Bigger Than the Beatles

UC Irvine professor Jon Wieners fight for John Lennons FBI file reveals something ugly about democracy in America

When Wiener first asked for this FBI document in the early 1980s, all the song lyrics were blacked out with a notation classifying it as confidential due to national security. It wasn't until the 1997 court ruling that the full document was released to Wiener. "The FBI kept this secret for 15 years even though Lennon included the lyrics on the cover of his next album after the concert," the professor noted.

The Clinton administration in 1997 paid the ACLU $204,000 to cover attorney's fees and court costs for the author's case against the FBI. "That worked out to about $2,000 per page for the documents in this book," Wiener said. "That makes this an extremely valuable book—at least by that measure."

Guess who else the FBI has a file on? Wiener discovered that his own FBI file reports that the bureau sent agents to Central High to ask his old teachers if he was a "loyal American."

To their credit, his teachers covered for him.

Near the end of his UCI lecture, Wiener mentioned that Rage Against the Machine is the best example of a band that's currently bringing a radical message to the masses as Lennon did before the government crushed him.

"More power to them and long life," Wiener said of Rage. "I can't say that I'm a big fan of theirs, but I appreciate what they are doing and the way they are engaged in politics."

So, Wiener was asked, should the FOIA request for the FBI files on Rage be filed now so we can eventually see them in 15 years?

"I'm sure the FBI is interested in Rage because if you look at the things the band is interested in, they're interested in the Zapatistas, they put sweatshops in their video. These things make the FBI nervous. I'm sure they have a file.

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