January 14, 2014
On Sunday last, I went to Barnes and Noble to avoid watching yet another football game, this one between the 49ers and the Panthers. While there, I enjoyed a cup of coffee and started reading a book, The Burglary, which is about 7 or 8 people who burglarized an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania in, I believe, 1971.
It made for interesting reading and took willpower not to buy it. I will read it later when it comes to a library somewhere in my vicinity. One thing that made it interesting was its account of the history of those times when the country was being torn apart by an imperialistic war in Vietnam. This war led to protests and these protests led to beatings and shootings, some fatal shootings, by those who supported that war against those who did not. Some items in this history were new to me, such as the fact that President Nixon welcomed to the White House some “hard hats” who beat war protesters in New York City with blunt objects wrapped in American flags! [Were they, the hard hats, part of the “silent majority?”] I did remember that Nixon essentially pardoned Lt. Calley who had been convicted of participating in the killing of hundreds of old men, women, young girls, and children, including babies, in My Lai, in Vietnam. What a time that was.
But one aspect struck me as interesting, viz., that allegedly the FBI could never catch these burglars and, allegedly, only now has their identity been confirmed by themselves. This is especially interesting because the FBI clearly identified the leader of this group, a professor from Haverford College, as a suspect and, apparently, did not go after him for some complicated “due process” concerns. This conclusion struck and strikes me as implausible, to say the least, and here is my speculation as to what was really going on.
The FBI knew who had committed the burglary but decided not to arrest and prosecute them. Why? Well, because these people were what might be called “ordinary people,” law-abiding people generally speaking, people with families, people of principle. If these people were arrested and charged, it would only serve to highlight how unpopular the Vietnam War was and it would be hard to, and imprudent to try to demonize these people. Besides, by not solving the case, Hoover and the FBI could go on pretending that opposition to the war was fed by “subversive” types, you know, communists or socialists or stooges of this or that foreign country. And, by not solving the case, the FBI could pretend that those opposed to the war were dangerous precisely because they could not be caught, being the “sly bastards” that a lot of people assumed they were. Hence, it served the FBI’s interests to leave the case unsolved, at least in the public’s eyes.
This conclusion is lent some more weight when it is remembered, as the book reminds us, of how the FBI dealt with those who committed criminal acts and waited to be arrested, such as members of the Catholic peace movement like the Berrigan brothers and their cohorts. The identity of these “criminals” could not be hidden and, hence, they had to be maligned and libeled, made to appear as dangerous anarchists and subversives serving foreign powers, if only the Pope and the Vatican. Of course, this is, as the FBI knew, a dangerous game and far more dangerous when dealing with “ordinary people,” and not with robed clerics who owe allegiance to a “foreign” potentate! A college professor from Haverford College does not have the “cache” as “Papists!” At least, this was the case until recently and the popularity of a rather terrible TV show, “The Calling,” starring Kevin Bacon.
The FBI, like JFK, LBJ, and RMN, knew that it takes a lot of work to promote wars that seem suspect to “ordinary people.” And that bureau was not about to shirk its responsibly of allowing “the movement” to impose its will on the United States’ government. Now, that would be unconscionable, to say the least. And so, the burglars of Media, Pa. were allowed to slip into “the night,” where the FBI could make of them what it wished.