1971 March 8

Activists Raid FBI Office in Media, PA; Steal Documents, Expose COINTELPRO


Anti-Vietnam War activists raided the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on this day and stole over 1,000 documents related to the FBI’s secret COINTELPRO program. The notorious COINTELPRO program had been approved by the Eisenhower administration on March 8, 1956 (ironically, exactly 15 years before the raid), and involved burglaries, illegal wiretapping, and other actions against people and organizations that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover thought were subversive or dangerously radical. The Media documents stolen on this day were sent to several publications, and they provided the first hint about COINTELPRO.

Only one of the stolen documents actually contained the word COINTELPRO, and no one knew what it referred to. The first published news stories on COINTELPRO, in March 1971, and spurred further inquiries into the nature and extent of the program. It was finally fully exposed by the Senate Church Committee investigations that began on January 27, 1975. The Media raid was the only known activity by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. Despite a massive effort, the FBI never identified and arrested the people who did it. The full story, including the names and lives of the Media burglars, is told in the 2014 book by Betty Medsger (see below).

Read: Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI (2014)

Read the stolen documentshttp://www.scribd.com/doc/46984771/The-Complete-Collection-of-Political-Documents-Ripped-off-from-the-FBI-Office-in-Media-Pa-March-8-1971-WIN-March-1972 

Learn more about the War Resisters League, which published the COINTELPRO documents: http://www.warresisters.org/win

Read the Senate Church Committee report on COINTELPRO (pp. 1–77): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Read the FBI File on its COINTELPRO Program: http://vault.fbi.gov/cointel-pro

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