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Thread: FBI burglars break silence

  1. #1


    More than 40 years ago, on the evening of March 8, 1971, a group of burglars carried out an audacious plan. They pried open the door of an FBI office in Pennsylvania and stole files about the bureau's surveillance of anti-war groups and civil rights organizations.
    Hundreds of agents tried to identify the culprits, but the crime went unsolved. Until now.
    “ We thought somebody needed to confront Hoover and document what many of us knew was happening.

    - Bonnie Raines

    For the first time, a new book reveals that the burglars were peace demonstrators who wanted to start a debate about the FBI's unchecked power to spy on Americans. And it's coming out at a time when the country is weighing the merits of surveillance all over again.
    The plotters executed their break-in on a night when millions of people sat glued to their TV sets, watching Muhammad Ali square off against Joe Frazier for the heavyweight championship of the world. That 15-round bout was a brilliant distraction exploited by a group of anti-war activists who set out to burgle a small FBI office outside Philadelphia and expose some of J. Edgar Hoover's secrets.
    Bonnie Raines was one of those activists, and she's talking publicly about what she did for the first time in 42 years.
    "It seemed that no one else was going to stand up to Hoover's FBI at that time, and we knew what Hoover's FBI was doing in Philadelphia in terms of illegal surveillance and intimidation," Raines says. "And we thought somebody needed to confront Hoover and document what many of us knew was happening."
    Stealing From The FBI
    Weeks earlier, Bonnie had piled her long hippie hair into a winter cap, put on a pair of glasses and posed as a college student interested in the FBI. She wanted to get a look inside the bureau's small office in the town of Media, Pa., to case the joint, even if it meant risking imprisonment.
    Another member of the team, draft protester Keith Forsyth, was chosen to pick the lock at the FBI office. But when the time came, he got a nasty surprise.
    "When I got there, there was a brand-new high-security lock on the door," Forsyth says.
    Forsyth rushed back to confer with the other burglars, and they agreed to keep trying. So he returned to the office, got down on the ground and slowly applied a crowbar to another door.
    "It was a great relief, because, you know, the original plan was for me to be in and out in a couple of minutes, and I don't know how long I spent up there but it was probably at least an hour," Forsyth says.
    Forsyth and the other burglars chose the name of their group carefully.
    "We called ourselves the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI," says John Raines. He was a professor of religion at Temple University and Bonnie's husband.
    The burglars were sure that Hoover — who ruled the bureau with an iron fist — had been carrying out illegal surveillance on Vietnam protesters and civil rights groups.
    "And he was an icon — nobody in Washington was going to hold him accountable," John Raines says. "He could get away with doing whatever he wanted to do with his FBI, and it was his FBI, nobody else's."
    The breaking and entering was supposed to get evidence of that spying so Congress and the public could no longer ignore it. Not long after the burglary, reporter Betty Medsger received an anonymous package at her desk at the Washington Post: secret documents. She published the story.
    "The country learned for the first time that the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover was almost completely different from what the country thought it was," Medsger says.
    The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI
    Hardcover, 596 pages

    An Agency Revealed

    Medsger's new book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, covers the history of that episode, and the revelations those documents helped bring to light.
    For one, the FBI had been opening files on so-called subversives — including people who simply wrote letters to the editor objecting to the war in Vietnam. The papers also showed the FBI was encouraging agents to infiltrate schools and churches in the black community using secret informants, turning people against each other.
    "I think most striking in the Media files at first was a statement that had to do with the philosophy, the policy of the FBI," Medsger says. "And it was a document that instructed agents to enhance paranoia, to make people feel there's an FBI agent behind every mailbox."
    Powerful stuff for people like John Raines, who had traveled south as a Freedom Rider and marched in Selma, Ala., on Bloody Sunday.
    "The distinction between being a criminal and breaking laws is very important," he says. "When the law, or when the institutions that enforce laws [and] interpret laws, become the crime as happened in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, then the only way to stop that crime from happening is to expose what's going on."

    Before long, the purloined files from that tiny FBI office published by Medsger and other reporters began to attract wide attention. It took years and revelations by other reporters and a congressional investigation led by Sen. Frank Church, but eventually lawmakers did rein in the FBI and the CIA.
    Medsger's new book about the FBI investigation fills in some details. Hundreds of agents were dispatched to find the burglars. The FBI narrowed its search, building profiles of seven prime suspects. But they got almost all of the suspects wrong.
    The burglars had been meticulous. They left no fingerprints, and they surreptitiously photocopied the files at the colleges where they taught. FBI agents did visit Raines, but he deflected their inquiries.
    "With no physical evidence left from the burglary itself, they were faced with having to sort through a thousand or 2,000 suspects, and that was an overwhelming job, which of course did overwhelm them," John Raines says. "They never found us."
    The burglars went about their lives, vowing never again to talk or meet to protect their secret. John Raines started writing the first of many books. His wife, Bonnie, a child and family advocate, describes carrying on this way: "In my case, it was working and pursuing a degree and driving carpool."
    A Crime Revealed
    After five years, the statute of limitations passed on the crime of burglary, and members of the group say they breathed easier. But still they kept their mouths shut — until one night, years later, when Betty Medsger happened to be eating dinner in the Raines house.
    That's when John Raines mentioned in an offhand way that he had anonymously sent Medsger documents from the FBI burglary in 1971.
    "I said, 'Are you telling me that you were the burglars in Media?' " Medsger recalls. "And they said yes. And I was very shocked — and very eager to know more."
    The Raines family helped her locate the others involved in the burglary. Most of them agreed to break their silence four decades after they took on J. Edgar Hoover's FBI — and won.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  2. #2


    Some very interesting comments by Bill Kelly sent by email this morning
    THIS is a Very important story with numerous JFK connections - it identifies the anti-war radicals who broke into the Media PA FBI office and stole and leaked CONTELPRO docs - a case they never solved and had serious repercussions.

    Media is a very small 12 block middle class town w/ Quaker roots. Ruth and Michael Paine were married there, Tink Thompson taught nearby, Vince Salamdria was a suspect and if I heard this PBS program correctly, some of the collaborators were students at Temple where demon 's second wife Dr Sharples served on board, Joan.Mellen teaches and where the Man on the Motorcycle in Mexico City attended.

    This story gives a clear picture of how the FBI undercover agents operated and is connected to the Camden 28 case, that included ex-USMC Agent provacteur Robert Hardy.

    This is an important story with ramifications on the JFK records and ties to Oswald.

    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

  3. #3


    I agree with Bill Kelly, but would add that overall it shows that the FBI is a crime creating, not crime solving agency....always was and still is - long after Mary Hoover has died. 'Make them think there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox", indeed! Agency of fear and lawlessness - working along with the other fear and paranoia-creating / havoc-creating 'intelligence' agencies.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  4. #4

    Default DemocracyNow! just had an hour on this and will have a post-show on their website.

    "It Was Time to Do More Than Protest": 1971 Burglars Who Exposed COINTELPRO Reveal Their Identities

    One of the great mysteries of the Vietnam War era has been solved. On March 8, 1971, a group of activists — including a cabdriver, a day care director and two professors — broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. They stole every document they found and then leaked many to the press, including details about FBI abuses and the then-secret counter-intelligence program to infiltrate, monitor and disrupt social, political movements, nicknamed COINTELPRO. They called themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. No one was ever caught for the break-in. The burglars’ identities remained a secret until this week when they finally came forward to take credit for the caper that changed history. Today we are joined by three of them — John Raines, Bonnie Raines and Keith Forsyth; their attorney, David Kairys; and Betty Medsger, the former Washington Post reporter who first broke the story of the stolen FBI documents in 1971 and has now revealed the burglars’ identities in her new book, "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI."


