." Frankhouser told Norden that the Minutemen planned to destroy the weapons dump because they had been tipped off that the FBI was planning to raid the camp in a few days. Norden reported that the bunker in question held several four-foot long rockets with a range of 30 miles as well as a chemical closet for making nitroglycerine. Frankhouser also boasted to Norden:
FROM THE READING BOMBING TO BLACK SEPTEMBER
In 1970 the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Division (ATF) sent its first permanent agent to Reading, a 20-year ATF veteran named Edward Slamon, to investigate the bombing of synagogues and the Jewish Community Center there.12
One obvious suspect in the attacks was Roy Frankhouser, whom Slamon first met in May 1970. Two years later, Slamon's suspect became one of his informants. Slamon and Frankhouser began regularly meeting at a local Reading hangout called Jimmy Kramer's Peanut Bar. Then in the fall of 1972 Frankhouser convinced Slamon to make him a paid ATF informer. Overtime, Frankhouser began hinting to Slamon that he could help the ATF uncover a gun-smuggling ring in Reading. Then on 22 September 1972, he worked out a deal with Slamon to become an ATF informant. Slamon was quoted as saying:
In October 1972, Frankhouser told Slamon that he had made contact with members of the Black September network. In 1974, Slamon told the Court about the purpose of Frankhouser's mission:
In a 7 November 1972 letter to his ATF bosses in Washington, Slamon reported:
Frankhouser told Slamon that he was preparing to go on a KKK speaking tour that would take him to Buffalo where he would meet "a Federal Firearms Dealer named Johnston" who, Frankhouser claimed, "had excellent connections in the 'El Fatah' and Black September movements." Frankhouser's tantalizing offer couldn't simply be dismissed out of hand since earlier that same month, Black September terrorists had brutally murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. And Montreal was scheduled to host the 1976 summer Olympics. As for Canada in general, it had a large Arabic community particularly in Toronto.
Frankhouser may have calculated that if he offered the government the chance of receiving information on the activity of Black September – a group that the government knew nothing about – the chances that the ATF would arrest him for crimes he might be involved with in Reading would be neutralized by his "informant" status.
FRANKHOUSER'S REPORTS ON BLACK SEPTEMBER
When Slamon again met Frankhouser in Reading on 26 October following Frankhouser's KKK tour, Frankhouser told him that while he was in Buffalo
In another ATF memo Slamon reported that Frankhouser identified "Blenheim" as someone named Pat Blednick. Frankhouser visited Toronto in December 1972 and claimed that he had met with Blednick:
The next day Blednick told Frankhouser that Black September was recruiting bomb technicians from the French separatist FLQ. Then
Frankhouser reported to Slamon that the Black September cell wanted automatic weapons and explosives so that they could "kidnap and/or assassinate Jewish leaders in the Eastern U.S."16 On 10 December 1972, Frankhouser met someone named Cliff Holland:
What is particularly noteworthy about this report is that just a few weeks later on 30 December 1973, Carlos carried out his first PLFP-backed attempted assassination on the prominent British Zionist leader Joseph Sieff. Therefore if Frankhouser's information was at all accurate, it may be that the network he encountered in Canada was affiliated with the PFLP and not the PLO.
On 13 December 1972, Frankhouser said that he had heard about a "Ronald Crips" (phonetic) from Blednick:
(This story echoes the famous case of Sir Harry Oakes, the founder of the great Kirkland Lakes gold mine in the province of Ontario who was murdered on 8 July 1943 in Bermuda in what some people thought was a murder for hire by the Lansky-Luciano crime syndicate.)
THE MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR MEHDI
Frankhouser said he was also told that his U.S. contact would be Dr. M.T. Mehdi. He was instructed, however, not to contact the New York City-based Dr. Mehdi until he was told to do so. The Iraqi-born Dr. M. T. Mehdi – who died in 1998 – was an extremely important figure in Arab-American relations. He held a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, and also ran a series of pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian groups in the United States. He even helped arrange Malcolm X's visit to Mecca.
