The Burglary

  • by Betty Medsger
  • Narrated by Bronson Pinchot, Betty Medsger
  • 25 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 Investigation.
It begins in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War. A small group of activists - eight men and women - the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan's rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land.
The would-be burglars - nonpro's - were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist, a lock picker; a graduate student.
Betty Medsger's extraordinary book re-creates in detail how this group of unknowing thieves scouted out the low-security FBI building in a small town just west of Philadelphia, taking into consideration every possible factor.
At the heart of the heist - and the book - the contents of the FBI files revealing Hoover's "secret counterintelligence program" COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups, a plan that would discredit, destabilize, and demoralize groups, many of them legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups that Hoover found offensive - as well as black power groups, student activists, antidraft protestors, conscientious objectors.
The Burglary is an important and riveting book, a portrait of the potential power of non-violent resistance and the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.


What the Critics Say

"[I]mpeccably researched and elegantly presented.... The current debate in America over government surveillance of its citizenry has a long and controversial history. It didn't begin on 9/11, and it doesn't need technological wizardry to succeed. For those seeking a particularly egregious example of what can happen when secrecy gets out of hand, The Burglary is a natural place to begin." (The New York Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Important book for us all - despite its flaws

I was completely enthralled with the beginning half of this book - the author wove a good story and kept me entranced with true events about a disturbing time. I found myself suggesting this to many other "boomers" who might, like I, have protested the Vietnam War in the 60s, didn't know the clear response to people like us from the FBI and have been intrigued by the despotism of J. Edgar Hoover.

It is a good read but not all the way through. I got bogged down with the level of detail that Betty Medsger used and found that her story telling ability didn't continue through the second half of the book.

Like a former reader, I also found it puzzling why a man read the book when it is written by a woman. I also found the editorializing he did through the way he read the book to be annoying.

Despite all of this, I didn't stop reading the book because I do think those at the heart of the book - the men and women who carried out the burglary -- need to be honored and praised for their courage. Each of us needs to know what despicable acts were perpetrated in the name of democracy and learn from the knowledge.
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- Molly-o

Forget Ocean's 11

The heist of the century didn’t involve banks, jewels, or art.

A secret team of people from all walks of life banded together in order to bring down one of the most powerful men in American history. It took bravery. It required ingenuity: they couldn't pick the door lock, so they left a note asking that the door be left open...and it worked!

There was betrayal: one backed out and threatened to turn them in. Finally, there was loyalty—they kept their secret for forty years.

The Burglary revisits what the American people didn’t KNOW before the Media burglary. Dissident groups knew they were being torn apart from the inside, but nobody could prove it.

What the burglars found put a light on Hoover’s COINTELPRO, and the FBI’s illegal and sadistic suppression of dissent in America.

Chapter 1 asks, “Who would to go to prison to save dissent?”

These were ordinary people in the anti-war movement: “a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist,a cab driver, an antiwar activist, a lock picker, a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule.”

Each one stepping outside the law to do what they felt was right.

Bronson Pinchot, Audible’s "Narrator of the Year," gives yet another stellar performance. He has such a feel for inflection and intonation that his narration that I knew.... we'd found the one. I asked Betty to introduce herself and read her very special acknowledgements, so you'll hear her wonderful voice as well.
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- Susie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-06-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios