There are roughly 35,000 pages of unreleased FBI documents on one of the true unsung heroes of the civil liberties movement in the United States, and we need your help to make them public.
You may have heard part of this extraordinary story when it was first revealed earlier this year: In 1971, a group of protesters calling themselves the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI office and exposed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's massive and illegal spying program on Americans, which led to the Church Committee reforms of the late 1970s. The organizers of the Citizens Committee amazingly stayed anonymous until this January, when some of them were finally revealed in Betty Medger's fantastic book The Burglary and the documentary 1971. Sadly, the leader of the Citizens Committee, William Davidon, an accomplished physics professor and well-known peace activist, passed away in late 2013, just before Ms. Medger’s book was published.
Shortly after the book was released, Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Runa Sandvik filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Mr. Davidon’s FBI file. The FBI responded by saying there were potentially over 35,000 pages of documents responsive to the request, but required a fee of $1,070 before it could release them. We appealed for a fee waiver, but it was denied.
Davidon lived an extraordinary life even before anyone knew he participated in the FBI break-in. He was an accomplished physicist who pushed for nuclear disarmament, marched with Martin Luther King in Selma, won a First Amendment case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was once accused of attempting to kidnap Henry Kissinger (then met with him about Vietnam shortly after), and was on the ACLU’s board of directors.
These documents provide a unique window into the life of an important historical figure and the US government’s pursuit of him. They deserve to be public. Please help us crowd-fund $1,070 so we can make these documents public for journalists, historians, and anyone wanting to study the FBI’s file on William Davidon and learn what the agency thought of the man who may be the most responsible for its reform in the 1970s.
You can find the original FOIA request sent to the FBI by Ms. Sandvik, along with the initial response and rejection of the fee waiver on the MuckRock website.
You can donate here.