    This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

    NERMEEN SHAIKH: Today, we will spend the rest of the hour unraveling one of the great mysteries of the Vietnam War era. On March 8th, 1971, a group of eight activists, including a cab driver, a daycare director and two professors, broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they found. The activists, calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, soon began leaking shocking details about FBI abuses to the media. Among the documents was one that bore the mysterious word "COINTELPRO."
    AMY GOODMAN: No one involved in the break-in was ever caught. Their identities remained a secret until this week. Today, three of the FBI burglars will join us on the show, but first I want to turn to a new short film produced by the nonprofit news organization Retro Report for The New York Times. It’s titled Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secrets.
    NARRATOR: It’s the greatest heist you’ve never heard of and one of the most important.
    HARRY REASONER: Last March, someone broke into the FBI offices in Media, Pennsylvania, stole some records and mailed copies of them around to the several newspapers.
    NARRATOR: Those records would help bring an end to J. Edgar Hoover’s secret activities within the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
    JOHN CHANCELLOR: He ordered his agents not only to expose new left groups, but to take action against them to neutralize them.
    UNIDENTIFIED: Many Americans were tapped and bugged, had their mail opened by the CIA and the FBI.
    NARRATOR: The burglars were never caught, and the details have remained a mystery until now. A new book, The Burglary, reveals for the first time who did it and how they used a crowbar to pry open one of the best-kept and darkest secrets in American history.
    JOHN RAINES: We were early whistleblowers before whistleblowers were known as such.
    NARRATOR: The burglars are stepping out of the shadows just as new revelations about secret intelligence operations have many people asking, "How much is too much when personal privacy is at stake?"
    In the spring of 1970, the war in Vietnam was raging.
    JOHN CHANCELLOR: American battle deaths in Vietnam now number 40,142.
    NARRATOR: And at home, antiwar protesters and law enforcement officers were violently clashing.
    BONNIE RAINES: It felt like a nightmare was unfolding. I took what was outrage and horror about what was going on, and I realized that I had to take it somewhere.
    NARRATOR: Bonnie Raines worked at a daycare center in Philadelphia. Her husband John taught religion at Temple University. They were the very picture of a golden couple.
    BONNIE RAINES: We had an eight-year-old, a six-year-old and a two-year-old. We were family folks who also wanted to keep another track active in our lives, which was political activism.
    NARRATOR: That activism attracted the attention of the FBI. Its director, the powerful and feared J. Edgar Hoover, perceived the antiwar movement, which ranged from radical revolutionaries to peaceful protesters, as a threat to national security.
    BONNIE RAINES: At one rally, I had one of my children on my back, and not only did they take my picture, but they took her picture.
    NARRATOR: Protesters like the Raines became increasingly convinced the FBI was conducting a covert campaign against them, tapping their phones and infiltrating antiwar groups.
    JOHN RAINES: We knew the FBI was systematically trying to squash dissent. And dissent is the lifeblood of democracy.
    NARRATOR: Determined to get proof, the FBI was crossing the line, fellow activist and Haverford physics professor William Davidon hatched a plan. He reached out to the Raines and six others, including a social worker, a graduate student and a taxi driver named Keith Forsyth.
    KEITH FORSYTH: We agreed to meet someplace where we could talk. And he says, "What would you think about the idea of breaking into an FBI office?" And I look at him, and I’m like, "You’re serious, aren’t you?" I was pretty vehement in my opposition to the war, and I felt like marching up and down the street with a sign was not cutting it anymore. And it was like, OK, time to—time to kick it up a notch.
    NARRATOR: The crew decided to break into a small FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Once I got over the shock of thinking that this was the nuttiest thing I’d ever heard in my life, I’m like, this is a great idea, because we’re not going to make any allegations; we’re going to take their own paperwork, signed by their own people, including J. Edgar Hoover, and give it to the newspapers. So, let’s see you argue with that.
    NARRATOR: In the Raines’ third-floor attic, the team divvied up responsibilities and assigned tasks. They hung maps to learn about the neighborhood, planned escape routes, and they took extensive notes on the comings and goings in the building.
    KEITH FORSYTH: I signed up for a correspondence course in locksmithing. That was my job, to get us in the door. Practiced several times a week. After a month, you get pretty good.
    NARRATOR: Bonnie was assigned the job of going inside and casing the office.
    BONNIE RAINES: I was to call the office and make an appointment as a Swarthmore student doing research on opportunities for women in the FBI. So they gave me an appointment. I tried to disguise myself as best I could, and I went to say goodbye, and I acted confused about where the door was, and that gave me a chance then to check out both rooms and know where the file cabinets were.
    NARRATOR: Bonnie discovered there was no alarm system and no security guards. She also found a second door leading inside.
    JOHN RAINES: When she came back with that news, we became convinced, yes, I think we can get this done. We had more to lose than anybody else in the group, because we had these kids.
    BONNIE RAINES: We faced the reality of, if we were arrested and on trial, we would be in prison for very many years. He had to make some plans for that.
    NARRATOR: With a solid understanding of how they would conduct the break-in, they now needed to figure out when.
    JOHN RAINES: March 8th, 1971, Frazier and Ali were fighting for the championship of the world. And we had the feeling that maybe the cops might be a little bit distracted.
    NARRATOR: While the crew waited at a nearby hotel, Forsyth arrived at the office alone.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Pull up, walk up to the door, and one of the locks is a cylinder tumbler lock, not a pin tumbler lock. And I just about had a heart attack. Bottom line is, I could not pick that lock.
    NARRATOR: They almost called it off. But that second door that Bonnie noticed gave them another chance.
    KEITH FORSYTH: At that point, you know that you’re going to have to wing it. Knelt down on the floor, picked the lock in like 20 seconds. There was a deadbolt on the other side. I had a pry bar with me, a short crowbar. I put the bar in there and yanked that sucker. At one point, I heard a noise inside the office. And I’m like, "Are they in there waiting for me?" Basically said to myself, "There’s only one way to find out: I’m going in."
    NARRATOR: Next, the inside crew walked into an empty office wearing business suits and carrying several suitcases. They cleaned out file cabinets and then made their way downstairs to the getaway car and drove off unnoticed. The group reconvened at a farmhouse an hour’s drive away and started unpacking.
    KEITH FORSYTH: We were like, "Oh, man, I can’t believe this worked." We knew there was going to be some gold in there somewhere.
    JOHN RAINES: Each of the eight of us were sorting files, and all of a sudden you’d hear one of them, "Oh, look! Look at this one! Look!"
    NARRATOR: After several long nights digging for documents that looked the most revealing, the burglars sent copies to journalists, including Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger.
    BETTY MEDSGER: And the cover letter was from the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, and the first file that I read was about a group of FBI agents who were told to enhance the paranoia in the antiwar movement and to create an atmosphere that there’s an FBI agent behind every mailbox.
    NARRATOR: Attorney General John Mitchell asked the Post not to write about the stolen documents, saying it could endanger lives.
    BETTY MEDSGER: The attorney general called two key editors and tried to convince them not to publish.
    NARRATOR: But the Post did publish the story, on the front page. It was the first of several reports and told how agents turned local police, letter carriers and switchboard operators into informants.
    BETTY MEDSGER: There were very strong editorials calling for an investigation of the FBI.
    NARRATOR: Another stolen document would prove even more explosive: a routing slip marked with a mysterious word, "COINTELPRO." While reporters tried to uncover its meaning, the FBI was desperate to find the burglars. The bureau put nearly 200 agents on the investigation. Hoover’s best lead was the college girl who had visited their office.
    BONNIE RAINES: His command was "Find me that woman!"
    NARRATOR: Agents actively searched for Bonnie, but there were many antiwar activists who fit her description.
    JOHN RAINES: We could hide within, you know, thousands of people. There were so many of us who were active.
    NARRATOR: Two years later, NBC reporter Carl Stern figured out the meaning of that word, COINTELPRO.
    JOHN CHANCELLOR: Secret FBI memos made public today show that the late J. Edgar Hoover ordered a nationwide campaign to disrupt the activities of the new left without telling any of his superiors about it.
    CARL STERN: Many of the techniques were clearly illegal. Burglaries, forged blackmail letters and threats of violence were used.
    NARRATOR: The FBI initially defended its actions.
    CLARENCE KELLEY: The government would have been derelict in its duty, had it not taken measures to protect the fabric of our society.
    NARRATOR: But the bureau’s techniques were worse and the targets more far-reaching than the burglars ever imagined.
    DAVID BRINKLEY: Diplomats, government employees, sports figures, socially prominent persons, senators and congressmen.
    WALTER CRONKITE: The FBI at one time sought to blackmail the late Martin Luther King into committing suicide.
    UNIDENTIFIED: Marriages were destroyed. Violence was encouraged. Many Americans were tapped and bugged, had their mail opened by the CIA and the FBI, and their tax returns used illegally.
    AMY GOODMAN: An extended excerpt from Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secrets, a short film produced by Retro Report for The New York Times. To watch the full video, visit
    When we come back, three of the activists join us in studio—Keith Forsyth, Bonnie and John Raines—as well as the former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger, who first broke the story of the stolen FBI documents in 1971. This week, she revealed the identities of the burglars in her new book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. We’ll go back in time and talk about today, as well. This is Democracy Now! Back in a moment.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: Joining us now in our studio are three of the activists who broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, on March 8th, 1971. The break-in led to revelations about the FBI’s secret COINTELPRO program that targeted activists across the country.
    None of the burglars were ever caught. On Tuesday, their identities were revealed for the very first time. Keith Forsyth, Bonnie Raines and John Raines all lived in Philadelphia in 1971. Forsyth was working as a cab driver. He was chosen to pick the lock at the FBI office. Bonnie and John Raines hosted many of the planning meetings for the burglary at their home, where they were raising three children. Bonnie, who worked as a daycare director, helped case the FBI office by posing as a college student interested in becoming an FBI agent. John Raines was a veteran of the Freedom Rides movement and a professor at Temple University. He used a Xerox machine at the school to photocopy many of the stolen documents.
    AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by Betty Medsger, author of the new book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. Medsger first reported on the stolen documents while working at The Washington Post. She uncovered the identities of most of the burglars in her new book.
    And we welcome you all to Democracy Now! Keith, I want to begin with you. Talk about the time and how you ended up going into the FBI office. What spurred you on?
    KEITH FORSYTH: So, at that time, we had just, within a few years, gone through the sort of peak of the civil rights movement, and many of the laws, like the Voting Rights Act, had been passed some years before, but the reality of racial justice was still far from complete. There were—the war in Vietnam was raging at that point in time. And so, there were many, many people who were working for change in those areas, in particular.
    My main focus at that time was the antiwar movement. I was, you know, spending as much time as I could with organizing against the war, but I had become very frustrated with legal protest—didn’t seem to be getting us anywhere. The government wasn’t listening. The war was escalating and not de-escalating. And I think what really pushed me over the edge was, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia, there were four students killed at Kent State and two more killed at—at Jackson State. And—I’m sorry, I’d think I’d have this down after all these years. And that really pushed me over the edge, that it was time to do more than just—than just protest and just march with a sign. And I joined the so-called Catholic Left, which is where I met John and Bonnie and also Bill Davidon. And from there, the next step was the Media action.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: Keith, could you also talk about how you were invited to join this plan to break into—by William Davidon?
    KEITH FORSYTH: If memory serves, he called me on the phone and asked—
    AMY GOODMAN: And explain who William Davidon was.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Oh, I’m sorry. Bill Davidon, at that time, was a professor of physics at Haverford College, and I knew him mainly as a fellow activist in the peace movement. He was very prominent in Philadelphia in both the legal and the illegal peace movements. And he called me on the phone one day and asked me if I wanted to come to a party, which was code for an action. And I believe I said, "Sure, I’m always up for a party." You can check the FBI transcript, because they were tapping his phone at the time. And so, we met at an outdoor location, where we couldn’t be bugged, and he presented the idea to me then.
    AMY GOODMAN: And, Bonnie Raines, talk about your involvement. What motivated you? You were a young mother of three.
    BONNIE RAINES: Mm-hmm.
    AMY GOODMAN: How old were your children?
    BONNIE RAINES: They were eight, six and two at that time. We’ve since had a fourth child. I became involved, as Keith said, beginning with the civil rights movement and when we lived in New York and were students. Then we moved to Philadelphia, very much opposed to the war in Vietnam, and found a whole community of activists in Philadelphia. We became acquainted with the—what was called the Catholic Left at that time. And the Berrigan brothers, Bill and Dan, were the leaders in that. And we participated with that group, called the East Coast Conspiracy to Save Lives, in a draft board raid. We went into a draft board in the middle of the night as part of the draft resistance movement.
    AMY GOODMAN: Where was that?
    BONNIE RAINES: In North Philadelphia, a draft board in North Philadelphia. We targeted that draft board because it was in one of the poorest sections of the city, where they were bringing many, many, many young, poor young men into the armed forces to be sent as cannon fodder to Vietnam. Our government was lying to us about the casualties, both civilian and military casualties. So I participated, along with John, in going into a draft board and removing files and destroying those files so those young men could not be drafted.
    AMY GOODMAN: And you mentioned the Berrigan brothers, the priests.
    BONNIE RAINES: Yes, yes.
    AMY GOODMAN: Phil, the late Phil Berrigan—
    BONNIE RAINES: Mm-hmm.
    AMY GOODMAN: —and Father Dan Berrigan—
    AMY GOODMAN: —who’s still alive. Catonsville, how significant in 1969 was this for you? I wanted to go to a clip right now—
    BONNIE RAINES: Mm-hmm.
    AMY GOODMAN: —of the Catonsville action. That was Catonsville, Maryland, where a group of activists, led by Fathers Dan and Phil Berrigan, burned draft cards with napalm. They stole hundreds of draft records and torched them. They were sentenced to three years in prison, their action helping ignite a wave of direct actions against the draft in the Vietnam War.
    FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN: We do not believe that nonviolence is dead, and that we don’t believe in interposing one form of violence for another, and that we believe that an action like this will still speak to our fellow Americans and bring home to them that a decent society is still possible, but it’s totally impossible if these files, and what they represent, are preserved and honored, and even defended, as those poor women tried to.
    AMY GOODMAN: That was Father Dan Berrigan, as they stood around in a circle and burned, with napalm—napalm being used in Vietnam—draft records.
    BONNIE RAINES: Yes, mm-hmm. That was a very dramatic moment for all of us, I believe. It took civil disobedience to another level and really brought us, clearly, to another level of protest against the war in Vietnam. And we followed their lead in targeting the draft as one of the real evil systems of that war. And that’s how we became involved in covert actions with draft boards in Philadelphia.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, John Raines, can you talk about your sense that the antiwar movement itself had been infiltrated by FBI informants?
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, sure. I mean, that was obvious, for any of us who were involved in the civil rights movement, because it happened in the civil rights movement. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was all over the civil rights movement with infiltrators and surveillance, intense surveillance, and people that would report back on meetings and so on. And, of course, we’d all know that J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI went after Martin Luther King, tried to discredit him—indeed, even sent him a note suggesting that because of his activities with other women besides his wife, he now had no option but to commit suicide. That note was sent to Dr. King, suggesting—and it was from the FBI, suggesting that Dr. King commit suicide. So that we knew, from the civil rights actions, that J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI were very much against anything that promised significant social change. We brought that information, that knowledge, north with us when we came to the antiwar movement. And it became clear that the tactics he used to disrupt and destroy—try to destroy the protest movement in the South, he was using once again against the protesters against the war in Vietnam.
