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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,048 ratings  ·  204 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 activistsquiet, ordinary, hardworking Americansthat 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
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  1,048 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What do you think of burglarizing an FBI office? asked mild-mannered physics professor William Davidon, as cooly as if he were offering beer at a ball game to some particular friends - fellow anti-war activists who harbored unswerving yet unconfirmed suspicions of the FBI spying on Americans, held a passionate opposition to the Vietnam war, and believed their constitutional rights to dissent against it, were being suppressed. An eclectic bunch -"a religion professor, a daycare center worker, a ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
In this high-impact book, Betty Medsger thoroughly explores a 1971 break-in of a small FBI office that turned the entire Agency and its most prominent director, J. Edgar Hoover, on their heads. When a small group decided to undertake a break-in of the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office to protest the power and corrupt nature of the Agency, no one knew what they were going to find. Thoroughly planning and casing the offices, this small group planned and prepared, hoping to make a statement by ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
Jun 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
A frustrating and ultimately very disappointing book. One would think the story of a group of anti-Vietnam War activists breaking into an FBI office, stealing top secret files, disseminating them to the press and exposing the dark underbelly of J Edgar Hoover's bureaucracy would be an engaging and even gripping read.

Unfortunately this is not the case with "The Burglary". The narrative here - to put it mildly - is jumbled, full of digressions - many of which are inane and superfluous - and
Christopher Saunders
Betty Medsger's The Burglary explores one of the most successful acts of civil disobedience in American history: the March 8, 1971 break-in at an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. Never officially solved, its perpetrators located documents exposing J. Edgar Hoover's long history of abusing power, spying on American citizens and working to undermine political enemies, media critics and liberal, progressive and radical groups deemed "subversive." Medsger, one of several journalists to receive the ...more
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 Americas 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 ...more
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 ...more
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 Hoovers organization was aggressively working to demoralize, discredit, and break up legal citizen groups involved in the antiwar and civil rights movements.

Feb 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
No. I'm sorry, the writing.
Chris Craddock
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
A disappointing read...great topic, but poorly written.
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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,
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
I couldn't finish it - the story is great and important but the writing... the writing is horrid!
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, politics, 2017
This book is about an important and inspiring event but its excessive length is impossible to overlook.

In 1970, a small group of antiwar activists around Philadelphia come up with the daring idea of burglarizing a satellite FBI office in Media to discover whether the FBI is monitoring antiwar groups. Not only do they pull off the crime without being caught, they also find their evidence. Their releases of documents in 1970-71 blow open the FBI's secret practices and dirty tricks and radically
Nancy Kennedy
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
On March 8, 1971, eight ordinary citizens broke into the FBI office in Media, PA and stole all the files inthe office. Their action was organized by William Davidon, a physics professor from Haverford College, who was strongly suspicious that the FBI was infiltrating and undermining the anti- Vietnam war movement. When they began to go through the files they not only discovered Davidon's suspicions to be true, but they uncovered J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO program in which thousands of ordinary ...more
Nene La Beet
A most necessary book, this one. In 1971, 8 peace activists broke into a small FBI office and stole all their records. They sorted through them in a remote summer house and then sent selected files to the press and to members of congress and senate.
The reason they did the break-in in the first place was because they strongly suspected that the FBI were dabbling in several illegal procedures such as surveillance without warrants, threats and intimidation. As it turned out, their suspicions were
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
Abandoned reading this about half-way through. It's a fascinating event, but this book is tedious and plodding. It feels like it needed a better editor.
Midwest Geek
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone interested in political and social history.
This is an important book, with five-star content diminished by the presentation, as pointed out by many other goodreaders, especially by Ashley. The first half or so is excellent, as it describes the people and events leading up to the burglary of the FBI office in Media, PA. This reads almost like a thriller. The second half however is rather meandering and repetitious.

The burglary was organized by a physics professor at Haverford College, Bill Davidon, and carried out by him and seven other
David Szatkowski
The book begs the question 'who watches the watchers?' This is ever the ethical and practical question for a free people. The author examines how one group of people responded to that question in 1971. The actions the FBI then are sobering. We should ask ourselves as a society, and as individuals, what do we do to protect our society? How can we bring in sunlight to it, which as Justice Brandeis noted, is the best disinfectant.
Doreen Petersen
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
Very interesting but troubling read.
Roberta Havel
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book! Very readable. The only book I have read that shows the FBI can be deceived.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Every once in a while I get into a mood to read a political book. This one has been on my list as it is about the CIA and Hoover. It started off really interesting and then just started getting too bogged down with events and straying away from the primary event. I lost steam half way through and just started passively reading.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Could not stop reading this book.
MattandCathy Brandley
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very informative I learned a lot about that time in our history
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Wrote a review, lost it, and weeks later still havent mustered the energy to compose it again. So, in short:

Great, pivotal, necessary story, but also hampered somewhat by the repetitive style in which Medsger wrote it.
Absolutely benefitted from reading All The Presidents Men first, because it not only gave me a reference point for the Washington Post narrative but it had many of the players in common (including Mark Felt, who is here as Mark Felt, not Deep Throat).
Its why I have, up to
Theresa Kirk
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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"
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