Review: Tannenbaum’s Badge of the Assassin

Badge of the Assassin

Robert Tannenbaum
Philip Rosenberg

For a while there, I was deeply interested in the history of armed struggle / terrorism in America, especially as undertaken in the 1970s by groups like the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army and others. Much of this era was still shrouded in secrecy and misrepresentation when I read this book. That meant that if you wanted more information about what happened, you spoke with the participants** or you read trashy contemporary accounts from reporters and Das.

This is the incredibly trashy, sensationalistic book written by the DA who put the New York Three* in jail. Not surprisingly, it glosses over the alleged torture of some of the witnesses in this case, and brings up none of the information the defendants assert today as reasons for why they are innocent.

It’s really the worst kind of memoir — a brag fest from couple of prosecutors interested painting the defendants in the world possible light while turning themselves into a pair of Eliot Nesses.

Belief in the innocence of the NY3 is a article of faith in certain corners of the left, and I’ll confess, at one point, I felt that way as well. Now, I’m not so sure.  I am sure that the story is far more complex than it appears in this misleading (and badly written, it must be said) book.

Not recommended (unless you’re an insane 1970s armed struggle completest).

* Which I did, I corresponded for a time with Muntaquim and Bell.

* The NY3 are Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaquim and Nuh Washington (deceased). They are, depending on who you believe, murders of a couple of New York City police officers, or members of the Black Liberation Army who were framed to silence their political dissent. Nuh died in jail, Herman and Jalil are now elderly, and still in prison where they will likely be for life.

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