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The Feds vs. the Activists | The Heist | 4

The Feds vs. the Activists | The Heist | 4

Tue, 10 Nov 2020 10:00

Antiwar activists hatch a risky plan. Led by a physics professor, the group decides to burglarize an FBI office. The goal: to find incriminating documents, and to expose decades of federal abuses.

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It's the evening of March 8th, 1971. Keith Forsyth emerges from his park car carrying a large briefcase. A cold wind sends a pile of leaves fluttering in the air and Forsyth gazes around the streets of media, Pennsylvania. Tonight the town seems practically empty, and Forsyth grins. Empty streets are a good thing, especially with a massive risk he's about to take. Forsyth glances at his own reflection in the window. His long blonde hair is now cropped, and his beard's been shaved clean. He's wearing simple black frame glasses. He looks like a square, not an activist, and he can't help but laugh. This disguise is better than he possibly could have imagined. Forsyth then heads back down the block and stops at the corner. There he scans the four story building across the street, which looms ominously in the dark night. For months he's memorized every detail of this building. It houses an FBI field office, and right now Forsyth is going to break in. Forsyth begins crossing the street when he hears footsteps approaching. He turns to see a man walking toward him carrying two six packs of Budweiser. Hey buddy, you got off work just in time, huh? Yeah, in time for what? In time for what? You kidding me? The fight man, the fight? Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier? Oh, the fight? Yes, of course. Going straight home wouldn't miss it. For a second the man stares at Forsyth with a look of suspicion. Then he smiles and throws a couple of punches into the air. The Budweiser is rattling his hands. Boy, this is going to be a good one. Frazier is going to clean Ali's clock. Forsyth pauses. He knows he should let this go, but he can't. I'm rooting for Ali. Why are you kidding me? How could you be against Joe? He's from Philly. He's a real American. Not Ali. Man dodges the draft. Won't fight and be a nom. I don't care how good he is. That's no hero. He's not a patriot. Well, I don't know about that. If Ali thinks this country is not fair and the war is unjust, well, then if he breaks the law to make things better, that's the most patriotic thing he can do. Stranger's eye is narrow. His face turns to dark crimson. And right away, Forsyth knows he's said too much. Now he needs to get away from this guy before it's too late. Man snarles and takes a step toward him. He better smarten up now. Ah, you're right, you're right. I think I'm just tired from a long day of work. Time to go home, crack open a bud just like you. For a moment, the man continues to glare at Forsyth. Then he turns, shakes his head and walks off. Forsyth exhales deeply and waits for the stranger to round the corner. And he takes central deep breaths and looks back at the FBI field office across the street. What Forsyth is about to do is highly illegal. In a few minutes, he'll reach the front door of the FBI office. He'll pick the lock and leave the door open. He'll then flee as fast as he can. His partners will then soon arrive and they'll pull off one of the biggest heists in the history of this country. They'll steal files from the FBI and show the world everything the bureau has done to undermine social activists. It's a task that could land Forsyth and his partners in prison for years. But he stands by his ideals. He's willing to break the law in order to expose great injustice. So he takes another deep breath and Forsyth crosses the street approaching the FBI office. He leaps up a set of stairs and hurries toward the entrance. He sees the front door and then his body starts to shake. There's no turning back now. In just a few seconds, he'll need to do the job that he spent months practicing. He needs to go flawlessly because this entire plan and maybe even the future of this country lies in his hands. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. 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And finally, some vegetarian gluten free olives from my well earned cocktail. When your family shopping list has more footnotes than groceries, the world is your cart. Visit or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for limited time, minimum order $10. Delivery subject to availability. Additional terms apply. