The Burglary

The Burglary

The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI

eBook - 2014
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The never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists--quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans--that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, his own shadow Bureau of Investigation. It begins in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War ... A small group ofactivists--eight men and women--the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan's rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land. The would-be burglars--nonpro's--were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist, a lock picker; a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule. Betty Medsger's extraordinary book re-creates in resonant detail how this group of unknowing thieves, in their meticulous planning of the burglary, scouted out the low-security FBI building in a small town just west of Philadelphia, taking into consideration every possible factor, and how they planned the break-in for the night of the long-anticipated boxing match between Joe Frazier (war supporter and friend to President Nixon) and Muhammad Ali (convicted for refusing to serve in the military), knowing that all would be fixated on their televisions and radios. Medsger writes that the burglars removed all of the FBI files and, with the utmost deliberation, released them to various journalists and members of Congress, soon upending the public's perception of the inviolate head of the Bureau and paving the way for the first overhaul of the FBI since Hoover became its director in 1924. And we see how the release of the FBI files to the press set the stage for the sensational release three months later, by Daniel Ellsberg, of the top-secret, seven-thousand-page Pentagon study on U.S. decision-making regarding the Vietnam War, which became known as the Pentagon Papers. At the heart of the heist--and the book--the contents of the FBI files revealing J. Edgar Hoover's "secret counterintelligence program "COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States in order "to enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles, "to make clear to all Americans that an FBI agent was "behind every mailbox, "a plan that would discredit, destabilize, and demoralize groups, many of them legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups that Hoover found offensive--as well as black power groups, student activists, antidraft protestors, conscientious objectors. The author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post The Burglary From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780307962966
0307962962
0307962954
9780307962959
Characteristics: 1 online resource.
Summary: The never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists--quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans--that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, his own shadow Bureau of Investigation. It begins in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War ... A small group ofactivists--eight men and women--the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan's rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land. The would-be burglars--nonpro's--were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist, a lock picker; a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule. Betty Medsger's extraordinary book re-creates in resonant detail how this group of unknowing thieves, in their meticulous planning of the burglary, scouted out the low-security FBI building in a small town just west of Philadelphia, taking into consideration every possible factor, and how they planned the break-in for the night of the long-anticipated boxing match between Joe Frazier (war supporter and friend to President Nixon) and Muhammad Ali (convicted for refusing to serve in the military), knowing that all would be fixated on their televisions and radios. Medsger writes that the burglars removed all of the FBI files and, with the utmost deliberation, released them to various journalists and members of Congress, soon upending the public's perception of the inviolate head of the Bureau and paving the way for the first overhaul of the FBI since Hoover became its director in 1924. And we see how the release of the FBI files to the press set the stage for the sensational release three months later, by Daniel Ellsberg, of the top-secret, seven-thousand-page Pentagon study on U.S. decision-making regarding the Vietnam War, which became known as the Pentagon Papers. At the heart of the heist--and the book--the contents of the FBI files revealing J. Edgar Hoover's "secret counterintelligence program "COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States in order "to enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles, "to make clear to all Americans that an FBI agent was "behind every mailbox, "a plan that would discredit, destabilize, and demoralize groups, many of them legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups that Hoover found offensive--as well as black power groups, student activists, antidraft protestors, conscientious objectors. The author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post The Burglary From the Hardcover edition.

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bibliotechnocrat Dec 07, 2016

Determining that there was no other way to expose the FBI's quashing of dissent, targeted harassment of African Americans, politically motivated intimidation, and other illegal activities, a group of activists decided to burglarize an FBI office to get the evidence. It was 1971, and their release of the stolen files to journalists (one of whom is the author of the book), led to profound changes in the bureau; an act of resistance that succeeded beyond expectations. It's a fascinating tale, painting a picture of the rather ordinary people who pulled off this extraordinary feat and managed to evade capture. It's also a portrait of an intelligence agency run amok due to lack to meaningful oversight. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, the book is only good; it could have been great, given the subject and level of research. But the delivery is marred by odd structural choices, awkward sentences and way too much repetition. A brisk edit would vastly improved this one (are you listening, Knopf?). Still, an important and very current read.

