This is an important event to remember:
there were eight people with suitcases who broke into an FBI office housed in a suburban apartment building.
They knew the building superintendent would be preoccupied that night. Like millions of Americans on March 8, 1971, he was next to his radio, transfixed by the “Fight of the Century” between heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and challenger Muhammad Ali. They stuffed the luggage full of documents, which within days were slipped into large envelopes headed for the desks of journalists, politicians and activists.
More than 40 years after the break-in, which revealed a spying program run by J. Edgar Hoover that targeted antiwar and civil rights activists, some of the burglars went public Tuesday to discuss an event that they say is more pertinent than ever in this age of ramped-up surveillance.
The theft revealed that under Hoover, the FBI conducted an illegal spying operation that included blackmail, opening of personal mail and forging documents, with the aim of disrupting student antiwar groups, black civil rights organizations, suspected communists and others. The revelation led to congressional hearings and reforms that scaled back the government’s freedom to spy on U.S. citizens.
This is what happens when programs are kept secret without oversight. A small crime to expose a bigger crime was and is a good thing.