On March 8, 1971, a group of anti-war activists calling themselves the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into the FBI’s Media, Pennsylvania office. They sought to gather definitive proof that the FBI was undermining social movements and waging war on domestic dissent. The documents they liberated changed the course of U.S. history, as some of them featured the cryptic words “COINTELPRO.”
On March 8, 2021 – the 50th anniversary of the break-in – Defending Rights & Dissent hosted an all-star panel featuring:
The discussion was moderated by Chip Gibbons, Defending Rights & Dissent’s Policy Director, host of The Still Spying Podcast, and author of an upcoming book that through a retelling of the history of the FBI explores the relationship between domestic political surveillance and the emergence of the US national security state.
With COINTELPRO, the FBI went beyond spying on dissent, engaging in a series of illegal covert actions to stifle the domestic exercise of First Amendment rights. Decades later it remains a shocking abuse of power that has become synonymous with repression of domestic political dissent. The panelists recounted the history of the break-in, explore the legacy of COINTELPRO, and discuss what has and hasn’t changed with the current FBI.