Revealed: The Activists Who Uncovered the FBI’s Covert CoIntelPro Counter-Surveillance Program

On March 8, 1971, a group of eight anti-war activists calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and removed every document they found. The group later leaked the removed documents to the press, revealing the FBI’s covert counter-intelligence program, CoIntelPro, designed to infiltrate, monitor and disrupt social and political movements. Documents also revealed a mass surveillance campaign being conducted against politicians, celebrities and prominent social leaders. These discoveries led the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee investigation which put an end to the program and led to reforms in the FBI’s domestic security investigations.

Despite FBI director  J. Edgar Hoover assigning 200 agents to investigate the burglary, the FBI was never able to determine the identities of the activists responsible for the break-in. In January 2014, the former activists identities were finally revealed by Betty Medsger, the former Washington Post reporter responsible for breaking the story in 1971, in her book, “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.”

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews three of the original activists; John Raines, Bonnie Raines and Keith Forsyth, along with their their attorney, David Kairys. The former activists discuss how they planned and executed the break-in, and how they managed to keep their identities hidden all these years. Also discussed is the FBI smear campaign against the outspoken Hollywood actress Jane Seberg; the suicide letter sent to Martin Luther King Jr. by the FBI; and the assassination of Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton. Their story is relevant now more than ever amidst revelations about the current domestic surveillance abuses and the FBI’s entrapment tactics and informant culture which many critics believe has led to a manufactured war on terror.

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