ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The East Village Other: Government Harassment of Underground Newspapers in the 1960s.

Updated on July 31, 2020
crankalicious profile image

I have a B.A. in History and Creative Writing and an M.A. in History. I enjoy politics, movies, television, poker, video games, and trivia.

Underground Press Charged with Obscenity

While the CIA conducted more secret operations, local police forces targeted the underground press for arrests on obscenity and narcotics charges. The call by New Left publications for the legalization of marijuana and other drugs made it that much easier for police to obtain search warrants. Even when no drugs were found, police either confiscated material or photographed it.4

After publishing an investigative report exposing a corrupt local businessman, sellers of the San Diego Free Press were "arrested at the rate of two a week." The editors of Spokane's Natural were arrested on vagrancy charges while trying to sell their paper, and people selling the Nola Express in New Orleans were arrested many times, once for "carrying a dangerous weapon" - an umbrella.5

At times, the local police resorted to outright terroristic forms of harassment. In New York, in an incident apparently abetted, if not instigated by New York's "finest", Donald Katzman of The East Village Other had a man approach him with a forty-five Colt, point the gun at his head, and pull the trigger. An officer watching the whole thing casually handcuffed the man after a group of citizens got the gun. However, when Katzman went down to police headquarters to file a report, he found the officer's badge number was non-existent.6

The 1960s Underground Press was Highly Influential

The underground press was part of the New Left, a diffuse movement that included Students for a Democratic Society, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and the Black Panthers. By an establishment definition, the New Left often extended beyond the confines of political organizations to include the counterculture or any individual who protested the war in Vietnam. In the course of their publications, marches, and protests, members of this movement found themselves being beaten senseless by police, their telephones bugged, and their every action under surveillance.

Controversy Followed EVO in the Form of Harassment

Agents from a variety of sources, including local police, FBI, CIA, FDA, and the Army, conducted raids on the offices of underground newspaper publishers. They threatened and often arrested printers and distributors on obscenity charges and then dropped the charges, leaving those charged with hundreds and thousands of dollars in court costs and lawyers fees. Even worse, underground papers' offices were the targets of bomb threats, actual bombings, and arson. What the underground did not fully realize at the time, and what the public was blind to, was the extensive involvement by government agencies revealed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (the Church Committee) in 1976.

"The government's offensive against the underground press primarily involved three agencies - the CIA, the FBI, and the Army. In many cases, their activities stemmed from what they could claim were legitimate concerns."1 Operation CHAOS grew out of an investigation of Ramparts magazine, making the CIA the first federal agency to plan action against domestic publications. But because the CIA's charter prevented it from conducting an "internal security function" they justified their activity by claiming that the reason for investigating Ramparts was to "search out possible foreign funding or control."2 Four months after CHAOS, the CIA set up its second domestic spying program, Project Resistance, designed to protect CIA recruiters on college campuses, but whose main purpose was to "infiltrate the underground press."3

Police Raids Were the Norm

In 1969, local police raided the UPS office in Phoenix under Tom Forcade of Orpheus magazine with a warrant for illegal drugs. The raid was conducted by a narcotics agent who had worked on the Orpheus staff for six months. While the search did not result in any arrests or any drugs, the police successfully damaged the UPS library, stole UPS subscription lists, and destroyed files, among them, the legal records of newspapers to which UPS was giving legal aid. With regards to narcotics arrests among underground journalists, Forcade noted that they were one hundred times the norm.

Along with the CIA, the Army also participated covertly in the interference and sabotaging of the underground press. Not only did Army intelligence provide information to both the CIA and FBI but they participated in raids as well. On January 14, 1969, the Washington Free Press offices were "searched" by members of the FBI and Army Intelligence, and the documents found were kept by the Army. When the Army was required to destroy files kept on civilians in 1971, Army agents in Chicago, Cleveland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., gave the files to the local and state police.9 But for all their combined activities, neither the CIA nor Army came close to the FBI's program of counter intelligence, known as COINTELPRO.

Note: The COINTELPRO files on the East Village Other are extensive and require a separate article broken into several different parts. Those articles will be published soon.


1 Angus Mackenzie, "Sabotaging the Dissident Press," Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 1981, p. 57.

2 Ibid, p. 59.

3 Ibid, p. 60.

4 Geoffrey Rips, UnAmerican Acitivities: The Campaign Against the Underground Press. (San Francisco: City Light Books, 1981), p. 102.

5 Ibid, p. 82.

6 Interview with Donald Katzman, June 1988.

7 Rips, p. 57.

8 Ibid, p. 10-11.

9 Ibid, p. 12.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 crankalicious


Submit a Comment
  • BukowskiBabe profile image


    10 years ago from Somewhere in the middle of it all.

    I am currently researching the CIA and the MK Ultra project. The events discussed in your article sound like business as usual. Good read.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)