Flickr via Ivan Osypenko

MARSHALL-HALLMARK: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark.

BATTEN: And I’m Caroline Batten. Ukrainian security forces clashed with pro-Russian activists in the city of Mariupol in the eastern region of the country this week, killing three and wounding thirteen. Interim Ukrainian interior minister Arsen Avakov stated that the firefight was initiated by protesters who were attempting to storm a National Guard base in the city. Another military operation came to a halt when an entire force of 21 armored vehicles either turned back or surrendered to the pro-Russian militants. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that the upper chamber of the Russian parliament had granted him the authority to use military force in eastern Ukraine. While he continued to insist that Russia was not involved in the current unrest, he repeatedly referred to the eastern region of Ukraine as, quote, “New Russia.”

MARSHALL-HALLMARK: One hundred and nineteen supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to 3 years in prison by an Egyptian court. They were charged with unlawfully protesting the overthrow of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, during violent demonstrations in October 2013. In recent months, Egyptian military-backed authorities have been making increased efforts to quell the Muslim Brotherhood, banning former members from voting in the upcoming elections, and tightening control on mosques they believe to be in support of the Brotherhood. This week’s ruling comes in the wake of a trial last month that sentenced 529 Morsi supporters to death, a decision that has drawn criticism from human rights organizations. According to Amnesty International, the crack-down on the Brotherhood has jailed an estimated 15,000 Islamists and claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Morsi supporters since last summer.

BATTEN: Armed gunmen stormed a United Nations peacekeeping base in South Sudan this week, killing at least 20 civilians and injuring dozens more. The mob entered the base by claiming to be nonviolent protesters delivering a petition to the U.N. mission. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric condemned the incident, stating, quote, “This attack on a location where civilians are being protected by the United Nations is a serious escalation.” At the time of the attack, approximately 5000 civilians were housed at the base in the city of Bor, located in the northern Jonglei state. Over one million individuals have been displaced since the conflict between the South Sudanese government and rebel groups began last year. Although the two parties agreed to a ceasefire in January, fighting has continued to intensify across the country.

MARSHALL-HALLMARK: Anti-government extremists staged a mass kidnapping in Nigeria, abducting over 100 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok. The gunmen, who pretended to be government soldiers conducting an evacuation, are suspected of belonging to the insurgent group Boko Haram, which strongly opposes the education of women. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has also blamed Boko Haram for a recent bombing outside the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The attack killed more than 70 people and left at least 124 injured. Although Jonathan called the terrorist organization, quote, “a temporary problem,” the number of attacks by Boko Haram has increased dramatically this year, killing more than 1,500 people in 2014 alone.

BATTEN: Two of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons and thirty-six former officials of his regime began trial for alleged war crimes this week. The defendants are accused of helping repress the 2011 uprising in Libya and additional charges including murder and theft of state funds. Last year, the International Criminal Court ruled that Libya could try former military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, but it demanded the transfer of Gaddafi’s eldest son, Saif, to the Hague. Saif is still being held by militia forces in the city of Zintan, where he was captured in late 2011. A Libyan court has insisted that the defendants will be provided with legal counsel, but a recent courthouse video showed younger son Saadi Gaddafi confessing to, quote, “destabilizing” the country, apparently without the presence of an attorney.

MARSHALL-HALLMARK: Also in Libya this week, masked gunmen in the capital city of Tripoli have abducted Jordanian ambassador Fawaz al-Itan. The kidnappers opened fire on the ambassador’s car, wounding his driver and taking the unharmed ambassador into captivity. In exchange for releasing al-Itan, they have demanded that Islamist militant leader Mohamed Dersi be set free. Dersi was jailed for life in 2007 for plotting to blow up an airport in Jordan. The attack on al-Itan is the latest in a string of high-profile kidnappings of diplomats and officials in Libya. Abductions have become common in the country, as the Libyan government struggles to control the armed military groups operating within its borders.

BATTEN: The Iraqi government has shut down the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, citing concerns that its location was vulnerable to attacks by insurgent groups. The Iraqi Justice Ministry stated that 2,400 prisoners had been moved from the facility, now known as Baghdad Central Prison, to other high-security prisons in the northern region of the country. While the prison was a common destination for political prisoners under Saddam Hussein, it gained international infamy in the wake of reports that American soldiers stationed at Abu Ghraib had used physical and sexual torture on Iraqi detainees. It is unclear whether the closing of the prison is intended to be a temporary measure or a permanent decision.

