FBI releases controversial Lennon files

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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 University of California, 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 aide, 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 that had been totally 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, said that 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."

But the newly released document adds, that Lennon apparently gave them no money "despite a long courtship by Blackburn and Ali."

Rather, the previously classified document states that Lennon was using his "tangible assets" to try to get custody of his wife Yoko Ono's child, who was in the care of her former husband.

Another surveillance report states explicitly that there was "no certain proof" that Lennon had provided money "for subversive purposes," and yet another states that there was no evidence that Lennon had any formal tie to any leftist group. Only one document alludes to Lennon's music, saying he has "encouraged the belief that he holds revolutionary views . . . by the content of some of his songs."...

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