Thursday, December 21, 2006

FBI Releasing Last Classified Files On John Lennon

I suspected for decades that in this case the U.S. was simply trying to protect the "special relationship" with British intelligence.

Now we know for sure.

The FBI agreed Tuesday to make public the final 10 documents about the surveillance of John Lennon that it had withheld for 25 years from a UC Irvine historian on the grounds that releasing them could cause "military retaliation against the United States."

Despite the fierce battle the government waged to keep the documents secret, the files contain information that is hardly shocking, just new details about Lennon's ties to New Left leaders and antiwar groups in London in the early 1970s, said the historian, Jon Wiener.

For example, in one memo, then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote to H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon's chief of staff, that "Lennon had taken an interest in 'extreme left-wing activities in Britain' and is known to be a sympathizer of Trotskyist communists in England."

Another document had been blacked out on the grounds of national security when Wiener obtained it more than 20 years ago through litigation brought under the Freedom of Information Act. It is now known that it said two prominent British leftists, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, had courted Lennon in hopes that he would "finance a left-wing bookshop and reading room in London." ...

Another surveillance report states explicitly that there was "no certain proof" that Lennon had provided money "for subversive purposes." And yet another says there was no evidence that Lennon had any formal tie to any leftist group. ...

"I doubt that Tony Blair's government will launch a military strike on the U.S. in retaliation for the release of these documents. Today, we can see that the national security claims that the FBI has been making for 25 years were absurd from the beginning," said Wiener, who requested the documents in 1981.

Wiener initially obtained some files showing that the FBI closely monitored Lennon's activities in 1971 and 1972. The documents indicated Nixon administration concern that Lennon would support then-Sen. George S. McGovern (D-S.D.) for president against incumbent Richard M. Nixon in 1972, the first year that 18-year-olds could vote. ...

Wiener sued in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking all the documents. The FBI countered that some contained "national security information provided by a foreign government under an explicit promise of confidentiality" and that release of the documents "can reasonably be expected to ... lead to foreign diplomatic, economic and military retaliation against the United States," according to a government brief filed in 1983.

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