New Left Activist
August 22, 1949|
San Francisco, California
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley, History 1991 University of California, Santa Barbara, Psychology 1976|
|Known for||Weather Underground, 60 Minutes Interview with Mike Wallace|
Matthew Landy Steen (born August 22, 1949) is a former member of Weather Underground Organization, Students for a Democratic Society and Yippies, a New Left activist and editor of Berkeley Tribe in the 1960s. In 1972 he was indicted on federal conspiracy and bank robbery charges to finance radical leftist Weatherman activities, sentenced to a ten-year federal prison term.
Steen was featured on the lead segment of 60 Minutes, "Fake ID", in an interview with Mike Wallace, first airing February 1, 1976. This was the first time a former Weatherman had ever appeared on national television He was queried about false identities and traveler's check fraud.
Steen attended Mission High School, growing up in the city's first post-World War II housing project. His father enlisted in the United States Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, serving in the Pacific Theater, and as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean hostilities. His younger brother Scott Steen is a jazz trumpeter and session man with Royal Crown Revue, recording on more than 20 albums. Twice married, he has two children by adoption, Kahlio Landy and Aukhia Latisha. Steen resides in the Mission District in San Francisco working as a community organizer and policy advocate around social justice, anti-poverty, supportive housing and homelessness issues.
1976 60 Minutes interview
Interviewed in Beverly Hills in mid-1975 by Mike Wallace, Steen responded to questions about identity theft (he possessed ID of at least 150 people) and how he purchased and reported stolen some $50,000 to $100,000 in traveler's checks, while still being able to cash the originals. This was the first time a former Weatherman had appeared on the CBS news show. It was re-broadcast several months later.
Transcript of Steen's portion of the segment: [From the Congressional Record. May 24, 1977]
"60 MINUTES" MAY 16, 1977—"FALSE ID"
(Note: the episode first aired February 1, 1976 and re-aired on May 16, 1976. It never aired in 1977 and the actual title is "Fake ID")
. . . MIKE WALLACE: Walking proof that the process really does work is this young man, Matthew Steen, alias Eric Gilbert Dietz, alias T. Swingle Frick, III, alias Romez Tormey. In 1970, while a student at Berkeley, Steen went underground as a member of the militant Weathermen organization. Before he was arrested in 1971, Steen says he had obtained a hundred-fifty different identities—almost all of them courtesy of various Government agencies.
What kind of documents are we talking about?
MATTHEW STEEN: Birth certificates, notarized birth certificates, driver's licenses from various states, occasionally Social Security cards, and other superficial types of identification, like librarv cards, et cetera.
WALLACE: And you had no real difficulty in doing this?
WALLACE: By the time the FBI got to him in 1971, Steen acknowledges he had used various fake ID's to rip off the Bank of America. He'd buy a set of Travellers' Checks; then, a couple of weeks later, claim they'd been lost or stolen—and get replacements. He had doubled his money.
How much did you make this way?
STEEN: Somewhere between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars.
WALLACE: Among the official documents Matt Steen obtained under assumed names was a U.S. passport. Well, for decades, the head of the passport office in Washington has been keenly aware of the fake ID problem—Frances Knight.
Ms. FRANCES KNIGHT: This has been going on for years. Identify fraud is nothing that—that is new in this Administration or in this decade. And yet, nobody—including the—the brains of the Department of Justice—have been able to come up with anything to stop it. It's been increasing. . . .
Steen was released from federal prison in Santa Barbara, was twice elected to the Isla Vista Municipal Advisory Council, and later became Executive Director. Steen founded the Isla Vista Legal Defense Center, still in operation in 2015 as part of University of California, Santa Barbara.
Aboveground public service
In his earlier post-prison days, Steen had been treasurer of Students for Jerry Brown for President in 1976. He was then elected to the board of trustees of a community college district in Santa Barbara.
- Jamison, Peter (16 September 2009). "Time Bomb". SF Weekly. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- Jamison, Peter (17 September 2009). "TIME BOMB: A '70S COP KILLING INVESTIGATION LEADS TO A CHICAGO LAW PROFESSOR WHO HELPED LAUNCH BARACK OBAMA'S POLITICAL CAREER". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
- Burrough, Bryan (7 April 2015). Days of Rage. Penguin. pp. 96–97. ISBN 9780698170070. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on Crime. (1984). False identification: hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, Ninety-seventh Congress, second session, on H.R. 352, H.R. 6105, H.R. 6946, and S. 2043 false identification, May 5, 1982. Washington: U.S. G.P.O.. p.55
- Board of Trustees: Board of Trustees - Santa Barbara City College