As far as assassinations is concerned, in 1968 Dr. Mehdi, then the secretary general of the Action Committee on American-Arab Relations, published a curious work in the wake of Sirhan Sirhan's assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy entitled Kennedy and Sirhan: Why? In it Mehdi writes that
By killing Kennedy, "Sirhan was revolting against such politicians who had sold his people to the Zionist Jewish voters."18 Mehdi concludes his work: "It is only the judgment of History which can determine the moral guilt or moral innocence of Sirhan Bishara Sirhan."19 Mehdi's emphasizes that Sirhan's shooting of Robert F. Kennedy should be seen as an understandable political act.
Whatever role the late Dr. Mehdi may or may not have played in this story, Frankhouser told the ATF that Mehdi was very much involved in the alleged Black September network. For example, after Frankhouser returned to Reading, he said he was contacted again by Blednick. Slamon reported:
After Frankhouser got his own direct phone number – presumably with ATF funds – he called Blednick back:
By this time Frankhouser had received some $1,300 from the ATF.
THE NSC CONNECTION?
Frankhouser's relations with the ATF collapsed after he was arrested for dynamite smuggling on 21 February 1974. In the September 1974 court proceedings over Frankhouser's status as an AFT informant and whether or not his actions had been covered by an immunity deal he had with the ATF, Frankhouser's attorney, Stanford Shmukler, tried to portray him as a high level government operative.20 Shmukler asked the ATF's Edward Slamon about Frankhouser's ATF informant work. Slamon revealed that he had cleared Frankhouser's trip to Canada with Jack Caulfield, an ATF official who by then was caught up in the Watergate debacle.
From the Shmukler-Slamon court proceedings:
As Slamon's testimony indicates, the ATF had to get clearance from higher authorities to approve any collaboration with a foreign intelligence agency such as the Canadian RCMP. After Shmukler introduced the idea of Frankhouser's trip being cleared with "the National Security Council and the President," Slamon replies "Yes, sir." He then realizes that he wasn't sure about the exact chain of command in Washington ("it was beyond my level sir") so he states "I guess" it went the NSC.
Yet it is clear that Frankhouser enjoyed a reputation as a track record as a government informant. After Slamon reported his putting Frankhouser on the ATF payroll, a 3 October 1972 report from ATF headquarters in Washington stated that "we are convinced of both the authenticity and value of information he can supply."21
Yet Shmukler's real gambit fell flat because he wanted to try and argue that Frankhouser's later involvement with the Reading dynamite smuggling ring was really part of his "NSC" assignment "to contact all these groups, and obtain explosives and so forth." However Slamon points out that that any higher up Federal involvement with Frankhouser strictly involved the "Black September" case. As we shall see, it was Frankhouser himself who actually broke off his involvement in that investigation in February 1973 in part because he felt he wasn't getting paid enough and in part because he refused to have any dealings with the RCMP.
Less than a year later, Shmukler's failed courtroom gambit would be seized upon by the NCLC to portray Frankhouser as a top "NSC agent" operating under Henry Kissinger! Even more absurd, the NCLC claimed that it was Kissinger who was behind Black September terrorism in the first place as part of an elaborate CIA plot to "frame" the Soviet Union for its alleged role in terrorism. Yet Frankhouser actually reported back to the AFT that he believed that "a Black September operation was being directed by Soviet intelligence through the Czechoslovakian legation in Toronto."22
END OF MISSION
Frankhouser's Black September adventure came to an end in early 1973 in a clash over money as well as the fact that Frankhouser was angry that that his involvement with the ATF had been disclosed to agents from both the FBI and RCMP. From a 22 February 1973 ATF memo by Slamon:
A 13 July 1975 front page Philadelphia Inquirer story by John Hilferty on Frankhouser's involvement with ATF (entitled "How a Nazi-Klansman Became a U.S. Agent") discusses the dispute between Frankhouser and the ATF this way:
In reality, Frankhouser never claimed to have "penetrated Black September." However the U.S. government did think his information was important enough to warrant some kind of joint information exchange with the RCMP.
