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Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence


Edited by Scott Moyers

From the bestselling author of Public Enemies and The Big Rich, an explosive account of the decade-long battle between the FBI and the homegrown revolutionary terrorists of the 1970s.

The Weathermen. The Symbionese Liberation Army. The FALN. The Black Liberation Army. The names seem quaint now, when not forgotten altogether. But there was a stretch of time in America, roughly between 1968 and 1975, when there was on average more than one significant terrorist act in this country every week, and the FBI combated these groups and others as nodes in a single revolutionary underground, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the American government.

The FBI’s response to the leftist revolutionary counterculture has not been treated kindly by history, and it is true that 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 groundbreaking 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 forty years later, conjuring a time of native-born radicals, most of them “nice middle-class kids,” smuggling bombs into skyscrapers and detonating them inside the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, at a courthouse in Boston, at a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners. Radicals who robbed dozens of banks and assassinated policemen, in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta. The FBI’s fevered response included the formation of a secret task force called Squad 47, dedicated to hunting the groups down and rolling them up. But Squad 47 itself was not overly squeamish about legal niceties, and its efforts ultimately ended in fiasco.

Benefiting from the extraordinary number of people from the underground and the FBI who speak about their experiences for the first time, Days of Rage is filled with important revelations and fresh details about the major revolutionaries and their connections and about the FBI and its desperate efforts to make the bombings stop. The result is mesmerizing and completely new—a book that takes us into the hearts and minds of homegrown terrorists and federal agents alike and weaves their stories into a spellbinding secret history of the 1970s.


Other books by Bryan Burrough


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Praise

“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

“[A] rich and important history. . . deep and sweeping. . . .  wide-ranging and often revelatory interviews with many Weather alumni.”— Washington Post

“Impressively researched and deeply engrossing.”—LA Times

“Burrough’s scholarly pursuit of archival documents and oral histories does not result in an academic tome. Stories are told in a compelling, novelistic fashion, and Burrough doesn’t have to stretch to get plenty of sex and violence onto the pages. The descriptions of bloody shootouts and bodies dismembered in bombings are impressively vivid. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to be at an awkward Weathermen orgy, here’s your chance.”— Chicago Tribune

“In “Days of Rage,” Bryan Burrough, author of “Public Enemies,” provides a fascinating look at an almost forgotten era of homegrown terrorism  . . . . The book is utterly captivating, coupling careful historical research with breathless accounts of the bombings and the perpetrators’ narrow escapes.”—Seattle Times

“Days of Rage is bound to alter the conversation about this crucial topic of our time.” —Vanity Fair

“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… represents a heroic work of reportage…His 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

“Burroughs’s insights are powerful. . . Doggedly pursuing former radicals who’ve never spoken on the record before,Vanity Fair special correspondent Burrough (The Big Rich) delivers an exhaustive history of the mostly ignored period of 1970s domestic terrorism” —Publishers Weekly

“A fascinating, in-depth look at a tumultuous period of American unrest.”—Booklist

“A stirring history of that bad time, 45-odd years ago, when we didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing, though we knew it was loud . . . [DAYS OF RAGE] is thoroughgoing and fascinating . . . A superb chronicle. . . that sheds light on how the war on terror is being waged today.” — Kirkus Reviews

“In spellbinding fashion, Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage brilliantly explicates one of the most confounding periods of recent American history—the era when a web of home-grown radicals and self-styled anarchists busily plotted the overthrow of the American government. Rarely has such a subject been matched with a writer and reporter of Burrough’s extraordinary skill. I could not put the book down; you won’t be able to, either.”—William D. Cohan, author of House of Cards, Money and Power, and The Price of Silence

“A fascinating portrait of the all-but-forgotten radical underground of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Burroughs gives us the first full picture of a secret world where radical dreams often ended in personal and political tragedy.”—Beverly Gage, Yale University; author of The Day Wall Street Exploded

“Bryan Burrough gives the story of America’s armed underground revolutionaries of the 1960s and 1970s what it has long desperately needed: Clarity, levelheadedness, context, and reportorial rigor. He has sifted the embers of an essential conflagration of the counterculture, found within it a suspenseful and enlightening history, and told it in a way that is blessedly free of cant or point-scoring.”—Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back

“Bryan Burrough has delivered a terrific piece of research, reportage and storytelling. Those who lived through the period of America’s radical underground, as I did, will be amazed to learn how much they didn’t.”—Paul Ingrassia, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Engines of Change and Crash Course

Excerpt

In June 1970 Roth, Stein, and Fliegelman were living with several others in an apartment they rented on Amity Street in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. Fliegelman had purchased dynamite in Vermont under an assumed name; he kept it in a garage they rented nearby. Forty years later, he shudders at the memory of that first bombing, at NYPD headquarters. “That first one was the scariest,” he recalls. “We knew if we did this, they would come after us.”

The “casers” identified a second-floor men’s room as an ideal spot to hide a bomb; it was just 125 feet from the police commissioner’s office. In the years to come, public bathrooms would become Weatherman’s favorite target. Stall doors allowed a measure of privacy, and many bathrooms could be locked from within. At the Amity Street apartment, Fliegelman built the bomb using his new design, about fifteen sticks of dynamite and a Westclox alarm clock purchased at a Radio Shack. The challenge was smuggling it into the building; they couldn’t risk having a backpack or briefcase searched. In the end, Fliegelman says, they hollowed out a thick law book and placed the bomb inside. Exactly who walked it through security and placed it above a ceiling tile in the bathroom has never been disclosed, but by Tuesday afternoon, June 10, the bomb was in place. “It wasn’t like they had metal detectors back then,” Fliegelman says. “There was just a guy at a desk, and we walked right past him.”

That night at 6:30 they telephoned in the warning. At that moment about 150 people were inside the building. Police operators got this kind of call routinely in 1970; it was ignored. Seventeen minutes later, at 6:47, the bomb exploded, its deep boom ringing through the narrow streets and alleys of Little Italy. The blast demolished two walls of the bathroom, blowing a hole in the floor twenty feet wide and forty feet long, destroying an office on one side, shattering dozens of windows and catapulting a cloud of soot and smoke into Centre Street; chunks of granite the size of cinder blocks crushed two cars below. Eight people were treated for injuries, none of them serious.

Forty years later Weatherman bombings can blur together, a string of dates and buildings. The attack on NYPD headquarters, however, was unprecedented; it left the department and the entire city government deeply shaken. “Our problem,” as one police commander put it, “is not the damage to the building or to our own morale. Our problem is the feeling that if the police cannot protect themselves, how can they protect anyone else?”

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