As the mainstream media praises Muhammad Ali for his boxing career and Parkinson’s while only glossing over his antiwar bravery, there are untold stories of how this amazing man changed the world.
One of these such contributions manifested through a terrible loss during Ali’s fight against the darling of the military industrial complex — Joe Frasier. Although Ali would take one of the worst beatings of his career, his fight provided cover for a burglary that would expose the FBI’s secret spying, murder plots, and COINTELPRO that would change the world forever.
On March 8, 1971, as 300 million people gathered to watch Ali’s first major fight since he was convicted in 1967 for bravely refusing to fight in the unjust Vietnam war, a group of heroic antiwar activists plotted their burglary of the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania.
The noise from the fight would provide cover to the burglars as they broke into the office to expose the FBI’s heinous crimes. The group of eight activists would successfully expose the illegal spying operations of J. Edgar Hoover and how citizens across America were subject to the FBI’s black ops — including Martin Luther King, Jr.
The group took every file in the office, and this cache would eventually lead to major congressional investigations and reform within the United States intelligence apparatus.
According to the Intercept:
The distraction of the fight helped the burglars, who called themselves the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI, walk away with more than 1,000 documents, including one that revealed the FBI’s secret COINTELPRO operations. These operations involved a panoply of dirty tricks that ranged from planting disinformation about antiwar activists, to planning the murder of a member of the Black Panthers, and sending innocent people to prison on the basis of false testimony by agents and informers.
Also contained within those files was the entire life history of Muhammad Ali. The FBI had data on Ali dating back to elementary school.
There was some poetic justice in Ali providing cover for the burglary. As more and more secret FBI files became public as a result of the break-in, it was revealed that the FBI had kept tabs on Ali, beginning with its investigation of his Selective Service case. Some of his phone conversations were tapped, and FBI informers gained access to, of all things, his elementary school records in Louisville (teachers said little Cassius Clay, his original name, loved art). Informers also had diligently monitored and typed, word for word, what Ali said on his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
The eight activists who carried out the burglary of the century were never caught and they never broke their silence until over 40 years later in a book written by Betty L. Medsger, titled, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI and for a and for a documentary titled, 1971, by Johanna Hamilton.
As the world mourns the loss of this great man, it is important we don’t let the media whitewash his antiwar efforts. The fights he endured in the ring were nothing compared to the ridicule and hate he faced from the pro-war establishment class. For taking a stand against killing innocent people, Ali suffered death threats and had his business shut down by the government.
The day after the fight, Ali, being the gentleman he was, made the following statement discounting the loss of a boxing match and noting the importance of everything else.
“All kinds of things set us back, but life goes on. You don’t shoot yourself. Soon this will be old news. People got lives to live, bills to pay, mouths to feed. Maybe a plane will go down with ninety people on it. Or a great man will be assassinated. That will be more important than Ali losing. I never wanted to lose, never thought I would, but the thing that matters is how you lose. I’m not crying. My friends should not cry.”