The never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists - quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans - that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, his own shadow Bureau of Investigation.
It begins in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War. A small group of activists - eight men and women - the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan's rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land.
The would-be burglars - nonpro's - were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist, a lock picker; a graduate student.
Betty Medsger's extraordinary book re-creates in detail how this group of unknowing thieves scouted out the low-security FBI building in a small town just west of Philadelphia, taking into consideration every possible factor.
At the heart of the heist - and the book - the contents of the FBI files revealing Hoover's "secret counterintelligence program" COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups, a plan that would discredit, destabilize, and demoralize groups, many of them legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups that Hoover found offensive - as well as black power groups, student activists, antidraft protestors, conscientious objectors.
The Burglary is an important and riveting book, a portrait of the potential power of non-violent resistance and the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.
©2014 Betty Medsger (P)2014 Audible Inc.
"[I]mpeccably researched and elegantly presented.... The current debate in America over government surveillance of its citizenry has a long and controversial history. It didn't begin on 9/11, and it doesn't need technological wizardry to succeed. For those seeking a particularly egregious example of what can happen when secrecy gets out of hand, The Burglary is a natural place to begin." (The New York Times)
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
The heist of the century didn’t involve banks, jewels, or art.
A secret team of people from all walks of life banded together in order to bring down one of the most powerful men in American history. It took bravery. It required ingenuity: they couldn't pick the door lock, so they left a note asking that the door be left open...and it worked!
There was betrayal: one backed out and threatened to turn them in. Finally, there was loyalty—they kept their secret for forty years.
The Burglary revisits what the American people didn’t KNOW before the Media burglary. Dissident groups knew they were being torn apart from the inside, but nobody could prove it.
What the burglars found put a light on Hoover’s COINTELPRO, and the FBI’s illegal and sadistic suppression of dissent in America.
Chapter 1 asks, “Who would to go to prison to save dissent?”
These were ordinary people in the anti-war movement: “a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist,a cab driver, an antiwar activist, a lock picker, a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule.”
Each one stepping outside the law to do what they felt was right.
Bronson Pinchot, Audible’s "Narrator of the Year," gives yet another stellar performance. He has such a feel for inflection and intonation that his narration that I knew.... we'd found the one. I asked Betty to introduce herself and read her very special acknowledgements, so you'll hear her wonderful voice as well.
This is an amazing and intriguing true story of what should be seen as the spark which reined in the corruption and megalomania of J. Edgar Hoover & the F.B.I. in the years from the end of WWII through the Nixon Administration. How those who perpetrated this illegality could maintain their secrecy over more than 40 years is amazing in itself. That it was a perfect example of justified civil disobedience is now confirmed in meticulous research over thousands of documents. Not only is it compelling and very readable, it shows that truth is stranger than fiction. An absolute must read.
This is an amazing story, very well-written and very well-read. The author tells the incredible and moving story of the beak-in of the media FBI office, and the subsequent release of previously secret files that gave huge insight into the FBI and Hoover's control of it.
But she goes further to explain events since and the dangers of more recent events, like the Patriot Act.
English major. Love to read
I was completely enthralled with the beginning half of this book - the author wove a good story and kept me entranced with true events about a disturbing time. I found myself suggesting this to many other "boomers" who might, like I, have protested the Vietnam War in the 60s, didn't know the clear response to people like us from the FBI and have been intrigued by the despotism of J. Edgar Hoover.
It is a good read but not all the way through. I got bogged down with the level of detail that Betty Medsger used and found that her story telling ability didn't continue through the second half of the book.
Like a former reader, I also found it puzzling why a man read the book when it is written by a woman. I also found the editorializing he did through the way he read the book to be annoying.
Despite all of this, I didn't stop reading the book because I do think those at the heart of the book - the men and women who carried out the burglary -- need to be honored and praised for their courage. Each of us needs to know what despicable acts were perpetrated in the name of democracy and learn from the knowledge.
The author weaves a fascinating and readable narrative of the ramifications of the burglary of a satellite FBI office in 1971. The book was gripping, going into the details of the burglary, the stories of the people who committed the burglary, and the political consequences of the secrets revealed. The book was written by one of the journalists who received copies of the stolen FBI documents and published them.
Narration is OK, not great. There are a number of editing errors, with phrases repeated multiple times as the reader tries different pronunciations of names. But the gripping story more than makes up for these issues. I wish that a woman had been selected to narrate this book, written by a woman.
Zeitgeist of the period in America is captured so well. Characters unfold as the "plot" develops. Plus, it's packed with rich and surprising details about Hoover and the FBI. GREAT listen!
Not sure--I was fascinated by the topic but bored by most of the book. It was overly detailed and strayed too much. It seemed that the author had spent so much time on the burglary and its outcomes that she had to include everything on the topic. If I had been reading the book I would have skipped many parts.
I just also finished "Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis. The only comparison is that I wanted to meet each of the characters in Lewis' book (even the "bad" guys) but could not really care about any of those in this book. There was something missing from this book--I never got engaged in spite of being interested in the subject.
Bronson Pinchot is an adequate narrator but not a performer for this topic. I found that he made the book boring and I was tempted to stop listening (although I think part of the problem was that the book itself was boring). It was like listening to paint dry.
Avid general reader with a fondness for British and Irish Writers and world history.
It continues to amaze me that Hoover was kept as Director for all those years and that no one had the courage to dislodge him even though he threatened 'blackmail'. Too bad, he certainly ruined the reputation of law enforcement in the U.S. This book seems to be one that would benefit from editing. Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile book and seems to be more honest than most of its type. It would have benefitted from more personal information about Hoover.
Revealing. Sheds light on a heroic act performed by ordinary people. Waaaaaaaaaaaay to long.
Only to those unfamiliar with the Media, Pa break-in; then only in Cliffs Notes.
This work is twice as long as it needs to be to tell this important story. A good editor would do wonders. If the book were limited to the story of the Media burglary and ended in the 1970s--rather than wandering back and forth through the administrations between Reagan and Obama--it would be easy to recommend it. The author never misses an opportunity to reiterate her key thesis, that Hoover viewed himself and the Bureau as above the law and, as a result, trampled on the civil rights of all Americans in many of their operations.
The description of the events leading up to and after the Media burglary, as well as the present-day interviews of participants, is fascinating and well written.
Pinchot's sarcasm and attempts to punctuate various points he seems to regard as mortifying, as well as his unsuccessful attempts to capture vocal qualities of women, is extremely distracting. The author would have been a good choice for narrator, judging from the Acknowledgments she reads.
The book should be divided into 2 books, one that focuses on the Media burglary, and one that focuses on the FBI from the Reagan administration forward.
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