FRANKHOUSER, MILES, AND MADOLE
While he was on the AFT payroll working the Black September case, Frankhouser went out of his way to downplay any possible connection that Robert Miles might have played in helping a group like Black September even though such a policy would be in keeping with the policies advanced by Unity Now.
Frankhouser also used his ATF connection to try and help his friend Robert Miles who at the time had had been convicted of the Pontiac bombings but was still out on appeal. In mid-November 1972, Miles came to Reading with James Madole of the National Renaissance Party to address a far right gathering. In a memo read into the court record on 5 September 1974 Slamon reported that
Under questioning a day earlier, Slamon described this incident in more detail after he was asked about it by the government prosecutor, J. Clayton Undercoffler:
Since Miles, Madole and Frankhouser were part of the Unity Now operation, it is not hard to wonder if Frankhouser's "secret" wiretapping of their conversation wasn't meant to provide someone like Miles with a cover story about how "crazy" Black September was since the tape also indicates that Miles had in fact been contacted by someone with some link to Black September in Michigan.
On 15 September 1975, the Washington Star ran a front page article on Frankhouser after the NCLC sponsored a Washington press conference for him. In the press conference, Frankhouser claimed that as an ATF "agent" he spied on Miles. Frankhouser then said that he had taped conversations Miles and other defendants in the Pontiac school bus bombings had with their lawyer, James Wells and gave the information to the government. Frankhouser then said, "I was part of the framing of several people who went to prison."
Frankhouser using his tapes to get Miles's conviction thrown out. In his 25 November 1986 interview with the investigative journalist Martin Lee, Miles explained Frankhouser's activities this way:
Miles then continued:
Even Miles believed that there was a potential Black September cell being organized in Canada. It is possible then that Frankhouser was in fact approached by some pro-AI Fatah/Black September activists looking to establish a far right/far left alliance against Israel and there is no doubt that Frankhouser and his cronies had access to weapons and dynamite. On the other hand, it is also clear that his involvement in the entire affair ended in February 1973.
THE PONTIAC BOMBINGS AND THE READING DYNAMITE RING
The reported confrontation between Frankhouser and the ATF over the tapes, however, was still in the future. Even after Frankhouser had stopped working on the Black September case in February 1973, he still remained on the local ATF payroll supplying Slamon with information on a topic he knew all too well: the traffic in stolen weapons and explosives in the Reading area.
Frankhouser got some ATF money for an investigation of a ring that allegedly trafficked in stolen government M-16s linked to the local mafia. Other ATF informants told the agency that the same gun running ring had buried a cache of dynamite on the property of the Reading sewage-disposal plant. ATF agents discovered the dynamite and set up a stakeout which they were forced to call off after a few days for fear that a civilian worker at the plant might accidentally nudge it and set it off.
Then things got even murkier. In his 13 July 1975 Philadelphia Inquirer story, John Hilferty lays out the complex story this way. After the government confiscated the dynamite, Hilferty says "Frankhouser then offered an elaborate scheme to set up the arms purchase from a Reading man named Bert Jones. He asked $1,000 for his services." "Bert Jones" (Bertram Jones) would soon become an obsession with the NCLC. The NCLC said that Jones was the Vice-President of the United Rubber Workers (URW) local at the Firestone Rubber plant. In the 14 July 1975 issue of New Solidarity, Jones was reported to have tried to run down a local NCLC member with his car. The paper called Jones "an FBI operative who was indicted in 1971 for stealing the explosives used in the KKK-FBI school bombings in Pontiac, Michigan." Jones was also said to head the Reading, Pa., branch of the Maoist Revolutionary Union (RU) group that Frankhouser also joined!23 The ATF rejected Frankhouser's apparent sting operation against Jones and Slamon told Hilferty that the ATF feared it might call attention to their ongoing relationship with Frankhouser.
