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The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI [Rauer Buchschnitt] [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Betty Medsger
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7. Januar 2014
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 haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule.

Betty Medsger's extraordinary book re-creates in resonant detail how this group of unknowing thieves, in their meticulous planning of the burglary, scouted out the low-security FBI building in a small town just west of Philadelphia, taking into consideration every possible factor, and how they planned the break-in for the night of the long-anticipated boxing match between Joe Frazier (war supporter and friend to President Nixon) and Muhammad Ali (convicted for refusing to serve in the military), knowing that all would be fixated on their televisions and radios.

Medsger writes that the burglars removed all of the FBI files and, with the utmost deliberation, released them to various journalists and members of Congress, soon upending the public’s perception of the inviolate head of the Bureau and paving the way for the first overhaul of the FBI since Hoover became its director in 1924.  And we see how the release of the FBI files to the press set the stage for the sensational release three months later, by Daniel Ellsberg, of the top-secret, seven-thousand-page Pentagon study on U.S. decision-making regarding the Vietnam War, which became known as the Pentagon Papers.
At the heart of the heist—and the book—the contents of the FBI files revealing J. Edgar Hoover’s “secret counterintelligence program” COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States in order “to enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles,” to make clear to all Americans that an FBI agent was “behind every mailbox,” 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 author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post and continued her investigation long after she'd left the paper, figuring out who the burglars were, and convincing them, after decades of silence, to come forward and tell their extraordinary story. 

The Burglary
is an important and riveting book, a portrait of the potential power of non­violent resistance and the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.

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  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 608 Seiten
  • Verlag: Knopf (7. Januar 2014)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0307962954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307962959
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 23,9 x 16,3 x 3,9 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 179.541 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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“Rich and valuable.”
-David J. Garrow, The Washington Post
“Impeccably researched, elegantly presented, engaging…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.”
-David Oshinsky, New York Times Book Review

“A cinematic account . . . By turns narrative and expository, The Burglary provides ample historical context, makes telling connections and brings out surprising coincidences . . . makes a powerful argument for moral acts of whistle-blowing in the absence of government action.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“An important work, the definitive treatment of an unprecedented and largely forgotten ‘act of resistance’ that revealed shocking official criminality in postwar America. One need not endorse break-ins as a form of protest to welcome this deeply researched account of the burglary at Media. Ms. Medsger’s reporting skill and lifelong determination enabled her to do what Hoover’s FBI could not: solve the crime and answer to history.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Riveting and extremely readable. Not just an in-depth look at a moment in history, The Burglary is also extremely relevant to today's debates over national security, privacy, and the leaking of government secrets to journalists.”
The Huffington Post

“Astonishingly good, marvelously written…the best book I've read about either the antiwar movement or Hoover's FBI; a masterpiece.”
-Daniel Ellsberg
“The break-in at the FBI offices in Media, Pennsylvania changed history.  It began to undermine J. Edgar Hoover’s invulnerability. Betty Medsger writes a gripping story about the burglary, the burglars, and the FBI’s fervid but fruitless efforts to catch them.  Her story of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI (and today’s NSA) teaches the dangers of secret power.”
-Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr., former Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee investigating America’s intelligence agencies and author of the forthcoming Unchecked and Unbalanced
“A riveting account of a little-known burglary that transformed American politics. Medsger's carefully documented findings underscore how secrecy enabled FBI officials to undermine a political system based on the rule of law and accountability. This is a masterful book, a thriller.”
-Athan Theoharis, author of Abuse of Power: How Cold War Surveillance and Secrecy Policy Shaped the Response to 9/11
"Ordinary people have the courage and community to defeat the most powerful and punitive of institutions -- including the FBI. That's the unbelievable-but-true story told by Better Medsger, the only writer these long term and brave co-conspirators trusted to tell it. The Burglary will keep you on the edge of your seat -- right up until you stand up and cheer!" 
-Gloria Steinem
“In The Burglary, Betty Medsger solves the decades-long mystery the FBI never could: who broke into an FBI office in 1971 and exposed the Bureau’s secret program to stifle dissent? An astonishing and improbable tale of anonymous American heroes who risked their own freedom to secure ours, triggering the first attempt to subject our intelligence agencies to democratic controls. The book couldn’t be more timely given the current furor over a new generation of domestic spying.”
 -Michael German, former covert counterterrorism FBI agent
 “A masterpiece of investigative reporting. As a writer, I admire the way Betty Medgser has explored every angle of this truly extraordinary piece of history and told it with the compelling tension of a detective story. As an American, I’m grateful to know at last the identities of this improbable crew of brilliant whistle-blowers who are true national heroes. As someone appalled by recent revelations of out-of-control NSA spying, I’m reminded that it has all happened before, and that then, as now, it took rare courage to expose it. This brave group of friends were the Edward Snowdens of their time.” 
-Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost

