john lennon and the fbi -- 4/19/19
Today's selection -- from The Walrus & The Elephants: John Lennon's Years of Revolution by James A. Mitchell. In the years following his departure from the Beatles, John Lennon searched for an outlet for his interests and creative energy. In one notable example, he held a concert to benefit John Sinclair, an individual given a long prison sentence for the possession of a small amount of marijuana. The concert was considered a great success since Sinclair was freed shortly afterward. But that success earned Lennon the attention of the FBI:
"Lennon's associations with political activists -- under any name -- stirred considerable interest: the combination of the radical leaders' history and Lennon's wealth and influence could very well be a political force in the forthcoming election. A bureau summary described Lennon's recent activities, along with the reports by undercover agents at the Ann Arbor concert. John Sinclair's near-immediate release from prison was duly noted. In New York Lennon kept company with [Jerry] Rubin, [Rennie] Davis, [Jay] Craven, and assorted 'New Left leaders,' known advocates of a 'program to "dump Nixon"' through a series of rock concerts; people who had been 'instrumental in disrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.'
"Plans that involved the Chicago Seven -- who'd been found guilty of riot-inciting --qualified as a matter of national security. As such, copies were sent to ranking defense officials including the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, longtime South Carolina lawmaker Strom Thurmond.
" 'This appears to be an important matter,' Thurmond wrote in a February 4 cover letter sent with the report to William Timmons, legislative affairs assistant to President Richard Nixon; another copy went to Attorney General John Mitchell. These youth rallies against Nixon might work -- certainly with the rookie eighteen-to-twenty-year-old voters -- now that they had 'John Lennon as a drawing card.' The Chicago Seven seemed able to make use of Lennon's name for a show guaranteed to 'pour tremendous amounts of money into the coffers of the New Left.'
"Thurmond advised that the information be strongly considered 'at the highest level,' and that something should be done about it. 'As I can see, many headaches might be avoided if appropriate action be taken in time.'
|Yoko Ono and John Lennon at the Freedom Rally|
"For 'appropriate action,' Thurmond suggested the obvious solution to a trouble-making foreigner, although it should be done carefully: 'If Lennon's visa is terminated it would be a strategy counter-measure. The source also noted the caution which must be taken with regard to the possible alienation of the so-called 18-year-old vote if Lennon is expelled from the country.'
"The goal for which Lennon's deportation would be good 'strategy' was not specified, but referencing eighteen-year-old voters -- a real wild card in the upcoming election rather than merely a demographic -- strongly suggests that the motivation was the election, not security.
"The FBI investigation of John Lennon stands apart, rare if not unique for several reasons: the plan to monitor and deport Lennon came from within the government; the allegation was of what he might do, not anything he'd already done; and the threat was not of potential attacks on America. It was all about the job security of the president. The hippies and Yippies believed that Lennon could influence the election, and so did the politicians holding elected office.
"In a report entitled 'New "New Left" Group Formed' in the February 11 FBI Current Intelligence Analysis, Lennon was described as more than just a concert participant casually helping the Election Year Strategy Information Center and its opposition to Nixon, but perhaps its driving force: 'Lennon's money and name have placed him in a position of considerable influence in EYSIC. No key planning sessions are held without Lennon.'
"An image of John Lennon dominated the cover, an illustration rather than a photograph. Apparently, the FBI still couldn't seem to find a picture of one of the world's most photographed men."