Thieves Uncover Massive FBI Domestic Surveillance
They were the most unlikely team of burglars ever assembled. One was a college professor, another a cab driver. They surveyed the neighborhood, and one of them even entered the target, a small office building in Pennsylvania, to case the joint while posing as a college student. Finally on March 8, 1971, while the country watched the Frasier - Ali boxing match, they struck. With a crowbar and a lot of nerve, they broke into the office and filled several suitcases. They rendezvoused at a small barn in Pottstown to divide the loot and then split up, never to meet again as a team. They were never caught.
It was the perfect crime.
What's more, it change the course of U.S. history, blowing the lid off a secret spy empire built by the most powerful man in America.
It wasn't gold the thieves were after. Not cash, jewels or negotiable bonds. The burglars were looking for something far more valuable - information. Information about the FBI's massive domestic spying program on ordinary Americans, whose only crime in most cases was exercising their civil rights. Some of the revelations included a shocking attempt by the FBI to blackmail Martin Luther King, Jr., in order to discredit the Civil Rights movement.
Many of the memos and documents were mailed anonymously to major news organizations, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, who published front page articles about the scandal. Hearings in Congress followed, headed by Senator Frank Church, whose final report from the Church Committee declared "Too many people have been spied upon by too many government agencies, and too much information has been collected."
Now, several of the men involved in the burglary have stepped forward to tell their story. The statute of limitations on their crime has long expired, but the changes they initiated survive. In light of the latest domestic spy revelations by Edward Snowden, their story is even more important today.
“We did it … because somebody had to do it,” John Raines, 80, a retired professor of religion at Temple University, said in an interview with NBC News. Some of the agents involved in the original burglary investigation disagree. According to one FBI agent, the burglars “are criminals, not patriots.”
Personally, I think the men and women involved in this burglary did our nation a great service. But decide for yourself. Watch the NY Times video here:
Then read more about this story at the New York Times and NBC.