Philadelphia Inquirer: ‘1971’ Looks at Infamous FBI Burglary

by Gary Thompson


“”1971” moves briskly through the efficient planning and execution – selecting the soft target of a bureau branch office in Media, waiting until the night of the Ali-Frazier fight, making off with the files, mailing them to news organizations.

Elements of this are amusing – Bonnie Raines cases the office as a college “co-ed” reporting a campus-paper story on opportunities for women, exploiting the bureau’s obvious chauvinism. It worked. She was the one member of the eight-person team who was never considered a suspect. Apparently, investigators couldn’t get past that homemaker facade.

This is fun, but the movie is perhaps most interesting for the way it examines the group’s collective on-the-lam cool. The politics of surveillance may not have changed much, but you can see that the culture has.

They have none of the self-dramatizing posture of the anti-war activist or modern hacker so often celebrated in (pardon the pun) the media.

They did one job, did it well, watched the collapse of Hoover’s regime and got on with their “normal” lives. Even today they look like folks you’d see in the landscape department of Home Depot.

No book tour, no gloating, no social-media high-fiving. Instead, there is introspection. They still regret placing their children’s upbringing at risk, and one still worries that fall-out from the burglary’s revelations have contributed to a toxic public cynicism.

That’s an interesting take: That today’s jaded citizenry is beyond surveillance-state outrage because they are beyond shock.”


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