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Anitiwar Sailor Trailed By 25 Agents
Washington, July 22 - A sailor who publishes an antiwar newsletter learned today that he had been trailed by as many as 25 naval intelligence agents.
Accused of violating military law is Navy Seaman Apprentice Roger Lee Priest, 25 years old, who is the editor of OM, The Liberation Newsletter. He faces possible court-martial and imprisonment because of statements in the publication.
Fourteen charges against the sailor range from soliciting his comrades to commit sedition to wrongfully using contemptuous words against Representative L Mendel Rivers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird.
About 15 of Seaman Priest's sympathizers sat quietly today in the small hearing room at the United States Naval Station as 10 witnesses gave testimony at a pretrial hearing.
R.B. Howard Jr., a special investigator for the Naval Intelligence Service, said at the hearing that he had written Seaman Priest under an assumed name to obtain copies of the newsletter.
He further disclosed that the Washington Sanitation Department had cooperated in making a “special pickup” of the trash from Seaman Priest's apartment house in the District of Columbia. The garbage was lat er examined by naval investigators who retrieved the letter written by Mr. Howard.
Under questioning by David Rein, the defense counsel, Mr. Howard revealed that “about 25” agents had been assigned to the case. He said they were involved in survillance of Seaman Priest.
The hearing will resume tomorrow. A tape recording of a radio broadcast in which Seaman Priest reportedly voiced anti-war declarations will be played.
It will then be up to the investigating officer to decide whether to recommend a general court-martial.
Seaman Priest, who had been stationed at the Pentagon, was transferred to the United States Naval Station in the District of Columbia April l, the day the first copy of his newsletter was published.
Two other issues of the newsletter have since been published. The sailor said today that another issue was on the way.
(reprinted from New York Times, July 23, 1969)
GI Press Service, vol. 1, no. 4