High Times Greats: John Lennon, The Radical Years

in Culture

In honor of John Lennon’s birthday, we’re bringing you an article about the former Beatle turned activist by Bill Weinberg, originally published in the May, 1992 edition of High Times.

Why would the FBI want to withhold their files on a rock star who has been dead for over ten years? That’s what Jon Wiener wants to know.

Jon Wiener is a history professor at UC Irvine who wrote a biography of John Lennon’s radical years, Come Together. For the past several years he has been waging a legal battle against the Justice Department’s Federal Bureau of Investigation to get them to cough up the secret Lennon files, which they still refuse to release.

“There are 300 pages in John Lennon’s FBI file,” says Wiener. “I have about 200, all about his peace movement activities.”

What could be in the remaining 100? “I can only speculate. It could contain material that would embarrass the FBI…expose FBI misconduct or lawbreaking. John Lennon claimed there was an illegal wiretap on his apartment. The FBI denied it at the time. Or it could be material indicating Richard Nixon’s interest in the case.”

Are these valid grounds for withholding documents from the public? According to the law, absolutely not. But under the Reagan administration, loopholes in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeared so big as to make the law virtually unenforceable. Under President Carter, federal agencies such as the FBI could withhold documents only if disclosure would cause “identifiable damage to national security.” A 1981 executive order signed by President Reagan dropped the word “identifiable” from the law. The FOIA had been gutted with the stroke of a pen.

It was also in 1981—in February, just three months after John Lennon had been shot to death—that Jon Wiener, then …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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