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Published on October 28th, 2016 | by Roger Canfield


Was Tom Hayden a Foreign Agent For North Vietnam?

Did Tom Hayden do duty as a foreign agent, not simply a war protester, during the Vietnam War and afterwards? On the short list of America’s "usual suspects" as possible agents of the enemy is Tom Hayden,  a $40 million divorcee — escapee from Jane Fonda. Hayden was elected to represent three quarters of a million people in California’s State Senate and became for many years a Democratic Party influential.

Preponderance of the Evidence

My work has tried to reveal and describe the actions of Americans who collaborated with the North Vietnamese.  The contents of Tom Hayden’s secret files, the intelligence archives remain closed. Yet open sources, contemporary documents and court cases released under the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, suggest that Hayden was an agent. The preponderance of the evidence based on years of research using the Freedom of Information Act, the New Left archives at the Hoover Institute, the Indochina Archives at Berkeley, and online access to Texas Tech’s Vietnam Archives, as well as personal interviews clearly implicate Tom Hayden as a prime suspect as a foreign agent. Such a conclusion cannot be easily dismissed.

American radicals and liberals — not "right wing bigots"—have long called Hayden an American Lenin (Walter Mondale, Dick Flacks, Roger Vadim) and a Stalinist (Abbie Hoffman, Democrat California State Senator James Mills).

Tom said, "I am Viet Cong" at his "solidarity" conference organized for the Vietnamese communists in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia in September 1967.

Hayden "interviewed" American POW Doug Hegdahl, and Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong proclaimed Tom a "comrade in arms" against the U. S.[1]

From 1965 to 1973,

        Hayden interviewed POWs,
        Arranged four symbolic POW releases,
        Helped approve POW visitors and mail delivery,
        called POWs "hypocrites, liars, and pawns" after their 1973 "Homecoming,"
        and tied MIA cooperation to reparations for Vietnam, etc.


The Secret (CIA, FBI, NSA) Files of Tom Hayden

In the early nineties the author received heavily redacted FBI files of Tom Hayden under the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA. Among the most intriguing were public records of court cases involving Hayden and issues of national security.  It is true no U. S. Government prosecutor ever charged Tom Hayden was a foreign agent.
Yet these court documents disclose that Tom Hayden was frequently overheard on many wiretaps "monitoring … activities of foreign powers or their agents" according to a court filing on June 13, 1969.[2]  Hundreds of still secret intelligence records are cited in court cases.

Foreign communications intercepts.

The full evidence of Hayden’s role either as an innocent or as a foreign agent exists in over 10,000 pages of "foreign communications intercepts."

These intercepts were viewed in whole or part by eighteen federal judges in eight court cases during a fifteen-year period. Federal judges refused to release the vast majority of these thousands of pages of documents to Hayden. The judges feared that the release of the Hayden documents held the possibility of "serious or extremely grave damage" to the national security and foreign policy activities of U.S. intelligence agencies.

According to various judges, these “foreign communications intercepts” contained information on:

        "sensitive intelligence operations and activities; … crypto logic … intelligence;"
        U. S. foreign "intelligence sources, methods" and activities;
        "signals intelligence operations" on specific channels or types of communications,
        identification of U.S. and "foreign agents."

Exhibit D—The Smoking Guns?

These reasons persuaded judges not to force disclosure of the vast majority of the documents held by U.S. intelligence agencies. Plenty of smoke, but the guns, if any, are in documents locked in vaults – such documents are identified as Exhibit D, two sealed cartons in one case. Until the complete Hayden File, Exhibit D, comes out of the Cold War archives of communist regimes and of the United States, there is no proof and arguable doubt, that Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Cora Weiss, David Dellinger or their friends were traitors or agents of influence for Communist regimes.

Still, the circumstantial evidence implies so. The public record of the many instances of Tom, Jane, Cora, David willingly doing propaganda handiwork for America’s cold war enemies from 1965 through at least 1975 has been numbingly detailed above in historical context.

To summarize, cautiously worded court documents in eight cases, criminal and civil, from June 1969 to June 1984, involving Tom Hayden and others prove that — no surprise — the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, NSA, and the Department of Defense (Defense Intelligence Agency, DIA) conducted "foreign intelligence" wiretaps on foreign powers and agents. The official existence of legal wiretaps to "obtain foreign intelligence" (as well as other illegal domestic wiretaps) — frequently overhearing Tom Hayden and others — were reluctantly revealed in court actions from June 1969 to June 1984, ironically initiated by Tom Hayden and others.  

Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and Attorneys General Ramsey Clark, John Mitchell and Harold Tyler[3]  expanded “coverage of overseas telephone and telegraph communications”[4]  during the Vietnam War and approved the foreign intelligence and counterintelligence wiretaps.  Hayden’s overheard conversations remain secret at the insistence of Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan and their attorneys general from LBJ’s Ramsey Clark through Carter’s Griffin Bell.

Hayden Frequently Talked to Foreign Agents

Court records show that, while apparently not directly targeted for foreign intelligence, Tom Hayden was incidentally, but frequently, overheard between 1967 and 1972 talking to foreign agents. Precisely what Tom said to whom, we do not know. The verbatim transcripts of these intercepted conversations –under multiple court orders by the very same judges who reviewed the secret affidavits, indexes, transcripts, or tape recordings — are sealed and locked away in vaults.

Judges Refuse to Release His Records

The judges, who have carefully examined the overheard wiretap summaries or conversations in U. S. District Courts in Chicago [5]  and in Washington, D.C.[6] , and in U.S. Circuits Courts of Appeal in Washington, D.C.[7]  and in the Seventh Circuit (Chicago)[8] , have refused to release the "national security" wiretaps of Hayden conversations or agent references to him. In one case, the U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda when the NSA refused release of foreign intelligence reports referring to them[9] . One court said, "It is clear … that the documents … do indeed contain ‘intelligence sources or methods’ or the ‘organization, … names, or numbers of personnel employed by the (CIA).’"[10]

“Agents…or collaborators”

The most telling remarks come from U.S. District Court Judge John Pratt in June 1984 who stopped a twelve-year civil lawsuit against U.S. intelligence agencies. After reading the wiretap conversations, Judge Pratt refused to give them up to Hayden and others. Judge Pratt said that the secret and top secret materials "manifestly evince rational national security concerns …not a pretext for politically or prosecutorial motivated surveillance."

The records were exempt from disclosure because of the "foreign agent exception." As to whether those overheard—Hayden and others– might be impugned as "agents…or collaborators," Judge Pratt said, "such description has been held to extend to individuals whose activities implicate the foreign affairs of this country."[11]

11,000 Pages Kept Secret

Approximately 11,000 pages of wiretap and other secret materials on Tom Hayden remain in the vaults of the U.S. government agencies, despite Hayden’s fifteen unsuccessful years of lawsuits and appeals — criminal, civil, and administrative — attempting to acquire these secret documents. Eighteen federal judges  read the details privately in their chambers — affidavits, summaries, indices, logs, transcripts, and tapes of the wiretaps. These eighteen federal judges ordered the U.S. government to release only a small portion of the total number of pages of wiretap materials.

Hayden did not “substantially prevail” in his lawsuits

The judges even refused — given the small number of pages released — to pay Hayden’s attorney fees, because he failed to "substantially prevail" in Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, suits against the FBI, CIA, and NSA. The FOIA law properly favors those wishing access to their private papers. Jane Fonda declared a "moral victory" in her cases, while Tom has reprinted in bold type in his memoirs, Reunion, a selection of the few documents he received. Thus, Hayden leads the unsuspecting to believe, falsely, that he has achieved total victory over his U.S. government oppressors.

Illegal Domestic Surveillance was not the Issue

Note:   after initial legal delays and ultimate release, illegal domestic surveillance[12]  was not at stake in these cases. Security agencies were ordered to release those domestic wiretaps acquired by the illegal– direct or indirect–targeting of the persons or premises of domestic political activists. Wiretaps disclosing intercepted communications with foreign powers were not released.[13]  

Legal Wiretaps of Foreign Communications

The vast majority, 61 per cent, of the 18,000 pages of the Hayden FBI files[14]  about 11,000 pages appear to be legal wiretaps of foreign persons or premises and not illegal domestic wiretaps of Hayden’s person or premises. Most of the wiretaps of Hayden and others were apparently legal "surveillance of…foreign communications," according to both the United States District Court and the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia in 1983 and 1984.[15]  The judges were critical of abuse of wiretap authority by Presidents, Attorneys General, security agencies, and the military and the judges sometimes outright rejected bogus claims of "national security." Yet none of the judges accepted Hayden’s claims of government abuses in the foreign wiretaps.
Time and again Hayden’s arguments of government abuse failed:

        as grounds for overturning his two Chicago criminal convictions for rioting and contempt;
        as grounds for a civil suit against his Chicago prosecutors as a justification for releasing wiretaps of him revealed in the Ellsberg case;
        as a reason for honoring his FOIA requests for release of secret documents from intelligence agencies.

