Two confidential sources for government agencies that spied on John Lennon have changed sides and advocated opening secret files on the ex-Beatle, according to a new book. "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files," by Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California, Irvine, reports that Julie Maynard, an FBI confidential informant who spied on Lennon in the early 1970s, joined the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Wiener and the ACLU of Southern California. The lawsuit seeks release of the Bureau's files on Lennon, which date from 1971-72. The book also reports that David Shayler, who worked for MI5, the British counterpart to the FBI, has revealed that MI5 has files dating from the late 1960s on Lennon.
Maynard died in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1997. Shayler is currently living in France, where he fled to avoid prosecution in Britain for violating that country's Official Secrets Act. Lennon's FBI file, 100 pages of which are reproduced in the book, dates from 1971-72, when Lennon was living in New York and campaigning against the war in Vietnam and President Nixon was attempting to deport him. Lennon claimed the deportation order was an effort to silence him as a critic of the president.
The documents Maynard sent to the FBI about Lennon are reproduced in "Gimme Some Truth." She provided key information about Lennon's role in plans for anti-war demonstrations at the 1972 Republican National Convention. The Clinton administration refuses to release eight documents in the FBI's Lennon file on the grounds that they were provided by a foreign government under an explicit guarantee of confidentiality. "We believe these documents contain information from the MI5 files described by David Shayler," Wiener said. He and the ACLU of Southern California continue to litigate under the FOIA to win the release of these documents.
Maynard filed an affidavit in 1990 stating that she "authorize[d] the FBI to release to Jon Wiener and his lawyers . . . any information provided by me . . pertaining to John Lennon." Wiener said, "It's extremely rare for an FBI undercover agent to change sides. This provided us with a unique opportunity to see the Bureau's abuse of power in this case." The FBI initially rejected Maynard's affidavit as "irrelevant," but in 1997 settled the case and released her reports, which are reproduced in the book "Gimme Some Truth." She had told the FBI Lennon said he would participate in the demonstrations "only if they are peaceful." The FBI claimed as the pretext for their investigation of Lennon what they said were his plans to participate in "violent, disruptive demonstrations."
"Maynard's report, which had been kept secret for 26 years, undermined the Bureau's entire rationale for investigating Lennon," Wiener said. Shayler has stated that Lennon was under close surveillance by MI5 starting in 1968 because of his financial support for left-wing groups. The MI5 file on Lennon also includes a copy of the lyrics to Lennon's song "Working Class Hero" in his own handwriting, according to Shayler.
Attorney Dan Marmalefsky of Morrison & Foerester, working pro bono on the case, deposed Scott Hodes of the FBI in June 1999. Hodes reiterated the foreign government's request that information it provided about Lennon not be released. Wiener v. FBI was filed by the ACLU of Southern California in 1983. Information about it, including annotated copies of FBI documents, are available at the website www.LennonFBIfiles.com.
Lennon FBI Files Chronology
Dec 8, 1980: Lennon killed by Mark David Chapman.
Feb. 12, 1981: FOIA request filed by Jon Wiener for Lennon FBI files.
Mar. 22, 1983: Wiener v. FBI lawsuit filed by ACLU of Southern California.
Feb. 29, 1988: Judge Robert Takasugi affirms FBI position.
July 12, 1991: 9th Circuit overrules Takasugi.
Jun. 22, 1992: Supreme Court denies FBI petition for review. Case remanded to Judge Takasugi's court.
Oct. 4, 1993: Clinton declares "openness initiative"; Attorney General Reno orders internal review of pending FOIA litigation.
Sept. 17, 1997: Settlement signed; FBI releases 81 pages of previously withheld information, pays $204,000 in plaintiff's costs. 8 "national security" documents remain at issue.
June 14, 1999: Attorney Dan Marmalefsky of Morrison & Foerster, deposes Scott Hodes of the FBI, who reiterates foreign government's request that information not be released.
Jan. 21, 2000: University of California Press publishes "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files," by Jon Wiener. Book reproduces the 100 most important documents in the file.