    The problem was, J. Edgar Hoover was untouchable. He was a national icon. I mean, he had presidents who were afraid of him. The people that we elected to oversee J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI were either enamored of him or terrified of him. Nobody was holding him accountable. And that meant that somebody had to get objective evidence of what his FBI was doing. And that led us to the idea that Bill Davidon suggested to us: Let’s break into an FBI office, get their files and get what they’re doing in their own handwriting.
    AMY GOODMAN: You and Bill Davidon were professors.
    AMY GOODMAN: He a professor at Haverford, you a professor at Temple University.
    AMY GOODMAN: What did you feel about the risk that you were taking? Were you concerned about getting caught?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, Bonnie and I were parents, and we had three kids under 10, and that was a very serious consideration. We had to be persuaded that we could get away with this. And we had learned nice burglar skills from priests and nuns. And we had cased the FBI office in Media very carefully.
    AMY GOODMAN: You had thought about Philadelphia, but thought it was too secure?
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, yes, it was a big building downtown, as—you couldn’t touch that. But Media, you could. And we felt quite confident that if we could get in there and get out without leaving any physical evidence behind, that we could then disappear into the very, very large antiwar movement, thousands of people in the Philadelphia area.
    AMY GOODMAN: You had prepared, in case you were caught, to have your children taken care of?
    BONNIE RAINES: We had. We had. We knew the risks. We knew the jeopardy. We weren’t going to be reckless. We weren’t going to move ahead with our involvement except with the leadership of Bill Davidon, who we all had so much admiration and respect for. But we did feel that it was necessary to speak to John’s older brother and his wife and to my mother and father about caring for our children if—should the worst happen and we would be convicted and sent to federal prison.
    AMY GOODMAN: Keith Forsyth, you chose the night of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight—
    KEITH FORSYTH: Mm-hmm.
    AMY GOODMAN: —to break in. Why? Why was this so significant, March 8th, 1971?
    KEITH FORSYTH: Well, it was just—you know, there were many steps that we took to try to avoid getting caught, and this was one of them, because whoever suggested it—and I have no idea who it was—thought that it would add to the distraction, not only of the police, but of just people in general. The building in which the office was located had a live-in supervisor, and his apartment was directly below the FBI office. So, he was going to be on the next floor down while we were inside walking around opening cabinets. So, anything that could keep his mind off of the ambient sounds sounded like a good idea.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: How did you know that you would find what documents you would find, or did you know?
    KEITH FORSYTH: We didn’t know. We were—we were pretty sure. You know, bureaucracies are the same everywhere. They love to keep records. But we really—we were taking a shot. So, in that sense, we got lucky that they did keep records.
    AMY GOODMAN: This brings Betty Medsger into the story, whose book this week, The Burglary, reveals the identities of the activists involved in this burglary. Looks like J. Edgar Hoover found his match in this group of people. Talk about receiving in the mail the documents. You were a reporter at the time for The Washington Post.
    BETTY MEDSGER: OK. I’d just like to say something about Bill Davidon, if I might, first, that the idea was Bill’s. And Bill participated in preparations for the book and the documentary that’s been made, 1971. And we should note that we’re all very sorry that Bill’s not with us. Bill died in November. But he was sort of a genius in coming up with this idea, because although many people in the various movements at that time thought that there was—there were FBI informers in their organizations, there was no evidence of that, and the public didn’t know. And Bill had this deep commitment that if the public could be presented with evidence, they would be very upset. Even though there—Hoover was an iconic figure, that if they knew that there was massive surveillance of the—political surveillance, that they would care and do something. And that’s what happened.
    I was a reporter. And one day this envelope appeared in my mailbox. And it said it was from Liberty Publications—that was the return address—Media, Pennsylvania. That didn’t mean anything to me. But when I opened it, there was a cover letter, said it was from Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. That was a new organization to me. And there was—the letter explained that a group of eight people had burglarized an FBI office on the night of March 8th, and that enclosed were some of the files that they had removed from the office.
    And some of those files were very shocking. I think the one—and you showed the excerpt from this on the Retro Report—the first shock—and this also resonated very much with the public when it was published and discussed—was the one that instructed agents to enhance the paranoia and then also make people think that there’s an FBI agent behind every mailbox. And that was a pretty stunning statement and said so much. And the burglars were—themselves, were shocked, I understand, when they found that the first—saw that document the first night after the burglary. So that stunned me.
    And I guess the other files—there were many about individuals, and they were all serious, but the—one of the things that I remember most from those files was the truly blanket surveillance of African-American people that was described. It was in Philadelphia, but it also prescribed national programs. And it was quite stunning. First, it described the surveillance. It took place in every place where people would gather—churches, classrooms, stores down the street, just everything. But it also specifically prescribed that every FBI agent was supposed to have an informer, just for the purpose of coming back every two weeks and talking to them about what they had observed about black Americans. And in Washington, D.C., at the time, that was six informers for every FBI agent informing on black Americans. The surveillance was so enormous that it led various people, rather sedate people in editorial offices and in Congress, to compare it to the Stasi, the dreaded secret police of East Germany.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you talk about how the editors at The Washington Post responded when you showed them these documents?
    BETTY MEDSGER: The editors responded very positively to them. I should point out that—two things. First, this was the first time that a journalist had ever received secret government documents from a source who had—from the outside, an outside source who had stolen the documents. So that tended to pose a different kind of consideration as to what you would do—in their minds, as to what you’d do with the documents. But it was a particularly tough decision for Katharine Graham, who until this time had never faced anything like this.
    AMY GOODMAN: The publisher.
    BETTY MEDSGER: The publisher, Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, because it was the first time that she had been faced with a demand from the Nixon administration that she suppress a story. And she did not want to publish. And the in-house counsel, the lawyers, also did not want to publish. But two editors, from the beginning, realized it was a very important story and pushed it—Ben Bradlee and Ben Bagdikian. I was just back there innocently writing my story, talking—I had been a reporter in Philadelphia and was talking to sources from the past, confirming information. Didn’t know until 6:00 that there was a question as to whether or not they would publish. By 10:00 that night, she decided to publish.
    AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the reaction, and the reporters who did not get to publish the story, because you weren’t the only person that these activists sent the documents to.
    BETTY MEDSGER: They sent them to five people. These are the first files that they released. They sent them to Senator George McGovern and Representative Parren Mitchell from Baltimore. And they immediately returned the files to the FBI when they received them and didn’t make them public. They sent them to three journalists. In addition to sending them to me, they sent them to Jack Nelson at the Washington Bureau of the Los Angeles Times
    AMY GOODMAN: The great crusading reporter who wrote Terror in the Night about the Klan in the South.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Right, and Tom Wicker, columnist then at The New York Times. Now, it’s also important to keep in mind, in addition to the fact that we didn’t really know—the public didn’t know what was happening inside the FBI, that very few journalists ever wrote investigative work or critical comment about the FBI. And Jack Nelson and Tom Wicker were two of about three or four who had, up until that point. At the L.A. Times, Jack never received the envelope, even though it was addressed to him, and it was delivered to the FBI immediately. I didn’t know this until years later, when I read the investigative report on the FBI’s investigation. It’s a little less clear what happened at the Times as to whether Tom Wicker received, and what they did do was the same thing: They immediately gave the files to the FBI. And—but they apparently kept them and copied them, unlike the L.A. Times, because the day after we broke the story, then they wrote stories on the same files.
    AMY GOODMAN: Keith, before we go to break, can you talk about parallels to today? It is hard to look at—and for a moment, I want to turn to the Church Committee hearings that took place a few years later. Senator Frank Church of Idaho led this investigation. The Senate’s Church Committee investigated the CIA and FBI’s misuse of power at home and abroad. The multi-year investigation in the mid-'70s followed the exposure of COINTELPRO, which stands for Counterintelligence Program—and it was the first time people had seen that word, was in the documents you released—examining the FBI and CIA's efforts to infiltrate and disrupt leftist organizations, the CIA’s attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, and much more. This is Senator Frank Church speaking during one of the committee’s hearings.
    SEN. FRANK CHURCH: We have seen today the dark side of those activities, where many Americans, who were not even suspected of crime, were not only spied upon, but they were harassed, they were discredited, and, at times, endangered.
    AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Frank Church. The Church Committee hearings led to major changes in what the FBI could do, and also dealing with the press, as well. You listen to Frank Church, you could be hearing possible hearings today, though they haven’t started, to do with Edward Snowden.
    AMY GOODMAN: What are your thoughts on Edward Snowden today?
    KEITH FORSYTH: I think there are some parallels. It’s not an exact parallel. But, to me, one of the most significant ones is that not long before Edward Snowden released these documents, James Clapper went in front of Congress and the American public and was asked a direct question whether the NSA was engaged in this kind of surveillance, and he said no, which was obviously a lie. And I think if he had said, "Oh, we can’t talk about that because that’s national security," I might have had some respect for that answer. But to come out and lie to the public about it—and, of course, not suffer any punishment as a result—so, to me, Edward Snowden—I’ve seen no evidence, personally, that Edward Snowden has released anything that was actually harmful to our national security. You know, certainly has been embarrassing, but, to me, the young man is definitely a whistleblower and has performed a great service by enabling us to have the conversation. You know, we couldn’t—we couldn’t have the conversation about whether this is right or wrong before, because we were not told about it. So he’s made that conversation possible, and I think—I think we owe him something, a debt for that.
    AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this conversation. Our guests are Keith Forsyth and Bonnie and John Raines. They were part of the—what they called themselves, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, activists during the Vietnam War era who broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and took the documents they got and sent them to The Washington Post and other publications to let people know what the FBI was doing. We’re also joined by the woman who has revealed the names of these activists—and we’ll talk about why they decided to come forward—Betty Medsger, former Washington Post reporter, author of The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. Stay with us.
    AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we continue our discussion looking at how activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1971 and disclosed secrets about the FBI’s COINTELPRO program—that’s Counterintelligence Program—first came to public attention with the release of these documents. We are joined, as well as Bonnie and John Raines, who were among those who broke into the FBI office that day, March 8th, 1971, by the reporter who broke the story then and now, released the names of those involved with this break-in, Betty Medsger. She wrote The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. We’re also joined by David Kairys, who has represented this group until this day for what, more than 40 years?
    DAVID KAIRYS: Forty-three years.
    AMY GOODMAN: Forty-three years. But, John Raines, why have you decided to come forward 43 years—what, 42 years later?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, the simple answer is: A book came out. And, of course, that’s not accidental. We decided years ago that we would trust Betty with this story. And she’s done a wonderful job, spending years of research writing a very substantial book. It tells a very interesting story.
    We decided that it was time to, once again, come forward with the question of government surveillance, government intimidation, and the right of citizens to vocally dissent. I think that the gasoline of democracy is the right to dissent, because wherever there’s power, wherever there’s privilege, power and privilege are going to try to remove, insofar as they can, from public discourse anything they want to do. That leaves the citizens’ right to dissent as the last line of defense for freedom. Now, that’s what we were faced with back in 1970s. I think that’s what we’re faced with once again today. It should not surprise us. I mean, it should not surprise us that those in power in Washington want to make the decisions that really count off stage, out of sight from the rest of us. But democracy depends upon the rights of citizens to have the information they need in order for them, the citizens—who are the sovereigns—for them to decide what the government should be doing and should not be doing. They must have that information so that they can make up their minds.
    AMY GOODMAN: Explain that moment that night when Betty Medsger came over and you revealed who you were. What year was it?
    JOHN RAINES: I think that was in 1988. We had known Betty when she was a reporter there in Philadelphia.
    AMY GOODMAN: That was more than 20 years ago.
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, more than 20 was ago. And Betty was then living in San Francisco, but she was on a trip to the East Coast. And we invited her for supper, and Betty was nice enough to say, "Sure, I’ll come." And I think it was—we had had supper, and finally, our youngest daughter, Mary, came down. She was, I think, 12 or 13, something like that. And without thinking about it, I just said, "Mary, come on in. We want you to meet Betty Medsger, because she was the one that we sent those FBI files to." And Betty’s chin dropped down to her chest, and it was out of the bag. That’s how it started.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: David Kairys, as the attorney who has worked on this case for so long, could you talk about the significance of the statute of limitations on the case, as well as what you saw as the illegality—what was indeed the illegality of what these documents exposed about what the FBI was doing?
    DAVID KAIRYS: Well, sure. The statute of limitations, by any fair reading, is five years. The FBI themselves closed the file in 1976, because five years had elapsed and there was no charges. Excuse me. There are arguments one can make, but there’s really no legitimate or good-faith basis to bring any legal—any legal charges at this point.
    As for the illegality of the FBI, they’re supposed to enforce the law. Here they are interposing themselves as almost a political counterforce to stop certain movements. And it had a direction to it: They were stopping left-liberal movements. And they were using techniques that we usually associate with state police in countries and systems that we usually think of as alien.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how did you come to become involved in the case?
    DAVID KAIRYS: Well, I was regularly doing civil rights work, and I was—I would represent demonstrators of all kinds. And so, two of them checked with me before, what’s my home number. And they—Keith kids me that he’s still got my phone number from back then on his arm. And so, that was the beginning. I didn’t know then exactly what they were going to do, but then two of them got arrested in the Camden 28 case, where I was lead counsel.
    AMY GOODMAN: And, in fact, remarkably, five days before this break-in, Bill Davidon met with Henry Kissinger at the White House, the national security adviser for Richard Nixon.
    AMY GOODMAN: We don’t have time for the story, but we’re going to talk about it in our post-show interview, and we’ll post it online at How was this secret kept for so many decades? It’s not just the two of you, John and Bonnie Raines; there were nine of you. One person dropped out. There were eight of you. This is decades later. How did you keep this secret?
    BONNIE RAINES: Well, we—
    AMY GOODMAN: A hundred FBI agents looking for you. And, Bonnie, you had gone into the FBI office in Media to case it out and pretend you were a young woman looking for an FBI job and sat with the official there.
    BONNIE RAINES: Mm-hmm, and did not know, following that, that there was a sketch that was then circulated of me by the FBI. It was—we knew—
    AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds.
    BONNIE RAINES: We knew that we had to pull the curtain down, not meet after we did our work, and just not talk about it with anybody at all, because our work was done at that point, and we were not looking for anything more than for the general public and Congress to follow suit in a way that we hoped they would.
    AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel it accomplished what you wanted?
    BONNIE RAINES: I think, in certain ways. In certain ways, it did. We were encouraged when there was a Church Committee that was—that was taking their task seriously, and there were reforms that did take place.
    AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for all being with us, and also thank Johanna Hamilton. Her film, 1971, on the same subject, is just coming out. We’ll be interviewing her. The book is The Burglary. Thanks so much, all, for joining us.
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 01-08-2014 at 06:14 PM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  5. #5


    Those files were just the paper face of an even worse concealed level of COINTELPRO that killed many Americans including counter-culture celebrities like Hendrix and Lennon. The Church Committee and HSCA were just whitewashes designed to make it look like there was oversight and control. Meanwhile COINTELPRO evolved into the present day torture state were the possibility of legal restriction was removed in order to serve those programs and prevent any more problems with them. It's not a coincidence that Oswald, the Paines, and Banister were involved in COINTELPRO-like work before Kennedy's assassination.

    Now a days a reporter like Medsger would turn the documents over to Homeland Security and report the senders as terrorists. But the burglars would never get that far anyway in the new matrix.

    I don't know if these people are safe considering Sara Jane Olsen and Leslie Van Houten (I'm not condoning what they did, just pointing out how there's no time limit on punishment for 60's political radicals)

  6. Default

    Albert Doyle wrote:
    "Those files were just the paper face of an even worse concealed level of COINTELPRO that killed many Americans including counter-culture celebrities like Hendrix and Lennon..."

    Where's Mae when we need her!

  7. #7


    From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out After 43 Years of Silence

    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Magda Hassan View Post

    From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out After 43 Years of Silence

    These are fine examples of great American Patriots - the one's the USG would like to see rot in prison all their lives....What has our country become, fellow-Americans?! We are a police state, where the criminals run the country and those trying to save the Democracy have to hide or all too often suffer/die. These brave American Patriots were lucky to have not had to pay that high price...however, I'd not even be surprised if under the new post-911 laws they tried to find a way......if only to harass. I personally found listening to them an uplifting experience. Thank goodness some in America are willing to resist the tyranny that is far too much in control of the Nation - has always been and has been getting worse since the end of WWII with big increases in tyranny on 11/22/63 and 9/11/01 [with many other tipping points between and since.....]
    Part 2 of our extended discussion with three of the antiwar activists who broke into an FBIoffice in 1971 in Media, Pennsylvania. The burglars, John Raines, Bonnie Raines and Keith Forsyth, are speaking out this week for the first time following the publication of Betty Medsger’s book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.
    Click here to watch Part 1 of this interview.
    AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we bring you part two of this fascinating discussion, the solving of a mystery during the Vietnam War era that wasn’t solved ’til this week. Nermeen?
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: So we continue our discussion looking at how activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1971 and disclosed secrets about the FBI’s COINTELPRO program—that is, Counterintelligence Program.
    AMY GOODMAN: Until this week, their identities were not known. Joining us are two of the people who broke into the FBI’s offices, John and Bonnie Raines. John and Bonnie hosted many of the planning meetings for the burglaries at their home, where they were raising three children. Bonnie worked as a daycare director. She helped case the FBI office by posing as a college student interested in becoming an FBI agent. John Raines was a veteran of the Freedom Rides movement, a professor at Temple University. He used a Xerox machine at the school to photocopy many of the stolen documents.
    We’re also joined by Betty Medsger. She is author of the new book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. She first reported on the stolen documents while working at The Washington Post. The activists mailed the documents to her. She was the first to reveal them; The Washington Post, the first paper to agree to publish the information in these documents. She uncovered the identities of most of the burglars in her new book. So, 40 years ago, she broke the story, and now she’s breaking the story of the identities.
    And we’re joined by David Kairys, who has worked as an attorney for the activists for over four decades, a civil rights attorney and law professor at Temple University, as well.
    In the first part of our discussion, we talked about how March 8th, 1971, went down, the night of the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight, using that as a cover because it would be a lot of noise and the belief that the guards would be watching this in the Media offices. But there was criticism leveled—or you feared there would be, John and Bonnie Raines—of why you did this, because you could have gone to jail for many, many years. You had three kids under 10. Professor John Raines, what was your thinking process leading up to this?
    JOHN RAINES: Sure, that’s a great question. We were the only ones, out of the eight, who were not only husband and wife, but father and mother of three children under 10. And we were not into the being a martyr. We were not into jeopardizing the future of our children. We were pretty sure—if we weren’t pretty sure, we wouldn’t have, in fact, gone into that office and taken out those files. So we were pretty sure we could get away with it.
    But the second thing that’s important to know is that we routinely ask, as a society, mothers and fathers to take on as part of their work highly dangerous kinds of activities. We ask that of all policemen. We ask that of everybody that works for the fire department. We ask that of mothers and fathers who are stationed overseas, sent overseas to defend our freedoms in the Army and Navy. We routinely ask of people to take on jobs that risk their families. Now, we were faced back in 1971 with nobody in Washington was going to do what had to be done if we were going to reveal what J. Edgar Hoover was doing with his FBI. We were the last line of defense. So, as citizens, we stepped forward and did what we had to do because nobody in Washington would do what they should have done. Then, after we did what we did, people in Washington, with the help of Betty’s revealing stories in thePost, then they began, finally, to oversee J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, and things changed.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And you spoke to family members. In the event that you were caught and imprisoned, you spoke to some of your family members and asked them to care for your children. What exactly did you tell them you were about to do?
    BONNIE RAINES: Well, we didn’t tell them exactly what we had planned. We did have to let them know the high level of jeopardy and that we were doing this after much careful thought and involved with other people who we thought were responsible and careful. And we asked them, if the worst happened and we were convicted and sent to prison, if they would care for our children. So we had that conversation with John’s older brother Bob and with my mother and father.
    AMY GOODMAN: When did you tell your children?
    BONNIE RAINES: It was later, when they were old enough, as teenagers, to put it in perspective. We’ve always been a political family and involved our children in political activities of various kinds. But we needed to wait until it could fit into what I describe as kind of the family lore. And it was very easy and very natural to tell them about it. And they were a little bit shocked, but also quite proud, I have to say.
    AMY GOODMAN: How did you tell them? Can you describe the scene? Did you actually sit them down together?
    BONNIE RAINES: Can you remember that?
    JOHN RAINES: I’m not sure. Do you remember it? We waited until they were, I think, teenagers, so that they could understand kind of the larger political context.
    AMY GOODMAN: But this makes it even more amazing that this secret has been kept for so long.
    BONNIE RAINES: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
    JOHN RAINES: Mm-hmm.
    AMY GOODMAN: You had four children—
    BONNIE RAINES: By that time.
    AMY GOODMAN: —that you told.
    BONNIE RAINES: Mm-hmm.
    AMY GOODMAN: And you’re just two of the eight. There was also a ninth person. And if you could tell us about him, because he pulled out before the action took place, and you had further interactions with him.
    JOHN RAINES: I did. He—I won’t name him, but he showed up on our front door, the door of our house in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. And he said, "I need to talk with you, John." I said, "Well, come on in." And we went in, and he looked me in the eye, and he said, "I think I’m going to have to turn you in."
    AMY GOODMAN: When was this?
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, it was the two or three weeks after, after the break-in. So, I, you know—and he knew all the names. I mean, if he had turned us in, we were going to jail.
    AMY GOODMAN: He was in on all the planning meetings.
    JOHN RAINES: He was.
    AMY GOODMAN: He had pulled out just at the last second.
    JOHN RAINES: That’s right. That’s right.
    AMY GOODMAN: And what did he say when he pulled out, by the way?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, he said, "I’ve been told by my girlfriend that there are files that you still have that are highly dangerous files in terms of threatening national security, that name various missile sites, anti-missile sites, around Philadelphia and so on." And I said, "No, no, no, there’s nothing like that in these files." Then I said to him, "Well, why did you think there was?" And he said, "Well, my girlfriend," and so on. I said, "Have you ever thought that maybe your girlfriend works for the FBI?" And, you know, his face went like that. And then he—he left. And he kept the secret to himself.
    AMY GOODMAN: And that’s because then it’s not only him; it’s also his girlfriend who knew. We’re talking about 40 years of keeping this secret.
    JOHN RAINES: Yeah.
    BONNIE RAINES: Mm-hmm.
    JOHN RAINES: His girlfriend, I think, didn’t know who we were. I don’t think he said that. I think he simply—she gave him the information that was false information. It was fed, I think, by the FBI to him that there were these very dangerous files.
    AMY GOODMAN: J. Edgar Hoover was desperate to get you.
    AMY GOODMAN: He had over a hundred agents.
    JOHN RAINES: Two hundred.
    BONNIE RAINES: Two hundred agents.
    AMY GOODMAN: Two hundred agents. It was your Xerox machine—
    AMY GOODMAN: —that they were—well, tell us about the Xerox machine at Temple University that you used to make Xerox—sounds a little like Dan Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, when he xeroxed the Pentagon Papers.
    JOHN RAINES: Well, back then, nobody knew—or not many people knew—that every Xerox machine leaves its own fingerprint from the drum. Every drum on every Xerox machine has its own separate fingerprint. And therefore, anything that is xeroxed on that machine can be traced back exactly to that machine. Now, when we found that out, I very quickly, you know, phoned David—phoned—
    JOHN RAINES: Bill Davidon.
    AMY GOODMAN: Now, Bill Davidon, meanwhile, is being tapped, for other reasons, or—
    JOHN RAINES: He’s being tapped.
    AMY GOODMAN: —for very similar reasons.
    JOHN RAINES: But he’s also using the Xerox machine at Haverford College. And I said, "Hey, hey, hey, Bill." So he went and he scratched the surface of the drum at Haverford. And—
    DAVID KAIRYS: You know, the main reason—
    AMY GOODMAN: David Kairys.
    DAVID KAIRYS: —they didn’t get caught—I mean, you’re right. There’s all these possibilities. Life is so contingent, and things could be so different than they turn out to be. But the main thing is the FBIused a typical American law enforcement approach. It was, instead of looking for who did it and investigating a range of people, the glommed onto one person, who they were sure, for whatever reasons, did it. And he was a leader of the Catholic Left, John Peter Grady. He had raided a lot of draft boards. They were sure he did it.
    AMY GOODMAN: He was Camden, New Jersey.
    DAVID KAIRYS: He also did Camden.
    BETTY MEDSGER: He was a lot of things.
    DAVID KAIRYS: Yeah, he did a lot of these.
    AMY GOODMAN: From Camden.
    DAVID KAIRYS: Yeah. And they thought that he did it, so they had 200 agents, but they’re all looking for the wrong thing. You see, they’re all misdirected and not—they thought there was a locksmith, so they investigated all the locksmiths in the Philadelphia area. They didn’t know all you needed was Keith.
    AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to bring Keith Forsyth back in a minute.
    AMY GOODMAN: But he just learned it in a course on—I can’t say online—
    JOHN RAINES: Yeah.
    AMY GOODMAN: —because you didn’t have the Internet at the time, right?
    BONNIE RAINES: Correspondence.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yes, library.
    AMY GOODMAN: Correspondence course.
    DAVID KAIRYS: And he made his own tools rather than go to a store and buy them, which would be a record of that. So, see, they were extremely careful. And the FBI just let itself be completely misdirected.
    BETTY MEDSGER: I’d also like to add that in addition—
    AMY GOODMAN: Betty Medsger.
    BETTY MEDSGER: In addition to focusing on John Peter Grady, they also focused on the ninth burglar. And they put him under 24-hour surveillance within 24 hours of the burglary and continued to monitor him for weeks.
    AMY GOODMAN: The one who didn’t do it.
    DAVID KAIRYS: Right.
    BETTY MEDSGER: The one who didn’t do it.
    DAVID KAIRYS: Who John just spoke of.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yes, yes. There were three main people that they targeted immediately: John Peter Grady—they thought he was the leader of the group—
    AMY GOODMAN: And just very quickly, explain who he is. His children are well-known as activists today, especially—
    BETTY MEDSGER: That’s right. That’s right.
    AMY GOODMAN: —upstate New York, taking on issues of drones.
    BETTY MEDSGER: That’s right. Well, he was a—he was a leader, very prominent within the Catholic peace movement. He was the person in the Catholic peace movement who moved it from the Catonsville 9 method of going in in broad daylight and walking out and waiting for arrest.
    AMY GOODMAN: That was the Catonsville 9 in Catonsville, Maryland, led by Dan—Fathers Dan and Phil Berrigan, who burned draft records, using napalm, that they had pulled out of the Catonsville draft office.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Right. And John Grady was the leader of the part of the Catholic peace movement that then took things to another level, which was: Do these actions, but do them in order to actually do damage to the ability of the draft boards, so that they can’t operate and bring people into the service, and get away with it so you can go on and raid more draft boards. He was the key person in the Catholic peace movement who believed that that was needed, that things needed to be done that way. So, the FBI had not been successful in arresting many of the people. There were, you know, 350 draft board raids and hundreds of people involved in them. And they had not been very successful at finding these people. And he was somebody that they assumed was involved in many of them, and they immediately, for that reason, I think, assumed that he had led this group. So they focused on him, they focused on the ninth burglar, and they also focused on Bonnie. But they never knew Bonnie’s name.
