May 16, 1944 |
Saint Paul, MN, USA
|Employer||U. Cal -- Irvine|
Jon Wiener is an American historian and journalist based in Los Angeles. He is notable for waging a successful 25-year legal battle to win the release of the FBI's files on John Lennon. Wiener played a key role in efforts to expose the surveillance as well as the behind-the-scenes battling between the government and the former Beatle, and is a recognized expert on the FBI-versus-Lennon controversy. A professor of United States history at the University of California, Irvine, he is also a contributing editor to the left-leaning political weekly magazine The Nation and host of a weekly radio program in Los Angeles. In addition to being an advocate for liberal causes and transparency in government, he wrote two books about Lennon, and has described Lennon's song "Imagine" as being a "hymn to idealism" with relevance today. He has been criticized by reporters for having a left-oriented bias in his books, sometimes leading to a revisionism regarding Lennon's political orientation. Wiener is notable as a close friend and interviewer of Gore Vidal, and recently published a book of interviews with the late celebrity which spanned many years.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Selected bibliography
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Wiener was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he graduated from Central High School. He received a bachelor's degree from Princeton and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard, where he worked with Barrington Moore, Jr. and Michael Walzer, and also wrote for the underground paper The Old Mole.
At the University of California, Irvine, Wiener teaches history courses on American politics and the Cold War. His scholarly works have been published in The American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, Radical History Review, and Past & Present. He led students on visits to the Nixon Library
Journalism and Political Commentary
Since 1984, Wiener has been a contributing editor for The Nation magazine, where he has written about diverse topics including campus issues, intellectual controversies, and southern California politics. His writing has also appeared in The Guardian, New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Los Angeles Times. On Wiener’s radio program, a weekly public affairs interview show on Los Angeles radio station KPFK 90.7 FM., his guests have included Gail Collins, Jane Mayer, Joan Didion, Gore Vidal, Barbara Ehrenreich, Frank Rich, Seymour Hersh, Amos Oz, Mike Davis, Elmore Leonard, John Dean, Julian Bond, Al Franken, and Terry Gross. In his writing Wiener has criticized government secrecy, American foreign policy, and corporations such as Wal-Mart.
Wiener is a political commentator, often advocating for left-leaning causes such as workers' rights against plagiarism in academia by academics, and against corporations such as WalMart. He has written about domestic political subjects. Wiener has criticized American foreign policy in its dealings with Iraq and United States support for dictatorships. While Wiener is perhaps best known for his battling to expose the FBI's surveillance of John Lennon, he also was instrumental in getting the FBI to release documents about its surveillance of comedian Groucho Marx.
Wiener and the Lennon FBI Files
|1969||Lennon releases the single
"Give Peace a Chance"
|1971-1972||FBI closely monitors Lennon|||
|1972-03-06||INS tries to deport Lennon|||
|1973-03||Judge rules Lennon must leave
US in two months
|1973-06||Lennon countersues US|||
|1976-06||Lennon wins countersuit;
can stay in US
|1980-12-10||John Lennon murdered|
|1981||Wiener researches book
|1981||Wiener requests documents
Gets some, most held back
|1981||Wiener sues FBI
to release documents
|1983||FBI claims national
|1991||9th circuit court: FBI
didn't show "adequate
grounds" for secrecy
|1992||Justice Dept appeals
9th Circuit decision
to Supreme Court
|1992||Court refuses appeal,
sides with Wiener/ACLU
|1997||FBI releases more documents
except for ten documents
|2000||Report: Lennon may have
secretly funded IRA
doubted by Lennon supporters
|2004||Federal judge orders
|2004||FBI agrees to release
final 10 documents
|2006-12-20||FBI releases final
eight or ten documents
|2006||The U.S. Versus John Lennon
Documentary; Wiener is consultant
|2006-12-21||Wiener discussed contents of
declassified material on NPR
The legal battle between Wiener and the United States government was waged over two and a half decades, and has been examined by other historians. In the late sixties, many young Americans became opposed to the Vietnam War, and John Lennon became an antiwar advocate who made then-president Richard Nixon nervous about his reelection prospects in 1972. The consensus view is that Nixon asked the FBI to begin surveillance of Lennon, possibly after Lennon went to New York on a visa and met up with radical anti-war activists. Government surveillance of Lennon had been extensive, although there was no documentary evidence of wiretapping, and lasted about 11 months.
