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Activists admit to 43 year old FBI office burglary

January 7, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
John and Bonnie Raines are heroes in my book, though I suspect the FBI might disagree.

According to NPR, 43 years ago this March the Raines and their co-conspirators broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania and stole files that gave extensive information about the FBI's surveillance of anti war and civil rights groups. The FBI kept files on people who wrote negative letters to the editor about the Vietnam War and their agents used secret informants to inflitrate schools and black churches.

A few weeks later the thieves, who called themselves the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI, delivered the files to Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger, who wrote about the story. She published the story, which eventually led to greater oversight of the FBI. Hundreds of FBI agents tried to find the burglars, but they were never successful. The statute of limitation on burglary passed five years after the crime, so none of the burglars can be prosecuted.

Medsger has written a book about the case called "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI." John Raines, 80, and his 72-year-old wife Bonnie Raines, who were activists back in the 1960s, have been interviewed by NPR, the New York Times and other publications this week about their role in the burglary. Many might see parallels between the actions of this couple back in 1971 and those of Edward Snowden, who exposed the massive National Security Agency spying on the general public that continues to this day, and WikiLeaks. Many probably think John and Bonnie Raines and Snowden are all traitors.

I tend to agree with John Raines.

"The distinction between being a criminal and breaking laws is very important," John Raines told NPR. "When the law, or when the institutions that enforce laws [and] interpret laws, become the crime as happened in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, then the only way to stop that crime from happening is to expose what's going on."


Article Comments



Jan-10-14 3:57 PM

It's too bad that you have to commit crimes to expose crimes.

Does government truly have any rights? Does government have a Negative Right against others not to burgle their offices?


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