    DAVID KAIRYS: Never knew who she was.
    BETTY MEDSGER: They knew her face, and they had that image, that art sketch that had been drawn based on the memories of the men in the office who saw her.
    AMY GOODMAN: We touched on this in part one, but—of our discussion, but, Bonnie Raines, can you describe what you did before March 8th, the day that you all broke into the Media office? Talk about your experience.
    BONNIE RAINES: Well, many of the planning meetings and the scheduling of what we called casing the building at night took place from our house. So I was involved in much of that, but not really one of the prominent members of the group, until we realized that we needed to have someone get inside the offices to look at the possibility that there would be security measures, burglar alarms over the doors, whether the file cabinets were locked. So I was elected to do that. And I was to pose as a Swarthmore College student and disguise myself, as much as I possibly could, and make an appointment to go in and interview the head of the office about opportunities for women in the FBI. And they were very cordial. They spent enough time with me to allow me to really look around to see everything, to gather all the information.
    JOHN RAINES: They didn’t notice that you kept your gloves on.
    BONNIE RAINES: I kept my gloves on the whole time I was taking those—
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And they never asked you your name, right?
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: You never gave a name.
    BONNIE RAINES: No. No, they never did. I think, in the course of conversation, I was asked where I was from. And I said, I think, "Hartford, Connecticut," or something. But the good news was that I was able to get that last important piece of information about the inside of the office, and then that allowed us to make a decision to actually plan to go ahead with it on March 8th.
    AMY GOODMAN: So, they—it was from that that they got the description of you with these fake glasses and—
    BONNIE RAINES: Yes, yes, yes.
    AMY GOODMAN: —a hat on.
    BONNIE RAINES: I had long hair, and I tucked my hair all up inside—it was February, so I had a winter hat and looked a little shabby, like I might have been a student on a scholarship at Swarthmore. But I was very polite, and they were very cordial, and it went very, very well. And they never noticed that I never took my gloves off the whole time I was taking notes.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And the night of the burglary, what did you actually do on the night, March 8th?
    BONNIE RAINES: My role—we each had an assigned role, and my role was to be in a car on a side street at the building, so that if a police patrol came along on that street and would then turn around to be at the front of the building and might see our four fellow companions leaving the building, I was to pretend that my car had broken down and block the street so that they couldn’t come around to the front of the building. I didn’t have to do that, as it turned out.
    AMY GOODMAN: And the other people involved, Betty Medsger, some have decided to come forward, and some haven’t. Bill Davidon, who wanted to come forward, has just recently died. He had Parkinson’s. Talk—since you spoke with him a lot—and, of course, all of you knew him, a professor at Haverford—I was actually wondering if you can tell us the story of his meeting with Henry Kissinger. This is astounding. Five days—I was talking to his daughter last night, and she said he sort of had a to-do list. You know, meet with Henry Kissinger at the White House, break into the Media offices and steal the FBI documents—that was his to-do list for the week.
    JOHN RAINES: Yeah, that’s quite short.
    AMY GOODMAN: But how did he end up meeting with the national security adviser, Henry Kissinger?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yeah, it’s an amazing thing to think about, that just two days before the burglary there’s the leader of the burglary in the Situation Room of the White House. Well, Bill never missed an opportunity to make the case against the war. And he really didn’t want to go to the White House that morning, particularly, but it’s—an interesting person had set it up. Brian McDonald was a young Quaker from Philadelphia who the previous—immediately after Nixon announced that we were invading Cambodia, at the end of April in 1970, Brian came to Washington and sat on the street—sidewalk in front of the White House and was fasting and—in protest of what Nixon had done. And he was there for quite some time. And during that time, I remember Shirley MacLaine came to know him, and some other people, and they quietly introduced Kissinger to Brian. And a strange combination, but they actually became real friends, a friendship that lasted until Brian died about a decade ago. But it was Brian who knew all parties involved, the three people who came to that meeting, including Bill and Kissinger. And so, he asked Kissinger to be willing to meet with them to talk about the war. And Kissinger said—because he liked Brian so much, agreed that he would.
    So, the three people were Bill and two other people, Tom Davidson and Sister Beverly Bell. All three of them were unindicted co-conspirators in an indictment that had just come down that January that involved J. Edgar Hoover. It was an indictment that charged Phil Berrigan, Elizabeth McAlister and a few other people. They were indicted, and then there was a series of people, including Bill Davidon, who were unindicted co-conspirators in a conspiracy to kidnap Henry Kissinger and to bomb tunnels under federal buildings in Washington.
    Now, the Hoover involvement comes the previous November, when Hoover, against the advice of his officials, who hardly ever spoke up to urge him to not do something, Hoover went before a committee of two people, and then—on the Hill, a congressional committee, and then immediately distributed his statement to as many press as they could get it to afterwards. And in that statement, he announced that these people were conducting this conspiracy. And it was his typical method of trying to convince members of Congress to give him more money, which always happened. But this was a very alarming thing, the idea that these people—priests and nuns and their colleagues—were—who were known for being nonviolent activists, were planning this violent thing. And the Justice Department and the FBI had investigated this, and the FBI people had decided that there was no plan, there was no real plan, and that the case should be abandoned. And Hoover knew that, but nevertheless made that public accusation. And that was enormous news at the time.
    And then, the Justice Department—again, knowing that there was no such plan—in order to save Hoover’s face, went forward with a grand jury and designed it in such a way, eventually, in a superseding indictment, that people could be found guilty if they had participated in plans not only to kidnap Kissinger or to bomb tunnels under Washington, but to raid draft boards—if they had done any one of those things. Well, they all had raided draft boards. But the impact of it all, of course, on the public was: They wanted to kidnap Kissinger or set off bombs. By the way, the case, two years later, failed, and there was no conviction. But at this time, when Bill goes to the White House with two of the other unindicted co-conspirators, they are sitting there with the person that they’re supposedly planning to kidnap. So that seemed—made it even more strange.
    And what they—they had a discussion for about an hour in the Situation Room, where many aspects of the Vietnam War had been planned, and something that they were quite aware of. And it was in the—ultimately, it was a frustrating meeting, where they felt that they were meeting with a—having a civil conversation with a friendly enemy, who at that time was responsible for more bombing. But—
    AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, Kissinger felt he was being smeared, is that right?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Felt he was what?
    AMY GOODMAN: Being smeared in the academic community.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Oh, you mean not by them, but elsewhere.
    AMY GOODMAN: Right.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yes, yes, that’s right.
    AMY GOODMAN: And part of why he wanted to meet with another professor, with Bill Davidon, to change the alienation he felt from the academic community that he valued.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yes, I think that’s true, although I—reading from Kissinger’s biography, I think he looked at this primarily as meeting with religious people, as he spoke of their high ideals and being in a spiritual world, whereas he was in the real world, and that they couldn’t really do anything, but he had to do something, whereas in fact they did not think of it as a religious confrontation or issue with him. They, too, were very much of the real world and wanted to see negotiations taking place and to stop the war, rather than the direction that he was taking it.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And after the break-in on March 8th, 1971, Bill Davidon, whose idea it actually was, was in fact never questioned by the FBI, is that correct?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yes, and that relates to the case that I was just talking about. The FBI was prepared to go after Bill Davidon very, very seriously. And the Justice—when the Justice Department found out about this, they put out an order that he should not be questioned—no questioning of Bill Davidon—which was quite amazing, given his situation and the fact that he was the leader of the group. And that went into effect. And for the entire length of the investigation, Bill was never questioned by the FBI.
    AMY GOODMAN: Why did they put this out?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Oh, I’m sorry, I meant to explain it. Because—they prohibited the FBI from questioning him because they were so intent on building a successful case in the Harrisburg indictment, and they didn’t want to bring any more confusion into the situation.
    AMY GOODMAN: And the Harrisburg indictment was?
    BETTY MEDSGER: And that—yes, the Harrisburg indictment was the case of the conspiracy—
    AMY GOODMAN: Of the—to kidnap Henry Kissinger.
    BETTY MEDSGER: —the alleged conspiracy to kidnap.
    DAVID KAIRYS: And it was a big national publicity. And Hoover was being criticized for indicting people for a conspiracy that was just ridiculous.
    BETTY MEDSGER: And this would have brought more attention that they did not want brought to that.
    AMY GOODMAN: Before we bring Keith Forsyth back in to join his other co-conspirators here at the table, I wanted to ask you, David Kairys, about the legality of all of this.
    AMY GOODMAN: Well, of course, they had broken the law by breaking into the Media, Pennsylvania,FBI offices. Now, the statute of limitations is over. But can the authorities get around that, say, "New evidence has been presented: We now know their names"?
    DAVID KAIRYS: That wouldn’t—that wouldn’t be a legitimate ground. There are things they could try, that, given the way they’ve been interpreted in law, would just not work. There’s really nothing they could do. Now, they do have discretion and a lot of power to put people through criminal trials even though they’re not going to win—the government. So, they could—and this is something you have to weigh in a situation like this—they could bring charges and just make you get lawyers and prepare a defense and disrupt your life, try to hold you on bail. There’s all those things they could do. But—and we would be arguing that it’s not being done in good faith, because there’s—the statute of limitations has run. So, I think, ultimately, it would work out that they are not convicted of anything, because of the statute of limitations, but you can’t—you can’t be sure that the government might not make you go through—
    AMY GOODMAN: The FBI’s response today?
    DAVID KAIRYS: Yesterday’s statement, I thought, was very positive. I actually had anticipated that they would say something like, "We’re looking into it. We’ll have to get back to you." Instead of that, they seemed—they almost claimed credit for it. It’s like: Things happened that caused reforms, and we like these reforms. So, they’re—you know, they’re just reformers.
    AMY GOODMAN: That could bode well for Edward Snowden.
    DAVID KAIRYS: You’re—instead of FBI informers, you’re FBI reformers.
    BETTY MEDSGER: They also said, I understand, to one reporter, "We didn’t have very good security."
    AMY GOODMAN: This is amazing. I mean, the actual quote of Michael Kortan, FBI spokesperson, "A number of events during that era, including the burglary, contributed to changes in how the FBIidentified and addressed domestic security threats, leading to reform of the FBI’s intelligence policies and practices, including the creation of investigative guidelines by the Department of Justice." I mean, this is very significant for Edward Snowden, because it’s saying—
    DAVID KAIRYS: Oh, I think it is.
    AMY GOODMAN: —if what you did led to reforms, then the good outweighed what they would consider the bad of the burglary.
    AMY GOODMAN: What does this mean for Edward Snowden? The response has been enormous in terms of calls, not only in this country, but around the world, for reform.
    AMY GOODMAN: David, if you would like to weigh in on that—John, if you would like to weigh in on that, John Raines?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, yeah, I think that what we were trying to do back in 1971, Snowden is trying to do right now. And that is to give the information that citizens need to decide, as citizens, what their government should do and should not do. And I think that we faced an FBI with a director called J. Edgar Hoover that was furious at us, and thank goodness we got away with it. Snowden faces governments, especially CIA and NSA, who want to make decisions about this massive kind of surveillance that they have. They vacuum up all our personal information, all of our emails, all of our correspondence. They say that they’re not listening to the emails. Well, they’ve got the technology to listen. Are we supposed to believe that they’re not listening to—you know, reading what we’re saying on our emails? That’s a—anyway, Snowden is facing the same kind of retribution of people of power, and he doesn’t deserve that. I see him as a public servant who, as a public servant, did serve the public, giving us the information we have a right to know, so that we can instruct the people in Washington what we, the people, think they should do and not do.
    DAVID KAIRYS: The basic similarity in Snowden and the Media burglars, I think, for those of us who would have never had the courage to do such things, either one of them—and I include myself—they took this enormous risk, a really unbelievable personal risk, so that the rest of us could find out, in this case, what our FBI was doing or to expose wrongdoing. It’s the best American tradition. I mean, to go back to a group that’s got a different meaning these days, the original Tea Party was an illegal act. They didn’t stand there and say, "Arrest me for it." They wanted to get away.
    BETTY MEDSGER: And the Underground Railroad.
    DAVID KAIRYS: Underground Railroad, the violations of the Fugitive Slave Acts. The Revolution itself, the American Revolution itself, was illegal under existing law. And I still—after 40 years of knowing these folks well, it still amazes me that they took the personal risk that they did. And this is something that, to me, should be praised.