“Extraordinary . . . It is impossible to read Betty Medsger’s book without drifting into comparisons between then—when J. Edgar Hoover was the director of the FBI—and now—when Gen. Keith Alexander was the director of the NSA.”
—Firedoglake Book Salon

“Reading [The Burglary] might make you feel . . . like taking a crowbar to the offices of the NSA . . . Gripping . . . [The] timing couldn’t be better.”

“There is joy and fun—and lots of law breaking—in Betty Medsger's book. The Burglary answers the question long asked and speculated about within Catholic Left, as well as law and order, circles: Who did the 1971 Media, Pa., FBI break-in . . . Fast paced, fascinating . . . studded with timely insights for today's WikiLeaks, intelligence breaches and NSA scandals.”
—Frida Berrigan, Waging Nonviolence

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Betty Medsger was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Medsger is a former chair of the Department of Journalism at San Francisco State University and is the founder of its Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism. She is the author of Winds of Change, Framed, and Women at Work. She lives in New York and Connecticut.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen
3.0 von 5 Sternen amre alaily 4. Februar 2014
Von Alaily
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
too many recurring details of people and events that were not of particular interest to me...Ne vertheless a worthwhile read.
War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?
Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.5 von 5 Sternen  188 Rezensionen
62 von 65 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Magnificent Piece of Work 2. Januar 2014
Von Evelyn Uyemura - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I found this book absolutely absorbing. Both the skill with which it is written and the story that it tells are astounding. The story centers around the decision in 1971 by 8 respectable and responsible people, including a young married couple with 3 children, to break in to a small local FBI office to attempt to get proof that the FBI was spying on and attempting to suppress dissent by those who opposed the Vietnam War. This act of civil disobedience was much different than what Civil Rights protestors had engaged in--if caught, these people would face not just a few days or weeks in a local jail, like Martin Luther King in Birmingham, but instead as much as 30 years in a federal penitentiary.

The author writes movingly and in great detail about what would lead people to make such a bold decision, their backgrounds, how they prepared themselves, the precautions they took to keep their act secret (again, unlike many other acts of Civil Disobedience), the stress and fear they felt, and at the end, how they now feel looking back on their younger selves. I was so moved by the story of the Robins family and their deep love for each other and for their young children, and yet their belief that a moral life may require putting all that at risk for a higher good. Though it might seem irresponsible, it is routinely expected that a married soldier of either sex will be willing to risk death or disability even though they have a family, so their conviction makes sense, and yet, it was so painful and hard won. I also was fascinated by Brenda Robins, the wife and mother, as she carried out her role in the break-in--she sometimes took on the role of "earth mother," as the author describes it, cooking meals for the other burglars as they planned their job, and yet at a crucial moment making one of the boldest moves of all by going to an FBI office under false pretenses, spending over an hour talking to an agent in order to study the space. She was the only person that the FBI had any description of in the case, and was probably in the most danger of being caught. Her actions led her to become a feminist early on, and to develop a strong sense of herself as a free moral agent and not just a wife and mother.