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Skin. Elegal wiretapped, forgery, intimidation and violence. These were staples of an FBI program known as Cointelpro, which operated in secret from the mid 1950s to the early 70s. Cointelpro was overseen by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, one of the most powerful men in the country. Hoover held staunchly racist views and was intent to destroy activists and civil rights organizations who he saw as a threat to the country. He resolved to use whatever tactics would accomplish his goal, even if they were illegal. Cointelpro didn't only target those who fought for racial justice. The FBI went after a broad range of activists, including those who believed the US should pull out of the Vietnam War. Throughout the 1960s, as protesters marched in the streets, the FBI used covert tactics to silence demonstrators. Some activists grew suspicious about the FBI. That included a 43 year old physics professor and peace activist named William Daviden. Daviden would develop an audacious plan to hold the FBI accountable for its actions. And together with the help of seven other antiwar activists, he led an operation that would fundamentally change the FBI in the future of America. This is episode 4, The Heist. It's late 1970, Bonnie Reigns stares out the car window as her husband drives through a neighborhood in Philadelphia. It's a crisp fall evening and bright yellow leaves drift toward the ground. This time of year always makes Reigns want a curl up under a warm blanket. But tonight she's feeling anything but cozy and relaxed. Reigns and her husband, John, are on their way to see a friend who sounds like he's in trouble. The man's name is William Daviden and with an urge in tone in his voice, he called and said he had a question, something he couldn't ask over the phone. He had to speak with him in person. Now as Reigns approaches David in his neighborhood, she hopes everything's okay with her friend. Reigns is known David in for several years. He's a physics professor who's been at the center of Philadelphia's antiwar movement. He's soft spoken, polite, and that means people often underestimate him. It's something that Reigns knows all too well. As the car rounds a corner, she looks down at her wedding ring. She knows that to most people, she seems just like another mom from the suburbs, with a young face and a pretty smile. And while she does love her family deep down, Reigns feels something else, and almost overwhelming outrage at the violence and injustice in the world. She's taken action, marched and rallies, but still she knows she needs to do more. She can't stand to live in such an unfair world. Soon the car comes to a stop in front of a two story brick house. The front door opens and David in comes out to greet them, his salt and pepper hair glinting under the street lights. After a quick reading, they step inside into David into living room. Immediately he lowers his voice and says there's something he needs to talk about. Reigns exchanges a nervous glance with her husband. David in takes a deep breath and says he believes the FBI is trying to undermine the antiwar movement. J.E.G.R. Hoover speaks out against demonstrations. Rumors are flying that activists are being spied on. And David and has started seeing strange people at rallies, questioning protesters and taking photographs. John Reigns snorts with laughter. He says he's heard these stories too. There's no evidence of a big government cover up. They're just conspiracy theories. David and nods his head. He says it's true. There's no proof. No proof yet. But he wants to know once and for all if the FBI is spying on peaceful protesters. Because if it is, the bureau could be capable of even worse abuses of power. David imposes and then says he needs their help. Reigns sees her husband nodding. A request like this is no surprise. After all the two both oppose the war and they both see themselves as activists. John even joined black protesters on the anti segregation freedom rights. And so Reigns smiles and says they would be happy to protest the FBI. David and just needs to name the time in place. But David and gently shakes his head. And he says it's time to do something more than just march. It's time to take reelection. He lowers his voice even more. And then he asks what they think of burglarizing an FBI office. Reigns and her husband look at each other and Mao is hanging open and shocked. Then Reigns turns back to David and explains that you don't steal from the FBI. It's their job to catch thieves. David and nods. He admits the heist will be risky. But that's the only way to get their hands on the FBI's internal files. Those files will spell out any secret operations the agency is conducting against protesters. And once they have the evidence they can publicly expose the FBI. For a moment Reigns stares at David and disbelief. What he's describing as an impossible task sounds dangerous, even stupid, a suicide mission. And yet she can't ignore a feeling bubbling up inside her. It's a hint of admiration. David and maybe a professor. But he doesn't let that label define him. He didn't stop him from flying to Vietnam to speak out against the war just miles from the battlefield. She knows that everyone could learn a lesson from William David. Reigns decides to answer for herself