Learn More


Breaking the Story: How Eight Ordinary Citizens Took Down the FBI

When is civil disobedience necessary? Can ordinary citizens really make a difference? Learn how eight ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office and exposed wrongdoings by stealing files and turning them over to major newspapers. Find out how reporter Betty Medsger, who received the files and covered the story in 1971, discovered the secret identities of the burglars four decades later  — something the FBI failed to do in its manhunt.

Additional Resources:

Deis' Impact 2016

Breaking the Story: How Eight Ordinary Citizens Took Down the FBI

Here is a video of the event, which took place Feb. 1 at Brandeis University:

Film Cover Photo for

Tribeca Logo Sheffield Logo AFI logo IDFA logo CPH logo

Please join us Monday, Feb. 1, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for a special Schuster Institute event:

  • Boston premiere of "1971" — A documentary by filmmaker Johanna Hamilton, "1971" was an official selection of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and others
  • Panel discussion moderated by Florence Graves, Schuster Institute founding director, featuring reporter Betty Medsger and John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars who risked everything to expose Hoover's plots and programs to spy on American citizens and suppress dissent
  • Book signing Medsger will sign copies of her book, "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI," winner of the 2014 IRE Book Award
The event is free and open to the public and will take place in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall in the Goldfarb Library at Brandeis University, 415 South Street, Waltham, MA.

On Monday, February 1, “Breaking the Story: How Eight Ordinary Citizens Took Down the FBI” will begin with a screening of 1971, a documentary about how eight ordinary citizens blew open J. Edgar Hoover’s secret FBI operations: spying on civil rights and Vietnam War protestors.

Betty Medsger, the Washington Post reporter who originally broke the story, will discuss her 2014 book on which the film is based, “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.”

“In remarkable detail and with astonishing depth of research, Betty Medsger reveals the never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the Media, Pennsylvania, FBI offices. 

Through their exploits, a group of unlikely activists exposed the shocking truth that J. Edgar Hoover was operating a shadow Bureau engaged in illegal surveillance and harassment of the American people. 

The Burglary brings the activists, who have kept their secret for forty-three years, into the public eye for the first time—including, new to this edition, the recent discovery of the eighth and final member of the team. The burglars’ story of personal sacrifice and civil disobedience is a vital episode in the American whistle-blower tradition that includes the Pentagon Papers, Watergate’s Deep Throat, and, most recently, Edward Snowden and the NSA"  – Book Description, Amazon

A panel discussion will follow with Medsger, two of the burglars, John and Bonnie Raines, and Schuster Institute founding director Florence Graves. 

Medsger will stay after the panel to sign copies of her book, “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI,” which will be available for purchase at the event.

The event will take place in Rapaporte Treasure Hall in the Goldfarb Library on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Our cosponsors from Brandeis University include: International Center for Ethics, Justice & Public Life | Social Justice & Social Policy Program | Peace, Conflict & Coexistence Studies Program | American Studies Program | History Department | Journalism Program | Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program | WBRS | Legal Studies Program

For more information: Lisa Button, lbutton@brandeis.edu

For more information about DEIS Impact Week events, click here.