March 4, 2016

Activist lawyer and publisher William Schaap dies at 75


Attorney and activist William Schaap. Image via YouTube.

Attorney and activist William Schaap. Image via YouTube.

William Schaap, an activist lawyer who also founded Sheridan Square Press and CovertAction Quarterly, died in Manhattan on February 25th at the age of 75. Sam Roberts writes about his life in The New York Times:

Mr. Schaap began his activism in law school, counseling students arrested in Chicago for protesting segregated housing.
As a lawyer, he defended Columbia University students arrested in 1968 for occupying campus buildings to protest the war in Vietnam. In the late 1960s, he left a Wall Street law firm where he was an associate and moved to Japan and Germany with his wife, Ellen Ray, to counsel resisters to the war in Vietnam.

In 1976, Schaap and Ray founded CovertAction, published to report on what they considered illegal CIA activities. It also, as Roberts notes, “identified C.I.A. agents by name, from unclassified sources, a practice outlawed by Congress in 1982.” Schaap also represented Philip Agee, and other C.I.A. whistle-blowers.

In 1980, in a letter to The New York Times, Mr. Schaap, Ms. Ray and Louis Wolf, the editors of what was then called The Covert Action Information Bulletin, wrote, “We do not object to intelligence gathering; we object to the covert interference in the affairs of other nations, the refusal to let the people of those nations decide for themselves upon their leaders, their systems of government and the forms of institutions they desire.”

Mr. Schaap and Ms. Ray often singled out The Times for criticism through their Institute for Media Analysis and later a monthly news-media watchdog magazine, Lies of Our Times. They criticized, among other articles, what they called favorable coverage of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and of F. W. de Klerk, the president of South Africa during apartheid, in The Times and other mainstream publications.

Schaap and Ray later founded Sheridan Square Press, where they published On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrisson. Garrison, as New Orleans district attorney, prosecuted a local businessman for the murder of President John F. Kennedy. The book was later used as source material for Oliver Stone‘s film JFK.

In 2005, Schaap moved to New Orleans part-time to represent homeowners displaced by Hurricane Katrina.



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.