Testimony at the trial established that Lemmer had urged militant — sometimes even violent — tactics upon his VVAW comrades. At the University of Arkansas, trial affidavits charge, Lemmer “aided and abetted” a young student in a plan to blow up a college building. And Scott Camil testified that it was Lemmer who tried to persuade the Gainesville VVAW chapter to disrupt the nomination of Richard Nixon in Miami, that his arguments were rejected in favor of concentrating on peaceful lobbying at the Democrats’ convention.
Lemmer had himself testified to a congressional committee investigating veterans’ problems in 1971 that he had been offered a psychiatric discharge from the Army. Last week, chain-smoking Kools and occasionally nervously brushing a fallen ash from his snug white, cotton, leisure suit, Lemmer allowed that his “dark side goes very deep, very deep. It’s like living with a goddamn tiger in my closet .... You know, it’s the ol’ PVS thing.” (PVS, or “Post-Vietnam Syndrome,” has been identified by some psychiatrists and psychologists as a recognized set of symptoms of nervous disorder common to Vietnam veterans.)
Lemmer’s first wife left him after he surfaced as an FBI informant in Florida; his second, who bore him a child, moved out of Washington last year. The first wife also had him arrested and held for a sanity hearing after he began writing letters threatening her and his former friends in VVAW. In one letter, he warned that he would come for them “in tennis shoes,” with “a length of piano wire.” In another, he boasted that “I am not a leg infantryman like them. I am an elitist (sic) paratrooper, SF (Special Forces) ranger.”
“Tell them,” he warned his wife, “to keep an eye over their shoulders at all times, because one evening soon they’ll see that satisfying smile of mine.”
In our interview he was bitter one moment, deeply reflective another; then he quickly changed moods to display, proudly, a cartoon strip called “Killer Diller” about an “Abby Hoffman-type character who’s come out from under a manhole cover after a decade in hiding to show the American Agriculture Movement how to organize a protest in Washington.” Lemmer said last week that he has “mellowed out since Vietnam and Gainesville. If I didn’t cut loose then, I never will.”
While he blames the Justice Department “for doing me more harm than anybody else,” Lemmer charges that the VVAW members he testified against have hounded him from city to city, causing him to lose jobs. His experiences — whether these specific charges are accurate or not — offer a view of the future facing other government informants whose identities may surface on the order of a New York judge in a case involving the Socialist Workers Party. The SWP has filed a $40 million dollar suit against the government for its 30-year campaign of intimidation, harassment, and infiltration of the Trotskyist party. Three weeks ago, the judge hearing the case ordered the Justice Department to reveal the names of its informants and agents to defense attorneys. Attorney General Griffin Bell has so far indicated that he will face a contempt citation rather than give up the names (he was scheduled to make his decision by Friday, July 7).