Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ending 25 year battle, FBI releases John Lennon Files

Updated, thanks to a tip from Jon Wiener. There is much fuller coverage of Wiener's victory today in his long challenge to the FBI's refusal to release John Lennon files, in the Los Angeles Times, including details about the case, in which the ACLU represented Wiener against the FBI for 23 years. He prevailed in the 9th Circuit in 1991. This prompted a settlement leading to the release of all but the remaining ten documents. In the next round of litigation, Wiener won on summary judgment in federal district court in 2004. A 9th Circuit mediator worked out the settlement that resulted in today's release of documents.

...You see how historians and lawyers need each other?

While waiting for all of this to get worked out, Wiener kept writing, publishing Come Together: John Lennon in His Time in 1984, and, appropriately, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files in 2000.

The LA Times also has a link to the newly released Lennon documents, here. There's also a tiny photo gallery, with photos of Lennon, Wiener, and the Beatles, circa 1967. No photo of Wiener's lawyer, ACLU Southern Calif. lawyer Mark Rosenbaum, but I found one here.

Another update: To read Wiener on this, in The Nation, go here.

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The New York Times is reporting that the FBI has finally brought a 25 year battle with historian Jon Wiener to an end, releasing files on John Lennon that Wiener sought in 1981 for a biography of Lennon.

But maybe the FBI isn't so bad. Last I checked, the Justice Department still had not released its files pertaining to the writing of the government brief in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which even a top Justice Dept. official was unable to shake free for me while I was writing Cold War Civil Rights. Instead, I used State Department records. At least for what I was looking for (internal government memoranda on the case), State Dept. records and non-DoJ executive branch files were much more easily available than materials from Justice.

Here's an excerpt from today's story:

The 10 pages contain new details about Lennon's ties to leftist and anti-war groups in London in the early 1970s, but nothing indicating government officials considered the former Beatle a serious threat, historian Jon Wiener told the Los Angeles Times in Wednesday's editions.
The FBI had unsuccessfully argued that an unnamed foreign government secretly provided the information, and releasing the documents could lead to diplomatic, political or economic retaliation against the United States.

The newly released documents include a surveillance report stating that two prominent British leftists had courted Lennon in hopes that he would finance ''a left-wing bookshop and reading room in London'' but that Lennon gave them no money. Another page states that there was ''no certain proof'' that Lennon had provided money ''for subversive purposes.''

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

For the rest, click here.

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