MARSHALL-HALLMARK: A South Korean ferry carrying 462 people, including 325 high school students, sank several miles off the southwest coast of South Korea. The student passengers were in their second year at Danwon High School, and were embarking on a class field trip to the island of Jeju. On the nearby island of Jindo, friends and relatives of the passengers awaiting news from authorities expressed their dissatisfaction with the rescue effort. Protesting the announcement from officials that turbulent waters prevented rescuers from entering the submerged vessel, Chung Hae-sook, mother of a student on the ferry, insisted, quote, “There is no tomorrow for this… My heart is turning to ashes.” The cause of the disaster remains unclear, though nine passengers are confirmed dead, and government minister Kang Byung-kyu reports that 164 people were rescued, 55 were injured, and 292 passengers are still missing.

BATTEN: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Nora Bailin, Caroline Batten, Jay Clayton, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Caroline Batten.

PENDLE MARSHALL-HALLMARK: And I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark. Until next time, thanks for listening.

flickr via IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation)

flickr via IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation)

Asma Noray: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Asma Noray.

Dylan Okabe-Jawdat: And I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat. Pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine seized government buildings in several cities near the Russian border, including Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk. Similar tactics were used by protesters in February to oust former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. These activists, some of whom have declared a new independent state, the Donetsk People’s Republic, argue that the high concentration of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine justifies independence. Although Russia has yet to recognize this new state, United States Secretary of State John Kerry said that civil unrest between the new Ukrainian government and these protestors could, quote, “potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention.” Kerry also suggested that Russian special forces and agents were responsible for instigating these demonstrations, and the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have warned Russia against any further intervention in Ukraine.

Noray: Iran celebrated a National Day of Nuclear Technology this week, marking its eighth year since first enriching uranium. At a celebration, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei explained that, quote “None of the country’s nuclear achievements can be stopped, and no one has the right to bargain over it,” referring to the “p-five plus one” talks in Vienna featuring the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany. Though Iran has already curbed its nuclear program in return for eased sanctions, the current dialogue, which is supported by Khamenei, seeks to further constrain its nuclear program. Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, and according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is continuing to cooperate with a United Nations investigation of its nuclear sites. In late 2013, the “p-five plus one” countries formed a framework deal under which Iran agreed to greater transparency, and would address suspicions that it may have designed an atomic weapon.

Okabe-Jawdat: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his ministers to halt negotiations with Palestinian representatives as United States-led peace talks between the two sides continue to crumble. Netanyahu’s action is a direct response to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to sign 15 United Nations treaties in order to advance its application for statehood. Netanyahu’s order does not apply to Israel’s leading negotiator Tzipi Livni or to defense and security officials. Netanyahu is threatening to impose economic sanctions on the West Bank if the Palestinians continue to pursue unilateral action regarding statehood. In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Israel’s announcement of settlement development in East Jerusalem was responsible for the latest impasse in the peace negotiations, which are set to expire on April 29th.

Noray: Two car bombs in the Syrian city of Homs killed at least 21 people and injured over 100. The Karam al-Loz district of Homs, where the bombs were detonated, is inhabited mainly by Alawites—the Shi’ite sect to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs. This violence in Homs was preceded by the recent assassination of a 75 year old Jesuit priest in the Old City district, an area controlled by Syrian opposition forces. Father Frans Van der Lugt lived in Homs for over 50 years and had continuously offered Muslim and Christian communities refuge throughout the conflict. The identity and motive of Father van der Lugt’s assailant is unknown.

Okabe-Jawdat: A bombing in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad killed more than 20 people and wounded dozens. The bomb, which was hidden in a fruit crate, exploded in a market full of civilians. Soon after the attack, the Taliban released a statement condemning the act, calling it, quote “regrettable and un-Islamic.” A different separatist group, the little-known United Baluch Army, claimed responsibility for the bombing. They have fought for the independence of the Baluchistan Province, and until now, most of their fighting has remained in the region. The involvement of the United Baluch Army comes at a tense time for Pakistan, as the government is deeply involved in peace talks with a more prominent militant group in the region, the Taliban.