and her husband. She says that she and John will need time to discuss the matter. David and nods. And he says they should certainly think it through. What he's proposing is illegal. If they're caught during the burglary, they could be killed. And if they're caught after the burglary, they could be sent to prison for life. Reigns nods her head. She fully understands the risks. She and her husband then rise and head toward the door. As they step out into the cool autumn air, Reigns turns back and locks eyes with David and wants more. She didn't give him a firm yes or no. But looking at David and knowing everything he's done to protest the war, she doesn't have to fool herself. She knows the answer already. If stealing from the FBI will protect the peace movement, then that's what they'll do. It's a Saturday afternoon, a few days later. William David and sits on a bench in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. He watches families fishing down at the river and children running across the grassy fields. He turns and looks at the woman sitting next to him, Susan Smith. And David didn't just ask her the same question he asked the Reigns and several others. But Smith hasn't answered yet. She's just sitting there, staring out at the river. Her arms folded tightly over her tan overcoat. David and sits and waits. He's desperate for an answer. But he doesn't want to rush her. He knows that none of this can be taken lightly. A few minutes pass and finally David and can't wait any longer. Well, what do you think? Bill, it's stealing. That's what I think. Stealing is unethical. It doesn't matter who's doing it. Wow. I'm surprised to hear that coming from you. And why's that? Why? Because of everything we did last year. The Susan I know came alongside me and the two of us broke into those draft board offices. The Susan I know stood by my side and the two of us burnt those draft files. She's a real activist that Susan. Someone willing to break the rules to keep those kids from getting shipped off to Saigon. That was completely different and you know it. What you're talking about now is way more serious. You don't even know if we're going to find anything in what we're stealing. Oh yeah, you may be right. But this is a desperate time for a desperate country. And you know what they say about desperate times. But you can't just barge into an FBI office in the dead of night and hope for the best. You have to spend months casing the building, figure out who goes in, who comes out and when and where. And you need to get away vehicle and run to Voo spot and David and laughs. What is so funny? You're proven my point Susan. Look at you. You're made for this. You need to be on the team. But why bill why this? Why now? David engages across the sunny park. It's full of happy families enjoying their simple good lives. And yet David and can't help a grimace. Because he knows that inside the government there are sinister forces at play. Government agents actively trying to undermine everything that makes this country worthwhile. David and turns back to Smith. The FBI is out of control. They're prolonging the war in Vietnam. I'm sure of it. They're spying on dissonance, trying to suppress us, trying to stop us from taking a stand even though we're allowed to. It's alright. You're telling me that doesn't bother you? Of course it does. Then help me prove it. Smith sighs and bites her lip. Build if it were if it were anyone else I'd say no. But I trust you. And if what you're saying is true then this break in is the right thing to do. It is Susan. Yes, thank you. So when do we start? Next week. The two rise and David and rap Smith in a hug. She still seems tentative and withdrawn. But he knows it might just take some time. The more she learns, the more she'll come around on this plan. Soon the two had in opposite directions. David and walks at a rapid pace. His mind now churning. With Smith on board the team is nearly complete. It's time to plan the perfect heist. It's December 1970. William David inclines a steep staircase and feels cold air rushing to fill his lungs. He swallows the frigid winter air, feeling invigorated and alive. And as he reaches the top of the staircase, his eyes adjust and he looks around this dark and drafty attic. Inside there's a couch, folding chairs, a couple large card tables, and a group of seven people who he's recruited for this mission. Right now they're waiting for him to begin the meeting and to lay out a plan for this very risky task. David and takes a seat and surveys his newly formed team. It's a team that seemingly overnight has become a formidable group. In addition to himself, Susan Smith and the Reigns is, there's also Keith Forsyth, a man who knows his way around a lock. He proved that during their recent raid of a draft board office. Next to Forsyth is Ron Durst, who also took part in that raid. Judy Finegolds is purchased nearby on a chair next to Durst. She's 19, one of