|Pages/Publication Date:||585 / 2015|
The author of Public Enemies and The Big Rich here chronicles an explosive account of the decade-long battle between the FBI and the homegrown revolutionary movements of the 1970s. Though names like the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the FALN, and the Black Liberation Army may seem quaint now—if they have not been forgotten altogether—there was a stretch of time in America when bombings by domestic underground groups were a daily occurrence. The FBI combated these groups and others as nodes in a single revolutionary underground, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the American government. Their response to the leftist revolutionary counterculture has not been treated kindly by history, and in hindsight many of its efforts seem almost comically ineffectual, if not criminal in themselves. But part of the extraordinary accomplishment of Bryan Burrough's book is to temper those easy judgments with an understanding of just how deranged these times were, how charged with menace. Burrough re-creates an atmosphere that seems almost unbelievable just 40 years later, as native-born radicals, most of them "nice middle-class kids," smuggled bombs into skyscrapers and detonated them inside the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, at a Boston courthouse and a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners. The FBI, encouraged to do everything possible to undermine the radical underground, itself broke many laws in its attempts to bring the revolutionaries to justice—often with disastrous consequences. Informed by the testimony of numerous people from the underground and the FBI, speaking about their experiences for the first time, the book is filled with revelations and fresh details about the revolutionaries and their connections, and about the FBI and its desperate efforts to make the bombings stop.
"Burrough has interviewed dozens of people to compile what is surely the most comprehensive examination of '70s-era American terrorism.... Burrough, a longtime Vanity Fair correspondent, recalls story after story of astonishing heists, murders, orgies, and wiretaps. Few of his subjects are sympathetic, but all are vividly drawn. He refrains from making moral judgments, which makes the material he presents all the more powerful.... This book is as likely as a definitive history of Vietnam-era political violence as we are ever likely to get."—Boston Globe
"This is a vivid, engrossing, and far-ranging work that provides a detailed glimpse of a half-dozen underground radical groups in the Vietnam era and its aftermath ... [and] represents a heroic work of reportage.... [The author's] work on the lesser-known revolutionary groups of the period, such as the Black Liberation Army, is in fact unprecedented; they never have received such detailed and exhaustive treatment. And to the extent that he goes over familiar territory, Burrough does a nice job of demythologizing his subjects. To his credit, the reader gets warts-and-all portraits and not hagiography."—History News Network