Thursday December 21, 2006
Clearly a man who sang "Imagine all the people/Living life in peace" was a major league subversive, but still the FBI could not quite nail John Lennon. An American historian has finally won his 25-year campaign to expose the FBI's pursuit of the ex-Beatle - but the last 10 pages, released only after a string of court cases, don't quite make spy thriller reading.
The Lennon files show that American intelligence followed him, photographed him, carefully monitored his activities, and logged his support for anti-war and radical movements.
In the early 1970s the FBI had a cunning plan. They recruited two "prominent British leftists" - alas, unnamed - to befriend him. Having won his trust, they made him an offer he could not refuse: would he like to fund their "leftwing bookshop and reading room in London?"
But Lennon turned them down flat. The report concluded sadly that there was "no certain proof" that Lennon had provided money "for subversive purposes".
The surveillance report of the least successful operation since the plot to poison Castro's cigar has finally been released to a US historian.
Jon Wiener first applied for the documents under freedom of information law in 1981, when he decided to write a book about Lennon, shot dead in 1980.
The FBI responded with a barrage of excuses for not releasing the files, arguing that national security would be compromised, and that some of the information had come from an unnamed foreign government so that disclosure could lead to "diplomatic, political or economic retaliation" against the United States.
In 1997 Mr Wiener won a court order, but only some of the files were released. It took another court order to get the last 10 pages.
Mr Wiener told the Los Angeles Times: "Today we can see that the national security claims that the FBI has been making for 25 years were absurd."