David and's friends, and looks more nervous than anyone in the group. David and knows that this will be her first major act of resistance. And then there is Bob Williamson, an activist who dropped out of college to protest the war. David and knows this is the perfect mission for a veteran protestor like Williamson. David and clears his throat. With his back straight, he summons what he hopes is a commanding tone. He tells the team their goal is simple. They'll break into the FBI office in the town of media. There, they'll steal files that document the Bureau's top secret activities. They'll probably be incriminating and so the group needs to move fast and get them out to the public. Because the American people deserve to know if their government is spying on protesters who exercise their legal right to free speech. David and sees their heads nodding. Good, he thinks they're still on board. David and continues and says that tonight they need to map out all the details of this mission. But then Judy Finegold interrupts him, her eyebrows furrowed. She asks why David and recruited them for this mission if he didn't already have a plan in place. David and starts to answer but is again interrupted. Bob Williamson chides David and says he didn't sign out for some half baked plan. He doesn't want to go to prison anytime soon. The group begins murmuring and agreement and David and feels a blood drain from his face. This meeting feels like it's spinning out of control. David and decides he can't let that happen. So he speaks up tells the group that this is what the movement is about. Not top down orders from some man and power but people making decisions together as equals. Sometimes it gets messy but that's how you make a better world. The group is silent for a moment and then Bonnie Reigns speaks up and tells David and that she's in. She likes his approach as long as everyone else does. David and watches as the others nod their heads and say they're on board too. A wave of relief washes over David and he thanks everyone for their willingness to be part of something so important. He then continues saying that first things first they need to pick a day for the burglary. Judy fine gold pipes up and says she has an idea. Every guy she knows has been talking about this big boxing match happening a few months from now in March. The Hamad Ali is fighting Joe Frazier. David and Squintzen asks why a boxing match would influence their plans and fine gold explains that the whole world will be inside glued to their TV sets. That means fewer potential witnesses. She then shrugs and says well maybe it's a bad idea. But right away the group breaks out into conversation and Bob Williams and throws back his head and laughs. She tells fine gold she's a genius it's a perfect idea. The rest of the group agrees and fine gold smiles sheepishly. David and thanks fine gold says it settled they have their mission and their date in the coming months they'll develop a plan and practice it step by step to make sure it goes flawlessly. But then David and voice grows song. He tells the group that they've reached the point of no return. Anyone can quit now if they want but if they decide to stay they'll be expected to see this through to the end. David and looks around the circle meeting each team members eyes. No one moves a muscle and no one says a word. So David and takes a deep breath and reminds the group that they are about to commit one of the biggest acts of civil disobedience in American history. If they fail they could go to prison or worse. But should they succeed they might just change the world. Lots of people don't know it but autumn is an ideal time to plant shorter days and cooler nights create ideal conditions for the plants to get established. 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It's late evening in January 1971 the sky is gray and a light dusting a snow falls on the Ford Pinto which is parked in media Pennsylvania. The car is dark behind the steering wheel sits Bob Williamson. He's an anti war protester who's recently taken on a bigger active civil disobedience. He and a small group of activists are planning to break into an FBI office to find evidence that the bureau is abusing its power. It's an FBI office that right now Williamson is staring at from across the street. Williamson glances to his right. Susan Smith another member of the group is sitting shotgun in the Pinto. Tonight they've got a straightforward task. They need to sit and watch the office. They need to learn whatever they can who's coming who's going and he risks their group may face. But so far they haven't learned much. The office seems to empty out around 5.30. It's quiet after that. They've also learned that the office is housed inside an apartment complex. Williamson knows that could make the whole operation a lot trickier. There's no predicting when someone might walk out their front door and spot a group of burglarers breaking into