The Burglars 

The Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI

In The Burglary, the eight people who planned and executed the removal of all files from the Media, PA, FBI office the night of March 8, 1971, tell their stories – their motivation for finding documentary evidence of suppression of dissent by the government, their willingness to risk losing their freedom for many years, the impact of their act of resistance on their lives in the decades since the burglary. Two have chosen to be identified by fictitious names, Susan Smith and Ron Durst. Pictured above, left to right, William Davidon, John Raines, Bonnie Raines, Keith Forsyth, Bob Williamson and Judi Feingold.

The Burglary in the news:

The New York Review of Books:

The Burglars Who Exposed the FBI


National Catholic Reporter:
Reporting on anti-war Catholics and the FBI

PBS Newshour:
How an unlikely group changed the face of the FBI, retold in ‘The Burglary’


The Nation:
Just Being Black Was Enough to Get Yourself Spied on by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI

Slate Magazine:

Learning From the FBI Media Burglars


Washington Post:

Remembering an earlier time when a theft unmasked government surveillance


 The New York Times:
Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows


The Guardian:

Burglars in 1971 FBI office break-in come forward after 43 years


NBC News:
After 43 years, activists admit theft at FBI office that exposed domestic spying

National Public Radio:

The Secret Burglary That Exposed J. Edgar Hoover's FBI


Democracy Now:

It Was Time to Do More Than Protest


 The Daily Beast:

The FBI File Heist That Changed History


New York Magazine:

Activists Confess to 1971 Burglary That Exposed FBI Surveillance



the documentary film about the Media burglary, produced and directed by award-winning film maker Johanna Hamilton, premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. For information about the film and future screenings click here:



"Astonishingly good...
The best book I've read about
either the anti-war movement or Hoover's FBI; a masterpiece"

—Daniel Ellsberg

Paperback Image - The Burglary
Published by Alfred A Knopf and
Vintage Books

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Last Media Burglar Surfaces

The paperback edition published by Vintage Press contains new information -- the story of the Media burglar who could not be found and who surfaced after the hardback book was published. Her life after the burglary has been strikingly different from the lives of the other burglars. Her story is told in The Nation:
Breaking 43 Years of Silence, the Last FBI Burglar Tells the Story of Her Years in the Underground




       On the night of March 8, 1971, eight seemingly ordinary people showed extraordinary courage and carried out one of the most powerful acts of non-violent resistance in American history. In a search for evidence of whether the FBI was spying on Americans in order to suppress dissent, they broke into an FBI office in Media, PA, a sleepy old town southwest of Philadelphia that once was a stop on the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes slaves traveled from the South to freedom. In the dark, and with the crackling sounds of the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier world championship boxing match filling homes and bars throughout the world that night – and providing cover for this burglary – these amateur burglars stole every file in the office.

    Dramatic news at the time, but little remembered now, the Media burglary was the beginning of the end of the mythical FBI the bureau’s director, J. Edgar Hoover, had constructed in the American mind over nearly a half century through the successful efforts of a vast internal public relations office operated with public funds.

    Now, with the publication of The Burglary, the full story of the Media burglary is told for the first time. The burglars, never found by the FBI despite one of the largest investigations in the bureau’s history, have been found by the author and interviewed extensively for The Burglary.  In addition to revealing the motivations and life stories of the burglars, who kept their secret for 43 years, The Burglary also documents the very significant impact of this burglary that shocked the public and moved congress, long intimidated by Hoover, to acknowledge the FBI director’s illegal and damaging actions.


PURCHASE The Burglary

Hardback and paperback through Random House by clicking here.

Audio version by Audible here.

Large print edition here.










The Burglary named best book of 2014 by IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors)

IRE judges said this about The Burglary

 The break-in took place in 1971 and over ensuing years has largely faded from public memory. But Betty Medsger never stopped searching for the true origin of the revelations that marked the beginning of J. Edgar Hoover’s long slide from his perch as perhaps the most admired man in America. Medsger succeeds where the FBI failed, identifying the average-citizen burglars who stole evidence of the FBI’s surveillance of law-abiding citizens. Her book painstakingly documents how the burglary moved the public and Congress, long intimidated by Hoover, to finally turn against the bureau’s extra-legal activities. “The Burglary” fills a hole in our collective history and – for the first time -- pulls the complete story of the Media, Pa. burglary together in one place.

Citizens Commission Commended in Congressional Record