1971: The Citizens who Uncovered FBI Spying

“His biggest fear was either that they wouldn’t find anything or that people wouldn’t pay attention.”

william davidon1971 is a documentary that tells the story of eight ordinary citizens who broke into a Philadelphia-area FBI office, 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 intimidation of Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. Their actions predate that of Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and Chelsea Manning but raise awareness of how government intrusion and spying on citizens has long been a problem.

William Davidon, a math and physics professor, was credited as being the leader of the break-in. His daughter Sarah Davidon says in the late 1960s with the ongoing war in Vietnam, he became concerned about the possibility of nuclear weapons being used “he really became very dedicated in trying to prevent the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam.”

sarah davidonDespite 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 their identities remained a secret, until today. The story is told through a combination of exclusive interviews, rare primary documents from the break-in and investigation, and national news coverage of the burglary with dramatic re-creations.






The film 1971 will be screened at the History Colorado Center on Tuesday August 4th at 6pm and will be followed by a panel discussion on government surveillance that includes Sarah Davidon.