PUBLIC INFORMATION — Jonathan Wiener, a U.C. Irvine history professor, scored a recent victory when Los Angeles U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi ruled that
the FBI must release to him 10 pages of documents gathered from its
investigation in the early 1970s of Beatle John Lennon, reports Ben Ritter for New University, the UCI campus newspaper.
This decision is the latest development in a legal battle that has lasted over 20 years. Wieners quest to uncover the FBIs files began shortly after Lennons
death in 1980. Wiener, a Beatles fan, wanted to commemorate Lennons
legacy in a unique way.
Back in 1981, there was a lot of stuff written about John Lennon as a
Beatle, Wiener said. There was not much written about his involvement
in the peace movement, which I think was a major part of his life. One
way to document this involvement was to look at the files that the
government kept on him.
In 1981, under the Freedom of Information Act, Wiener asked the FBI to
release the Lennon files that they had in their possession. While some
of the documents were made available to Wiener, about 70 percent were
withheld because of the FBIs concern that their release would
endanger national security.
In 1983, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
became involved and, along with Wiener, filed a lawsuit against the FBI
for the release of the remaining documents. The ACLU did almost all of the legal work, Wiener said. I wrote a
declaration at each new stage, but that was not really central to the
In 1997, most of the missing documents were released as part of a
settlement in which the FBI also agreed to pay $200,000 to cover
Wieners legal fees.
In 2000, Wiener wrote a book, entitled Gimme Some Truth: The John
Lennon FBI Files, based on the uncovered documents and his struggle to
obtain them. The release of many of these documents, Wiener said, clearly did not pose a threat to national security.
Some of the more notable examples of unthreatening documents that the
FBI had originally retained include a description of a female parrot
who had been trained to say, Right on.
Wiener said that although the contents of the remaining files have not been divulged, he has a good idea of what they contain. The FBI says that the law requires them to withhold these files
because of an agreement between our government and a foreign
government, Wiener said.
David Shayler, who had worked for MI5 [a
British intelligence agency], came public three years ago and said that
he had seen a John Lennon file at MI5. Our guess is that Britain had
provided some intelligence and that these are the documents that