an FBI office. Williamson yons and turns on the radio. My sweet lord by George Harris and comes pouring out through the speakers. Williamson starts humming the song and Smith shoots him a look. She says they shouldn't be distracted even for a minute. Williamson yons again. He's bored, tired of sitting here. He doesn't know how the cops can do what he says. Smith turns down the radio and tells Williamson he's going to have to learn to be a little more patient. But right then, Williamson bolts up right. His mouth hangs open and he mutters a curse. It's a police car and it's approaching fast. The officer behind the wheel has a flashlight in one hand and is shining it from one side of the street to the other. Williamson instinctively ducks under the steering wheel. Tell Smith to get down. Right away, she curls up below the glove box. Williamson waits. The police car rumbling as it approaches. The flashlight bounces against the car's headrest. Williamson holds his breath and shuts his eyes. They can't get caught not now. But when he opens his eyes, he sees that the flashlight has disappeared. The night is quiet once again. Williamson sits back upright and so does Smith. He wipes beads of sweat from his forehead. And he sees the color slowly returning to Smith's face. Williamson laughs nervously and wipes his forehead again. But then Smith's expression becomes grave. She tells Williamson that that was too close, especially for a task with such a low reward. And so Williamson asks, does she have a better idea about how they could case the building? And suddenly Smith's eyes begin to twinkle and her lips form into a grin. She says she does have an idea. A much better way to get real intel on the FBI office. It's late February 1971. Bonnie Reigns walks through downtown in media, Pennsylvania, her high heels clicking against the pavement. But Reigns nearly trips as her heel catches on the sidewalk. She lurches, writes herself, and then blinks. Normally she's not this nervous. But today is anything but normal. Reigns is on her way to the FBI field office. The one her team is planning to burglarize. Her task is simple. She needs to case the office and mentally records as much as she can about the physical layout. She's not going to steal anything. She's not going to pick any locks. That doesn't mean she's not going to break some rules. Reigns stops in front of a clothing store and looks at her own reflection in the window. Today she's not Bonnie Reigns married mother of three. She's in disguise as Emily Johnson, a local college freshman. Her cover story is that she's writing a paper about the FBI. And in a few minutes she'll walk into the FBI office and keep up the rules and she takes a tour with an FBI agent. Meanwhile, she'll construct a mental map of the entire office. Reigns fixes her hair which is tucked beneath a wool hat and she practices spreading her lips into a smile that makes her look young and naive. It as she looks at her own reflection, her smile drops. She's never felt so anxious in her whole life. But she can't walk away, not now. She volunteered for this and the group is counting on her. But for Reigns, this isn't just about an obligation to a group. She's taking this risk because she knows she has to do something to strike back against the FBI to help in the anti war effort. She can't stand by any longer. All while men keep dying and Vietnam. Reigns steps away from the window and makes her way down the street. Soon she arrives at the FBI office. She stops at the door and examines the lock. It's small and silver. She takes a mental picture of it. Then she opens the door and pretends to be a 19 year old girl. Reigns steps into the office and right away she begins to scan the room. A secretary sits behind a desk chatting on the phone. There are multiple file cabinets including one very tall black cabinet. She squints her eyes and then a man suddenly appears before her. She's got a doughy face and wears a gray suit and a striped tie. He reaches out and offers a limp handshake. Hi, I'm Agent Lewis and my keen investigative powers tell me you must be Emily. Bonnie responds with her best teenage giggle. Yes, I'm Emily Johnson. Very nice to meet you. And I'm very nice to meet you. And I must say you are very cute. Oh, stop it. She is someone open a case file on this one. I need some intel on where I should take her out to dinner. Reigns grits her teeth. She wants to reach out her arm and smack Agent Lewis in the face. She knows to control herself. You boys are too much. We sure are. So anyway, tell me again. Why is it pretty girl like you coming all the way over here into a boring office like this? I'm writing a paper for my polypsi class about the FBI. Professor told me to get first hand research. Huh, well that's a strange project. Telling me the truth, Emily. I could have you arrested. Reigns eyes go wide with fear and instinctively she steps back. No, no, no. I'm joking. I'm joking. I never heard