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November 8: William Davidon and the FBI Break-In

November 8, 2015
1971-bill-davidonWilliam Davidon, the Haverford professor who led the March 8, 1971 break-in at the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office, which resulted in public disclosure of COINTELPRO, the agency’s program of targeting the Black Panthers and other radical and anti-war groups for disruption, disinformation, and murder, died at 86 on this date in 2013. According to The Burglary by Betty Medsger of the Washington Post, a book published after Davidon’s death, the group of eight that he organized into The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI included three other Jews, one of them the child of Holocaust survivors. Davidon was a professor of physics, then mathematics, and a 1966 Fulbright Scholar who traveled with A.J. Muste to Vietnam and was an active opponent of the war. According to Medsger — who was the first journalist to report on the contents of the 1,000 or so stolen documents in 1971 — Davidon had also raided draft boards and participated in two acts of sabotage against military supplies headed to Vietnam. The Citizens’ Commission was subjected to a five-year FBI investigation, but no prosecutions took place; by the time Medsger’s book identified several of them, the statute of limitations had long since run out. To see a discussion about the raid and the FBI from Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now, look below. “When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it. There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.” —Keith Forsyth, who picked the office lock Jewdayo thanks Myriam Miedzian for suggesting this entry.