Paper Trails

The Enemy Among Us!
In the wake of the Oklahoma bombing, Mayor Frank Jordan has asked the city's Office of Emergency Services (OES) to join with other local, state and federal agencies to upgrade “security” in San Francisco, particularly for the upcoming “U.N. 50” celebration.

It is an assignment the OES relishes.
If the OES building on Turk Street looks something like a bunker, then its inhabitants must feel right at home. Its three top staffers all spent a career in military uniform, and one in particular has served time in the shadow world where Oliver North found a base of support.

The OES staff is headed by retired Rear Admiral John Bitoff, with retired Lt. Col. Carl Hedleston and retired California National Guard General Frank Schober riding shotgun.

For the past 11 months, the three have spent many days rewriting the rewrites of worst-case-scenario disaster response plans from the Feinstein era — including the contingency plan for “Civil Disturbances.” This document, which has never before been subject to public review, was released recently under a Sunshine and Public Records Act request.

The document itself is a bunker's-eye view of San Francisco, and urges new intelligence gathering on San Francisco's diverse communities. The report, which is still being updated and is slated to undergo review by designated members of the Board of Supervisors, states:

“The urban environment brings together in relative proximity diverse societal groups with [a] wide spectrum of interests which are not necessarily compatible or of a local nature …. If behavior created by these attitudes becomes disruptive to the fabric of the City, City leadership must be prepared to react in an appropriate manner.”

“Protection against terrorist attacks is limited to the degree of preparation or planning for them. Intelligence gathering capabilities should be enhanced to thwart the attempt of terrorism,” the advisory notes.

“The City's leadership must be sensitive, as well as alert, to attitudes and changes of attitude that occur on a continuing basis. Inherent to this sensitivity is the need for the development of various sources of information that could provide indicators of potential disruptive activity.”

Developing “various sources of information that could provide indicators of potential disruptive activity” and enhancing “intelligence gathering capabilities” on the domestic front may sound like a throwback to the paranoid McCarthy era, but then again, the OES staffers have the credentials necessary for such an exercise in time travel.

Hedleston, for example, provides a rŽsumŽ that shows he formerly was the development director for the “National Defense Council Foundation,” which he describes in his resume as “a unique, action-oriented, conservative research and education foundation.”

This is one case where a resume doesn't lie.
The National Defense Council Foundation was chaired by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-California), 1996 presidential candidate from the loony wing of Southern California, and NDC advisers have included the publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine and retired Maj. Gen. “Jack” Singlaub, former head of the World Anti-Communist League.

“There's a good reason the media is covering us,” one of the group's 1985 fundraising pitches went. “The National Defense Council is the only group actively operating in many of the 'hot spots' in Central America …. The National Defense Council goes to places where our government relief people can't, or will not go.”

“But don't get us wrong, NDC isn't simply some knee-jerk do-gooder organization. We very definitely want to help these people, but we have a selfish political motive as well.”

The NDC thrived in the Reagan years when groups formerly on the fringe entered Washington's mainstream. Reagan himself signed a fundraising pitch for the group, and Dick Cheney, a Republican member of Congress and later secretary of defense, served on its board. The NDC advocated U.S. entry into limited wars across the globe, from Africa to Central America, and was closely involved in many of those conflicts.

In an earlier incarnation, the group had been known as “The Committee to Stop OSHA,” and during one of its phases the members of its board overlapped with that of Western Goals, a group whose mission was to maintain domestic surveillance records after the demise of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Western Goals made a modest amount of news in 1985 after one of its sources turned out to be a Los Angeles Police Department member who had spirited 10,000 police intelligence files into his garage for Western Goal's computer operation. A court found this to be a serious no-no.

Hedleston was recruited by a former Pentagon buddy, Andrew “Snake Oil” Messing, a retired Green Beret who was close friends with Oliver North. Messing's name entered into the Iran-contra scandal when the Tower Commission released an April 18, 1985, typewritten memo on National Security Council stationery by Fawn Hall, Oliver North's White House secretary, that included a handwritten note linking Messing's name with the words “funds,” “weapons” and “Western Goals.” Hall's memo stated, “We are all working tirelessly to educate the American people on why it is so important to help the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. There are many people who believe in the cause of freedom and democracy, but far fewer who are willing to act to support it.”

Messing denied that the handwriting on the note, which drew an arrow from his name to Western Goals, was actually Oliver North's.

Messing never disputed his close friendship and admiration for North, telling Regardie's magazine in February 1988 that “North was the only one who had the guts. If North hadn't done what he did to help the freedom fighters, who would? The slugs?” In the same article, Messing dismisses Elliot Abrams, Reagan's State Department leader on Central America, as “a limp dick.”