it girl like you. Come on. Let me show you around. Lewis leads her through the office and talks about his work fighting criminals. All the while, Reigns steals glances in every direction. She's happy to see that carpet covers every inch of the floor. That should help muffle the sound during the burglary. Best of all, there doesn't appear to be an alarm system of any kind. She turns to Agent Lewis, forcing a giant smile on her face. Her stomach is still at knots, but she knows that the more she flatters him, the less the chance she'll get caught. You do have such an exciting life. I wish I could be an FBI agent. You, my dear, are cute as a button, but you do know that the FBI doesn't employ female agents. And look, I know you're probably getting exposed to all kinds of radicals on campus. The girl like you should settle down. Find a man who can take care of her. Law enforcement is no place for girls, believe me, the things I see. Lewis leans in closer and lays a hand on Reigns shoulder. I was joshing back there, but if you ever do want some company, let me take you out sometime. What time you usually get all for? Me and everyone else? We all get off at 5.30. The office is a ghost town after hours, but don't tell my boss I told you. He says there's always more criminals to catch. Reigns smiles. She was nervous when she walked into the office, but now she realizes that this has been like shooting fish in a barrel. She has all she needs, and so she begins to back away toward the door. Well, you can rest easy. I'm not going to talk to your boss. But you know I should get going. You call me sometime? It's a date. Agent Lewis, Wanks Center, Reigns turns to act at the office. As she walks out, she grins to herself. There was a time when she lacked the self confidence to stand up for her beliefs. But now walking out of this FBI office, after pulling off an incredible ruse, she knows all that has changed. She's become a true dissident, kind that Agent Lewis would love to see behind bars. A month later, Bonnie Reigns sits beside her young son's bed. She brushes his side, his dirty blonde hair, and kisses him on the cheek. He looks innocent and perfect. For a moment Reigns doesn't want to leave, but she knows she has to. Because after months of training and planning, the burglary will now begin in just a matter of hours. She knows she could die tonight, or she could go to prison for the rest of her life. But Reigns also knows she has to stay strong and prove that she's more than just an armchair activist. She's a fighter and willing to die for her beliefs. Reigns hears a light tap on the door. She turns and sees her husband, John. He carries her coat under his arm, and he tells her it's time to go. Bonnie nods. She kisses her son once again, and with her head dipped down, she walks toward the door. She pauses, stealing one last glance at her son. And she shuts off the light and closes the door. Reigns says goodbye to the babysitter and steps outside into the cold wind. She hurries to the family stationway, and John turns the keys to start the engine. Soon, the two of them will meet the rest of the team at a small motel. From there, they'll head to the FBI office, and the operation will begin. As they pull onto the highway, John reaches out a hand. Bonnie squeezes it tightly. She peers out at the dark road ahead. Within only hours, she'll discover if her decision to join William Davidin was the biggest mistake of her life, and one of her proudest moments. 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Keith Forsyth races up the stairs as he heads to the front door of the FBI office. His heart is thudding, and he can feel it all the way in his throat. But he needs to stay calm and composed. That's going to be hard knowing what he's about to do. He looks at his right hand. He's carrying a heavy black crowbar. And right now, this is the best weapon to break into this office. Forsyth is furious that it's come to this. Two hours ago, he first arrived at the office, and was ready to pick the regular five pin tumbler lock that he knew would be on this door. It's a type of lock that he can now pick in under 30 seconds. But when he arrived, that lock wasn't the only thing standing in his way. Also on the door was a large, high security lock. One glance at it, and he knew he was impenetrable. His mouth went dry, and for a moment the mission looked like he would be doomed to fail. But Forsyth wasn't ready to accept defeat. He forced himself to calm down, walk back to his car. Then he drove straight to the motel where his teammates were waiting. His news sent the group spinning. But William David and said he had a solution. He pulled out a big duffel bag and unzipded it. And then he removed the crowbar, and with a determined look, he told Forsyth that this was his best option. So now Forsyth is once again standing in front of the FBI office. The crowbar is by no means an elegant tool, but it'll have to do. So Forsyth wedges the crowbar into the door frame, and gives a firm tug, but the door hardly moves. He feels a vein popping in his forehead as he begins strainy against the crowbar with all of his weight. The door creaks, but it doesn't open. He stops and catches his breath. The crowbar might not be enough. Once again, he has the feeling that this mission is doomed. From somewhere down the hall, Forsyth can hear the sound of the boxing match. Forsyth knows that Ali and Frazier would battle until they're worn out and ready to collapse. They'll keep fighting on and on until one of them wins. It's then that Forsyth decides he has to keep fighting too. And so he grabs the crowbar and pulls it with his much force as he can possibly muster. The wooden door creaks and groans and suddenly it shoots open, sending Forsyth corigning backwards. He stops himself from falling, and for a moment he stares at the open portal with a giant grin. He did it. But there's no time to gloat. He races back to the door and gently shuts it. Then he hurries out of the building, hops into his car and starts driving. As he heads back to the motel, Forsyth breathes a huge sigh of relief. His job is done. Now the rest of the team is up. Ron Durst, Susan Smith and Bob Williamson will follow after him and perform the heist. 30 minutes later, Bob Williamson strides through the FBI office. He's dressed all in black carrying a suitcase. He scans the room and spots Susan Smith and Ron Durst also carrying suitcases, fanning out across the office. Durst begins grabbing the papers from a secretary's desk. Smith moves into an agent's office and breaks open a locked cabinet. A feeling of chaotic excitement floods into Williamson. For years he's dreamed of doing something this big, this consequential. Now the moment has finally arrived and it's as momentous and as risky as he possibly could have imagined. Williamson heads into an agent's office and starts grabbing every piece of paper he can find. As he starts another document into the suitcase, he pauses and glances at the words on the page. These documents put in writing what he always knew about the FBI. Every document in this office could be worth its weight and goal. Williamson continues to take apart the room. He opens drawers, turns over trash bins, filling his suitcase with everything he can find. Then when it's full, he starts folding documents and shoving them in his pockets. Soon, Williamson is confident that the office has been picked clean. And so he, Smith and Durst make their way out and head to the two getaway cars parked across the street. John and Bonnie Reigns have been selected to be the two drivers. The rest of the team is already waiting at the rendezvous point. Williamson steps into the Reigns station wagon and says they're good to go. Bonnie Reigns hits the accelerator and minutes later they're on the highway heading towards rural Pennsylvania. Williamson leans back in his seat, laughing with exhausted relief. He can't believe it. They pulled it off and they didn't get caught. Reigns turns on the radio and together they listen to the news for any sign that their break in has been discovered. So far so good. Then the broadcaster breaks in with the news alert. Williamson sits up, his breath's suddenly short. The broadcaster announces that Muhammad Ali has lost tonight's fight by unanimous decision. Williamson sinks back into his seat. For a moment he's disappointed. He loves Ali and everything Ali stands for. Like Williamson, Muhammad Ali wants racial justice and for the war in Vietnam to end. But then Williamson looks back at the stolen documents sitting in the truck. He hopes these documents will continue the fight that Ali's been waging and that they'll deliver a decisive knockout to the FBI. It's well past midnight. William David insists inside a house on fellowship forum, a Quaker meeting center, fouring miles northwest of media. The house belongs to a trusted friend in the peace movement. That friend said David and could use it. No questions asked. Now as David and sits in the cozy living room, he feels safer than he's felt in a very long time. He looks at his 17 meets, sitting in chairs and on the floor. Each one looks relieved to be done with burglary. David and his relieved two, of course, and he feels a sleepy exhaustion begin to steal over him. But he needs to combat that urge. They still have a lot of work to do. David insists and looks out at the team. Listen everyone, tonight you came together and you did something incredible. Now I'm going to stay here and read every last one of these documents. But I can't ask you all to do the same. Bob Williamson shakes his head. I think I speak for everyone. We're not going anywhere. We want to read these files as much as you do. But you don't have to. You should go home and get some sleep. Sleep? That shit to sail my friend. I am not tired. David and smiles and nods his head. And then he opens the nearest suitcase. Inside is the jumble