Records Sealed Secret

After years reading the actual secret wiretap documents ex parte and in camera, every judge before which demands for disclosure were made ultimately decided to seal most of the documents, lock them up in vaults, and return them to U.S. intelligence agencies — without Tom Hayden or his attorneys ever seeing anything except a few, vague descriptions of the nature of his overheard conversations with foreign agents.
While highly suspicious of government claims of "national security" as a possible pretext for illegal taps and after demanding detailed proof of claimed content, all the judges have believed the same officials they have ruled against in cases of illegal domestic wiretaps. The same courts that forced President Nixon to release the secret Pentagon Papers and his own White House tapes did not make public the Hayden files.

Why So Secret?

Security agencies have claimed and the courts believed that "…there is "reasonable danger " that revelation of the information…would either…gain insights into national intelligence-gathering methods and capabilities or would disrupt diplomatic relations with foreign governments," as one court put it.[16]  Other descriptions of the secret wiretap material — made by the judges themselves — include national defense, foreign affairs, foreign intelligence, national security, etc.

Several judges protected the material, because it involved "foreign intelligence (communications) taps" — some of  "foreign  agents."[17]  In a Dellinger criminal and civil case involving Hayden being overheard on "national security" wiretaps, Hayden’s closest Chicago associates and POW interviewers David Dellinger and Rennie Davis were also picked up[18] , perhaps on "telephone calls to foreign embassies…[19]  In an Ellsberg case involving Tom Hayden, "foreign intelligence taps" also captured the conversations of Hayden intimates Robert Scheer and Stanley Sheinbaum and his political allies Daniel Ellsberg, Leonard Boudin, and Richard Falk.[20]

U. S. Government Satisfies Court

In Hayden’ s civil suits against the FBI, CIA, and NSA[21] , judges required the government to specify reasons for not releasing each and every document[22]  to him and, after their review, agreed with the government’s specific "national security" exemptions from release for 60 per cent of the FBI files and as much as 80 per cent of the CIA and NSA documents.  Of the available public record, Hayden received mostly parts of 39 per cent of his FBI requests[23]  and 22 per cent of his CIA requests. [24]

The Historical Record of Hayden’s Documented Foreign Contacts

As distinct from the court records, the historical record in this work suggests not only the likely foreign targets of American wiretaps after 1965, but also those targets who very probably talked to Hayden. These are the embassies or agents of Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cambodia, USSR, China, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Clearly it is unlikely that thousands of pages would be required either to record idle gossip about Tom and Jane or to account for Tom Hayden’s requests for visas, tourist pamphlets, and travel arrangements through foreign embassy and agent telephones and telegrams.  Fear of compromising American agents in place and technical capabilities[25]  could explain protecting some documents, but how many for how long?    

Frequent Traveler

Surely, more than travel arrangements may be involved in the following publicly documented foreign contacts of Hayden with enemies of the United States during the Vietnam War:

        December, 1965, in Moscow, Peking, and Hanoi;
        April, 1967, in Puerto Rico for the Castro controlled Tricontinental;
        September, 1967, in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia for a Vietnamese-American "Solidarity Conference";
        October, 1967, in Hanoi observing American "war crimes" (interview of POW Doug Hegdahl);
        November, 1967, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia picking up three American POW1s (Dan Pitzer, Edward R. Johnson, James A. Jackson) and arranging three later POW releases;
        February, 1968,in Havana at Castro’s "Cultural Congress";
        June, 1968, "Good fortune, victory" letter introducing Robert Greenblatt to diplomat and Col. Ha Van Lau;
        July, 1968, in Paris with North Vietnamese;
        other 1968 contacts acquiring North Vietnamese information for articles in Ramparts;
        August, 1968, telephone calls to Havana during the Democratic Convention;
        Robert Greenblatt’s fall 1968, (Hayden arranged?) tour of the Eastern Bloc;
        Robert Scheer’s trip(s) to North Vietnam, China, North Korea in 1968-69;
        1970-1971 contacts acquiring North Vietnamese materials for Hayden’s book … Love of Possession . . . ;
        July, 1972, Jane Fonda on Radio Hanoi;
        fall tour, 1972, in Hanoi;
        December, 1972, Hayden-Fonda telegram to Hanoi;
        April, 1974, tour of  "liberated" South Vietnam;
        spring, 1975, the fall of Cambodia and South Vietnam.

