01/08/2014 11:35 am ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

Video: 'It Was Time to Do More Than Protest' -- 1971 Burglars Who Exposed COINTELPRO Reveal Their Identities

One of the great mysteries of the Vietnam War era has been solved.

On March 8, 1971, a group of activists -- including a cabdriver, a day care director and two professors -- broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. They stole every document they found and then leaked many to the press, including details about FBI abuses and the then-secret counter-intelligence program to infiltrate, monitor and disrupt social, political movements, nicknamed COINTELPRO. They called themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI. No one was ever caught for the break-in.

The burglars' identities remained a secret until this week when they finally came forward to take credit for the caper that changed history. John Raines, Bonnie Raines and Keith Forsyth describe why they engaged in the act in this Democracy Now! extended interview. They are joined by their longtime attorney, David Kairys. Also interviewed is Betty Medsger, the former Washington Post reporter who first broke the story of the stolen FBI documents in 1971 and has now revealed the burglars' identities in her new book, "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI." We also air clips from the new short film, "Stealing J. Edgar Hoover's Secrets," produced by Retro Report.

The three activist describe in detail how they planned the break-in and why they did it. We ask them if the action has any parallels to the leaks released by Edward Snowden.