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The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  338 ratings  ·  91 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 538 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2014)
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Its early spring of 1971 and a group of activist are fed up with how Hoover and his FBI henchmen violating the civil rights of America’s citizens. They decide to do something about it. After careful planning they break into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and steal a bunch of classified files. They copy them and send them out to various journalists at newspapers across the nation in hopes that the information will be disseminated. Writer and journalist Betty Medsger is one of the first reci ...more
The Burglary is a detailed, thorough, and utterly absorbing account of what had been a largely forgotten event. Before Edward Snowden, before Wikileaks or the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal, peace activists broke into the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office in 1971, stealing virtually every file and finding proof that J. Edgar Hoover’s organization was aggressively working to demoralize, discredit, and break up legal citizen groups involved in the antiwar and civil rights movements.

The sco
I feel deeply conflicted about this book. It's an important book that raises deeply unsettling, important questions about liberty, resistance, privacy, and the nature of government. That said, Medsger's writing left me frustrated and annoyed. I've rarely encountered a book as desperately in need of an editor as The Burglary. Not only does the published book (from Knopf, no less) have typos in it, there are some grammatical errors and awkward (though not incorrect) sentences. It is also over 500 ...more
No. I'm sorry, the writing.
Nancy Oakes
A couple of weeks ago in between airplane changes I caught a brief glimpse of a TV interview of some sort and heard the words "FBI office," "70s" and "burglary," and I mentally promised myself I'd check on whatever that might have been when I had some free time. When I finally got the chance, I put those exact words into google and came up with The Burglary, by Betty Medsger. Looking at the synopsis, I knew I absolutely had to read this book. Now that I've finished it, I'm recommending it to eve ...more
Chris Craddock
J. Edgar who?

The year is 1971 and a group of anti Vietnam War activists formulate an audacious plan: Break into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and steal the files that they hope will prove that J. Edgar Hoover is operating outside the law in his efforts to suppress dissent and illegally targeting anyone whose opinions he doesn't like. What they find surprises even them.

Betty Medsger was a reporter for the Washington Post who received copies of the files. One of the most shocking revelation
Edward Snowden is rightfully praised for being a true patriot. He openly gave up the life he had in order to inform Americans of the latest attempt by their government to secretly spy on them, disregarding the Constitution.

His situation is unique in that he made no attempt to hide what he did, correctly believing that if he did not leave the country he would be captured and muted.

More typically, someone who wants to get secret information out will leak it anonymously as Daniel Ellsberg did, risk
I couldn't put it down. Government overreach that violates civil rights (fundamental human rights) is a very serious crime against human dignity. Serious good reading.

In the kindle version the notes are not accessible from the body of the text, but the text is linked to from the notes. It would be desirable that the publisher fix this problem with an update.
A disappointing read...great topic, but poorly written.
Nancy Kennedy
Forty-some years ago, physics professor and anti-war activist Brad Donovan posed a question to a group of his fellow activists: "What do you think of burglarizing an FBI office?"

His friends weren't the criminal type. They were colleagues in academe, social workers, daycare providers, husbands, wives, parents -- in other words, average Americans. As the Vietnam war dragged on, Donovan and other activists had begun to suspect that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was overstepping its bounds and trampling peo
After reading this book, I feel like the FBI/CIA/NSA probably have me on a list of all the people who bought this book or checked it out from the library.
The burglary tells the history of the Media break in that stole FBI files and exposed the "secret FBI" that had spied on Americans for decades. A group of catholic peace activists (many of whom had participated in the draft raids) broke into FBI offices in Media Pennsylvania stealing hundreds of files on how the FBI was intimidating and coercing the peace movement. The break in was expertly planned and the building cased over the course of months. The burglars swore themselves to secrecy and kep ...more
Theresa Kirk
A great book, well researched. A burglary, "break-in" of the FBI office in Media (everybody's hometown and now mine).

FBI files that were taken, copied and sent to the news media, The Washington Post, in particular, were the first insights into the inner workings of the FBI. A side of the FBI that J. Edgar Hoover wanted to keep secret.

The "burglars" took great risks such as imprisonment, not being able to see their children, etc. but they believed in their cause. How they managed to "break-in" a
Born in the 1960s & an adolescent in the 1970s, the war in Vietnam was a continual background to the first 12 years of my life. Watergate, the Pentagon papers, COINTELPRO, and the Church committee all blended into a morass of untrustworthy government for me. I'm embarrassed to say that this book was my first attempt to differentiate some of these events, and when I initially picked up The Burglary I expected it to be about Watergate.

What I found was an accessible and captivating account of t
Great book; not only about the burglary, but about the results and, toward the end of the book, she tells us about how surveillance has progressed to the present day--up to and beyond Snowden.
"A dictator is not in place, but a tyranny-ready surveillance infrastructure is in place."

"The spying has reached dimensions that I didn't think were possible for a democratic country," said Elmar Bok, chairman of teh Foreigh Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. "The U.S., once the land of t
Amanda Trosten-bloom
This is a really important and engaging story, with important ramifications in today's US. It's caused me to think several times about my feelings about the Edward Snowden affair: about whether he is a hero or a traitor ... and whether the NSA's surveillance of the past few years might be analogous to Hoover's "dirty tricks" that shocked the nation in the mid 1970's.

