[sixties-l] Authors Journey to John Lennons FBI File

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 11/13/00

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    Author's Journey to John Lennon's FBI File
    Book Recounts Struggle to Release Federal Grip on Records
    See the files here --> <http://www.apbnews.com/media/gfiles/lennon/index.html>
    April 21, 2000
    By Peter Duffy
    NEW YORK (APBnews.com) -- The U.S.  government has always had a thing for 
    John Lennon.
    After he moved to the United States in the fall of 1971, the FBI began 
    monitoring Lennon's contacts with left-wing individuals and organizations. 
    Then the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), at the behest of 
    high-ranking officials in the Nixon White House who had access to the FBI's 
    intelligence, spent 3  years trying, unsuccessfully, to deport the ex-Beatle.
    Even after Lennon's death in 1980, the government steadfastly refused to 
    release all but a small portion of the 281 pages of documents that it had 
    collected on him, arguing that distributing materials on a dead rock star 
    would endanger national security and compromise confidential informants.
    Finally, in 1997, the bureau settled a 14-year lawsuit with historian Jon 
    Wiener. It agreed to make public all but 10 of the remaining documents. And 
    earlier this year a federal judge ordered the FBI to allow Wiener access to 
    those, which are believed to have been provided to the FBI by the British 
    intelligence agency MI5 detailing Lennon's financial assistance to, among 
    others, the Irish Republican Army. Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, has denied the 
                      No legitimate reasons stated
    Wiener's long and winding road is
    recounted in his book, Gimme Some
    Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files
    (University of California Press,
    $17.95). The work, which reproduces
    and annotates 100 of the files, argues
                      -- as did Wiener's American Civil
    Liberties Union lawyers throughout a litigation that included an appearance 
    before the U.S. Supreme Courtthat the FBI had no legitimate law enforcement 
    purpose in investigating the musician.
    "There is nothing in the Lennon FBI file about crimes that Lennon was 
    committing or was planning to commit," Wiener said. "It is all about 
    political activism."
    FBI spokesman Paul Bresson would not comment on Wiener's book or its thesis.
    Ono, who had no role in the book's publication, also had no comment, said 
    Elliot Mintz, her spokesman. Wiener said he regularly updated Ono on the 
    progress of the lawsuit.
    Lennon, a staunch critic of the Nixon administration and of the Vietnam 
    war, first walked into the FBI's sights Dec. 10, 1971.  He appeared at an 
    Ann Arbor, Mich., concert for John Sinclair, a political activist who had 
    been sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling two marijuana joints to an 
    undercover officer. Jerry Rubin, William Kunstler, Bobby Seale and other 
    radicals delivered speeches.
    Lennon sang a song urging the release of Sinclair: "It ain't fair, John 
    Sinclair/In the stir for breathing air." The lyric transcription comes 
    courtesy of the FBI.
                      Fears of a concert tour
    During the following months, the FBI kept close tabs on Lennon and his 
    leftist friends as they started organizing what they hoped would be a 
    national concert tour bringing together rock music and anti-war political 
    This information made its way to Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who was then 
    chair of the Internal Security Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary 
    Committee. In February 1972, Thurmond sent a memo to Attorney General John 
    Mitchell and Nixon aide William Timmons, outlining the concert-tour idea.
    Lennon's popularity, the memo speculated, would result in the financial 
    success of the endeavor, which would "inevitably lead" to "a clash between 
    a controlled mob organized by this group and law enforcement officials in 
    San Diego," the location of that summer's Republican National Convention.
    The memo, first printed in Rolling Stone magazine in 1975, suggested that 
    Lennon's visa be revoked as "a strategy counter-measure."
    A month later the INS commenced deportation hearings against Lennon, 
    arguing that a 1968 marijuana possession conviction in Great Britain 
    warranted his immediate expulsion from the country.
    Ex-Beatle knew he was being
    As the case was being litigated, the FBI continued to closely watch the 
    ex-Beatle. J. Edgar Hoover, in an April 10, 1972, memo, notes that Lennon 
    and Ono "might be preparing for lengthy delaying tactics to avert their 
    deportation" and thus could still "engage in activities in U.S. leading to 
    disruption of Republication National Convention." Hoover ordered that the 
    New York office "initiate discreet efforts to locate subject and remain 
    aware of his activities and movements."
    Apparently they weren't so discreet. Lennon's immigration attorney, Leon 
    Wildes, said his client was fully aware of the FBI's snooping.
    "John was annoyed that they were following him and making it a point that 
    he know they were following him," he remembered. "They would be across the 
    street fixing a bike and they would take out cameras and fool around with 
    them. They came to fix his phone when there was nothing wrong with his phone.
    "He used to answer the phone in a high-pitched feminine-sounding voice, and 
    I would say, 'OK, John, it's Leon.' He didn't want to talk on the phone."
    Planning a sting?
    On April 25, 1972, Hoover again showed his personal interest in Lennon in a 
    letter to President Nixon's powerful chief of staff (and Watergate 
    co-conspirator) H.R. Haldeman, updating the White House on Lennon's 
    deportation status. Wiener argues that the letter provides "crucial 
    evidence" that the FBI's interest in Lennon was purely political.
    Wiener also charges that since the FBI could find no evidence of criminal 
    wrongdoing, it was prepared to set the singer up for a bust.  He points to 
    a July 27, 1972, memo that reads: "Local INS has very loose case in NY for 
    deporting subject ... if LENNON were to be arrested ... he would become 
    more likely to be immediately deportable." The FBI describes Lennon "as 
    reportedly a heavy user of narcotics known as downers."
    But Lennon's file also includes some patently wacky items. Case in point: a 
    top-secret report on a talking parrot. In the course of a March 5, 1972, 
    memo, an FBI informer describes how someone named "Linda" trained a parrot 
    to say "'right on' whenever the conversation gets rousing." A friend of 
    Linda's was attempting to get the parrot to say "'eat [expletive]' whenever 
    he argues with anyone but the bird now says it to him whenever he sees him."
    Lennon himself is barely mentioned.
    A frustrated bureauone memo sadly points out that Lennon wasn't among the 
    1,200 people arrested during the national political conventionsfinally gave 
    up its surveillance Dec. 8, 1972. "In view of subject's inactivity in 
    Revolutionary Activities and his seeming rejection by NY Radicals captioned 
    case is being closed in the NY Division."
                      Concert tour didn't happen anyway
    In the end, the concert tour that so ticked off powerful government 
    officials never happened. And long after Nixon had resigned and Hoover had 
    died, Lennon was allowed to stay in the country. The U.S. Court of Appeals 
    barred the deportation order in October 1975.
    In the ruling, the court voided Lennon's drug conviction because of 
    differences in U.S. and British law regarding guilty intent. It also 
    blasted the Nixon administration for trying to punish an ideological foe. 
    Judge Irving R. Kaufman praised Lennon's efforts to remain in the country 
    as "testimony to his faith in the American dream."
    Wiener says the FBI's behavior in fighting the file's release was contrary 
    to American ideals of justice. He estimates that the government spent close 
    to $400,000 waging the court battles.
    "I was astounded that the FBI had gone to the Supreme Court to keep this 
    information secret," he said. "Some of the information was so trivial and 
    indeed ludicrous. It was just a waste of resources."
    Peter Duffy is an APBnews.com correspondent.

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