Born in 1925 in Vienna, Austria, Peter Weiss spent his professional career as an attorney specializing in international law, and was a senior partner in a New York law firm. He was also chairman of the Institute for Policy Studies‘ (IPS) board of directors from 1963 until the 1990s. His wife, the longtime activist Cora Weiss, was likewise a key figure in the founding and administration of that Institute.
In the 1960s, Peter Weiss became a cooperating lawyer and vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. In the Sixties and early Seventies he was an officer of the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and a national council member of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee.
From the late Sixties through the 1970s, Weiss was active with the American Committee on Africa, then the chief support group for the Communist-controlled African National Congress (ANC), which was fighting to overthrow the white government of South Africa. This Committee sent a number of ANC members to the United States to meet with black American radicals.
In 1974 Weiss became an advisory committee member of the Center for National Security Studies, which sought to slash U.S. defense expenditures and undermine America’s intelligence capabilities.
In the mid-1970s Weiss tried to assist the radical West German attorney Kurt Gronewold, who had been convicted of running a communications network between incarcerated terrorists of the Red Army Faction, a self-described group of communist “urban guerrillas,” and their comrades who were still at large.
Following the 1976 assassination of Transnational Institute director Orlando Letelier (a former high official of the Marxist coalition government of Chile), Weiss continued Letelier’s solidarity work on behalf of the Chilean left. Many years later, he would play a key role in the international campaign to bring longtime Chilean president Augusto Pinochet to trial as a war criminal.
In 1977 Weiss led a delegation to the Philippines to publicize reports that the government there was torturing political prisoners. This delegation was sponsored by two front groups for the Communist Party of the Philippines: the Anti-Martial Law Coalition, and Friends Of The Filipino People.
In 1979 Weiss was a signatory to a letter from the Southern Africa Working Group urging the Jimmy Carter administration not to recognize Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s moderate black-majority government in Zimbabwe. Early the following year, Muzorewa lost his country’s presidential election to the committed Leninist Robert Mugabe, who ran a corrupt campaign rife with voter intimidation and thuggery.
In 1981 Weiss and other influential National Lawyers Guild (NLG) members (including Martin Popper of the Communist Party USA) founded the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), whose officers and “consultative council” included numerous activists from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the National Lawyers Guild; one of those was the IPS’s Richard Barnet. Seven years later, Weiss was the founding president of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.
In his book Shadow World, author Robert Chandler writes: “The organizations Peter Weiss was affiliated with also made up an interlocking directorate of an anti-intelligence lobby, which included the NLG, Center for Constitutional Rights (led by William Kunstler), NECLC [National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee], the ACLU, and Committee for Public Justice. Although labeled a Communist Party front in the early 1950s, the full extent of NECLC’s role was unknown until the VENONA Project was released in the early 1990s.”
In the 1980s, Weiss, along with such individuals as Richard Falk and Tom Harkin, served on the board of directors of Interlink, the U.S. affiliate of the global news agency Inter Press Service. Inter Press had previously cultivated noteworthy ties to Philip Agee (a Cuban/KGB agent who was friends with IPS London bureau chief Phil Kelly), and to Orlando Letelier (the late KGB agent and onetime Transnational Institute director who was a personal friend of Inter Press founder Roberto Savio).
In March 2007, Weiss spoke on a panel titled The Nuclear Threat, Now More Than Ever at the Left Forum, which was held at Cooper Union College in New York City.
In 2007, Weiss and several fellow NLG members (including Marjorie Cohn) testified at a House Judiciary Committee Public Policy Forum on the Bush/Cheney administration’s alleged violations of international law vis-à-vis the Iraq War. Their testimony laid the foundation for NLG’s unanimous November 2007 vote in favor of a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
As of 2009, Weiss was a board of directors member with Americans for Peace Now, an anti-Israel organization.
Further Reading: Shadow World: Resurgent Russia, the Global New Left, and Radical Islam (by Robert Chandler, pp. 196-202); “Peter Weiss” (Keywiki.org).