It should've seemed like old times, the ACLU, Quakers, ADA, Nader's people, the abortion rights people, Institute for Policy Studies people all steaming up the windows at the Folger Theater yesterday afternoon.
After all, the Campaign for Political Rights, a group with backers ranging from La Raza Unida to Scientologists to the Women's Strike for Peace was unfurling the one banner that all of them bad ever united under: fear of Big Brother, in the from of a 35-minute movie entitled "The Intelligence Network."
So it should have seemed like old times. (Was it for nostalgia's sake that they failed to provide a sign-language interpreter, who is to enlightened gatherings nowadays what the token Chicano farmworker was a few years ago?)
A flyer said the film "exposes an extensive intelligence-sharing network of over 100 agencies at the local, state, federal and international level."
Then again, "there's less of it now, yes, because of the glare of publicity," admitted Morton Halperin, former Henry Kissnger aide whose lawsuit claiming he was wiretapped by his boss may be in the courts "for years" he says.
"The point we're trying to make is that we might get back to it again," said Halperin, who heads the Center for National Security Studies, a privately funded group on Capitol Hill.
It should have seemed like the old days, then, with the movie showing still photos of the body of Black Panther Fred Hampton, or the demolished car of exiled Chilean Orlando Letelier, or a mammothly intricate chart linking everything from "state and local welfare agencies" to the Coast Guard in "the intelligence network."
What would the public reaction to the film be, Letelier's widow was asked. (Along with Halperin, she dominates the film, detailing the nowfamiliar facts of her husband's assassination.)
"I would like to know how the intelligence community would react, but I don't know anybody in it," she said, unaware she was missing her chance.
Naturally, like old times, the reception was watched over by an FBI agent. But he was invited and even wore a nametag, which said "John Hotis -- FBI." He was nice enough, however, to bark "no" whenever press approached.
David Truong, out on $250,000 bail while appealing his conviction in a Vietnamese spying case, said that he'd in fact been spied against, and that's why he was there: "There were so many illegal acts in my case."
There was even a guy loping around in work boots and a backpack.
Chris Bedford, who directed the film, said that while it might hold no surprises for Washingtonians, it would shock the hinterlands. Rep. Mike Lowry (D-Wash.), who took great pains to describe himself as a "freshman" and a "layman," said that "the American public has this John Wayne, Hollywood attitude, that these institutions aren't capable of doing these things."
Maybe that's where the good old days have gone to.