Categorized | Crime, Media, National

Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secrets

 

 

The Greatest Heist You Never Heard Of Until Now–

Burglars Who Took on FBI Abandon Shadows

(New York Times Video)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

One night in 1971, files were stolen from an F.B.I. office near Philadelphia. 
They proved that the bureau was spying on thousands of Americans.
The case was unsolved, until now.

 

From The New York Times, by Mark Mazzetti:

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The perfect crime is far easier to pull off when nobody is watching.

So on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance.

Why They Did It

The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation.  They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement.  “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

Mr. Forsyth, now 63, and other members of the group can no longer be prosecuted for what happened that night, and they agreed to be interviewed before the release this week of a book written by one of the first journalists to receive the stolen documents.  

The author, Betty Medsger, a former reporter for The Washington Post, spent years sifting through the F.B.I.’s voluminous case file on the episode and persuaded five of the eight men and women who participated in the break-in to end their silence.

…Ms. Medsger’s article cited what was perhaps the most damning document from the cache, a 1970 memorandum that offered a glimpse into Hoover’s obsession with snuffing out dissent.  The document urged agents to step up their interviews of antiwar activists and members of dissident student groups.

“It will enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across there is an F.B.I. agent behind every mailbox,” the message from F.B.I. headquarters said.  Another document, signed by Hoover himself, revealed widespread F.B.I. surveillance of black student groups on college campuses.

But the document that would have the biggest impact on reining in the F.B.I.’s domestic spying activities was an internal routing slip, dated 1968, bearing a mysterious word:  Cointelpro.

Unlike Mr. Snowden, who downloaded hundreds of thousands of digital N.S.A. files onto computer hard drives, the Media burglars did their work the 20th-century way: they cased the F.B.I. office for months, wore gloves as they packed the papers into suitcases, and loaded the suitcases into getaway cars.

When the operation was over, they dispersed.  Some remained committed to antiwar causes, while others, like John and Bonnie Raines (seen in the above picture and to the right), decided that the risky burglary would be their final act of protest against the Vietnam War and other government actions before they moved on with their lives.

“We didn’t need attention, because we had done what needed to be done,” said Mr. Raines, 80, who had, with his wife, arranged for family members to raise the couple’s three children if they
were sent to prison.

“The ’60s were over. We didn’t have to hold on to what we did back then.”

A Meticulous Plan

The burglary was the idea of William C. Davidon, a professor of physics at Haverford College and a fixture of antiwar protests in Philadelphia, a city that by the early 1970s had become a white-hot center of the peace movement.  Mr. Davidon was frustrated that years of organized demonstrations seemed to have had little impact.

In the summer of 1970, months after President Richard M. Nixon announced the United States’ invasion of Cambodia, Mr. Davidon began assembling a team from a group of activists whose commitment and discretion he had come to trust.

The group — originally nine, before one member dropped out — concluded that it would be too risky to try to break into the F.B.I. office in downtown Philadelphia, where security was tight.  They soon settled on the bureau’s satellite office in Media, in an apartment building across the street from the county courthouse.

That decision carried its own risks:  Nobody could be certain whether the satellite office would have any documents about the F.B.I.’s surveillance of war protesters, or whether a security alarm would trip as soon as the burglars opened the door.

The group spent months casing the building, driving past it at all times of the night and memorizing the routines of its residents…

 

…An excerpt, you can read the rest of this surprisingly interesting article by Mark Mazetti in the New York Times here.

Leave a Reply

HumSentinel on Twitter

RSS Progressive Review

  • Learning Vietnam
    From 50 years of our overstocked archives. The following documents some of the steps your editor went through to arrive at full opposition to the war in Vietnam. It may be helpful - and perhaps hopeful - to those trying to change minds about the current conficts.] Sam Smith - Although a researcher stumbling upon The Idler, the predecessor to the Progressive […]
  • Pocket paradigms: Corruption
    1. Hit the corrupters at least as hard as the corruptees. The real danger in corruption is what the bribe buys, not the soul of the bought politician (which probably never was in that great a shape anyway).2. The worst corruption tends to be legal, therefore hardly anyone notices it. Remember that corrupt not only means dishonest, it also means without integ […]
  • Word
    When it shall be said in any country in the world, 'My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive -- when these thing can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and government. -- Thomas Paine […]
  • Median net worth of Americans declines
    Washington Post - The median net worth of American households declined between 2000 and 2011, the Census Bureau said  in a report that showed the steepest drops experienced by minorities and people under age 55.The wealth drop in the bottom 60 percent was so great that it more than offset healthy increases in the net worth of the top 40 percent. As a result, […]
  • 16th state wins federal court decision for gay marriage
    ACLU […]
  • Distressed house sales drop
    Foreclosed or 'short sale' properties have dropped below 10 percent of sales for the first time since the Great Recession. In 2009, more than 1 in 3 home sales were distressed. […]
  • Word
     Made in America […]
  • Mike Michaud does it again
    The only candidate for governor in the US who is a Democrat, gay, member of the steelworkers union, and endorsed by the state police association, has done it again. Working Maine - The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine treleased its grades for Maine candidates for governor. The organization gave U.S. Rep. Michaud, the Democratic nominee for governor, an A-, noti […]
  • Helicopter parenting out of control
    Reason -  A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.What's more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (an […]
  • Military bans the Intercept
    Popular Resistance - The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets. According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from r […]
  • Word
    Corrupted by wealth and power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen - Huey Long […]
  • Pocket paradigms
    The rise of corporations truly represented a counter-coup against the values of the American Revolution. It dramatically undermined both political and economic freedom, corrupted politicians and ransacked national assets. It replaced the feudalism of the monarchy with the feudalism of the corporation. - Sam Smith […]
  • The immigration myth
    From 59 years of overstocked archivesSam Smith, 2006 IT IS taken as a given in the immigration debate that our current system for dealing with the issue has some sort of historical logic. It doesn't. The story of immigration in the U.S. is a mishmash of hospitality and hatred, encouragement and restriction. The Naturalization Act of 1790, for example, s […]
  • Small town on Pacific island to be first to move because of climate change
    Think Progress - A small town on Taro Island — the capital of Choiseul Province in the Solomon Islands — is planning to relocate its entire population in response to climate change, Reuters reports. It’s the first time that a provincial capital in the Pacific Islands will have done so.The islands that make up Choiseul Province and the rest of the Solomon Isl […]
  • Word: A public defender on being black and poor in Ferguson
    Thomas Harvey, executive director and co-founder of ArchCity Defenders:  His group represents low-income residents of St. Louis County in municipal court proceedings. Clients reported being jailed for the inability to pay fines, losing jobs and housing as result of the incarceration, being refused access to the courts if they were with their children or othe […]