    AMY GOODMAN: On that note, we’re going to reunite those who were involved in the burglary that night. Some might talk about the liberation of these documents; others, the stealing of these documents. David Kairys, thanks for joining us.
    AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to be joined now by Keith Forsyth, in addition to John and Bonnie Raines, and Betty Medsger, the author of The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s SecretFBI. She is revealing this week, in this book, the names, the identities, of most of those involved with the burglary that night, March 8th, 1971. They called themselves—they, with five others—the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. And on March 8th, 1971, they broke into the offices of the FBI in Media, Pennsylvania, and got—how many documents, ultimately?
    JOHN RAINES: About a thousand.
    AMY GOODMAN: About a thousand documents. Did you go through them, John Raines, before you sent them off to Betty Medsger at The Washington Post and Tom Wicker—
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, we were very careful about that.
    AMY GOODMAN: —of The New York Times and Jack Nelson?
    JOHN RAINES: We separated the files into what were clearly legitimate files, from our point of view—that is, they involved crime. And we didn’t want to release those files, because it had names of witnesses and things like that. That was about 40 percent of those files. Sixty percent of the files were clearly political in intent, and those were the ones we began to sort through. And we began to find—even on the morning, early morning, of the night, we began to find documents that were quite exciting.
    AMY GOODMAN: Like?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, like the one that said, "Let’s increase the paranoia and have these folks be persuaded that there’s a FBI agent behind every mailbox." I mean, that is—that’s not surveillance; that’s obviously intimidation. All right? Intimidation is a political act; it’s not an act of an investigative organization like the FBI.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Betty Medsger, when—one of the most damning programs that was revealed in these documents was COINTELPRO, but when you first received the documents, you had no idea what that program was. So how long after you got the documents did you find out what this program was and what it entailed?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yeah, the document that had COINTELPRO on it was just a routing slip. "COINTELPRO–New Left" was a label at the top. We had no idea what it was. None of us who received it had any idea what it was. The FBI was watching to see if that would ever be released. And because I wrote about something that was in that document, they knew, as of that day, that it had been released, and went into high gear. Hoover said, "We’ll stop this program." And what he meant was, as he explained to agents, was, "We no longer use that name." The program continued, but without that name. We had no idea what it was until, thanks to Carl Stern, by the end—at the end of 1973—
    BETTY MEDSGER: Carl Stern was the NBC reporter who covered the Department of Justice at that time. And he was in an office of the Senate committee, and they said, "Have you ever seen this?" And Carl had not seen it. And he was intrigued by the fact that at the bottom of the cover—of this routing slip were instructions for FBI agents to give the attached article on the need for control of students on campuses who were protesting the war—there was a note asking FBI agents to write anonymous letters and deliver this or mail it to unfriendly administrators, or to just hand it to friendly administrators. And Carl thought, "This is very strange." And so, within a matter of days, he asked theFBI to tell him what COINTELPRO was and provide documentation of what it was. And they turned him down.
    He went through attorney generals, various attorney generals at that time, because they were changing as a result of Watergate. And then, finally, he sued, under the Freedom of Information Act. Until then, Hoover had always instructed officials to ignore any applications under the Freedom of Information Act. But Carl pursued this through the courts and won, became the first person to succeed under the Freedom of Information Act in getting anything out of the FBI.
    And what he received were the documents that immediately became news and explained that these dirty tricks operations had been going on since 1956. They were harassment. They were kind of activities that would seem to have nothing to do with law enforcement or intelligence gathering. Instead, they were secret harassment, sometimes quite violent and destroying people’s reputation.
    AMY GOODMAN: Give us examples. And again, COINTELPRO means Counterintelligence Program.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Counterintel. One example is what they did to actress Jean Seberg.
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, yeah.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Jean Seberg, at that time, was a very popular actress. And she had made a contribution to the Black Panthers in Los Angeles, something that—and because the Panthers were under great surveillance, the FBI knew that. And she was pregnant. And a way COINTELPROoperated, agents were invited to submit proposals for these dirty tricks operations, and then the proposal would go back to Washington. And Hoover would read them and decide whether or not they should be carried out. And the proposal was to plant a rumor that the baby she was carrying, that the father of the baby was a Black Panther in Los Angeles. And Hoover was so happy with this proposal, and he wrote a response saying that he thought it was terrific. But he thought that they should wait until she was more noticeably pregnant, wait a few months, so that it would have a greater impact. The plan was to plant the rumor with a gossip columnist. And the people in Los Angeles were so eager to carry it forward that they didn’t wait until she was more noticeably pregnant. And what a freelance reporter, Allan Jallon, later revealed in the Los Angeles Times was that the FBI actually planted that rumor with editors of the Los Angeles Times, who then gave it to a gossip columnist.
    AMY GOODMAN: And they knew they were getting this from an FBI source.
    BETTY MEDSGER: They knew they were getting it from an FBI source. And they planted—they gave it to a gossip columnist. She wasn’t named, but the description was so obvious that people, especially in Los Angeles, knew, and she knew, that they would—I mean, Jean Seberg knew that it was she who everyone realized was the object of this. And the result was quite tragic. She was so upset when this was published in the Los Angeles Times that she gave birth very soon to a premature baby, who died very soon after birth, a white baby girl. And then, years later, on the anniversary of the birth of that dead child, Jean Seberg committed suicide. And at that time, Director Webster put out a statement that said, "We are out of this business forever. No more COINTELPRO." But it is a dramatic illustration of how extreme many of the COINTELPRO operations were. And they were all kinds of people, not everyone well known.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He’s Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2011, Chomskyspoke to Democracy Now! about COINTELPRO.
    NOAM CHOMSKY: COINTELPRO, which you mentioned, is actually the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government. It maybe compares with Wilson’s Red Scare. But COINTELPRO went on from the late ’50s right through all of the ’60s; it finally ended, at least theoretically ended, when the courts terminated it in the early ’70s. And it was serious.
    It started, as is everything, going after the Communist Party, then the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Then it extended—the women’s movement, the New Left, but particularly black nationalists. And it ended up—didn’t end up, but one of the events was a straight Gestapo-style assassination of two black organizers, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, literally. I mean, the FBI set up the assassination. The Chicago police actually carried it out, broke into the apartment at 4:00 in the morning and murdered them. Fake information that came from the FBI about arms stores and so on. There was almost nothing about it. In fact, the information about this, remarkably, was released at about the same time as Watergate. I mean, as compared with this, Watergate was a tea party. There was nothing, you know?
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, speaking to Democracy Now! Keith Forsyth, could you talk about the significance of what Professor Chomsky said? And also, Noam Chomsky was part of the group Resist, which was one of the groups to which those FBI documents had been sent by you.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Correct. So, at some point in the process after the initial mailing, Bill eventually hand-delivered all of the political documents that we had selected for distribution to the Resist office in Boston.
    AMY GOODMAN: This was Bill Davidon—
    KEITH FORSYTH: Bill Davidon, yes.
    AMY GOODMAN: —the Haverford professor and well-known antiwar activist.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Yes. And one of the examples that Mr. Chomsky cited was the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, which we all knew about, but we didn’t know the extent of the FBIinvolvement. That came out later. As it turned out, the FBI had an informant in the Chicago Black Panther organization who provided a map of the apartment where the Panther leadership was staying, including a big X on the location where Fred Hampton slept.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Fred’s bed.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Fred’s bed, yeah, Fred’s bed. This map was provided to Hanrahan, the—I believe he was a district attorney in Chicago, and a—had a special unit of police whose focus was to target the Panthers. And Fred Hampton was drugged one night and was sleeping very soundly when the police broke in early in the morning. And they—they killed Mark Clark, and they shot and killed Fred Hampton—excuse me—in his bed, while he was sleeping.
    JOHN RAINES: He wasn’t dead.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Oh, right. That’s right.
    JOHN RAINES: He wasn’t dead.
    AMY GOODMAN: John Raines.
    JOHN RAINES: He was shot, he was wounded, but he wasn’t dead. And then his girlfriend, who was pregnant, was in the same room, in the bedroom. Two policemen came in—two Chicago policemen came in. And they said—and she heard them say, "Well, it looks like he’s going to make it." And one of the guys took out his revolver, put the revolver on the back of Fred’s head and blew him away, and said, "Now he’s good and dead."
    AMY GOODMAN: This was December 4th, 1969, a year and a few months before you raided the FBIoffices—
    KEITH FORSYTH: That’s right.
    AMY GOODMAN: —in Media.
    KEITH FORSYTH: And later on—
    JOHN RAINES: That’s the kind of thing that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was involved in—I mean, radically unconstitutional, illegal. They—assassination, as Keith said.
    BONNIE RAINES: Horrifying, horrifying, horrifying.
    JOHN RAINES: Yeah.
    KEITH FORSYTH: Later on, there was an FBI document discussing, evaluating this raid. And I no longer recall the exact wording, but it was words to the effect of: "The result was very satisfactory. We got the result that we wanted."
    AMY GOODMAN: You, Keith, had a wrench. You had tools to break in, and that’s what you used to get into the offices. Forty years later, Edward Snowden, you know, uses his digital skills in order to get these documents. Do you identify with him?
    KEITH FORSYTH: I do. His skills are far more difficult to master than mine.
    AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn?
    KEITH FORSYTH: I started with a correspondence course in locksmithing, which I took originally to assist in the draft board raid movement, to try to facilitate getting in and out of draft boards. And then—then, I also—I was actually working part-time as a locksmith on the side, in addition to driving a cab, so I got some practice there. And then we practiced—I practiced quite extensively at John and Bonnie’s house, made up a little sort of fake door with a whole—five or six locks in it, so you could, you know, work different ones, and just practiced fairly diligently to try to get the time down. So...
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: Betty Medsger, can you talk about FBI Agent Welch?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yes. Neil Welch played a number of important roles at that time and was an agent quite different from most FBI agents. While the culture of the FBI was dominant—dominated by Hoover’s personality and many offices of the FBI were dominated also by COINTELPRO demands and actions similar to those kinds of operations, political spying and so forth, there were a few agents who didn’t like that culture. It was very hard to resist it. But Neil Welch was an agent, a special agent in charge at various places, and he was, I think, the only special agent in charge in the FBI who refused to carry out Hoover’s orders that COINTELPRO programs take place. He refused to let his agents participate in them, and at times was placed on probation because of this.
    A couple things about him later on. First of all, he happened to be the agent in charge of the Philadelphia office five years after the burglary, when the statute of limitations expired on the burglary. And it is he who signed the document closing the case. He claims—and I’m sure this is true—that it was a matter of routine; it was time to do that, since the burglars had not been found and there was no hope that they would be. I think he was also happy to do so, because he, years later, when I interviewed him, told me that although he doesn’t think that people should burglarize FBIoffices, that he nevertheless thought that these people had done a heroic thing that was very important.
    And something else that he did that shows the change that took place in the years immediately afterwards, Clarence Kelley became the director of the FBI, the first full director after J. Edgar Hoover. It was a—he came in at a critical time, when people in the Justice Department and Congress were first starting to look at the FBI and raise questions. And he at first defended COINTELPRO, later apologized for it. But at one point, he finally—he ordered Welch to come to Washington to go into the domestic intelligence files and go through every single one of them and test whether or not they should be held open. Very few were held open. Most of them were closed by Welch. And that was not reported at the time. It was not known. But it really symbolizes the dramatic change that did take place.
    AMY GOODMAN: John Raines, can you—what did you teach at Temple University? And—
    JOHN RAINES: Well, I taught Christian social ethics.
    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the influence of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his significance, who he was?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian. And he spent a year or two at Union Theological Seminary, which is where I would later get my theological training. The Second World War was on, just beginning, and he decided he had to go back to Germany. He would be safe in this country, but he had decided that he was not going to choose safety. He would go back to his country, where his people were. And Hitler was very much against, of course, this theologian, this marvelous man. And finally, they decided, a group within this kind of religious underground, that they should undertake the assassination of Hitler. And his name was associated with that effort, and he was killed after that assassination failed.
