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Peace Collection and the FBI

McCabe Library accepted approximately 70,000 documents that Washington Post investigative reporter Betty Medsger used in writing her 2014 book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.

The journalist, who was the first to report on files stolen from a Delaware County FBI office almost 50 years ago, donated her book research on the topic to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

“These were the documents that convinced Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Katharine Graham to defy J. Edgar Hoover and Attorney General John Mitchell, and break the story that the FBI was spying on ordinary Americans who had committed no crimes,” says Wendy Chmielewski, George Cooley Curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

“The publication of the stolen records from the Media [Pa.] FBI office also directly influenced and encouraged the editor and publisher to go forward with publishing investigations of the well-known cases of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and in the subsequent two years of investigations over Watergate.”

Some of the information detailed ways College staff members informed for the FBI through a program called COINTELPRO, which operated from 1965 to 1971.

Medsger spoke at an April 3 event at McCabe Library. Her work is now alongside that of Nobel Prize laureate Jane Addams, whose donation of books and papers helped establish the Peace Collection in 1930.