Noray: The United States has named Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – or A-B-M – a foreign terrorist organization. This designation, announced by the United States Department of State this week, makes it a crime to knowingly aid the group. It also allows the US government to freeze ABM assets, but it is not known whether the organization has any holdings in the United States. While the State Department noted that the Sinai-based Egyptian militant group is not formally linked to al Qaeda, the report insists that the two organizations have ideological connections. Among the terrorist activities of the group listed by the US State Department are an assassination attempt on Egypt’s Interior Minister last year, a missile attack on Cairo in January, and rockets fired at the city of Eilat, in southern Israel.

Okabe-Jawdat: Car bombs exploded across Baghdad this week, killing at least 24 people and injuring dozens. Most of the areas targeted in the attacks were predominantly Shiite neighborhoods. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attacks, but the bombings bore a resemblance to strategies used by al-Qaeda inspired groups, as well as Sunni insurgents. The attacks were the latest in a string of violent incidents across the country. According to United Nations estimates, over 8,800 people died in attacks in Iraq last year, and the violence has only continued to rise in recent months. These most recent bombings have raised concerns about the stability of the upcoming elections. The national elections, which will take place on April 30, mark the first democratic vote in the country since the United States withdrew its troops in 2011.

Noray: Over the past week, Kenyan authorities have arrested over 3000 Somalis and deported 82 as part of an ongoing security crackdown in response to a spate of terrorism in Kenya. According to Kenya’s Interior Minister, Joseph Ole-Lenku, the deported Somalis were in Kenya illegally and lacked proper documentation. The most recent incident was a grenade attack on April 1st in Nairobi that killed six people in Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali neighborhood in Kenya. Kenya has blamed the recent attacks on the Somali militant group al-Shabab. Kenya police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi said that 447 Somalis remain in custody under anti-terrorism laws. The detained Somalis are being held in Kasarani Stadium, a sports stadium on the outskirts of Nairobi. Reports of human rights violations by police officers have led the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights to believe that the detainees are being held in degrading and inhumane conditions. Religious clerics and leading members of the Kenyan parliament have accused the security forces of unfairly targeting Somalis in the current security crackdown.

Okabe-Jawdat: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Caroline Batten, Jay Clayton, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Tyler Welsh, Chloe Wittenberg, and Henry Zhang. I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Noray: And I’m Asma Noray. Until next time, thanks for listening.

 

Photo by oxfamnovib via Flickr

Photo by oxfamnovib via Flickr

 

This week on War News Radio, “Changing Perspectives.” First, we learn how the mainstream American media has sensationalized mass shootings and normalized urban gun violence. Next, we present our editorial segment, “Filibusted.” Finally, we hear from Ukrainian citizens and expats about Ukraine’s upcoming elections, internal tensions, and uneasy relationship with the Russian Federation. Stay with us.

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flickr via Saraf Omra

Dylan Okabe-Jawdat: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Boozarjomehri: And I’m Fatima Boozarjomehri. Ukrainian military forces left Crimea earlier this week as acting-defense minister Ihor Tenyukh stepped down from office. The Ukrainian Parliament initially rejected his resignation, but ultimately named Colonel General Mikhail Kovalyov as his replacement. Tenyukh, a strong supporter of the uprising against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, rebuffed critics who labeled his response to the Russian annexation of Crimea as indecisive. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly has dismissed the annexation of Crimea as illegal. Several former Soviet republics, including Albania, Estonia, and Slovenia, joined the list of the resolution’s co-sponsors.

Okabe-Jawdat: An Egyptian court has sentenced to death 529 people described as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have been convicted of participating in a riot in which an Egyptian police officer was killed. The trial itself lasted less than two hours, and 400 defendants were sentenced in absentia. The judge has been accused of violating criminal law procedures by preventing defense lawyers from calling witnesses, and Egyptian legal experts believe the sentences will be overturned or reduced following the appeals process. Each death sentence must be ratified by Egypt’s grand mufti before it can be carried out, which provides a measure of hope to those affected by the ruling. 683 more people have also been put on trial this week and are still awaiting a verdict.