Hayden, Among Hanoi’s Select Few     
Tom Hayden was one of few Americans approved by the communists to travel to their capitols during wartime. Hayden was among a very select few to screen, approve and arrange for the travel of others. He interviewed American POW s and took POWs into his custody. He made radio broadcasts from Hanoi and Havana. He wrote many pro-Hanoi articles and books using communist sources. He organized "solidarity" conferences. Hayden was often summoned to Hanoi, Paris and elsewhere to talk with Hanoi’s  leaders, diplomats and military leaders during war.

If not an agent, Tom Hayden was cheated out of his pay for a job well done. Then, of course, there is Hayden’s astounding claim in 1986 that he "cooperated" with the CIA. If so, why doesn’t the CIA give him his own personnel records?

A Security Threat?

After Ronald Reagan was elected president, the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote a thick report, Mandate for Leadership, making policy recommendations for the new administration. Sam Francis wrote a short chapter on U.S. intelligence in which he cited potential internal security risks –  IPS, KKK, and Hayden’s Campaign for Economic Democracy.[26]  Hayden characterized the Francis report as produced by "the paranoid, fundamentalist right — and I’m talking about people who openly favor repression, wire taps, "black-bag" operations, … the ultra-extremist right wing groups.[27] "


Still Tom Hayden undeniably lost before every liberal judge he faced whenever he attempted to acquire foreign intelligence wiretaps about himself. All courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, said that full releases of the wiretap reports would jeopardize national security.

The Cold War is over. If Tom Hayden has earned medals and promotions as a secret patriot for communist causes, it is time for the communist and free world archivists to now give him his due and his rightful place in history by opening their over classified records to other patriots and historians. Rumors that POW documents in the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok may have been shredded[28]  are a disturbing suggestion of the fate of the Hayden files  — and the truth.

Doubtless, the secret files of other secret patriots in our tale ought to be revealed.  I leave that to the next generation of historians.

*Canfield wrote Comrades in Arms: How the Ameri-Cong Won the Vietnam War Against the Common Enemy – America.