    AMY GOODMAN: And his influence on your decision to do what you did May 8th, 1971, with your wife Bonnie and the others?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, it was a—it was an example of, one, significant identity with his nation; two, taking on grave personal risks in order to save that nation from what was happening to Germany under Hitler. And he paid the ultimate price for that. Bonhoeffer paid the ultimate price for that. And that was a significant kind of inspiration for those of us, just like Martin Luther King was also, taking a risk for what you know to be right and following that risk, if you have to, all the way to the cross.
    AMY GOODMAN: And, Betty Medsger, his influence on Bill Davidon?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Well, I would just like to say something I learned about his—how both John and Bonhoeffer were influenced in their move toward resistance by African-American people. I didn’t realize, until I did the research for the book, that Bonhoeffer, after he returned to Germany and wrote about his move toward resistance, attributed his ability to decide to resist the government to what he learned here in Harlem from African Americans and about their struggle and their willingness to resist. And I found—when I discovered that, I mean, even his language in describing it was so similar to the way John described that working with African Americans, resisting with them in the South, was what gave John courage to resist.
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, yeah.
    AMY GOODMAN: John, I was wondering if you could read the statement you read the morning after the burglary to a Reuters reporter. Now, this was what? March 9th, 1971.
    BONNIE RAINES: About 5:30 in the morning.
    AMY GOODMAN: Describe it. Bonnie, what was going on? You were in the farmhouse?
    BONNIE RAINES: No, we were headed back to our home in our car, and it was early morning. We had decided that the statement that the group had written should be released the very same day, if possible. And so, we stopped in our car headed back into the city at a public phone, and John called a reporter from Reuters whom we’d—I think Bill Davidon had arranged that—called him, woke him up and read the statement to him over the phone.
    JOHN RAINES: OK, the statement is, that I read: "On the night of March 8, 1971, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI removed files from the Media, Pennsylvania, office of the FBI. These files will now be studied to determine: one, the nature and extent of surveillance and intimidation carried on by this office of the FBI, particularly against groups and individuals working for a more just, humane and peaceful society; two, to determine how much of the FBI’s efforts are spent on relatively minor crimes by the poor and the powerless against whom they can get a more glamorous conviction rate, instead of investigating truly serious crimes by those with money and influence which cause great damage to the lives of many people—crimes such as war profiteering, monopolistic practices, institutional racism, organized crime, and the mass distribution of lethal drugs; finally, three, the extent of illegal practices by the FBI, such as eavesdropping, entrapment, and the use of provocateurs and informers."
    It goes on: "As this study proceeds, the results obtained along with the FBI documents pertaining to them will be sent to people in public life who have demonstrated the integrity, courage and commitment to democratic values which are necessary to effectively challenge the repressive policies of the FBI.
    "As long as the United States government wages war against Indochina in defiance of the vast majority who want all troops and weapons withdrawn this year, and extends that war and suffering under the guise of reducing it, as long as great economic and political power remains concentrated in the hands of a small clique not subject to democratic scrutiny and control, then repression, intimidation, and entrapment are to be expected. We do not believe that this destruction of democracy and democratic society results simply from the evilness, egoism or senility of some leaders. Rather, this destruction is the result of certain undemocratic social, economic and political institutions."
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to comments that Glenn Greenwald wrote on Tuesday about—Glenn Greenwald is the journalist who first broke the story about Edward Snowden and his NSArevelations. He wrote a piece yesterday, Tuesday, responding to the revelations about the 1971 FBIbreak-in. Greenwald writes, quote, "Just as is true of Daniel Ellsberg today, these activists will be widely hailed as heroic, noble, courageous, etc. That’s because it’s incredibly easy to praise people who challenge governments of the distant past, and much harder to do so for those who challenge those who wield actual power today."
    So, Betty, I’d like to ask you: How were your reports received then? How did people writing in response to the documents, the articles that you wrote, respond to the fact that these activists had broken into the FBI, taken these documents, and that The Washington Post had made the decision to publish them?
    BETTY MEDSGER: Well, the letters to the editor were mixed. I think the majority were positive. People were shocked. They were also glad that evidence had been presented to them, that they had no idea of what existed. There were other—I mean, this was a time of Cold War attitudes still being very—so there were many people who accused us of being communist and trying to serve a communist purpose by making these documents public. There also was a very strong response among a few people in Congress that the adulation of Hoover in Congress needed to stop and questions needed to be asked for the first time—very strong effort to press for an investigation. Also, newspaper editorial writers at papers that had only written positive things about Hoover also called for investigations. I mean, that turned out to be a relatively long process, but those investigations did take place in 1975, when there was a buildup of additional revelations, including coming to understand what COINTELPRO was, and then Sy Hersh’s article in December 1974 that revealed that the CIA, in violation of its charter, was also engaged in massive domestic surveillance. That sort of was the tipping point. There was this string of things, and then Congress did. But this all started with the Media file release and the reaction.
    AMY GOODMAN: And you, really, in pushing for your piece to be published, you laid the groundwork—though Katharine Graham first didn’t want to and then ultimately did—for Watergate, because the same thing was taking place with Woodward and Bernstein, but now she had the experience of releasing—releasing your piece.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Yeah, I mean, I like to think that there was a buildup of—as she became more experienced with this through time. And certainly it was—she was making very tough decisions. I mean, it’s easy for those of us who are simply finding the stories and thinking, "Boy, this is a story there’s no way they could refuse to publish," to realize that there were pressures. And in the instance of the press—I mean, of The Washington Post, the fact that they owned television stations and the Nixon administration could threaten them with loss of those licenses was a very real thing.
    AMY GOODMAN: John and Bonnie Raines, so your name is known; Keith Forsyth, your name is now known. What are your thoughts about people knowing who you are?
    BONNIE RAINES: Well, I can judge most immediately by the things that came in on my phone, my emails and responses from so many people who either read the Philadelphia story or The New York Times, overwhelmingly saying, "Wow! You did an amazing thing and never talked about it, never shared it all these years. And thank you very much for what you were able to accomplish."
    AMY GOODMAN: These are your close friends.
    BONNIE RAINES: These are all colleagues, work colleagues. And I’m hopeful, too, that these are people who will want to see the film, as well, 1971, because it’s a wonderful documentary and very well done. But I just—it was a flood of responses that were overwhelmingly positive.
    AMY GOODMAN: And John?
    JOHN RAINES: Well, the same.
    BONNIE RAINES: Former students.
    JOHN RAINES: Former students, yes, and all of them saying, "You did a good job, Raines. Thank you for standing your watch."
    AMY GOODMAN: And how will you deal with the glare of the media spotlight?
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, lights are a funny thing. They come on, and they go off. And knowing that that’s the way lights are, it helps you get ready when the lights go on, knowing that someday they’ll go off again. And that’s fine by me.
    AMY GOODMAN: And those who are not named, maybe you could address this, Betty. Someone who is named is Bob Williamson. Tell us what happened with him.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Bob Williamson was a defendant in the Camden trial after the Media burglary and then moved to New Mexico. And Bob has gone through many changes. He was eager to move away from total engagement with the movement, as he knew it, in Philadelphia and to get on with a new life. And he eventually did that. He was quite happy to recall his memories of what happened and what was a very important experience in his life. He’s become a Republican and stands in very different position from the rest of the burglars today, but he still looks back on that as a very important thing and regards it as something that caused positive change. And he came to New York yesterday to see the documentary and be with his fellow burglars and brought his adult daughter to share in the sense of celebration that they all felt.
    AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it was fascinating to see him, because now he became a Republican speech writer, among other things. And with his daughter in the audience, he said, "I wanted her to know who I was before I was her father."
    BETTY MEDSGER: Right. He’s told her about some of the things that he did. I was fairly surprised to learn yesterday at lunch that he hadn’t told her about breaking into an FBI office until they were on the plane leaving Albuquerque on Tuesday.
    AMY GOODMAN: And Bill Davidon died in November. He knew that his name would become known, but he was not shy about his antiwar activism, and he was out there all the way. Why didn’t he speak out before? Was it part of the vow you all took together?
    JOHN RAINES: Yeah, sure.
    BONNIE RAINES: Yeah, it was. That was so, so important that we—we were going to trust each other to maintain a silence about it. And I think we knew that Bill would do everything possible to get the word out, but not as one of the burglars. He was—he was very anxious to continue to push for the changes that he thought were so important.
    BETTY MEDSGER: I’d like to say something about Bill and the keeping of secrets. Bill’s personality was—he was a very humble, modest person, while at the same time being a very strong leader. And to some extent, that’s a reflection of the qualities of the other members of the group, and one of the things that I think made it possible for them to keep the secret all these years. I’ve covered a lot of people and a lot of different kind of movements, and there tend to be some pretty dramatic egos in movements of all kinds, where I think for most people, once that five-year period passed, it would have been very tempting to want to get credit. And I was amazed when I met them and to find out that they did not have that kind of ego need.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: Keith Forsyth, before we conclude, how is it—how is it for you now that your name is out, after all these decades of secrecy?
    KEITH FORSYTH: I’m the kind of person that’s not really comfortable talking about myself in public. And so, it’s been—it’s been a little difficult for me. But I was persuaded that, you know, by sharing our names, it helps give the story more weight, and it makes it more difficult for people who may not share our political views to dismiss it out of hand. You know, a book like this, with all unsubstantiated sources, unnamed sources, would be, I think, a different book, both as a historical record, which I think is important, and also in terms of the effect it can have to spark a political discussion. So, I’m not anxious to be even a little bit famous, but if it—if this will help spur the discussion that we need to have in this country, then I’m willing to do it.
    AMY GOODMAN: And finally, I mean, what is so astounding about this—and, Betty, you touched on this—is when the FBI set its sights on someone, as they did on John Grady, thinking he headed this plot, they’re blind to everything else—and maybe that woman they had a sketch of who ended up being Bonnie Raines. But as you show on page 150 of the book, The Burglary, there is a front-page headline, Delaware County Daily Times, a picture of Bill Davidon—this is five days after the break-in—with the headline, "Davidon Unveils Plot Against FBI." Public remarks by William Davidon about the burglary reported in a front-page banner headline in a local newspaper four days, that is, after the burglary. "As guest speaker at a meeting of clergy in Swarthmore, he read the commission’s statement"—that’s your Commission to—Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI—"explaining why they broke into an FBI office." In those five years, he was never investigated for this.
    AMY GOODMAN: Betty.
    BETTY MEDSGER: That amazing article sort of points to two things. First, the FBI was under orders at that point not to question him, his incredible immunity as a result of being investigated for Harrisburg.
    AMY GOODMAN: Which protected you all in many ways.
    JOHN RAINES: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
    BETTY MEDSGER: Right, right.
    BONNIE RAINES: Definitely.
    AMY GOODMAN: Except for the one who dropped out. That’ll teach him. He becomes the suspect.
    BETTY MEDSGER: But it also shows Bill, although I described him as this humble, unegotistical person, he also was so determined that this information become public. And the fact that the office had been burglarized wasn’t even getting attention. There were these tiny stories just saying, "Yes, not much was taken. Just a little burglary." And he wanted it to be known that something had happened, and he was willing to go this far, but always standing back, never acknowledging that he was involved in it.
    AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us. Betty Medsger has written the book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. And the activists themselves—professors, taxi cab drivers, a director of daycare—who were involved with this break-in, John Raines, Bonnie Raines, Keith Forsyth, they called themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
    John Raines, participated in the 1971 FBI break-in and helped photocopy many of the stolen documents. He and his wife Bonnie hosted many of the planning meetings for the burglary by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. He was a professor at Temple University.