The writing is good - sometimes really good, sometimes repetitive. She did so much research, and had so much information, that it b
In 1971 the Media PA FBI office was broken into and all the FBI files were stolen. The burglars copied the files and sent them to several people. Everyone except Betty Medsger turned the files back into the FBI. Betty saw to it that the evidence that J. Edgar Hoover was breaking the law and had been since 1924 when he was appointed to the precursor of the FBI. During the 48 years that Hoover was director of the FBI he routinely and illegally developed files on anyone whose politics he disagreed ...more
Fascinating book on a fascinating subject.

I had briefly and vaguely heard about and read about, in the past, the 1971 burglary of the Media, Pa., FBI office. I had no idea of the details involved in an event that, in my estimation, was more important than the printing of the Pentagon Papers in the same year.

The short story:

In early 1971, eight antiwar activists, after careful planning, burgled the aforementioned office. They took out every piece of paper, other than blank forms, they could get t
What an amazing story! In the evening of the Frasier/Ali fight, a group of average Americans broke into the FBI headquarters in the small town of Media, PA and stole every document. They carefully sorted and copied every page and sent it anonymously to sympathetic reporters and politicians. Despite millions of dollars and thousands of man hours, they were never identified or caught until the reporter who originally reported the story ran into some of them at a dinner party 40 years later.

This is
Thom Jones
Fascinating review of the break-in to a local FBI office as an anti war activity in the 1970's. The exposed contents of the stolen FBI files set in motion the first significant review of FBI practices in nearly 50 years. Just as Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Paper's and Edward Snowden's release of NSA files lead to needed corrections in government behavior and policy, the break-in to the FBI office in Media, PA led to a correction which, at least temporarily, righted the moral balanc ...more
Just couldn't get through this book. I worked at the FBI in Philadelphia when this happened. I know I was young and naive but I think a lot of this was exaggerated for the books sake. It was still a crime, they stole from a government office, no matter what was going on in the US or the world. Reminds me of Snowden and what he is doing in Russia. Yes, the NSA is probably gathering TMI, but what he did and is doing is still a crime against the US government.
If it weren't for the egregious typos ("fo" instead of "of" for example), I would give it 5 stars. This would make a good movie, and it's true! The author captured the era (late 60s/early 70s) well with her set up and background details. It was amazing to read how each burglar considered their participation, the potential consequences, and how they lived with the secret afterwards. It's a textbook case of peeps so committed to a democratic society in the USA that they were willing to act illegal ...more
A riveting account of the March 1971 raid of an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, that provided definitive evidence of what J. Edgar Hoover had kept hidden even from those who should have reigned in him: that it was an explicit policy of the FBI over many years to carry on surveillance of American citizens based purely on their beliefs and, worse, to create paranoia and stifle dissent. The citizens who carried out the raid kept their roles secret for many years; this book at last gives them pub ...more
David Eisner
An outstanding book. They can't tear the J. Edgar Hoover building down soon enough (once the FBI has moved into its new digs, of course!). Under Hoover the FBI operated as an extra-legal secret police force, conducting surveillance (often for decades), break-ins, and various dirty-tricks operations against any individual or organization that met with Hoover's disapproval. On those occasions when the Attorney General or Congress demanded that a program be halted, Hoover would simply ignore the re ...more
Dianna LeFevre
Seriously good. There's more information about the FBI than about the burglary itself or the people involved. Medsger needed a ruthless editor--some of the material was not really relevant to the overall thesis of the book (she does extended biographies of some people involved in the anti-war movement who were not directly related to the burglary itself). There's also a bit of unneeded repetition throughout the book.

In addition to information about the burglary and the history of the FBI, focus
Barbara Mitchell
The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI is a hefty book that I've been absolutely glued to for the last couple of weeks. I tried to read short mystery novels in between sessions with this one, but couldn't wait to get back to it. My fear that it might be boring couldn't be further from the truth.

Medsger was a reporter for The Washington Post in 1971 when a group of anti-war protesters broke into an FBI regional office in Media, PA, just outside Philadelphia. They took all the
Frank Richardson
In March of 1971, a rather unlikely group of conspirators broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania which is near Philadelphia. They stole the files (all of them) and then spent the rest of the night in a rural farmhouse reading the files trying to determine what exactly they had. They subsequently released many of them to the media. The files revealed an FBI out of control with illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of its citizens and they were guilty of being people who offended J E ...more
William Peck
Another unbelievable exposure of American history and a man conceived in sin named Edgar Hoover. I thought the Dulles brothers were amongst the worst scoundrels - and they were - however, Hoover goes to the head of the class. This is a well written documentation of the events surrounding the so called illegal stealing of valued documents at the office of the FBI in Media, PA. and the effects of their revelation to the American public. It not only depicts the details of the robbery itself, but as ...more
Forty-three years ago, Washington Post journalist Betty Medsger received a package in the mail. While this in itself was not unnatural--in the era before computers and emails, journalists existed through their telephones and mailboxes--what she found inside the package was: photocopies of sensitive FBI documents, all stolen from an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania; and a letter explaining not only where the documents had come from but why they were being distributed to journalists. Other ...more
Suzie Diver
If the author had confined this book to the robbery and immediate repercussions, then this book would be much stronger. The final sections try to compare Edward Snowden to the FBI burglars and in doing so wanders away from the original story.
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