Film: “1971” tells story of activists who broke into FBI offices to expose domestic surveillance


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The admirable Curt Gentry details the Media breakin in his heartfelt and deeply researched study J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (W. W. Norton, 1991, ISBN 978-0393024043).

The excerpt below describes how the theft of the files affected the FBI:

They were like time bombs. Every two or three weeks a new batch of documents exploded into print or on the air or in a hastily called press conference.

There was no way to defuse them. Any attempted explanation by the Bureau was negated by the exposure of still more illegal activities.

Most embarrassing to the FBI itself was that each new shipment highlighted the Bureau’s inability to solve the case.

Even more infuriating to the director, many of the memos held the Bureau up to ridicule. For example, each agent was ordered to develop a ghetto informant. Some areas did not have ghettos, however, in which case the agent should inform headquarters of this, “so that he will not be charged with failure to perform.”

“Please, when interviewing [clerical] applicants,” another memo read, “be alert for long hairs, beards, pear shaped heads, truck drivers, etc. We are not that hard up yet.”

[page 675]

(Yes, “pear shaped heads” – a sure sign that someone thinks we live in a phrenocracy. But let’s not get bent out of shape about fringe beliefs.)

See also Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI @ Wikipedia.


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