The FBI announced today the midnight arrest of three members of the Jewish Defense League on federal charges of interstate transportation of explosive materials and a JDL official promptly charged that there was a “strong possibility” the FBI had planted the explosives in the car containing two of the three JDL members. The FBI said the New York City Police Department and the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey took part in the investigation leading to the arrest.
J. Wallace Leprade, assistant director of the FBI in charge of the New York office, and Michael J. Codd, New York City Police Commissioner, jointly announced the arrests at a press conference this morning at FBI headquarters here. They said those arrested were Steven Isaac Ehrlich, 20, of Brooklyn; Thomas Macintosh Jr., 36, of Woodbury, N.J.; and a 17-year-old juvenile, whose name was withheld because of his age.
Leprade said that an extensive joint investigation by the three agencies led to the arrest of Ehrlich and the juvenile at the Goethals Bridge on Staten Island, shortly after they crossed over the bridge from New Jersey. He said the two suspects had been found to be in possession of a quantity of black powder commonly used in preparation of explosive devices. Macintosh, described by the JDL as a convert to Judaism, was arrested at his home in Woodbury. Leprade said conviction carried a prison sentence and/or a $10,000 fine.
Within an hour and a half of the FBI announcement, the JDL called a press conference at its headquarters here at which Dov Fisch, JDL associate director, suggested an FBI plant. Under insistent questioning by reporters as to whether the three members were in fact carrying explosive material, Fisch said there was “a possibility of 30 percent” and that there was also a 70 percent possibility that the few pounds of explosive powder were planted by the FBI.
CHARGES SOVIET PRESSURE
Fisch also asserted that the arrests were the result of “an increasing pressure by the Soviets on the United States government to arrest Jews” because of the FBI’s inability so far to find those responsible for the recurrent attacks on Soviet diplomats and installations in the United States. The JDL has reacted to the attacks by denying complicity but praising the attacks.
Fisch also said that the Ford Administration, in arresting the three JDL men, wanted to save detente with the Soviet Union and that the JDL rejected “crucifixion of the three Jews on the cross of detente.”
He called on established Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, to raise-bail for the three suspects. He indicated the three were being held incommunicado by the FBI and that the JDL did not know where they were.
A spokesman for the FBI, in reporting on the arrests, said that the three men had been taken before federal magistrates here and in Camden, N. J., but that he did not then know what disposition had been made of their cases. Fisch’s comment and appeal for bail help indicated the three remained in custody.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.