[1]  Thoi Moi cited by Bernard-Joseph Carbanes in an Agence France Presse dispatch of 20 October, 1967 from Hanoi; Paris AFP in English, 1400 GMT, 30 October 67E.  Thoi Moi, October 20, 1967
[2]  U.S. v. Dellinger et al, 472 F 2d 391 (1972).
[3]  First officially revealed by the U.S. Government in Ellsberg et al v. Mitchell et al, 670  F.Supp 1,  June 20, 1984.
[4]  Nixon, RN, Vol. I, pp. 586-87.
[5]  Federal district Judge Julius Hoffman, U.S. v. Dellinger et al, criminal cause No. 18295, see especially 502 F. Supp. 813 before the U.S. District Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit (Chicago). See also New York Times, July 31, 1970.
[6]  U.S. District Court, District of Columbia: David Dellinger et. al. v. John Mitchell, et. al. Civil Action Number 1768-69; Thomas C. [sic] Hayden v. U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Action File No. 76-0288; Daniel Ellsberg et. al. v. John N. Mitchell, Civil Action No. 1879-72; Thomas C [sic] Hayden v. Central Intelligence Agency, Civil Action No. 76-284; Thomas E. Hayden v. National Security Agency, Civil Action No. 76-286.
[7]  U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: Daniel Ellsberg, et. al. v. John N. Mitchell, No. 82-1085; Dellinger et al v. John N. Mitchell, Civil Action No. 23931, 442 F. 2d 782; 143 U.S. App. D.C. 60; Thomas E. Hayden v. National Security Agency, Civil Action No. 78-1728, 608 F. 2d 1381.
[8]  U. S. v. David T. Dellinger, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, November 21, 1972, (criminal) No. 18295, 75-77.
[9]  N.Y. Times, May 13, 1980, pp. 11-17.
[10]  Hayden v. CIA, Civil Action No. 76-284, slip opinion, April 15, 1977.
[11]  Ellsberg et al v. Mitchell et al, Civil Action 1879-72 in 670 F. Supp 1, 4 where Judge Pratt cites Zweibon IV at 170. Hayden’s case had been separated from Ellsberg and the others in 1981, but the fact of and the nature of the wiretaps overhearing Hayden were revealed in Ellsberg.
[12]  The Los Angeles Police Department kept files on Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda according to public and private sources, but these were likely returned to them in November 1983. See: Santa Monica Evening Outlook, "L.A.’s Freedom of Information Act sparks debate," November 30, 1983. Also: a confidential conversation with an LAPD officer with contemporary knowledge of these intelligence files.
[13]  Yet even the illegal domestic wiretaps first ordered by LBJ’s Attorney General Ramsey Clark after the 1967 Detroit riots were ultimately not used in the trial of Hayden and others for disrupting the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968, because the courts found that the overheard conversations, while illegal, "had nothing to do" with either the riot or contempt court trials. They were ruled, except for Bobbie Seale, not "material or relevant," and the government had not "misrepresented the status of the wiretaps."
[14]  Hayden received 7,000 out of 18,000 pages of his FBI files according to news accounts on November 4, 1977.
[15]  Ellsberg et al v. Mitchell et al, Civil Action No. 72-1879, U.S.C.A., D.C., May 10, 1983 and U.S.D.C., D.C. 670 F. Supp. 1, June 20, 1984.
[16]  Ellsberg …, U.S. District  Court  of  Appeals,  D.C., 1983.
[17]  Concurrence and dissent of Circuit Judge MacKinnon in Daniel Ellsberg, et. al. v. John N. Mitchell, No. 82-1085,  U.S. Court  of  Appeals,   May 10, 1983.
[18]  Dellinger et v. Mitchell et al, Civil case No. 1768-69, U.S.D.C., D.C.; and NY Times, June 18, 1969, p. 24. Bobbie Seale and Jerry Rubin were both dropped from the case and very likely not overheard on a privileged national security wiretap.
[19]  UPI, March 15, 1969.
[20]  Daniel Ellsberg, v. John N. Mitchell, et. al. Civil No. 82-1085 (appeal from U.S.D.C., D.C. Civil Action 72-1879), U.S.C.A., D.C., 8, 9, 19.
[21]  Hayden v. Department of Justice et al, Civil Action No. 76-288; Hayden v. Central Intelligence Agency, Civil Action No 76-284; Hayden v. NSA, Civil Action No. 76-286; and Hayden v. the Department of Defense is cited in news clips.
[22]  The Vaughn index is an itemized inventory of each and every document specifying the nature of the information contained in each document, a detailed factual justification of a refusal to release each item, and a citation of a specific exemption from disclosure for each document. In addition, the courts ultimately received logs, transcripts and tapes of the intercepted conversations.
[23]  Of 18,000 pages in 114 volumes, Hayden at first received only 140 of 900 pages processed by November 1975. District William J. Bryant ordered expedited processing on May 21, 1976, but by May 13, 1980, it appears from the public record that the FBI had persuaded judges that the FBI could keep most (11,000 of 18,000 pages or 61 per cent) classified documents — exhibit D, described as two sealed cartons in a vault. See: Hayden v. DOJ et al, Civil Action No. 76-0288. Furthermore, Hayden was denied attorney fees, which would have been required had he "substantially prevailed" in his suit.
[24]  Of 117 CIA documents, he received 3 in full and 23 in part. See: Memorandum and Order of District Court Judge Louis(?) A. Flannery on September 27, 1977 for Hayden v. CIA et al, Civil Action No. 76-284, also slip order of April 15, 1977.
[25]  Revealing some wiretaps might suggest what technical means were necessary to overhear and/or decode conversations on specific telephones or radio channels in specific locations. Similarly, information available to only to one or a few persons at a foreign location might uncover the name(s) of human agents — some of whom might still be in place and/or in high government positions. Yet as time passes and the Cold War ended, these protections of intelligence sources and methods are less justifiable and need to be weighed against a public right and need to know the truth about its history.
[26]  Heritage Foundation, Mandate for Leadership.  See also: Washington Post, April 30, 1981, p. 1.
[27]  George Cornell, San Diego Union, February 9, 1981.

[28]  Evans and Novak column, Sacramento Union, April 16, 1993

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