b
bkevin
Jul 13, 2015

A story of true patriotism. Every one should read this
They were needed, says Kairys [a professor at Temple University School of Law], thinking of the burglars and of that era. "There
are certain points in history where a society goes so wrong, and there are certain people who will say, 'I won't stand for that ...
I will risk career, life, limb, family, freedom....And I will take this risk, and I will go and do it.’
“And it certainly is not something that’s over," says Kairys. People “are going to be called upon again.”

d
dbdavis
Apr 05, 2015

In the debate over the Canadian government's plan to grant sweeping powers, and no apparent oversight, to secret agencies under bill C-51, this book is an outstanding case study of how things go wrong. Even if the targeting of innocent citizens does not annoy you, the tremendous waste of taxpayers' money, the counterproductive actions (cases thrown out because evidence was illegally gathered), the divided loyalties and misaligned priorities within the agency, make for a cautionary tale well worth the reading.

s
StarGladiator
Apr 25, 2014

James Comey, that neocon, was appointed by President Obama to be FBI director. Comey's bona fides: was a director at HSBC Holdings, the bank which did money laundering for 10 years for several drug cartels in the vicinity of almost $5 trillion worth. Also worked at the world's largest hedge fund before appointed to the directorship. An author writing about Robert Mueller III, the previous FBI director, praised and sanctified both Mueller and Comey; Comey for approaching Bush's AG -- while he was in the hospital -- with Ted Olson, claiming Comey saved the US Constitution by threatening to resign if Bush was allowed to enact something classified [actually both Comey and Mueller signed off on warrantless wiretapping, which this was about], ditto for Robert Mueller. [Ted Olson and Comey both once worked at the law firm, Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, where Olson was involved in litigating on behalf of Bush in Bush v. Gore, and later would face the Supreme Court again for Citizens United, and previously was with Reagan's Iran-Contra team.] So Robert Mueller III, appointed by Bush, reappointed by Obama, was the grandnephew of Richard Bissell, one of the three top CIA guys President Kennedy fired, while Mueller's wife is the granddaugher of Gen. Cabell, another of those three CIA guys President Kennedy fired, making her the grandniece of Cabell's brother, Mayor Earl Cabell of Dallas, who altered JFK's motorcade route at the last moment. The Mueller family's money comes from the Truesdale side; originally helping Rockefeller to blow up [with incendiaries] competing oil refineries, and other Truesdale family members -- who practised the law -- defended them in court. The Truesdale family would be rewarded with a railroad from the Rockefellers. Now, doesn't all this seem relatively connected?

Robert E. Anderson Mar 17, 2014

History has not been kind to John Edgar Hoover. Deservedly so. An ironic aspect of Hoover's 48 year reign as Director of the FBI is that he was as much a felon as the lawbreakers his organization was charged to apprehend. The list of nefarious activities is as long as it is shameful.

None of the FBI's unlawful activities might ever have been revealed if eight ordinary, but very courageous, citizens had not taken a page from the FBI's playbook and burglarized an FBI office in Media, PA. Suddenly the vaunted reputation of Hoover and his FBI unraveled like a cheap suit.

It is a pity Hoover never faced an investigation of his illicit activities as he died within a year of the break-in. Still, the exposure of the true nature of the despicable person Hoover really was is a great legacy of the "Media Eight." One thing left to do is expunge the Hoover name from the FB headquarters building in Washington, DC.

bam_stutz Jan 22, 2014

Why is this only available as an eBook? I'd much prefer to read the book. Thanks,

s
StarGladiator
Jan 18, 2014

This story is even more current today, with the blatant anti-citizen spying of the NSA, CIA, DIA, et cetera! With the domestic spying by the FBI of activists, community organizers, authors and others (COINTEL program) crucial financial resources were used by those in power, and the rich who supported them, to usurp control from the citizens while, in some cases, destroying their lives. Today we have devolved to the Bush/Obama preemptive arrests of activists and organizer's, President Obama's War on Whistleblowers, where the likes of CIA analyst, John Kiriakou is in jail for leaking the illegal torture of innocents by the CIA, while Obama suppresses a report on such illegal CIA torture!

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