The attempt to deport Lennon
The Immigration and Naturalization Service, acting on a suggestion from Senator Strom Thurmond, and probably at the behest of Richard Nixon, ordered Lennon to be deported in the spring of 1972. According to Wiener's account, the key issue for the Nixon administration was that Lennon had been talking to anti-war leaders about a "tour that would combine rock music with anti-war organizing and voter registration," possibly as a way to court first-time eighteen-year-old voters, who were believed to have a tendency to vote for the Democratic party.
Reporter Adam Cohen writing in 2006 in the New York Times agreed that the FBI surveillance of Lennon had been motivated not only by antiwar concerns but by concerns of a political nature. According to Cohen, what was most revealing was that the timing of these events suggested there was an underlying political motivation behind the surveillance and deportation proceedings. Numerous friends, including folk singer Bob Dylan, wrote letters to the Immigration and Naturalization Service advocating that Lennon should be allowed to stay. On December 8, 1972, after Nixon's reelection in November, the FBI closed its investigation of Lennon, partially because Lennon has shown "inactivity in Revolutionary Activities." According to Wiener, the FBI had succeeded in "neutralizing" Lennon's opposition to Nixon's reelection. John Lennon was murdered in December 1980.
Wiener vs. the FBI
In 1981, while conducting research for a book about John Lennon, Wiener learned of the F.B.I. surveillance, and that there were either 281 or 400 pages of files on the ex-Beatle. Wiener requested the release of the FBI's files on Lennon by citing the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI refused to release two-thirds or 199 pages of the files on the grounds that they contained “national security” information. The pages that were released were heavily blacked out with magic marker, or redacted.
In 1983, Wiener sued the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act with assistance from the ACLU of Southern California, including attorneys Dan Marmalefsky of Morrison & Foerster and Mark Rosenbaum of the ACLU. In response, the FBI turned over some documents, but withheld others claiming they contained "national security information provided by a foreign government under an explicit promise of confidentiality" and added that releasing the documents could lead to “military retaliation against the United States."
Wiener chronicled much of his frustration with getting documents in his 1984 book Come Together including many "Orwellian moments" during the "tortoise-like progress" of the lawyers. While Wiener lost many of the early "skirmishes", a turning point came in 1991 when the 9th Circuit appeals court ruled in his favor, and declared that the FBI had failed to provide "adequate grounds" to keep the data secret. As a result, the FBI had to keep filing affidavits which had "sufficient detail" which allowed Wiener to keep advocating for their release, and for judges to "intelligently judge" the contest, according to several reports. Then justice department lawyer John Roberts, who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court at the time sided with Wiener and the ACLU.
The case of Wiener v FBI escalated over many years. A settlement with the FBI was reached in 1997 before the case could be heard before the Supreme Court, and most documents except ten were released to Wiener as part of the agreement. According to Wiener, the government paid $204,000 in court costs and attorney fees. The justice department lawyers retained ten documents under the national security proviso of the FIFO act. In 2006, the final eight or ten documents of Lennon’s file were released. According to Wiener, the ten pages revealed there had been contacts between Lennon and leftist and anti-war groups in London in the early 1970s but that there had been no signs that government officials saw Lennon as a serious threat, and only regarded solicitation of funds for a "left-wing bookshop and reading room in London" but that Lennon did not provide any funds for this purpose. Wiener wrote:
I doubt that Tony Blair's government will launch a military strike on the U.S. in retaliation for the release of these documents ... Today, we can see that the national security claims that the FBI has been making for 25 years were absurd from the beginning.
Wiener expressed amazement that so much of the information had been withheld:
One of the items here is a report from an undercover agent on a meeting of anti-war radicals in the East Village ... The undercover agent reports — this is to J. Edgar Hoover — that at this loft in the East Village, there is a parrot, and whenever the conversation gets heated, the parrot shouts, "Right on!" Now, it's kind of mildly interesting, but why does J. Edgar Hoover need to know this? Why should this be classified "confidential"?
Chronicling the Case
Wiener wrote about his legal battles in his book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, published by the University of California Press in 2000. The book includes copies of 100 key documents from the Lennon file, including "lengthy reports by confidential informants detailing the daily lives of anti-war activists, memos to the White House, transcripts of TV shows on which Lennon appeared, and a proposal that Lennon be arrested by local police on drug charges." He also wrote about the case and its significance for The Guardian, The Nation, the L.A. Times, and The New Republic.