FRANKHOUSER AND THE ATF GO TO WAR
By the summer of 1973, however, the ATF and Frankhouser had a major falling out possibly provoked by Frankhouser's attempt to aid Robert Miles' defense team. On 23 August 1973, with his relationship with the ATF now in shambles, Frankhouser retaliated. On that day John Hilferty penned a front-page Philadelphia Inquirer article entitled "Was Rightist Camp Bugged?" Hilferty reported that a few weeks earlier an unidentified Minuteman – who was mowing the lawn of a Minutemen training camp in the Blue Mountains in Schuylkill County near Orwigsburg – stumbled upon an electronic listening device disguised as dog feces.
Frankhouser – described as the Grand Klokard (or second-in-command) of the Pennsylvania KKK – claimed that he didn't know who put the devices in the camp but "a source close to Frankhouser" pointed to the ATF.
In yet another twist, a Minuteman source (most likely Frankhouser) told Hilferty that the group had conducted its own surveillance on the FBI and had recorded illegal FBI wiretaps. These recordings "include conversations between FBI informers and members of the Mafia, Black Panthers, Minutemen and other left and right-wing extremist groups," or so the source claimed. This sounds like a reference to the incident that Robert Miles discussed.
FRANKHOUSER'S ARREST AND THE SIMS REVELATIONS
Frankhouser's attempt to embarrass the ATF both with the tapes about Miles and the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer marked the end of his working relationship with the agency. But the ATF was by no means done with him.
On 21 February 1974, the ATF arrested Frankhouser on charges of being involved in a massive dynamite smuggling ring in Reading. The subsequent investigation indicated that Frankhouser used the smuggling network to supply Miles' KKK circle as late as the summer of 1973 at a time when they were out on bail appealing their convictions in the Pontiac bombing case.
In a front page Philadelphia Inquirer story published on 13 July 1975, just as Frankhouser was getting set to go to trial, John Hilferty reports,
This "Jones" was Bert Jones. But Frankhouser's real nemesis turned out to by one of Robert Miles' former aides, a man named Charles Sims, who had also been convicted in the Pontiac bombing case. Hilferty reports that
From: Reading Eagle
Roy E. Frankhouser Jr. outside his Mountain
Church of Jesus Christ in the 100 block of
South Fourth Street in December 1998.
In a lengthy statement written in September 1973 while he was in jail, Sims said that he had visited Reading some four times in 1973, and that in July 1973, "Frankhouser had helped him load 240 pounds of dynamite into his car for shipment to Michigan." Sims' jailhouse statement seems to have been critical in the government's discovery of Frankhouser's double role and explains Hilferty's statement that in September 1973 Frankhouser was "implicated" in dynamite smuggling. Sims also indicated that the Miles network had gotten the dynamite for the 1971 bombings from this same Reading-based network. Sims further told the government that during his trial Miles wanted to assassinate Judge Gubow who was hearing his case. Sims said Miles discussed this idea with both himself and Frankhouser. Miles also discussed fleeing to either Algeria or Argentina.24
As for Miles, he wrote a letter from Marion prison dated 11 September 1978, where he reflected on Sims and the fate that awaited him after it had become known that he had turned informer. Miles writes:
(Hilferty said that Sims had undergone treatment in prison for "psychotic personality" and had brain surgery. In October 1974 his jaw was broken when he tried to interrupt a Black Muslim meeting in the Terre Haute prison.)
THE NEW READING BOMBINGS AND FRANKHOUSER'S ARREST
A few weeks after Sims had given his statement to the government pointing the finger at Frankhouser, Reading was the scene of new bomb attacks. On the night of 13 October 1973, two bombs concealed in boxes exploded in the black and Puerto Rican sections of Reading. One man was killed in the blast while another lost a hand.25 According to Hilferty's 13 July 1975 Inquirer story, angry crowds gathered after the blast and chanted the name "Frankhouser!"
Incredibly, Frankhouser tried to spin the bombings to his advantage. Some two weeks after the explosions, Frankhouser contacted the ATF's Reading agent Ed Slamon and told him that he could provide information leading to the bomber! But before making any deal to help the government, "he wanted immunity for his part in the earlier stolen dynamite case." The logical implication, then, is that Frankhouser learned that Sims had talked in jail and had named Frankhouser. But that was not all that Roy demanded:
Astonishingly, the ATF agreed!