of files and vanilla envelopes. Several members of the group moved toward the suitcase. While the rest opened the other bags and began grabbing documents. A moment later, Bonnie Reigns reads aloud from the paper she's holding. Listen to this. When conducting specialized investigations of activists do what you can to enhance their paranoia. They should believe there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox. David and looks up incredulous. Kidding. They actually wrote that down. David and returns to his own stack of documents and then finds something that stops him cold. This can't be. This is too much. What? What is it? This is just don't keep us in suspense. What is it? It says this is a counterintelligence measure to help neutralize extremist black panthers. We can and will create a conflict between the panthers and the student nonviolent coordinating committee. This is too much, man. What is this? I keep seeing counterintelligence in this other word. Co...cointelpro. What's that? Oh my god, listen. Long range goals are to prevent the coalition of black nationalist groups. Prevent the rise of a black Messiah like Malcolm X or Martin Luther. Black Messiah. And prevent black groups and leaders from gaining respectability. Black Messiah, Jesus. Body rains, pounds of table, sending a stack of papers crashing to the floor. They've been trying to destroy the whole civil rights movement. Yeah, yeah. But trust me, Bonnie. When we go public with these documents, Congress will have no choice but to do something about it. They'll see just what Jay Edgar Hoover and his henchmen have done. And maybe, maybe things will finally change. Maybe this war will finally come to an end. The members of the group nod. Their face is lighting up with hope. Then they exchange clanses. And in an unspoken agreement, they each grab another set of papers and continue reading. David and grabs a ream of documents and reclines in a chair. He's exhausted. Everyone's exhausted. He wants more than anything to take a nap. But right now, he doesn't intend to do anything. But keep reading until the sun starts to rise. On March 9, 1971, William David and Bonnie Reigns and their group of activists announced that they had broken into the FBI office in media Pennsylvania. They concealed their true identities and simply called themselves the Citizens Commission to investigate the FBI. The group collaborated with investigative reporters and publicized the incredible documents they uncovered. Together, the activists and reporters revealed the inner workings of Cointel Pro, the FBI's abusive program that targeted distance and blackmailed the FBI. Immediately after, Jay Eger Hoover and the FBI launched a massive investigation. Some 200 special agents were deployed to find those who broke into the FBI office. The agents failed. And just over a year after the break in, Hoover died of a heart attack at age 77. Four years later, the investigation into the break in was closed. The release of the Cointel Pro documents helped the police to investigate the information they had received. The release of the Cointel Pro documents helped trigger massive changes in public policy. It led to a congressional investigation of U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as a reckoning about their harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. The break in also caused a major shift in public opinion. The public backlash against Hoover and the FBI was immediate, and in 1976, Congress limited the terms of future FBI directors to 10 years. The activists involved in the break in continued to devote their lives to social causes. And in 2014, once they could no longer be prosecuted, they came out from the shadows and admitted their true identities. Cointel Pro was officially ended in 1971, but many alleged that its practices are still employed by the FBI, and that the bureau still spies on civil rights leaders, fighting for racial justice. Next on American scandal, I speak with Dr. Clay Warren Carson. He's both studied and witnessed the way the U.S. government has erected barriers to civil rights activism, from the March on Washington to the Black Lives Matter movement today. Carson is the founding director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, and the author of the book Malcolm X, the FBI file. From Wondry, this is episode four of the Feds versus the activists for American scandal. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatizations are based on historical research. If you'd like to learn more about the burglary of the Media Pennsylvania FBI office, we recommend the book The Burglary by Betty Medzker. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, Sound Design by Derek Barrett. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producers Gabe Riven, executive producers, our Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her nonlopus for Wondry. 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