ITHACA, NY — Long before WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, a group of ordinary citizens took extraordinary measures to expose misconduct by the U.S. government against its own people. Two upcoming events sponsored by the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College will highlight the work of these activists and why it is still relevant today.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23, the documentary “1971” will be screened at 7 p.m. in Textor 103. The following Tuesday, Sept. 30, journalist Betty Medsger will speak at 7 p.m. in Williams 225. Both events are free and open to the public.
“1971” tells the story of a break-in at an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group calling itself the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. The burglars made off with hundreds of documents detailing the bureau’s illegal political surveillance and squelching of peaceful dissent, which they mailed anonymously to a number of media outlets. They became the most hunted people in the country during the intensive investigation that followed, but their identities remained hidden for more than four decades.
Following the screening will be a talkback hosted by director of the Park Center and associate professor of journalism Jeff Cohen, who has written extensively about FBI and NSA abuses and the failure of the mainstream media to cover them.
Betty Medsger, who is featured in the film and will speak the following week, played an important part in the story. As a Washington Post reporter in 1971, she received and wrote about the purloined documents, the first files that pointed to the FBI’s vast surveillance of civil rights, student and antiwar activists.
Earlier this year, Medsger published “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI,” a book that revealed for the first time — with their permission — the identities of the burglars. Her account shows the power of nonviolent activism and bold journalism, as relevant today as ever given the ongoing debates over government secrecy, mass surveillance and whistleblowers who risk much to inform the public about official misconduct.
Her talk will be followed by an audience Q&A and a book signing.
For more information, contact Brandy Hawley in the Park Center for Independent Media at firstname.lastname@example.org or (607) 274-3590.