Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ron Goldstein

Student Retires After Week’s Stint As FBI Informer On RU Activities

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 158, Issue 39, 20 November 1970. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The byline on this story is the pseudonym given to me by the FBI for use when I reported information to them about the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (RU).

My adventure as a junior G-man for the last week was marked throughout by an air of incompetence and naivete.

I had been approached the week before by members of the RU, who wished to discuss the possibility of my joining their group. At that time I did not want to join the RU, but I felt that I might be able to get some interesting information by approaching the FBI.

After several false starts, I contacted the FBI. I told them I was an average Stanford student who had been approached by the RU, and that while I realized that I could just tell the RU to get lost, I thought that maybe the FBI would be interested in any information I could obtain. The agent said that they might indeed be interested, and we made an appointment for 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Plain Office

The local FBI office is room 318 in the Bank of America building at 2600 El Camino. The office features a number of stark desks and, on one wall, the “Ten Most Wanted” posters.

I was greeted at the door by Agent Duncan, who showed me into a small room off the main office. The room contained a camera tripod, a dictaphone, several filing cabinets, and a desk.

“Glad to meet you Phil, we’d like to find out a little about you before we see if you can help us,” Duncan began.

He asked some general questions about my political philosophy, leading up to his inquiring what had prompted the RU to recruit me, and why I had come to the FBI. I explained that I had taken a class from H. Bruce Franklin last year, and perhaps RU people had thought that my participation in the class indicated that I might want to join the RU. Franklin is a prominent member of the RU.

Duncan looked a little skeptical. He leaned back in his swivel chair, and said suddenly, “Do you still write for the Daily?”


I answered that I had written for the Daily, but now mainly do layout of the editorial pages. This seemed to satisfy Duncan, who then placed a brown paper file on the table, and removed a Xerox copy of a Daily article from last spring, which mentioned that I, along with Leonard Siegel, had reported being sprayed with an irritating substance during an Off-ROTC demonstration last spring.

“Is it true that you know Leonard Siegel, and participated in this demonstration?” he asked. I pointed out that simply because both of our names were mentioned in the same paragraph, it did not mean that Lenny and I participated in the demonstration together, or that I even knew him. Again Duncan’s suspicions appeared to be allayed. (He left the file, closed, on the table. There seemed to be several more papers inside.)

The agent commented that perhaps one of the reasons that the RU had approached me was my position on the Daily, and that they hoped to gain control of the opinion pages by recruiting me. I said that this could be true, but I really didn’t know.

Academic Freedom

Throughout the course of our conversation, Duncan repeatedly assured me that the FBI appreciated my voluntary offer of service, and that the Bureau did not wish to infringe on anyone’s academic freedom during the investigation. After he used the phrase academic freedom five or six times, I asked exactly what that meant as far as the FBI was concerned.

“We don’t want to prevent anyone from being able to speak freely. That is one of our great freedoms, and we think it should be preserved. But when groups go beyond speaking, to advocating picking up the gun, that’s where we have to draw the line, and regard them as a danger. It is fine for people at an academic institution to explain theories, such as Communism, but when they advocate picking up the gun, that’s something else,” he replied.

He then asked if I regarded the RU as a group which advocates “picking up the gun” against the government. I said that I thought it probably was such a group. He immediately wrote this down, as he had all of my previous statements.

Duncan asked exactly what contacts I had had with the RU and I explained that thus far I had talked to one member, and that we had discussed the politics of the RU. After noting the name of the RU member, Duncan explained that the FBI wanted to know a little more about me.

Personal Information

He asked me several rhetorical questions, perhaps to indicate that the FBI knew a great deal about me already. “Do you still live in trailer 15Z? Is your home address still 7447 Euclid Parkway in Chicago? Are your roommates still _____ and _____?” He named one of my roommates incorrectly, just as it is listed incorrectly in the Stanford directory.

He then examined me extensively on personal information, asking for my Social Security number, draft number, driver’s license number, parents’ names, my height, weight, date of birth, color of eyes, and if I had ever been arrested.

After I replied to all of those questions, Duncan took a paper from my file on which was a prepared, handwritten, statement which he asked me to read and sign. “We want you to sign this so that you know that the FBI is not interested in infringing on anyone’s freedoms,” Duncan explained.

Meaningless Statement

The statement said that I voluntarily came to the FBI to give them information because I am opposed to the overthrow of the government by force, and am interested in helping the FBI oppose any group which advocates this. I signed the statement after mentally assuring myself that it was so vaguely worded as to be meaningless. Duncan slipped it back into the file.

He asked me what information I thought I would be able to furnish. I said that at the beginning L could probably do little more than go to RU collective meetings and report who was there. He asked me if I knew anyone, other than the contact who I had named who I believed was in the RU. I mentioned several names, all well known Stanford RU members.

I then asked Duncan what information the FBI would like me to gather. He said that the FBI is interested in the activities of groups which advocate the violent overthrow of the government, and that any information would be helpful. I thought this was a glaring evasion of my question, but I didn’t press him.

After several more minutes of general discussion, Duncan suggested that I wait for the RU to contact me again, and call him at the Palo Alto FBI office if they did. He said, “For your own safety, we would like you to use the name Ron Goldstein when calling here. Ask for Duncan, but say that Ron is calling, and I’ll know who you are. If I have occasion to call you, I will say that I am Harry Baker.”

He then got up, ushered me to the door, and thanked me for volunteering my information. Having acquired my first secret identity, I left the office. Wednesday afternoon I spoke to H. Bruce Franklin, telling him what had happened at the FBI office the day before. I asked Franklin what information I could safely give the FBI without jeopardizing any members of the RU. Franklin said he would think about it, but suggested that I not go very deeply into the RU, because “it might be embarrassing later. Unless you really want to join the RU, I would not advise carrying this on further.”

Franklin did suggest that a good way to finish the matter would be to call the FBI and claim that Bruce Franklin had approached me, saying that he knew all the details of my meeting with Duncan, and that I would be better off dropping the matter quickly.

Feeling slightly yippieeish, I called Duncan and told him this. After a long pause, Duncan muttered, “strange .. . very strange. Did he (Franklin) indicate how he found this out?” I replied that Franklin did not tell me where he had gotten the information, but that I was scared, and wanted to get out of the situation as soon as possible. Duncan said that I should do nothing for a week, that he would check some things out, and that I should call him back next week.

(In his spare time, Ron Goldstein is Daily editorial page editor Phil Revzin.)