Patricia Hearst was kidnapped by two black men and a white woman Feb. 4 from the apartment she shared with her lover in the student section of Berkeley, the site of the enormous U.C. Berkeley campus and a city adjacent to San Francisco.
...the SLA took Patricia Hearst "prisoner of war" because of the "crimes" of her parents, the series of communiqués from the SLA, fulsome yet widely published in full at the request of Hearst, have set off a historic and bizarre series of "pre-negotiation" negotiations and "pre-ransom" ransoms. The SLA asked not for money, but for a "gesture of good faith" from Hearst — the distribution of millions of dollars of groceries to the poor — before negotiations can begin for the release of his daughter. The SLA trapped much of the left, catching it from an unexpected angle and forcing a number of organizations to become involved almost against their will, when they named a dozen local left groups and asked them to oversee the distribution of food.
Now, after several nearly-aborted efforts to distribute food, a process that has been clumsy and irritating to those receiving food, those distributing it, the Hearsts and the SLA, time is stretching out and the bumbling of both the demands for food and the distribution has increased the tension. On all sides the pressures seem to be becoming more focused, like sunlight through a magnifying glass. And under all that focused pressure is nineteen-year-old Patricia, nearing the end of her second month in captivity, undeniably (if one is to take her messages on the SLA tape recording for her thoughts) angry and upset at the delays. The pressure increases daily on Patricia, on the SLA (whose resources are apparently limited and must be getting scarce), and the pressure is increasing on the Hearst family, who at the moment have to come up with something that will convince the SLA that the funds the family has available are much more limited than either the SLA or Patricia Hearst thought them to be (Hearst has said he cannot personally meet the new demand for $4 million more) or get the money from somewhere. And Hearst at the same time, must keep his unique control over the FBI, which as Patricia Hearst has stated repeatedly and with increased bitterness, is not noted for restrained tactics that place the security of the hostage all that far above the apprehension of the kidnappers. ("Normal procedure" for the FBI would indicate the necessity of "going in to get her." But after such a long time has passed it would seem reasonable to expect the kidnappers to kill rather than free her.) But this is a unique event, an American political kidnapping, thus far with no money ransomed. There are no FBI precedents.
Hearst now feels, according to a very close advisor that "time is of the essence." The later it gets, the more (Hearst's) chances decrease to convince the authorities to consider this case exceptional, making "exceptional provisions possible." In his next message to the SLA, Hearst will reportedly call for "concise concrete and feasible suggestions now" on the food distribution program and particularly on the future exchange of his daughter for "other considerations."