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Image: John Lennon
Ron Frehm  /  AP
John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono raise their fists as they join a protest in New York in this Feb. 5, 1972, file photo. The demonstrators called for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland. The FBI has released its final surveillance documents on Lennon to a university historian who has waged a 25-year legal battle to obtain the secret files.
updated 12/20/2006 10:45:48 PM ET 2006-12-21T03:45:48

The FBI has released its final surveillance documents on John Lennon to a university historian who has waged a 25-year legal battle to obtain the secret files.

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 that 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.”

Long court battle
Wiener first requested the documents in 1981, several months after he decided to write a book about Lennon following the singer’s murder. He initially obtained some documents, but the FBI withheld numerous files, saying they contained national security information and were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Wiener sued the government and received a number of files in 1997 as part of a settlement with the FBI. Justice Department lawyers continued to withhold the final 10 pages until a federal judge in 2004 ordered their release.

The previously released files showed that the FBI closely monitored Lennon from 1971 to 1972.

A one-paragraph document in the newly released files said: “Since 1972, Lennon has continued from time to time to lend his support to various extremist causes, but does not appear to owe allegiance to any one faction.”

The documents mention an interview Lennon gave in 1971 to the London underground newspaper Red Mole in which he “emphasized his proletarian background and his sympathy with the oppressed and underprivileged.”

Lennon “implied that he was sympathetic” to a Trotskyist communist group, the document said.

The documents reveal “government paranoia at a pathological level,” said a statement by Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which helped represent Wiener in the case.

Said Tariq Ali, a British leftist named in the Lennon file, in an e-mail: “What is amusing is the pathetic character of the information. Of course the surveillance carried out by Western democracies is as disturbing now as it was then.”

Representatives of the FBI in Washington, D.C., had no comment on the release of the material. A call to the Justice Department was not returned.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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