Boozarjomehri: Egyptian General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has announced his resignation from the military in order to run for President in Egypt’s upcoming elections. Sisi deposed Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in 2013, and he is expected to easily win the election. Although he has acknowledged the economic and political difficulties the country faces, Sisi has promised to build a, quote, “modern and democratic Egypt”. Despite the continuous crackdown on, and recent conviction of over 500 Muslim Brotherhood members, Sisi vowed that his politics would be non-exclusionary and that he would extend a hand to, quote, “all those who have not been convicted”.

Okabe-Jawdat: A pro-government militia killed at least 151 rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan this week. Several commanders of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement–or S-L-M–died in the fighting, according to a report by the Sudanese Media Center. The SLM is a rebel group that formed in 2003 in response to perceived governmental discrimination and neglect. This recent incident is the latest in a string of violent assaults on rebel groups by Sudanese government forces. Human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned the Sudanese government for the attacks, noting that over 100,000 citizens have been displaced since the violence escalated earlier this month.

Boozarjomehri: Taliban militants attacked an election commission office in Kabul this week, killing at least five people. Two suicide bombers detonated their vehicle outside the office while three other militants stormed the building, engaging in a five hour gunbattle with Afghan security officers. The victims include a provincial council candidate, two police officers, two election commission workers and five militants. This assault is the latest in the Taliban’s campaign to disrupt Afghanistan’s crucial presidential election on April 5th. The elections will decide the successor to president Hamid Karzai, marking the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history.

Okabe-Jawdat: North Korea launched two medium-range ballistic missiles earlier this week as part of a military technology test. The launch may have been timed to coincide with a nuclear security summit attended by Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Kim Min-seok, a spokesman from the South Korean defense ministry, said that the decision to launch the missiles from mobile vehicles was a clear move by North Korea to, quote, “show off its ability to attempt a surprise attack.” The defense ministry also reported that the missiles flew about four hundred and three miles into the sea between North Korea and Japan. This launch represents an escalation from the test-firing of twenty-five short-range rockets by North Korea earlier this year. A North Korean diplomat, however, has claimed that the test launches are meant to protest the continued US and South Korean military drills near the Demilitarized Zone.

Boozarjomehri: Dozens of people were killed this week as a series of attacks swept across Iraq. The deadliest attack occurred in northeastern Baghdad after a suicide bomber crashed a truck filled with explosives into a security checkpoint, killing 6 and wounding 21 others. Gunmen in Tarmiyah and Mosul, cities north of Baghdad, killed 13 soldiers and wounded 13 in separate attacks on army checkpoints. Two bomb blasts in Baghdad also killed 5 and wounded 17. In Baghdad’s Ghalibiya district, 2 bodyguards were killed and 7 wounded in an attempted assassination of Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri. Although no group has claimed responsibility for these attacks, they are similar to acts of violence by an Al-Qaeda breakaway group. These attacks come just weeks before Iraq is set to hold national elections on April 30.

Okabe-Jawdat: Three Venezuelan air force generals were arrested under charges that they were planning a coup against the current regime. None of the generals have been identified. This most recent development comes as the government has increasingly cracked down on opposition groups. Other high profile arrests have included opposition party leader Leopoldo Lopez and the mayor of San Cristobal, Daniel Ceballos. These arrests followed weeks of protests in Venezuela that have left at least 34 people dead and dozens more injured. The anti-government protests have criticized President Nicolas Maduro’s administration for failing to address shortages of basic goods, increased crime, and rising inflation.

Boozarjomehri: Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has been convicted by a New York federal court jury of, quote, “conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists”. The prosecution accused the 48 year old Kuwaiti clergyman of serving as Al-Qaeda’s mouthpiece and main recruiter, pointing to his fiery speeches in which he glorified the 9/11 attacks. Abu Ghaith, however, testified that he had never joined Al Qaeda. He also insisted that his videos were only meant to encourage Muslims to rise up against their oppressors and that the more severe threats against America were fed to him by Bin Laden himself. Abu Gaith will be sentenced on September 8th and faces life in prison.

Okabe-Jawdat: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Aneesa Andrabi, Caroline Batten, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Jerry Qin, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, Chloe Wittenberg, and Rachel Yang. I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Boozarjomehri. And I’m Fatima Boozarjomehri. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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flickr via Sasha Maksymenko

Henry Zhang: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Henry Zhang.

