Imagine blocking release of harmless Lennon documents

The FBI has finally released the last 10 documents from its secret files on John Lennon that had been withheld for 25 years on the grounds they could prompt "military retaliation" against the United States.

Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement: "Today we can see that the national security claims the FBI has been making for 25 years were absurd from the beginning. The Lennon FBI file is a classic case of excessive government secrecy."

The files that were blocked only contained well known information about Lennon's ties to left-wing leaders and antiwar groups in London in 1970 and 1971. One document describes a 1971 interview with Lennon in The Red Mole, a London underground newspaper, in which the singer "emphasised his proletarian background and his sympathy with the oppressed and underprivileged people of Britain and the world."

Wiener first requested the files in 1981 after legal action under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Most of the 300 pages in the Lennon files were released in 1997. 10 documents had remained classified on the grounds of national security. The FBI told the U.S. courts in 1983 that release of those documents could "lead to foreign diplomatic, economic and military retaliation against the United States."

Wiener reacted succintly, stating: "I doubt that Tony Blair's government will launch a military strike on the U.S. in retaliation for the release of these documents."

FBI releases last of secret John Lennon files (Reuters UK, 20 December 2005)