On Nov. 21, Slamon picked up Frankhouser at his mother's home in the Reading suburbs. They went to City Hall and got $5,000 in cash from Mayor Eugene L. Shirk. Slamon put the money in a suitcase and they went to the federal courthouse at Ninth and Market Streets in Philadelphia.
Here, after several hours of talks with lawyers, Frankhouser got a letter which said: "In exchange for the provision of information concerning incidents of bombing in Reading, Pennsylvania, and other related matters we will grant you informal testimonial immunity." The letter was signed by U.S. Attorney Robert Curran and other members of his office staff.
Whether Slamon actually still believed Frankhouser at this point or was part of a broader effort to trap him is unknown. What is clear is that on 21 February 1974, Frankhouser was arrested on the dynamite case known as the "Sims matter." The charges against him stated that he "did aid, abet, counsel, induce and procure a commission" in the selling of stolen dynamite. He was also indicted on a charge of receiving, storing and transporting dynamite. With all the charges, Frankhouser faced a potential sentence of up to 51 years. In the grand jury proceedings held in Philadelphia in September 1974, Frankhouser's lawyer tried to present his client as a top government agent whose involvement with dynamite smuggling was part of his job.
Yet the most amazing part of the Frankhouser story was yet to come. In September 1975 Frankhouser pleaded guilty to the charges against him and would up getting probation apparently for trafficking in explosives and gun-running charges as the government's case vanished along with potential witnesses against Frankhouser.
As best as I can make out, Frankhouser spent less than a year in jail in 1974-75 because he was unable to raise $50,000 in bail money. However by late May or early June 1975, he was out of jail but still awaiting trial. For example, the 19 June 1975 New Solidarity writes:
Not long after Frankhouser's release, New Solidarity totally reversed its previous line and began claiming that Frankhouser was in fact a top level U.S. government agent working on assignment for the National Security Council, a variation on the argument that Frankhouser's lawyer first raised in September 1974. After the NCLC began publicizing Frankhouser's claims to have been a government agent, he started attracting a good deal of publicity that included an interview with CBS News on 28 July 1975 as well as a front page story in the 15 September 1975 Washington Star entitled "Informer's Trial: He Says Uncle Sam Was His Partner in Crime."
Then in its 18 September 1975 edition, New Solidarity reported: "Roy Frankhouser today pleaded guilty on two counts to charges stemming from his activities while acting as an agent for Federal agencies, and from a government-directed frame-up." In a New Solidarity report shortly before the plea deal was made, the paper claimed that the government had offered Frankhouser a deal that included "unrestricted one-year probation" with no jail time as long as he would recant his testimony about being a government agent.
What had happened to the government's case?
The best guess is that a series of deaths and other violent incidents to the government's witnesses against Frankhouser made the likelihood that he could ever be convicted doubtful. In the time between Frankhouser's arrest and his scheduled trial
New Solidarity also noted a press conference given by Frankhouser in which he claimed that the Berks County Pennsylvania District Attorney Robert van Hoove was supposedly conducting his own investigation into the gun running operation that could embarrass certain Reading police officials and that, in response, the ATF asked Frankhouserto participate in an operation against van Hoove that included office break ins and telephone taps!27
Exactly how did Frankhouser manage it?
The government's loss of key witnesses clearly played a significant role. So too did the NCLC's decision to defend Frankhouser as a victim of high-level intrigue. There is also more than a hint of local corruption in the law enforcement world in Reading. It also seems clear that Frankhouser's long-standing informant relationship with various federal agencies made him potentially embarrassing to his employers, especially with the NCLC serving as a massive publicity machine for whatever charges he might want to concoct. Frankhouser and the government, in effect, played a classic game of mutual blackmail and intrigue that is all too common when government agencies like the ATF or FBI work with people like Frankhouser.
