On a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.
They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.
The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation.
The group — originally nine, before one member dropped out, includes:
William C. Davidon, professor of physics at Haverford College, who came up with idea. Davidon died late last year from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
John Raines. taught religion at Temple University
Bonnie Raines, worked at a daycare center in Philadelphia
Keith Forsyth, taxi driver in Philadelphia
Bob Williamson, social worker for state of Pennsylvania
Still anonymous: 2 women, a professor, and anti-war activist; 1 man, graduate student in health profession
The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty MedsgerRelated Links: