Burglary of FBI Office Still Resonates, Covered in Professor Medsger's Book

April 21, 2014

KQED NEWS FIX -- The burglars were motivated by persistent rumors that the peace and civil rights movements had been infiltrated by spies, said Betty Medsger, former chair of the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University. “But there was no evidence,” she said. “So this was a way to determine whether or not it was true.” In 1971 Medsger was a reporter for the Washington Post, and the burglars were mostly academics and graduate students opposed to the war in Vietnam. They anonymously sent her and four other people copies of the documents they had found, which revealed the FBI’s extraordinary efforts to suppress dissent, including its blanket surveillance of black people. Medsger’s story about the burglary generated outrage and a national discussion about the role of intelligence agencies in a democratic society. Her 608-page book about the heist — and how and why it occurred — came out in January: “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.”