More than that it is hard to say exactly what happened in Reading from 1970 to 1975 without a full scale investigation far beyond the confines of this report. The same holds true for the murky but intriguing events in Canada in late 1972 and early 1973.
Finally, what I can say that in everything that I have read, I did not come across a single report identifying the person responsible for the 1970 synagogue and Jewish community center bomb. The 13 October 1974 Reading bombings that killed Jose Gonzalez and wounded Larry McClarry and Dorothy Ortiz also remains unsolved.
1The name is frequently misspelled "Frankhauser."
2See the profile on Frankhouser in The New York Times, 1 November 1965 following the death of Dan Burros. For an even more detailed look at Frankhouser's background, also see the appendix "Palimpsest World" in this book. Also see the FBI files on Frankhouser in another appendix.
3. Frankhouser was also a figure of note in the Minutemen who had very bad relations with Rockwell.
4The KBI's leader Eugene Tabbutt – like Frankhouser – lived in the Philadelphia region. A KKK member since 1925, Tabbutt also served as the "Security Chief" of a far-right Shickshinny, Pennsylvania-based group known as the Knights of Malta led by a far rightist convicted con man and Nazi supporter named Charles Pichel.
5On 20 October 1965, HUAC publicly identified Burros as a prominent KKKer and he and Frankhouser were scheduled to testify before HUAC. Burros' prominence in the Klan was the apparent reason why the government investigator decided to leak his name to the Times, a decision that set off a chain of events leading to his death.
On Burros and also Frankhouser's appearance before HUAC, see Activities of Ku Klux Klan Organizations in the United States (part 3), HUAC, 89th Congress, Second Session, (US GPO: Washington, 1966). Frankhouser appeared before HUAC on 10 February 1966 and took the 5th Amendment.
6 Burros was at Fort Bragg from November 1955 to February 1956. He then transferred to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he stayed until he left the Army on 14 March 1958. As for Frankhouser, he enlisted in the Army on 6 November 1956. As best one can tell, he left the Army, and Fort Bragg, in 1957.
7 The New York Times had been tipped off to Burros' background after Burros had been arrested at an NRP anti-integration demonstration outside a White Castle restaurant in New York. A "government investigator" noticed that Burros had been bailed out of jail by a Jewish relative and notified a source in the Times about a possible story on Burros' background. The investigator may have been from New York City's Bureau of Special Service and Investigations (BOSSI), the City's "Red Squad" organization that kept close tabs on political extremists of all sorts. The Times only went with the story once it was able to confirm that Burros was indeed the son of George and Esther Sunshine Burros, and a grandson of Russian Jews. He attended Hebrew school at Talmud Torah in Richmond Hill; his bar mitzvah was held there on 4 March 1950.
BOSSI detective Tony Ulasewicz was personally assigned to monitor New York Neo-Nazis and Minutemen extremists. Ulasewicz knew John Patler and also planted a BOSSI agent in the ANP. See Tony Ulasewicz, The President's Private Eye (Westport, Conn.: MACSAM Publishing, 1990), 129-44.
8 When an investigator for an unnamed government agency (BOSSI?) visited Burros' mother, she told him that her real name was Erika Schroeder and that she had been born in Germany. Burros also said his mother was Erika Schroeder and that she was a German-born Lutheran. Yet on her marriage certificate, she is listed as "Ester Sunshine," a Jew. Erika/Ester lived in a Bronx apartment before she married George Burros on 31 May 1936 in a marriage performed by a rabbi.
9 The events that led to Burros death also led to a book by two New York Times reporters – Abe Rosenfeld and Arthur Gelb – entitled One More Victim: The Life and Death of a Jewish American Nazi that appeared in 1967 and which reportedly used Frankhouser as a major source. The book also said that Burros himself had an informant relationship with various police agencies. See George and Wilcox, Nazis, Communists, 297, fn. 29.
10 Hilferty reports in the Inquirer story that Frankhouser lost his eye "in a vicious beating he suffered outside the Court Tavern in Reading in 1965. Three racket figures were arrested in the assault but charges were dropped when Frankhouser refused to testify against them."
