2021-03-09 14:45:37

The Burglary That Exposed COINTELPRO: Activists Mark 50th Anniversary of Daring FBI Break-in

Fifty years ago, on March 8, 1971, a group of eight activists staged one of the most stunning acts of defiance of the Vietnam War era when they broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they found.

The activists, calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, began leaking shocking details about FBI abuses to the media. The documents exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI’s secret Counterintelligence Program, a global, clandestine, unconstitutional practice of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of groups engaged in protest, dissent and social change.

Targets included Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, antiwar groups, Black booksellers and other organizations. The leaked documents triggered congressional investigations, increased oversight and the eventual passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The FBI never knew who was involved in the break-in until 2014, when several of the burglars made their identity public to coincide with the publication of a book about the break-in.

To mark the 50th anniversary, we speak with Bonnie Raines, one of the activists involved in the heist, as well as Paul Coates, the founder and director of Black Classic Press and BCP Digital Printing, who was a target of FBI surveillance as part of COINTELPRO.

“We already knew that we were being infiltrated. We knew that provocateurs were all throughout. We knew that the FBI had us under constant surveillance,” says Coates. “But I don’t think anyone at the time really knew the full extent of the program.”

Democracy Now! produces a daily, global, independent news hour hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan González. lOur reporting includes breaking daily news headlines and in-depth interviews with people on the front lines of the world’s most pressing issues. 

On DN!, you’ll hear a diversity of voices speaking for themselves, providing a unique and sometimes provocative perspective on global events.

Missed an episode?  Check out DN on FSTV VOD anytime or visit the show page for the latest clips.

#FreeSpeechTV is one of the last standing national, independent news networks committed to advancing progressive social change. 

#FSTV is available on Dish, DirectTV, AppleTV, Roku, Sling, and online at freespeech.org.

American Indian Movement Amy Goodman Antiwar Groups BCP Digital Printing Black Classic Press Bonnie Raines COINTELPRO Counterintelligence Program Democracy Now! FBI Free Speech TV Martin Luther King Jr. Media Paul Coares Pennsylvania The Black Panthers Vietnam War Young Lords

Human Rights and Equality

Democracy Now!

Scholars Angela Davis, Gina Dent & Beth Richie on Why the World Needs “Abolition. Feminism. Now.”

Scholars Angela Davis, Gina Dent & Beth Richie on Why the World Needs “Abolition. Feminism. Now.”

The Thom Hartmann Program

Should COVID Crowded Schools Close? Students Strike!

Should COVID Crowded Schools Close? Students Strike!

Democracy Now!

“Who We Are”: New Film Chronicles History of Racism in America Amid Growing Attack on Voting Rights

“Who We Are”: New Film Chronicles History of Racism in America Amid Growing Attack on Voting Rights

The Thom Hartmann Program

Does Arctic Drilling Violate Human Rights? (w/ Frode Pleym)

Does Arctic Drilling Violate Human Rights? (w/ Frode Pleym)

Related

Democracy Now!

Scholars Angela Davis, Gina Dent & Beth Richie on Why the World Needs “Abolition. Feminism. Now.”

Scholars Angela Davis, Gina Dent & Beth Richie on Why the World Needs “Abolition. Feminism. Now.”

Democracy Now!

Judge Approves Puerto Rico Debt Restructuring, But Unelected “Junta” Could Remain for Years Longer

Judge Approves Puerto Rico Debt Restructuring, But Unelected “Junta” Could Remain for Years Longer

Democracy Now!

Angela Davis on Reissue of Her 1974 Autobiography, Her Editor Toni Morrison, Internationalism & More

Angela Davis on Reissue of Her 1974 Autobiography, Her Editor Toni Morrison, Internationalism & More

Democracy Now!

Texas Rabbi: Despite False Media Narratives, Synagogue Attack Brought Jewish & Muslim Communities Together

Texas Rabbi: Despite False Media Narratives, Synagogue Attack Brought Jewish & Muslim Communities Together

Proud Partners