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FBI and John Lennon


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http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featur...1975235,00.html

Jon Wiener

Tuesday December 19, 2006

The Guardian

When the Dixie Chicks told an audience in London in 2003 that "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas", they set off a political storm in the US that echoed the treatment meted out to John Lennon 30 years earlier. They were talking about the Iraq war, while Lennon had been campaigning against the Vietnam war.

The Dixie Chicks got in trouble with rightwing talk radio. Boycotts followed, and lead singer Natalie Maines ended up publicly apologising to President Bush.

What happened to Lennon was of course worse. The turning point for the Beatles came with their 1966 US tour, when they first publicly criticised the war in Vietnam. As the decade wore on, Lennon was the target of increasingly aggressive media ridicule, especially when he began experimenting with new forms of political protest - such as declaring his honeymoon with Yoko Ono a "bed-in for peace".

In the next couple of years, establishment hostility turned nastier on both sides of the Atlantic, as the former Beatle embraced more serious radicalism, making common cause with Tariq Ali (then editor of the Marxist Red Mole). In 1971, Lennon joined a march in London against internment without trial in Northern Ireland and helped fund the republican cause. By the time he left for New York that autumn, the knives were out.

In the late 60s, Lennon had been busted for cannabis possession. He claimed it had been planted by the police, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge. Within months of his joining the US anti-war movement and publicly attacking President Nixon, the US administration responded with deportation proceedings. Nixon claimed that Lennon had been ineligible for admission to the US because of the cannabis conviction in London, but everybody understood the deportation order was an attempt to silence him as a critic of the Vietnam war and the president.

Lennon's case illuminates the price pop stars and other celebrities can pay for taking controversial political stands - particularly when they oppose American wars. Every pop star needs a cause, but it has to be one that doesn't offend the powers-that-be - landmines, or hunger, or Aids in Africa. Lennon's example is almost unique. Charlie Chaplin was driven out of the US after being charged with communist sympathies at the height of the McCarthy era, but such examples are rare.

What exactly had Lennon done? It wasn't just singing Give Peace a Chance - it was when and where he sang it; 1972 was an election year, Nixon was running for re-election and the Vietnam war was the key issue. Lennon was talking to anti-war leaders about doing a tour that would combine rock music with anti-war organising and voter registration. That was the key, because it was the first year 18-year-olds had been given the right to vote. Young voters were assumed to be anti-war, but also known to be the least likely of all age groups to vote. Lennon and his friends hoped to do something about that. Nixon found out about the former Beatle's plans, and the deportation order followed.

The threat was effective. Lennon's lawyers told him to cool it and the tour never took place. Nixon won in a landslide, and the war in Vietnam went on for three more blood-soaked years. Lennon spent the next couple of years facing a 60-day order to leave the country, which his lawyers kept getting postponed.

The striking fact is that Lennon could have avoided all of this. He didn't have to campaign against Nixon. It didn't sell records or help his career. But Lennon wanted to use his power as a superstar to do something worthwhile. And the great issue of the day was the unjust and disastrous war in Vietnam.

In some ways Lennon was naive. When he moved to New York, he thought he was coming to the land of the free. He had little idea of the power of the state to come down on those it regarded as enemies. His claim that the FBI had him under surveillance was rejected as the fantasy of an egomaniac, but 300 pages of FBI files, released under freedom of information after his murder, show he was right. The FBI is still withholding 10 documents - which we hope will finally be released today - on the grounds that they contain "national security information provided by a foreign government": almost certainly MI5 documents on Lennon's radical days in London.

Lennon never apologised to the president. He fought back in court to overturn the deportation order. But in the year after Nixon's re-election, Lennon's personal life fell apart and his music deteriorated. In the end, Nixon resigned in disgrace after Watergate, and Lennon stayed in the US.

For 30 years the idea of a tour combining rock music and voter registration languished - until 2004, when a group of activist musicians organised an election-year concert tour of battleground states with a strategy very much like Lennon's. Headlining the Vote for Change tour were the Dixie Chicks.

For young people in 1972, it was thrilling to see Lennon's courage in standing up to Nixon. That willingness to take risks with his career, and his life, is one reason why people still admire him today.

Jon Wiener is author of Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, and served as historical consultant on the film The US v John Lennon, released last week

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http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featur...1975235,00.html

Good reminder of music and courage John. I still love and admire John Lennon. And I think there is way more to his murder than we have been told. If there is any follow-up on the newly -released FBI files that you come across please post. I also agree that the Dixie Chicks are filling John's shoes today with their anti-war sentiment and their shame in our moronic, yet frightening president.

Dawn

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His claim that the FBI had him under surveillance was rejected as the fantasy of an egomaniac, but 300 pages of FBI files, released under freedom of information after his murder, show he was right.

