Requiem for a Hero

He was 84:

One day in May 1971, John C. Raines, a religion professor at Temple University, had just returned to his home in Germantown, Pa., from playing tennis when two F.B.I. agents knocked on the door.

For weeks, hundreds of agents had been combing Philadelphia for the amateur burglars who had embarrassed the F.B.I. by raiding a suburban field office and stealing a thousand files, and then baffled the bureau by evading capture.

The documents were delivered anonymously to journalists and congressmen as proof that the bureau had systematically and illegally infiltrated, intimidated and disrupted protest groups.


The burglary, and subsequent lawsuits by NBC and others, prompted a groundbreaking investigation in 1975 by the so-called Church committee, a special Senate panel led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. The committee revealed details of the F.B.I.’s secret Cointelpro, or counterintelligence, operation, which included illegal sabotage of dissident groups deemed to be subversive.

Dr. Raines died on Sunday in Philadelphia at 84. His wife said the cause was congestive heart failure.


Among the files was an F.B.I. order to interview dissidents aggressively. The bureau’s goal, the order said, was to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles” and “to get the point across there is an F.B.I. agent behind every mailbox.”

What that proved, Dr. Raines said, was that J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I. director, “was not simply into surveillance; Hoover was into taking the voice of dissent away from dissent.”

The cache also included a routine routing slip with the word “Cointelpro.” The burglars overlooked the document, but the Church Committee later exposed the program in detail.

This man was a hero, like Ellsburg and Snowden.

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