MYSTERY WIRE — Tuesday, December 8, 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Beatle legend John Lennon.
Lennon rose to musical stardom in the early 1960s along with Beatles bandmates Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman on the night of Dec. 8, 1980, as he and wife Yoko Ono were returning to their Upper West Side apartment in New York, he was 40 years old.
Earlier on the day of his death, Lennon had signed an autograph for Chapman on a copy of his recently released album, “Double Fantasy”. Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and was last denied parole in 2020. His next parole hearing is set for August 2022.
Following his murder in 1980, Lennon’s remains were cremated and his ashes scattered in New York’s Central Park.
During the years leading up to his murder, Lennon had been in the spotlight for his political and personal beliefs. This time the spotlight was coming from the top levels of the American government.
History now shows Lennon was the target of a deportation effort from the Nixon administration because the president felt Lennon’s actions threatened his reelection efforts. The deportation threat hung on an old marijuana charge.
At the same time the FBI also had Lennon as a target, under FBI director John Edgar Hoover, Lennon was under surveillance primarily for his anti-war activities.
Dennis Mitchell is a lifelong Beatles fan and produces a week radio show called Breakfast with the Beatles. Mitchell said the FBI investigation was a black mark for the agency, “You’re talking about the J. Edgar Hoover days in the FBI. When we look back … those days that were not so savory, and do not come out making the agency look very good. And when you pick on a guy like John Lennon for a trumped-up pot conviction from five or six years before, you’re really grasping for straws.”
Mitchell went on to talk about the legacy left by the FBI’s investigation of Lennon. “When you look back, how insignificant and what a gigantic waste of time and money to go after a guy like John Lennon,” Mitchell said. “If anything, it backfired enormously. And to this day, we see John as a persecuted figure because of that.”
For several years after John Lennon’s death, the FBI kept all of its documents on Lennon classified.
Historian Jon Wiener filed a Freedom of Information Act request for FBI files about the Bureau’s role in the deportation attempt. The FBI admitted it had 281 pages of files on Lennon, but refused to release most of them on the grounds that they contained national security information.
In 1983, Wiener sued the FBI for the documents. After 14 years of litigation the FBI released the pages.
In 1991, the ACLU, representing Wiener, won a favorable decision against the FBI in the Ninth Circuit. The Justice Department appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in April 1992, but it would take another five years for the high court to review the case.
In 1997 the Justice Department released all but 10 of the documents.
It took Wiener another nine years to get the final 10 documents released. These FBI documents dealt with Lennon’s ties with London anti-war activists in 1971.