To the editors:
Thank you for publishing John Conroy’s excellent article on the injustice done to Jeanne Bishop [April 10]. I have met Jeanne Bishop and greatly admire her strength and commitment to democratic ideals. Our country needs more people like her. My heart goes out to Jeanne and her family. My daughter, Chris Reid, is also a victim of FBI harassment due to her lifelong support of Irish freedom. Like Jeanne, she stood up for her beliefs in the face of tremendous governmental pressure. In fact, she is now in a federal prison in California because of it. My daughter is serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for allegedly conspiring to aid the Irish Republican Army. Not only did the FBI harass people who knew Jeanne Bishop, Chicago residents who wrote letters to the judge testifying to my daughter’s character were visited by the FBI. (Writing such letters is perfectly legal and part of the court process.) It is indeed a cruel twist that those that speak out against abuse are so abused themselves!
Like Jeanne Bishop, my daughter traveled to Northern Ireland where she saw firsthand the heartbreaking conditions of life for Irish people living under British rule. She joined an Irish Scout group at the age of 11 and helped form Students for a Free Ireland in high school. While a student at Wright College in Chicago, she spoke on Irish radio stations about William Quinn, the first Irish American ever extradited for trial in Britain. She had only recently graduated as an electrical engineer from San Francisco State University when up to ten FBI agents arrested her at her first engineering job. Her greatest fear is that she will never work in her field again.
In Jeanne Bishop’s case, the FBI used the opportunity of her sister and brother-in-law’s tragic death to carry out a witch-hunt against Americans supporting Irish freedom. Similarly, in my daughter’s case, the FBI and the highest level of the Bush administration cooperated with Britain to spy on and prosecute U.S. and Irish citizens, using little known laws. Like in Jeanne’s case, the media painted a picture of my daughter as having “questionable” character. The head of the FBI called a press conference at the time of the arrests and made sensational allegations about our family background in an attempt to isolate my daughter from her friends in the community. Local newspapers said “dangerous electronic equipment” was seized from her home. In reality, they found 15 cent electronic parts that are a part of any engineering student’s start-up kit. The FBI took numerous books on Irish history from her library, her Irish Northern Aid membership card and one of several issues of a legal Irish newspaper, the An Phoblacht. This newspaper would later be used as a chief piece of evidence against her and as “proof” that she knew the goal of the “alleged” conspiracy as it had a picture on the cover of a British helicopter being downed in Northern Ireland.
In fact, the FBI only moved to arrest my daughter and her codefendants because one defendant, Richard Johnson, came out of his workplace early one afternoon to find FBI agents planting a new bug in his car! The government was forced to build a case against the defendants, and it pulled out all the stops. Because no bombs or weapons were found, the FBI actually built a bomb, blew up a government van with it and showed a film of the explosion to the jury. The prosecutors even flew in British military and Irish police officials–at taxpayers’ expense–in an effort to connect the defendants to events in Ireland.
The struggle for civil liberties in Northern Ireland is very dependent on moral support from America. The FBI has instructions to crush the Irish American solidarity movement at any cost. Thus the crimes against Jeanne Bishop, my daughter and many others. It will cost an estimated half a million dollars for the trial, surveillance and incarceration of my daughter and her codefendants. Money is still being spent. Recently my daughter was shackled and flown to Boston to appear before a grand jury investigating the Irish support movement. The trip took two weeks as the plane stopped at county jails along the way. Expenses for Jeanne Bishop’s investigation was estimated at one million dollars. Couldn’t our tax dollars be better spent helping the growing number of jobless Americans? I hope Mr. Conroy’s fine article helps to wake people up. (A national “Boston Three Defense Committee” has been formed to help defray legal expenses.)