Free Preview Clip
Betty Medsger tells the story of 8 activists who broke into FBI office in 1971 and revealed Hoover's secret police state operation, Cointelpro.Click here for free audiobook download from Audible, and generate $15 to PBC Podcast!
Medsger's important book is The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI. Medsger was a reporter for The Washington Post, and received copies of FBI documents the burglars stole from an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania.
We open with discussion of the book's important revelations about Hoover: his micromanagement of the FBI and the cult of personality he built around himself. Medsger explains the secret Security Index, which Hoover started in the 1930's--it kept track of citizens who were not suspected of crimes, but who expressed "subversive" ideas and would be subject to detention in an undefined national emergency. The list began with alleged communists, added black civil rights activists, then expanded to draft and war protesters during Vietnam. She explains that on 3 different occasions, Hoover defied orders to shut down his enemies list, so he just changed the name of the program and instructed his agents to continue the list.
Medsger explains that many elected officials initially defended Hoover, but that dogged reporting by NBC's Carl Stern and Seymour Hersh of the NY Times exposed Cointelpro, and people like California Congressman Don Edwards, a Democrat and former FBI agent, pushed for true reform.
She offers a partial account of the burglary and a second break-in to the draft board in Camden that involved 2 of the Media burglars. Through a paid informant, the FBI set a trap at Camden, expecting to arrest the man they erroneously thought was the leader of the Media episode. At trial, the informant flipped, and testified that the FBI helped orchestrate and pay for the crime.
We also discuss the FBI in recent years, comparing its No-Fly list with the Security Index and National Security Letters with the FBI's illegal tactics of the Hoover era. And we talk about the media's role in enabling FBI abuses since 9/11
At the end, she explains that, more than 30 years after the break-in, one of the burglars blurted out his involvement, which led to this significant book and a documentary to be released this spring, 1971.