Last evening I watched the documentary 1971 about the burglary in that year of an FBI office in the Philadelphia suburb of Media, PA by eight people who took away the files, separated out and sent to various people those files that exposed wrongdoing by the FBI, such as infiltrating and spying on peaceful groups and carrying out what were called ‘dirty tricks’ to try and destroy the lives of people that the government thought of as its enemies. The burglars were never caught and only revealed themselves a couple of years ago. (I wrote about this earlier.)
The documentary mixes archival footage, recent interviews with key people, and re-enactments of the planning and execution of the burglary. It is followed by a brief conversation between filmmaker Johanna Hamilton, reporter Betsy Medgar (who broke the original story in the Washington Post and has now written a book about it called The Burglary), and Laura Poitras who is one of the co-executive producers.
The documentary is excellent and you can see the full thing here. Here’s the trailer.
In watching it, I was struck once again by the character of the burglars. They were young and idealistic, doing what they felt was their civic duty to serve the cause of democracy and freedom without any expectation of reward of any kind. They were the precursors of Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden.
These people should be, and are being, hailed for having done something truly admirable. And yet it is sobering to think that if they had done what they did today, the Obama administration would have sought them out and prosecuted them with a viciousness that J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon would have been proud of, as can be seen from the way president Obama treats whistleblowers now. Liberals who like nothing better than criticizing Nixon and Hoover but uncritically defend Obama should pause for a minute and think about that.