Review: "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI" by Betty Medsger

  • Posted on: 7 November 2016
  • By: TedG

Ron, Angelo, Raye, Chuck, Art, John Hand, Irv, and Adrian gathered on August 4th to review the book The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger. We generally enjoyed the book and found it an interesting period through which we lived, but did not know enough about. This is the story of a group of people who robbed an FBI office, made files available to the media, the subsequent attempts by the FBI to capture the robbers, and the aftermath of the revelations that the FBI was spying on Americans. While the robbery was certainly an illegal act, it was perceived by the perpetrators as an act of civil disobedience and critical to exposing wrong-doings by the FBI. It was one of those books that makes you look very hard at what is the ethical or right thing to do. We all enjoyed the story and the information presented on the FBI was really fascinating. There were times the authors writing style was a little tedious. It was sort of interesting how the author initially tells the story in third person as an outside journalist just telling a story, but later she becomes one of the members of the media receiving information from the stolen FBI files, and suddenly it becomes her own story as well.

Several members talked about their own dealings with the FBI. Ron discussed being interviewed and questioned by the FBI (and the CIA) on his travels to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. Raye had a person working for him who was investigated. Others wondered if parts of their lives were not investigated by FBI.

The Burglary tells an important story of the dark side of the FBI. Congressional investigations and changes at the helm suggest that many reforms have been made. But modern systems of surveillance and spying leaves you wondering if similar spying on American citizens may still be occurring.

Average rankings (1–5 scale) were 4.1 for readability and 5 for interest. All but one person said they would read another book by Medsger. Angelo did not finish the book and did not give it a rating, but after hearing the discussion, he was committed to finishing it.