    Bonnie Raines, participated in the 1971 FBI break-in and helped survey the office prior to the burglary. She and her husband John hosted many of the planning meetings for the burglary by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. She was a mother of three at the time and worked as a daycare director.

    Keith Forsyth, served as designated lock-picker in the 1971 FBI break-in by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. He was working as a cab driver at the time.

    Betty Medsger, author of the new book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s SecretFBI. She is the former Washington Post reporter who received an anonymous package in 1971 that contained secret documents obtained by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. Her new book about the saga has just been published.

    David Kairys, civil rights attorney and a law professor at Temple University. He has represented the activists for more than four decades.

    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 01-09-2014 at 09:06 AM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  9. Default High Hinkiness in Media

    The ringleader was a guy named Bill Davidon, professor at Haverford College.

    According to the source cited above, he met with Henry Kissinger at the White House two days before. Kissinger was convinced to meet with him and two other peace activists by the actions of a street protestor named Brian McDonald who conducted a lengthy hunger strike in front of the White House. If you can believe it, actress Shirley MaClaine was the one who encouraged Kissinger to meet with the peaceniks. Even more incredibly, Davidon had been accused by the FBI the previous January of being involved in a conspiracy to kidnap Henry Kissinger and to bomb tunnels under federal buildings in Washington.

    Which was apparently a good thing, because being an unindicted conspirator in that case kept him from being questioned by the FBI, since he was suspect #1, having boasted of his involvement in the break-in in a front page article in the Delaware County Daily Times five days later. (The Justice Department's reasoning was they didn't want to confuse him with other charges while he was answering questions about the kidnapping caper.)

    "BETTY MEDSGER: Yes, and that relates to the case that I was just talking about. The FBI was prepared to go after Bill Davidon very, very seriously. And the Justice—when the Justice Department found out about this, they put out an order that he should not be questioned—no questioning of Bill Davidon—which was quite amazing, given his situation and the fact that he was the leader of the group. And that went into effect. And for the entire length of the investigation, Bill was never questioned by the FBI."

    So it does sound like these burglars were given a "pass" by the powers that be. I am wondering if the covert operators set the whole thing up?

    I wonder what the names of the three burglars are that didn't come forward: Hunt, Sturgis, or McCord, maybe?


    No one in the media contacted by the group wanted to touch the stolen docs, until the crusading editor Ben Bradlee at the Washington Post convinced publisher Katherine Graham to run with the story--on the front page. It's deja vu all over again!
    Last edited by Rolf Zaeschmar; 04-29-2015 at 05:52 PM.

  10. Default

    If you look at the timeline of this curious break-in, it could have been the first act that led directly to Watergate.

    3-8-71 Media, PA break in. Cointelpro exposed by WashPo.

    4-5-71 - House Majority Leader Hale Boggs(D. LA) rails against illegal activities by the FBI and Hoover, including the bugging of Congressmen. Boggs calls for Hoover's dismissal during House speech.

    4-23-71 Boggs again calls For Hoover Ouster

    COINTELPRO was officially terminated by Hoover . Hoover suddenly gets cold feet about doing any more Black-Bag jobs for the White House

    June, 1971
    "By mid-June of 1971, the White House had already been threatened with exposure of its wiretapping by J. Edgar Hoover, who understood only too well—and let the President and his advisers know he understood—that national security had little to do with the twenty-one months of wiretapping.

    7-24-71 White House plumbers unit formed to find out who has been leaking info to the press on sensitive materials\

    6-17-72 Watergate burglars arrested
    On Hoover's relationship with President Nixon:
    "It was deep. It was based on mutual respect and dependency. And then it broke down during the last year and a half of Hoover's life — around the time that Nixon turns on the White House tapes and starts bugging himself. Nixon wants his enemies destroyed — all of them. Hoover is no longer willing to do his dirty work for him — his black bag jobs, his breaking and entering, his bugging. Nixon becomes increasingly frustrated with this and he sets up his own bucket shop — the plumbers. Six weeks after Hoover dies, they get caught breaking into the Watergate."

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