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January 19, 2014

Leeanau summer residents helped steal Hoover's secrets

EMPIRE — Julie Weeks remembers her Glen Lake school bus driver back in 1973 as a “fascinating” character but never guessed he and his wife played a role in a notorious burglary of an FBI office.

Weeks said she reconnected with John Raines and his wife, Bonnie, a few years ago and easily recognized them on a slew of recent national news shows.

“It’s mind-blowing to see them in the news, but not surprising because I know his sensibility and feelings of righteousness,” said Weeks, who also babysat for the couple’s children. “He’s much more educated and worldly than your typical bus driver. But to think of him as the get-away driver was kind of amusing.”

The couple and other anti-war activists recently broke their silence of nearly 43 years to reveal details of their break-in of an FBI satellite office in Media, outside of Philadelphia.

The band of eight believed the FBI was targeting dissenters. To try and prove it, they stole nearly every document from the FBI office on March 8, 1971, and leaked them to the media. After the heist, they adhered to a vow of silence, but some are speaking out with the publication of “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI” by Betty Medsger.

The couple, interviewed by phone from their Philadelphia home, said John drove school bus while on sabbatical to write the book, “Attack on Privacy.”

“We were hiding in plain sight,” John said.

John’s book made no mention of the break-in, but included the publicly reported information that the burglary had reaped.

John was an non-tenured religion professor at the time; his bus driver job seemed to endear him to folks in Leelanau County, where his family owns a lake cottage, he said.

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