J. Edgar Hoover

In 1971, a group of burglars broke into an FBI office and stole boxes of documents that revealed the federal agency’s secret spying on dissident groups. Decades later, some of those burglars have revealed themselves to former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger, who wrote the original story about the break-in and FBI spying back in 1971. Medsger joins us to talk about the people behind the break-in and the impact of what they found. And we’ll consider the changes in the country and the government in the more than 40 years between the release of those FBI files and the recent leaks by Edward Snowden.

Betty Medsger, author of "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI," former Washington Post reporter who initially covered Hoover's spying and former journalism department chair at San Francisco State University
John Raines, one of the burglars who broke into the FBI office in 1971, along with his wife, Bonnie
Bonnie Raines, one of the burglars who broke into the FBI office

  • Aaron

    The FBI recently changed the ordering of its top 10 missions. It’s effectively no longer a law enforcement agency.

    Law enforcement now takes a back seat to fighting terròrists (97% of whom the FBI selects, brainwashes, trains and equips, truth be told) and counter-intelligence (meaning spying on peaceful protesters alongside police, whom they met at “fusion centers”). Truly the USA is becoming a pòlice state, with the FBI taking up tasks equivalent to those once handled by the Nàzi Gestapò.

    Meanwhile the number of agents looking into the vast crimes of Wall St banks has dropped dramatically. No time to put the Wolves of Wall St in cages where they belong it seems. How convenient for the crooks…

    If we ask who benefited from 9/11, clearly it was those who want to destroy American democracy and establish an oligarchy-run Polizeistaat similar to China. The same people who got Yevgeny Primakov of the KGB a job at DHS… Wouldn’t it be funny if it turned out that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by those who are seeking this transformation?

    See here:http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/01/05/fbi_drops_law_enforcement_as_primary_mission

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    The question one has to ask is how do we the citizens make sure things are done legally unless someone dares do as Snowden and others before him have done, in exposing how unAmerican these agencies who work for US can be..

  • Another Mike

    I recall reading some criticism of the FBI for focusing on Communists instead of organized crime. I thought that was back in the 60s, when Hoover was riding high, but I cannot remember exactly when.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    In 1980, there was a report by CBS News that during the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, the FBI had so many undercover agents in the crowd, they numbered one out of every eight protesters — and that they fomented the crowd and helped bring about the so-called “police riot” that was broadcast nationally. This was to essentially justify a ‘WAR’ against the left, to demonize the protesters, allowing the use of more heavy ‘handed tactics.
    Was this correct?

  • Ben Rawner

    Do you think it would have been possible to pull off such a act of rebellion today? With surveillance and the Internet I highly doubt that it could happen. Does that mean our democracy is in danger? What about the NYC police force infiltrating anti-war groups before and during the Iraq war? Isn’t this illegal?

  • Aaron

    Seven years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, which the NSA can use to listen in on conversations in your room and to listen in to your phone calls.

    The terrible (technical) details:

  • Guest

    I wonder if your guests are familiar with General Smedley Butler’s whistle-blowing. He in the 1930’s exposed a plot to depose FDR and replace him with a fascist leader. That conspiracy involved George W Bush’s grandfather as well as the Du Pont family and the Remingtons. Butler was also from southeastern Pennsylvania. There ought to be a statue to Butler in Washington DC or at least in his hometown of West Chester, but alas there is none.

  • Guest


  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Remember John Lennon and Nixon’s efforts to deport him? John thought the FBI was tapping his phones and it turns out he was right. So in that case, the Executive branch directed the FBI to destroy a musician. Yes, a musician. Hard to believe today!

    • Chris OConnell

      John Lennon was much more than a musician. He was an influential anti-War icon and activist. Of course that didn’t give Nixon the right to go after him, but it wasn’t because he was strumming a guitar.

  • What can we do legislatively to encourage and protect whistleblowers and also gather support for the transparency movement?

  • Alan Chelnick

    Any damage to the American public is at this point conceptual , no damage or ilegal act by the NSA has actually been committed. What Snowden has done beside revealing some disturbing actions by the government he has gone to those two bastions of human rights china and Russia with everything he could lay his hands on describing even valid intelligence procedures. He may have done more damage than good. Unlike your guests the FBI burglars his ego was front and center when he declared that he won. He is a traitor and should stand for his day in court under the laws of the constitution and the United States of America.

    • Aaron

      Snowden for President. He’s served the American people, and defied the criminal elements of the 1%.

      At no point has Snowden exhibited egotism, but rather he has shown the un-Constitutional crimes of the NSA.

  • Chris OConnell

    This is an amazing story, very moving. How audacious and brilliant! No one could touch Hoover and they took it upon themselves to bring him and his horrible regime of Cointelpro down by finding the evidence. I am glad to see Hoover disgraced in history as I was displeased to hear how revered he was in his time.

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