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The John Lennon Series
by Jude Southerland Kessler

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Reference Library: John and J. Edgar Hoover

Subject: FBI releases Lennon file
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 11:51:26 PDT

NEW YORK, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Seventeen years after John Lennon was murdered, the FBI is releasing information from a file it has kept detailing its probe into the rock star's anti-war activities.

According to The New York Times, the file reveals little new information about Lennon, but does show the ex-Beatle's activities were non-violent. The controversial dossier indicates Lennon just wanted to ``give peace a chance.''

The FBI also agreed to pay $204,000 to cover a California history professor's legal fees in this 14-year battle to release Lennon's file. John Wiener told the newspaper that although 300 pages of the dossier were made public, he would continue to fight for the remaining 10 papers that are still classified.

Under the auspices of J. Edgar Hoover, the bureau tracked the slain singer's activities as well as those of other antiwar activists during the early 1970s. The pages given to Wiener chronicle its surveillance from 1971 to 1972.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesman explained to the Times that the investigation was launched after the FBI learned Lennon allegedly planned to donate $75,000 to a group that was planning to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention.

Wiener confirmed that the British musician was friendly with political activists Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and Rennie Davis and was considering embarking on a concert tour that would ``culminate in a 'political Woodstock.'''

On Dec. 8, 1980, Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman, an obsessed fan, as he entered the lobby of the Manhattan apartment building where he lived with wife Yoko Ono.


Subject: FBI Releases Lennon Files
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 1997 04:40:50 +0300

Activists Win Battle to Get Documents - FBI Releases Lennon Files

"The FBI had nothing better to do than indulge in gossip and innuendo about rock musicians who happened to take political stances." - ACLU lawyer Mark Rosenbaum

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 25 (AP) - The FBI has grudgingly made public all but 10 secret files on Beatles member John Lennon, including information ranging from the singerıs contacts with antiwar activists to a talking parrot that chirped "Right on." The FBI had fought to keep Lennonıs file secret on the grounds of national security after University of California, Irvine professor Jonathan M. Wiener, author of a 1984 book on the late rock star, had requested the documents more than 10 years ago.

"This action gives to professor Wiener all but a thimbleful of the documents he originally sought," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and co-lead counsel for Wiener.

"These documents show that the FBI investigation was conducted in the manner of the shabbiest tabloid journalist imaginable and they show that the FBI had nothing better to do than record the utterances of a parrot and indulge in gossip and innuendo about rock musicians who happened to take political stances," Rosenbaum said.

Yippies and Zippies

Among the documents surrendered this week is an April 26, 1972, FBI memo from an unnamed agency source describing a trip by a Madison, Wis., leftist to New York where she met with "Yippie and Zippie representatives" planning demonstrations at the August 1972 Republican National Convention.

Lennon said "he will come to the conventions if they are peaceful," and on the condition that his appearance not be advertised in advance. The files also include a Feb. 7, 1972, memo stating that a confidential source told the FBI Lennon had contributed $75,000 to help start a group, Election Year Strategy Information Center.The memo states the groupıs purpose was to "direct movement activities during the coming election year designed to culminate with demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in August, 1972."

Law-Breaking Discounted

Nothing in the released files, which were gathered from 1971 to 1972, describe the singer as involved in the planning of, or engaging in, an illegal act. Lennon eventually skipped the GOP convention. The April 1972 memo also describes the scrubby apartment of a New York leftist who had trained her parrot to chirp "Right on" whenever a political conversation got lively.

Other FBI document show that the New York City Police Department and the FBI each unsuccessfully sought to arrest Lennon on drug charges.

FBI Holds Other Documents

Other documents show the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, had contacted Justice Department officials and President Nixonıs chief of staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, about how to deal with Lennon.

Wiener filed his first Freedom of Information Act request for FBI files on Lennon in 1981 while doing research for a book. He sued the FBI in 1983, alleging that it failed to comply with the law.

The FBI has had to release some documents, but the agency tried to keep the bulk of Lennonıs file secret in order to protect federal informants and intelligence methods.

In December 1995, U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi ordered the FBI to detail why it wouldnıt release the documents. Takasugi directed the FBI to disclose whether it had "used unlawful activities in connection with the Lennon investigation."

Rather than respond to the questions, the FBI negotiated a settlement to release the documents and pay Wienerıs lawyers $204,000 for fees and costs.

Portions of the file turned over this week were blacked out and the Justice Department contends it does not have to turn over the 10 remaining documents.

The U.S. government claims that it canıt make the files public because it would violate agreements with a foreign country (believed to be Britain) that provided information on Lennon.

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