I remember reading years ago in a biography of Ernest Hemingway (I believe his widow wrote it, but I'm not sure) that one of the symptoms of the (alleged) mental illness that would drive him to "suicide" was his belief that he was under FBI surveillance. I remember thinking, yep, he must have become pretty wacky. Why in the world would he think the FBI had him under surveillance? That's how stupidly naive I was at the time about the U.S. government.

Edited by Ron Ecker
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His claim that the FBI had him under surveillance was rejected as the fantasy of an egomaniac, but 300 pages of FBI files, released under freedom of information after his murder, show he was right.

I remember reading years ago in a biography of Ernest Hemingway (I believe his widow wrote it, but I'm not sure) that one of the symptoms of the (alleged) mental illness that would drive him to "suicide" was his belief that he was under FBI surveillance. I remember thinking, yep, he must have become pretty wacky. Why in the world would he think the FBI had him under surveillance? That's how stupidly naive I was at the time about the U.S. government.

I also remember thinking similar things about similar claims.

It has been a long, slow shock to realise just how deeply the spook state has penetrated almost every significant sinew and nerve ending of our body politic in the western world.

In my opinion, a central task for humanity in this new century must be to consign these clandestine criminal networks, that operate under the cover of 'state security', to the dustbin of history.

Purporting to be necessary for the protection of modern society, these networks have, in reality, corrupted the modern world with their sordid, bigotted agenda and their willingness to use lies and murder to further their goals - include destablising and/or killing inconvenient elected leaders and popular heros.

I hope and pray that in future, saner, times, people will look back with wonder and amazement at how we - in this era - blithely permitted 'our' intelligence agencies to control archival releases about their own misdeeds, allowing them to ensure that release of information is so long in comng that the perpetrators of crimes within any generation of spooks are effecively shielded from justice.

We need real accountability for our 'intelligence agencies'. If we can't have that, we'd be better off without them. Given that they have spent the last century demonstrating the proposition that they are inherently unaccountable - I believe abolition is the way to go.

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I remember reading years ago in a biography of Ernest Hemingway (I believe his widow wrote it, but I'm not sure) that one of the symptoms of the (alleged) mental illness that would drive him to "suicide" was his belief that he was under FBI surveillance. I remember thinking, yep, he must have become pretty wacky. Why in the world would he think the FBI had him under surveillance? That's how stupidly naive I was at the time about the U.S. government.

The following is from:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/hemingway1.html

... where you can find much more about FBI's interest in Hemingway. [i'm still awaiting the publication of "The Old Man & The C.I.A."]

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It has been a long, slow shock to realise just how deeply the spook state has penetrated almost every significant sinew and nerve ending of our body politic in the western world.

In my opinion, a central task for humanity in this new century must be to consign these clandestine criminal networks, that operate under the cover of 'state security', to the dustbin of history.

Purporting to be necessary for the protection of modern society, these networks have, in reality, corrupted the modern world with their sordid, bigotted agenda and their willingness to use lies and murder to further their goals - include destablising and/or killing inconvenient elected leaders and popular heros.

I hope and pray that in future, saner, times, people will look back with wonder and amazement at how we - in this era - blithely permitted 'our' intelligence agencies to control archival releases about their own misdeeds, allowing them to ensure that release of information is so long in comng that the perpetrators of crimes within any generation of spooks are effecively shielded from justice.

We need real accountability for our 'intelligence agencies'. If we can't have that, we'd be better off without them. Given that they have spent the last century demonstrating the proposition that they are inherently unaccountable - I believe abolition is the way to go.

Well put!

PS Not forgotten your request re: Beria. Will atttend to in New Year.

Best wishes,

Paul

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It has been a long, slow shock to realise just how deeply the spook state has penetrated almost every significant sinew and nerve ending of our body politic in the western world.

In my opinion, a central task for humanity in this new century must be to consign these clandestine criminal networks, that operate under the cover of 'state security', to the dustbin of history.

Purporting to be necessary for the protection of modern society, these networks have, in reality, corrupted the modern world with their sordid, bigotted agenda and their willingness to use lies and murder to further their goals - include destablising and/or killing inconvenient elected leaders and popular heros.

I hope and pray that in future, saner, times, people will look back with wonder and amazement at how we - in this era - blithely permitted 'our' intelligence agencies to control archival releases about their own misdeeds, allowing them to ensure that release of information is so long in comng that the perpetrators of crimes within any generation of spooks are effecively shielded from justice.

We need real accountability for our 'intelligence agencies'. If we can't have that, we'd be better off without them. Given that they have spent the last century demonstrating the proposition that they are inherently unaccountable - I believe abolition is the way to go.

Very important point. With have had some very corrupt politicians in the Western World in the last 50 years. This could have been dealt with via our democratic system if it was not for the intelligence services. In the past it was always claimed that it was the "Red Menace" that stopped our governments reveal information about these activities on grounds of national security. Since the collapse of communism in 1989 they have had to create another bogeyman to justify the secret state. Hoefully, the web will enable us to show the world what our corrupt masters have been up to over the last 50 years.

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