In addition to the personal drama, the book also reveals (which is not new, but deserves to be reconsidered in the light of current circumstances) the unbelievable extent that the FBI went to to surveil and harass not only potentially violent protestors, but anyone that J. Edgar Hoover personally disliked, which basically included all black civil rights advocates and all anti-war protestors, no matter how committed they were to non-violence.(The American Friends Service Committee and the ACLU, for example.) It is well-known by now that the FBI had extensive files on Martin Luther King, and it is almost taken for granted, but it needs to be remembered that it was illegal for them to do so. One of the key points that was released by the Media burglars (Media being the name of the city where they committed their burglary) is that the FBI had an explicit policy of attempting to "create paranoia" in any group that they felt was suspect. The irony is that it was the FBI, and the government, and in fact the American people as a whole, who were the victims of paranoia. (and the disease is still rampant today, not a paranoia of communism now, but a paranoia of terrorism that is mostly unjustified.)

This book is long, but I found it captivating from first page to last. The only slightly clunky bit of organization is that the death of J. Edgar Hoover is narrated in one chapter and in the following chapters, we are back to a time when he was still alive. Other than that, the story is told with remarkable clarity and smoothness. The writing is never showy, but clear and straightforward. The author clearly is in sympathy with the burglars and the decision they made, but she is even-handed in her description of the questions they raised before, during, and after the burglary and the questions that could be raised in opposition to their decision. She also connects the dots to the pre- and post- 9/11 domestic surveillance, and the actions of Edward Snowden that reveal how much more extensive NSA surveillance is than anything Hoover was capable of. Curiously, she does not make a direct comparison of Snowden's decision to break the law and the Media burglars' decision to do so in 1971. It should also be noted that the author is one of the journalists who first received copies of the stolen FBI files back in 1971, and her paper was the first to publish them. She did not know until recently who it was that conducted the break-in, and some of the participants have maintained their vow of life-long silence and secrecy, though several of them made the decision to break that silence, resulting in this book.

Reading this book took me back to the atmosphere in the 1960s and 70s, when many people were aroused to action, first against racial discrimination and then against what they believed to be an unjust war. It hints at the fact that the United States is a complicated country--proclaiming itself the land of the free, but stooping to shameful depths to curtail efforts to make "liberty and justice for all" a reality.
32 von 34 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen The Original Wikileaks! 30. Dezember 2013
Von Kevin Currie-Knight - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
In our age of Wikileaks, Edward Snowden's release of CIA documents, and endless debate over how much we shall allow governments to operate in how much secrecy, histories like this one need telling. On March 8, 1972, the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI - really, a small group of concerned anti-war protesters - burgled the FBI building in Media, PA, taking every document they could find in the building. This amateur group of burglars' intent was to validate to themselves and others their (and others') suspicion that the FBI was using its accountability-immune power to create a sense of terror amongst the American people and spy on people who posed no ostensible threat to national security (anti-war protesters, social activists, etc). Once the documents were gotten, the Commission set out to gradually release documents to media sources so that Americans could glimpse what sorts of things the FBI was doing.

As the book states, not only were the Commission's concerns completely validated, but their "results" kicked off a huge firestorm of controversy over the (until then) quite autonomous FBI.

This is a wide-ranging book, profiling the planning of the burglary, the media's reaction to the leaked documents, the FBI's attempts to contain the PR damage as well as their unsuccessful attempts to find the burglars (who were never caught), and the nation's attempts to grapple with how to reform an agency that might need some secrecy in order to protect the country, but also clearly needed to be accountable to the nation. Perhaps the most impressive part of the book is the extent of interviews within it, from newspaper writers who decided to leak the Commission's documents against immense political pressure to hand the documents back to the FBI, to some of the burglars (on conditions of anonymity, I think).

Different audiences will find different things of interest about this book. First, it actually serves as a decent history of the FBI, and particularly J. Edgar Hoover's reign and the ensuing mission creep of the organization (from keeping America safe from international threats to spying on Americans hostile to current political agendas, like the Black Panthers or the New Left.) Others might be more interested in how the burglary was planned - as told by those who planned it - and the FBI's surprisingly bungling and failed investigations to try and catch the burglars. Still others might be more interested in the history of the debates the Commission's revelations spurred in the media, public, and congress, over things like COINTELPRO (the FBI's until-then-secret attempts to target blacks, college students, and anyone who MIGHT be associated with the New Left in order to sabotage and intimidate them).