Funding for NDC came from Joseph Coors and even Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Messing said in an interview with me in 1993.

Hedleston's tour with Messing at NDC came during the Bush administration years, and Messing says Hedleston joined in the air shipments of “humanitarian” supplies to Central America as well as in various fundraising chores. The two were close friends who had worked together in the Pentagon, Messing said. Another Hedleston talent Messing admired was his buddy's abilities as an artist. Messing proudly displays in his living room a horse painting by Hedleston.

Frank Schober, Bitoff's other general-turned-lieutenant, once served as the California National Guard's commander under Jerry Brown. In a 1992 California Journal article about the state's (genuine) militia, Schober recalls those days: “I was always amazed when I went around the state talking to veterans groups … sometimes you get the feeling that the only worthwhile thing they did was be in the military. So there was this desire to get back into a military framework, and someone noticed [the authorization for a militia] was still on the books. So it was like, 'Let's create a State Military Reserve.' “

“They wanted to wear uniforms and march around,” Schober recalled in the article.

Schober is best remembered in San Francisco as an early head of the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC), the police watchdog agency. He was hired after serving as Walter Shorenstein's security chief and after serving as head of security for the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. He resigned as OCC head in 1987 following charges that he was ineffective in dealing with complaints of police misconduct and was too cozy with the cops, as demonstrated by his spending part of his budget on a public relations campaign to improve the image of police officers. Groups ranging from the ACLU to the Bar Association issued reports faulting Schober's job performance.

Schober was stung by accusations that he was insensitive to minorities, an important criticism given that the OCC's creation was triggered in part by the fatal shooting of an African American man by white police officers. An unnamed Schober staffer, according to a May 28, 1987, Examiner article, claimed Schober had said, “It is natural for blacks to lie; that is a characteristic they developed in slave times when they lied to their masters.” Schober strongly denied having made the statement.

Schober was also criticized for failing to act on serious complaints of police misconduct — including charges of San Francisco police spying during the 1984 Democratic National Convention, where Schober himself headed private security. By the time of his 1987 resignation, Schober had yet to decide whether the spying charges had merit.

Earlier Schober had made headlines when he faced a sexual harassment complaint from a female investigator “who received a birthday cake decorated with a pair of breasts during an office party,” according to a May 3, 1985, Examiner story.

Schober defended his conduct during the alleged incident, and was quoted as saying, “It wasn't a party. OCC money was not used to purchase the cake.”

Schober was quoted in the article saying that “no one protested or complained, people just laughed” when the cake was unveiled. “'[T]he investigator too,' ” Schober said.

It all sort of reminds one of another '50s cliche: Military intelligence is an oxymoron.

They Have Answers — We Have Questions
Why is Mayor Jordan forcing unions into arbitration over the city's ability to pay contract increases, but refusing to stop Police Chief Tony Ribera and Fire Chief Joseph Medina from receiving pay and benefit hikes worth $27,000 each? Could it be because the increases, set for approval by the Board of Supervisors following arbitration, also increase Hizzoner's pension by nearly $10,000 to just under $100,000 a year? … Why did Housing Commissioner Larry Lee tell the Chronicle, “My residence is San Francisco,” while taking a homeowners exemption for his home in Alameda County? Could it be that he doesn't think the Alameda County D.A. considers perjury a crime or that he doesn't remember the homeowners exemption is based on a signed statement under penalty of perjury that it is granted only for a “primary” residence? … San Francisco D.A. Arlo Smith let former Police Chief Dick Hongisto off the hook after thousands of copies of the Bay Times were lifted from racks by officers under Hongisto's direction: The D.A. claimed that stealing free newspapers isn't a crime. Has Smith noticed that the Alameda County D.A. has just charged a “recycler” with 15 charges of possession of stolen property and two counts of petty theft for stealing free news-papers in Berkeley? “The law is clear,” said assistant Alameda D.A. John Adams in the April 8 Oakland Tribune. “Taking more than one newspaper from a rack is theft.” Perhaps Arlo could get a new job as defense attorney for recyclers … Why is Mayor Jordan's office pushing Fire Commissioner Norma Molinar for a $100,000 a year job as Housing Authority counsel? Could it be a reward for her efforts on behalf of fellow Fire Commissioner Jack Ertola in his failed effort to be confirmed as the chief administrative officer?

Got a tip for Paper Trails? E-mail it to or fax it to 777-1939.

View Comments