CIO Briefing

An Analog Data Breach: A 1971 FBI Break-In

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, 77 years old with President Richard Nixon in 1971.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, 77 years old with President Richard Nixon in 1971. // JP/AP File Photo

Burglars who broke into an FBI office in 1971 and made off with tons of documents have come forward nearly forty years after their score helped expose J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau's widespread efforts at political repression. The reveal appears in The New York Times ahead of a book chronicling the break-in by Betty Medsger, who was one of the first journalists to receive documents from the robbers.

Five of the eight participants have chosen to come forward with their story. The group spent months casing the satellite office in Media, Pa., and gained access with little more than a lockpick and a crowbar. The statute of limitations for the crime has long been expired.

One of the documents contained the term "COINTELPRO" but it took two years for a reporter to figure out what it meant: Counter Intelligence Program. Among the program's tactics were:

plans to enhance “paranoia” among “New Left” groups by instilling fears that “there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.” Another instructed agents in the Philadelphia area to monitor the “clientele” of “Afro-American type bookstores” and recruit informants among the “the Negro militant movement.”

The disclosure of the FBI's domestic spying program enraged Hoover.

Read the full story at TheWire.com.

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