Jay Clayton: And I’m Jay Clayton. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty formally annexing Crimea, after the region voted to join the Russian Federation earlier this week. Putin justified the move by citing the plight of ethnic Russians in Crimea. Russian officials have also pointed to the results of the recent referendum, in which a reported 95% of Crimean voters expressed support for joining Russia. The interim Ukrainian government has denounced the vote as illegal. The United States government has also criticized annexation, with Vice President Joe Biden calling the move, quote, “a land grab.” The US and European Union have since imposed sanctions on Russia, ranging from travel bans to the freezing of assets of Russian and Ukrainian officials. These sanctions target those linked to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, including two top aides to Putin, Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev.

Zhang: Israeli air forces fired on Syrian military bases in the Golan Heights in response to a bombing earlier this week that injured four Israeli soldiers. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks against the Israeli Army patrol, Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner stated that Israel would hold the Syrian Army responsible for the blast. Israel’s subsequent military action killed one Syrian soldier and wounded seven. The Syrian Army claimed that Israel’s attack was a violation of the 1973 Separation of Forces agreement, which maintained relative peace along the Syrian-Israeli ceasefire line in the Golan Heights. This border conflict marks the most serious confrontation between the two countries since the start of the Syrian civil war three years ago and has led many to question the extent of Israel’s involvement in the conflict.

Clayton: Syria has failed to eliminate 12 chemical production facilities by the March 15th deadline set in place by the United Nations Security Council last September. Syrian government officials argue that security concerns are the reason for such delays, citing recent attacks on convoys transporting chemical weapons. Inspectors overseeing the demolition of chemical weapons facilities have also come under sniper fire. While Syria has not been granted an extension beyond the April 27th deadline for the complete elimination of its chemical weapons program, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said that almost half of Syria’s declared stockpile had been destroyed.

Zhang: The second round of international talks over Iran’s nuclear program continued this week, complicated by tension between the United States and Russia over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Political tensions in Ukraine may make it difficult for the US, European Union, and Russia to present a unified front in nuclear negotiations, potentially reducing the pressure on Iran to make concessions. Recent negotiations between the US and Iran have eased tensions between the two countries, though domestic criticism has limited progress. Upcoming negotiations will deal with regulating the level of uranium enrichment allowed in Iran. Iran continues to insist that its nuclear program will be peaceful, but many countries remain skeptical about Iran’s intentions.

Clayton: Thailand has lifted the state of emergency that has been imposed on Bangkok and surrounding areas since late January, following Thailand’s February general election. Protests erupted in Bangkok in November of last year, with the goal of ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The results of the election might soon be annulled, due to boycotts by a large portion of voting districts. Ms. Yingluck’s government lifted the state of emergency in an attempt to boost Thailand’s suffering economy, particularly the tourism industry. A less stringent law, the Internal Security Act, remains in place to allow the Thai government to impose curfews, operate security checkpoints, and control protesters if demonstrations flare up once again.

Zhang: Seven Taliban fighters attacked a police district base in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, leaving a total of 18 dead. Soon after, four Taliban militants assaulted a luxury hotel in Kabul, resulting in the deaths of the four attackers. These attacks are the latest in a series of violent incidents around the country, as Afghanistan prepares for its upcoming presidential elections. The Taliban have issued a threat to use violence in order to disrupt the elections, which are scheduled for April 5th.

Clayton: The South Sudanese army recaptured the town of Malakal this week following a month-long rebel occupation. A spokesperson for former Vice President Riek Machar, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, confirmed that the rebels retreated from the northern city but vowed that they would, quote, “retake the town soon.” Due to its vast oil fields, Malakal has been a center of violence since the conflict between the South Sudanese government and rebel factions began last December. The fighting over Malakal may hinder attempts to resume peace negotiations between the two parties. Past peace talks have floundered, and both rebels and government forces have violated the cease-fire deal signed in January.

Zhang: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Caroline Batten, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Mackenzie Welch, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Henry Zhang.

Clayton: And I’m Jay Clayton. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Forty-three years ago this month, a group of anti-war activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and made off with every document inside. The leaked reports led to the discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s secret campaign to harass and intimidate opponents of the war in Vietnam, leaders of the Civil Rights movement, and even students on college campuses. War News Radio’s Caroline Batten sat down with two of the burglars, husband and wife John and Bonnie Raines, to talk about conflict, activism, and the whistleblowers of today.

