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John Lennon vs. the Deep State: One Man Against the 'Monster'

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"You gotta remember, establishment, it's just a name for evil. The monster doesn't care whether it kills all the students or whether there's a revolution. It's not thinking logically, it's out of control."John Lennon (1969)

John Lennon, born 79 years ago on October 9, 1940, was a musical genius and pop cultural icon.

He was also a vocal peace protester and anti-war activist and a high-profile example of the lengths to which the Deep State will go to persecute those who dare to challenge its authority.

Long before Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were being castigated for blowing the whistle on the government's war crimes and the National Security Agency's abuse of its surveillance powers, it was Lennon who was being singled out for daring to speak truth to power about the government's warmongering, his phone calls monitored and data files illegally collected on his activities and associations.

For a while, at least, Lennon became enemy number one in the eyes of the U.S. government.

Years after Lennon's assassination it would be revealed that the FBI had collected 281 pages of files on him, including song lyrics. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI at the time, directed the agency to spy on the musician. There were also various written orders calling on government agents to frame Lennon for a drug bust.

As the New York Times notes, "Critics of today's domestic surveillance object largely on privacy grounds. They have focused far less on how easily government surveillance can become an instrument for the people in power to try to hold on to power. [The U.S. government's campaign against John Lennon] " is the story not only of one man being harassed, but of a democracy being undermined."

Indeed, all of the many complaints we have about government todaysurveillance, militarism, corruption, harassment, SWAT team raids, political persecution, spying, overcriminalization, etc.were present in Lennon's day and formed the basis of his call for social justice, peace and a populist revolution.

By March 1971, when his "Power to the People" single was released, Lennon was ready to participate in political activism against the U. S. government, the "monster" that was financing the war in Vietnam.

What Lennon did not know at the time was that the U.S. government, steeped in paranoia, was spying on him.

The release of Lennon's Sometime in New York City album, which contained a radical anti-government message in virtually every song and depicted President Richard Nixon and Chinese Chairman Mao Tse-tung dancing together nude on the cover, only fanned the flames of the conflict to come.

The official U.S. war against Lennon began in earnest in 1972 after rumors surfaced that Lennon planned to embark on a U.S. concert tour that would combine rock music with antiwar organizing and voter registration. Nixon, fearing Lennon's influence on about 11 million new voters (1972 was the first year that 18-year-olds could vote), had the ex-Beatle served with deportation orders "in an effort to silence him as a voice of the peace movement."

Lennon became the subject of a four-year campaign of surveillance and harassment by the U.S. government (spearheaded by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover), an attempt by President Richard Nixon to have him "neutralized" and deported. As Adam Cohen of the New York Times points out, "The F.B.I.'s surveillance of Lennon is a reminder of how easily domestic spying can become unmoored from any legitimate law enforcement purpose. What is more surprising, and ultimately more unsettling, is the degree to which the surveillance turns out to have been intertwined with electoral politics."

Nixon's pursuit of Lennon was relentless and largely misplaced.

Despite the fact that Lennon was not part of a "lunatic" plot to overthrow the Nixon Administration, the government persisted in its efforts to have him deported.

Equally determined to resist, Lennon dug in and fought back.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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