Tuesday, January 28, 2014

the burglary that exposed the fbi's domestic surveillance and war on black folks...,


npr |  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."