Directed by Johanna Hamilton
From the Producers of E-TEAM and Executive Produced by Academy Award-nominee and Edward Snowden confidante Laura Poitras.
On March, 8 1971 eight ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, a town just outside Philadelphia, took hundreds of secret files, and shared them with the public. In doing so, they uncovered the FBI’s vast and illegal regime of spying and intimidations of Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.
On the night of the “Fight of the Century” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, the activists, calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, picked the lock on the door of the small FBI field office. They took every file in the office, loaded them into suitcases, and walked out the front door.
Mailed anonymously, the documents started to show up in newsrooms. The heist yield a trove of damning evidence that shattered the wall of secrecy that had previously enveloped the FBI. The documents proved that the FBI was deliberately working to intimidate civil rights activists and Americans nonviolently protesting against the Vietnam War. The most significant revelations was an illegal program overseen by lifelong FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover knows as COINTELPRO – the Counter Intelligence Program.
Despite searching for the people behind the heist in one of the largest investigations ever conducted, the FBI never solved the mystery of the break-in, and the identities of the members of the Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI remained a secret.
For the first time, the members of the Citizen’s Commission have decided to come forward and speak out about their actions. 1971 is their story.
Told through a combination of exclusive interviews, rare primary documents from the break-in and investigation, national new coverage of the burglary and dramatic re-creations, the story of the Citizen’s Commission unfolds, with haunting echoes to today’s questions of privacy in the era of government surveillance.