BATTEN: March 8, 1971. The night of the World Championship in Heavyweight Boxing, the Fight of the Century, Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier.

BATTEN: People across America were tuning in on their radios — which was just what activists Bonnie and John Raines, along with their six partners, were banking on.

BONNIE: Maybe the police would be not quite as vigilant about their patrols listening to the fight.

BATTEN: Bonnie and John were part of a secret group of anti-war activists, calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. That night, with everyone listening to Frazier pounding Ali, the group broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and made off with every single document inside.

The documents that the Citizens’ Commission stole and leaked to The Washington Post led to the discovery of COINTELPRO, a program designed by then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The goal of COINTELPRO was to intimidate and harass leftist leaders, even trying to blackmail Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into committing suicide. They monitored student activists on campuses, wiretapped various organizations, discredited everyone from actresses to athletes, and tried to get investigative reporter Jack Nelson fired from his job at the LA Times. Fred Hampton, the national spokesman for the Black Panthers, was killed as part of a COINTELPRO operation.

Bonnie, John, and their partners didn’t know what the word COINTELPRO meant when they leaked the stolen documents, but they did know that a memo from J. Edgar Hoover encouraging FBI agents to, quote, “increase the paranoia” for liberal activists was serious news.

JOHN: We had ‘em. We had ‘em nailed. That was it. It wasn’t surveillance, it was intimidation.

BATTEN: Bonnie and John had been activists for years. John was a Freedom Rider during the height of the Civil Rights movement, where he first noticed FBI agents taking pictures and harassing protesters. When the two moved north to Philadelphia, they started protesting the war in Vietnam.

JOHN: We brought from the South to the North knowledge about J. Edgar Hoover and his dirty tricks. We also brought expectations of success, which would be frustrated time and time again. I mean, we tried all the street tactics, we tried all the nonviolent protests, and none of them were getting us anywhere.

BATTEN: Bonnie says it was clear the FBI was constantly watching.

BONNIE: Everyone realized they were being watched. And their photographs were taken when they were in marches or rallies. People knew their phones were tapped… and we knew that if we were meeting to plan something that there would probably be FBI plants in our midst.

BATTEN: And all that surveillance was starting to derail the anti-war movement.

JOHN: And if you have the suspicion, well, is this person next to me who says all these right things, I mean, is he really working for the FBI, that begins to break the trust that is at the very heart of a community of resistance.

BATTEN: That’s when Bonnie and John met Haverford physics professor Bill Davidon, who was determined to prove that the FBI was disrupting the anti-war movement. Former Washington Poster reporter Betty Medsger, who published the documents stolen by the Citizens’ Commission, says Davidon felt he was up to the challenge.

MEDSGER Instead of thinking like most people would about such a problem, how you get evidence that the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country is suppressing dissent, when it’s also the most secretive and the most protected organization in the country, most people, I think it would safe to say, would have thought, this is a problem that cannot be solved, sure, it’s terrible, and simply lament. And Bill was a problem solver.

BATTEN: Determined to find evidence of Hoover’s dirty campaigns, Davidon rounded up a group of eight activists and planned to break in to the FBI satellite office in the small town of Media. Bonnie and John were ready to try something drastic.

JOHN: America was on fire. And that anger was constantly being frustrated from having any success at stopping the war in Vietnam. We knew he was using massive surveillance, we knew he was using infiltrators and provocateurs, and we also knew that nobody in Washington was going to hold him accountable.

BONNIE: We came to the realization that it really is up to every citizen in a democracy to protect rights in a democracy, and if there is abuse of those rights you can’t just sit back and wait for someone else.

BATTEN: The Citizens’ Commission had no idea what they would find in the Media office, or if the documents they wanted would even be there. They were counting on the fact that Hoover was a bureaucrat who kept endless files on his programs. So they spent months casing the office, which was inside an ordinary apartment building.

JOHN: In order to make that burglary something that was… that would look safe and rational to do rather than absurd, because, you know, who’s going to rob the FBI? Crazy people, right? So we had to make sure of… exactly what those folks, the patterns of their behavior at night were, when they got back from work.