11The subsequent raid was led by an ATF agent named John L. Burkholder.
12 From John Hilferty, "How a Nazi-Klansman Became a U.S. Agent," The Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 July 1975: "He [Frankhouser] was recruited as a government agent in 1972, two years after the government sent a Treasury Department agent to set up an office in Reading as a result of a series of bombings of synagogues and the Jewish Community Center there."
13 Hilferty, 13 July 1975 Philadelphia Inquirer.
14 Norman Kempster, "He Says Uncle Sam Was His Partner in Crime," 15 September 1975 Washington Star.
15. The source is documents and trial transcripts from testimony in Frankhouser's trial in Philadelphia in 1974 for dynamite smuggling that I examined in the mid-1980s. I could not examine the entire extensive court record at the time. As with most things in the Frankhouser case, the circumstances behind the testimony are confusing. As best I could figure out, the hearings in September 1974 were part of an attempt by Frankhouser's lawyer to argue that because Frankhouser had immunity for his role in investigating a dynamite smuggling ring in Reading in the summer of 1973, he should enjoy immunity for his role in selling dynamite in July 1973 in a side-deal as this was part of his officially sanctioned deal with the government and also maintained his cover. The government argued that Frankhouser had used his immunity given for the ongoing investigation of the larger dynamite ring to make a criminal side deal.
Frankhouser's role investigating Black September some months earlier was introduced by Frankhouser's defense to show that he was a high-level AFT agent whose activity had been directly sanctioned by Washington. The court testimony in September 1974 was over the issue of whether or not Frankhouser's immunity covered him against the charges the ATF brought against him in February 1974.
16 Hilferty, 13 July 1975 Philadelphia Inquirer.
17 See T.H. Mehdi, Kennedy and Sirhan: Why? (New York: New World Press, 1968), 32.
20 Shmukler was a high profile defense attorney. When he defended Frankhouser, the Jewish Shmukler was picketed by the JDL and his house was firebombed. Shmukler was also a member of an Army JAG unit from 1955 to 1990 when he retired as a Colonel. See his obituary in the 10 August 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer.
21 Hilferty, 13 July 1975 Philadelphia Inquirer.
23 See 7 July 1976 New Solidarity for Frankhouser's claimed membership in the RU.
24. Sims' testimony to ATF agent Roy H. Smith on 26 September 1973 is in the Philadelphia court record.
25. Juan Gonzalez, 38, died from wounds from the blast on 13 October 1974. Larry McClarry, 22, was injured from a bomb placed on the same day. Mrs. Dorothy Ortiz, 35, was also hurt in one of the blasts.
26 See 3 July 1975 New Solidarity on the death of Kanger and other witnesses. The Labor Committee said that there were two other members of the bomb network, James Colbert and Leymond DeBooth, the brother of Norman DeBooth. The NCLC also said in its "LEAA Gestapo Operations in Reading, Pa." report that a few months after the Pontiac bombings, "a secret (sealed) indictment was handed down" by a Federal Grand Jury in Philadelphia against Frankhouser, Bert Jones, Tomas Kanger, and James Colbert for having provided the dynamite for Pontiac. If so, I have been unable to find any evidence for the claim.
As far as I can tell, Frankhouser was arrested in February 1974 for giving dynamite to Sims. The government first came upon the connection in September 1973 when Sims turned informant. The Reading bombings then took place in October 1973. Frankhouser then had a Grand Jury hearing in September 1973 over the dynamite thefts that had occurred in the summer of 1973. However, Sims seems to have indicated that the network had supplied the dynamite for the earlier bombing as well so this remains unclear. It then seems that Frankhouser spent time in jail because he was unable to raise bail but by May or early June of 1975 he was out on bail. Then with various key government witnesses either dead, brain-dead, or in jail, his attorney made a plea deal on 16 September 1975 with the government in which Frankhouser pleaded guilty to two counts involving gun-running for which he got probation and no jail time.
27 See 15 September 1975 New Solidarity for a report on a Frankhouser press conference where he made these charges.
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