For my tastes, the book might have been a little too long and encyclopedic. I found myself, later in the book, skimming and sometimes skipping chapters. But that is a really minor criticism. While the book is written in a fairly dry, journalistic style, I should say that it is one of the most well-staged (in terms of telling an effective story) histories I've read in quite some time. And anyone who cares about current debates over the morality of groups like Wikileaks or individuals like Edward Snowden or Bradley/Chelsea Manning really should read this account. It all started in Media PA, with the small Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI.
58 von 65 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Far more than the title implies 20. Dezember 2013
Von G. Schneider - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
My first thought on having completed this massive tome is that it's misnamed. Yes, the break-in and the removal of secret files from the Media, PA, FBI office is discussed at length (one could say "at long length"), but that's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Most of the book deals with the history and development of the FBI, before, during and after that break-in. Calling this book The Burglary is tantamount to calling Around the World in 80 Days something like My Trip to Paris.

Considering that Ms. Metzger was one of the original recipients of the Xeroxed copies of the pilfered files, she's certainly been involved in the story for a long time. That break-in occurred in 1971. After all this time, though, seven of the eight burglars have decided it's safe to come out of the closet. (The one hold-out, whoever he/she is, is probably either paranoid or dead...or both.)

To be sure, this is a fascinating book, even if it does stray. There are many insights into the workings of the FBI under Hoover. If you go by the book's subtitle, "The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI," rather than the actual title, which is limiting, you have a fascinating history of the bureau. But just when Ms. Metzger has wandered afield of the Media burglary, she'll toss in a line or two bringing it back into focus, such as: "The [Media] break-in may have been necessary in order for the truth about FBI operations to emerge."

So despite the length of this book (which I still feel is excessive), the information contained in Ms. Metzger's volume is fascinating and eye-opening. The burglars were looking primarily for corroboration that the FBI was stepping on Americans' right to dissent (in particular against our presence in Vietnam). What they found was far more encompassing -- and scary. A can of worms was opened that Mr. Hoover would rather have kept secret. "Paranoia exists today throughout the world. It has been enhanced primarily by two fears -- fear that there will be more terrorist attacks and fear of governments' use of increasingly invasive electronic surveillance of their own citizens. Now people anywhere may wonder if there is intelligence-gathering equipment behind every email, every phone call, every Skype conversation, every Facebook message, every chat room conversation, every Internet search, every stored document..."

An old joke goes: "You're not being paranoid. There really are people watching you." After you read this book, you're pretty much convinced of that.
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen An important story 30. Januar 2014
Von Mike - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Read this book. There, I've said it. Now, there are problems. It jumps around way too much. It's sweeping when it should be focused. The author has access to the people involved and leaves you hanging for more. But this is an important tale, a recounting of a time when citizens exposed government overreach and a reminder the government continues to violate Americans' civil rights regularly. The lesson: Citizens brave enough to risk their freedom to expose injustice should not be reviled; they should be celebrated.
10 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Frightening and most informative 12. Januar 2014
Von webwiz99 - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Very well written, a real page-turner. The first large portion of the book, about the robbery of
an FBI office to get files relating to FBI harassment of US citizens reads like a novel. The
drama is terrific and all true. Finding out what this illegal act made possible in the following
review of the FBI and Hoover makes one proud of them as Americans. The burglars, very aware of
the comments in Germany after World War II that "I did not know anything" and, so, vast numbers
of individuals exculpated themselves for not having done something to fight the Nazi regime,
these Americans suspected what the FBI was doing and followed up in the most professional way
that greatly endangered them and their families..

It gives me a whole new perspective on Mr. Snowden and his stealing the NSA files, the danger
of which is clearly explained. A very engrossing book.
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