BATTEN: But that wasn’t enough. They had to get inside.

BONNIE: So I called the office and said I was a student at Swarthmore, and I was doing research on opportunities for women in the FBI.

BATTEN: Bonnie managed to get inside for an interview, wearing borrowed glasses and a hat over her long hair.

BONNIE: He never seemed to notice that I never took my gloves off, the whole time I was taking notes.

BATTEN: On the night of the burglary, everything almost went wrong. Taxi driver Keith Forsyth had learned to pick locks, but the FBI had added a new lock to the door — one he didn’t know how to open.

FORSYTH: At that moment my heart just sank. Because immediately I thought, a, I’m incompetent because I didn’t see this lock before, and b, the whole thing is off because I can’t get through this door.

BATTEN: That’s Keith, speaking at the Philadelphia Free Library. He headed around to a second door and pried open the deadbolt with a crowbar. Then he had to use a car jack to budge a hundred-pound file cabinet blocking the way. But the surprises didn’t stop there.

FORSYTH: Somewhere in this process of getting through the second door, I heard a clanking sound inside the office, and I didn’t know if it was the heating system or the FBI jostling furniture.

BATTEN: But the coast was clear, and Forsyth, Davidon, and their partners emptied the contents of the file cabinets into their suitcases and drove off to a farmhouse to examine their finds. When they found the memo with the words “enhance the paranoia”, they were furious — and thrilled.

JOHN AND BONNIE: Ohhhh boy, we got him, we got him, we got old J. Edgar Hoover!

BATTEN: After sending out copies of the files to a list of reporters, the group needed to lie low. Hoover sent out more than two hundred agents searching for the Media burglars.

JOHN: The reason they didn’t find us is important. I’m convinced this burglary could only happen in the Philadelphia area. Because back in the late 60s and early 70s, Philadelphia was the national center of resistance to the war in Vietnam. We could hide out in plain sight.

BATTEN: And if Betty Medsger hadn’t written a book about the Citizens’ Commission, called The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, they might never have come forward.

JOHN: Why would we? BONNIE: No, I don’t think we would have. JOHN: We did what we did, it was effective… we don’t think of ourselves as heroes, we think of ourselves as everyday citizens.

BATTEN: That’s where John thinks whistleblower Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency who leaked details of global surveillance programs, may have made a tactical mistake.

JOHN: We didn’t take public responsibility. And therefore the focus of public opinion stayed on the issue, stayed on the issue of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and his dirty tricks. Once Snowden says, I did it, then all of the public media attention focuses upon him, not the issue. And in a certain sense, we were more effective because we hid out.

BATTEN: Bonnie and John weren’t inside reporters, like Snowden, but they still think he’s done the people of the United States a public service.

JOHN: So citizens will always have to fight, always bring a suspicion to those institutions that embed and enact power and privilege… We must hold, as citizens, hold those institutions vulnerable and accountable to the voice of the people.

BATTEN: Not everyone agrees with him — like Patrick Kelly, the FBI agent who first discovered the break-in. Kelly told NBC reporter Michael Isikoff:

KELLY (clip from NBC.com): They’re rationalizing a criminal act. I don’t believe such people have the right to take upon themselves and make decisions.

BATTEN: Bonnie has thought about responses like Kelly’s — and she says she still believes the Citizens’ Commission did the right thing.

BONNIE: A greater crime has been occurring and the government is responsible for that. So I think that when all the means that one can try as an ordinary citizen… when they’re not producing any results, then I think that it is time for something to be more drastic.

BATTEN: John and Bonnie agree that if citizens refuse to let their voices be drowned out, government policy can change for the better.

JOHN: It’s amazing what government officials will do if they begin to feel the pressure of public opinion.

BATTEN: And he thinks we need to keep holding our government accountable, as the War on Terror declared by former President Bush in 2001 continues with no end in sight.

JOHN: The gasoline that the terrorists run on is the same gasoline that NSA runs on, and its called the endless hole of fear. We are safe, and we need to keep saying that to each other.

BATTEN: Keith Forsyth says the message he and the Citizens’ Commission sent to the people of the United States still holds true today.

FORSYTH: The Goliath is tough, but he’s not invulnerable.

BATTEN: For War News Radio, I’m Caroline Batten.

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