Nightly News   |  January 07, 2014

FBI Burglars Revealed

Despite an intensive FBI investigation, it was a crime that was never solved -- a break-in at an FBI office that uncovered serious abuses by federal agents during the 1960's and 70's.

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>>> the lid has just been blown off a high profile crime that went uninvolved. and, in fact, the case was closed a long time ago. now, some of those involved in a break-in at an fbi field office are coming out of the shadows. the story tonight from our justice correspondent pete williams .

>> reporter: bonnie rain spent years developing child care centers, john rains retired university professor , keith forsythe engineer and teacher, all hiding a secret for more than four decades. the parts they played at a daring break-in at an fbi office outside philadelphia.

>> we called ourselves the citizens commission to investigate the fbi . we were going to investigate the investigators.

>> they tell their stories in a new book by betty medscar who wrote the first accounts of the documents they stole.

>> these files opened the door into the secrets of the fbi .

>> reporter: and they tell nbc's michael isikoff how they did it.

>> bonnie rains posed as a college student working on a paper. careful to leave no trace behind while meeting the agent in charge.

>> what he didn't notice during the whole interview is i never took my gloves off.

>> keith quickly picked the locks but made a loud noise using a crowbar to pop the dead bolt. john rains drove a getaway car .

>> i was sitting by myself in the station wagon at night, and i was getting very, very scared.

>> reporter: the stolen documents forced j. edgar hoover to end the abuses and led carl stern to expose even more fbi secrets.

>> forged blackmail letters and threats of violence were used to try to stop anti-war marches.

>> reporter: the time when the burglars could be prosecuted has long passed. why come forward now?

>> it would seem like if you said no, that you were somehow ashamed of it, which i'm definitely not. i'm proud of it.

>> pete williams , nbc news, washington.