Wiener’s work provided the basis for the 2006 documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon. Wiener served as a historical consultant to the production and also appears in the film. He also appears in the documentary LENNONYC, which aired on the PBS show “American Masters” in 2010. He was interviewed about the Lennon FBI Files by Terry Gross on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum said that the Wiener v FBI case revealed "government paranoia at a pathological level and an attempt to shield executive branch abuse of civil liberties under the rubric of national security."
Wiener is the author of six books. In Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud and Power in the Ivory Tower. he examined a dozen history scandals and concluded that media spectacles end careers only when powerful usually right-leaning external groups demand punishment. He also edited and wrote the introduction to Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight which included an abridged transcript of the 1968 Chicago Conspiracy trial; in that trial, Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Dave Dellinger and others faced charges stemming from anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention, and witnesses included Timothy Leary, Norman Mailer, Arlo Guthrie, and Allen Ginsberg; the book includes an afterward by defendant Tom Hayden and drawings by Jules Feiffer. Wiener's latest book How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America, based on his visits to Cold War monuments, museums, and memorials, emphasizes popular skepticism about America’s victory.
Reactions by critics to Wiener’s writings has been varied. The New York Times Book Review wrote that Wiener’s book Come Together: John Lennon in His Time "stands out as one of the few books that don't want to deify, dish the dirt about or otherwise exploit the slain former Beatle." A second review of this book criticized Wiener's perspective for being "tunnel-visioned". He has been criticized by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic. Wiener's Gimme Some Truth received positive reviews in The Washington Post, London Independent, and the Christian Science Monitor. A review of Wiener's book Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud, and Politics in the Ivory Tower criticized Wiener for having a left-leaning bias. One reviewer described Wiener's Gimme Some Truth book as "sobering".
- I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics -- interviews with Gore Vidal
- How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. ISBN 9780520271418.
- Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight. Edited with an introduction by Jon Wiener; afterword by Tom Hayden; drawings by Jules Feiffer. New York: The New Press, 2006. ISBN 9781565848337
- Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud, and Politics in the Ivory Tower . New York: The New Press, 2005. ISBN 9781565848849
- Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. ISBN 9780520222465 
- Professors, Politics and Pop. London and New York: Verso Books, 1991. ISBN 9780860916727
- Come Together: John Lennon in his Time New York: Random House, 1984. ISBN 9780252061318 
- Social Origins of the New South: Alabama, 1865-1885. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978. ISBN 9780807108888
- “The Footnote Fetish.” Telos 31 (Spring 1977). New York: Telos Press.
- Weinstein, Henry (December 20, 2006). "FBI to release last of its John Lennon files". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- Jon Wiener (May 21, 2012). "Jon Wiener". The Nation. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Note: estimate assumes began career at age 30
- Associated Press (December 21, 2006). "FBI releases final file on John Lennon". USA Today. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Associated Press (December 20, 2006). "FBI Releases Last Pages From Lennon File". Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2012..
- Jon Wiener (February 25, 2000). "John Lennon's MI5-FBI Files". Common Dreams. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- STEVE EMMONS (April 27, 1994). "RICHARD NIXON: 1913-1994 : FOR MORE YEARS : From '-Gates' to 'Checkers,' He Made a Lasting Impact on Pop Culture". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Dr. Andrew Bosworth (18 November 2008). "Taser Nation: Pain Compliance 101". Toward Freedom. Retrieved June 2, 2012. "...As Jon Wiener described in The Nation, "24" features at least one torture scene in every episode:..."
- Erin Rosa (MAY 13, 2010). "Weekly Diaspora: More Hypocrisy in Arizona". Open Salon. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (January 6, 2010). "Obama's fight against secrecy: The president has the right idea but his proposals don't go far enough". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Amy Goodman (interviewer) Jon Wiener (interviewee) (Thursday, May 25, 2000). "Gimme Some Truth: The FBI Files of John Lennon". Democracy Now!. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- Henry Weinstein (December 20, 2006). "FBI to release last of its John Lennon files: The U.S. had said such an act could stir military retaliation. The papers, withheld 25 years, don't seem to bear that out.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Valerie J. Nelson (December 8, 2010). "Thirty years ago: John Lennon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- ROBERT HILBURN (May 26, 1985). "Nonfiction". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- FELIX GILLETTE (book reviewer) (February 10, 2005). "In the Tower With the Tenure-Benders (title of review) Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud, and Politics in the Ivory Tower by Jon Wiener (title and author of book being reviewed)". The New York Sun. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- John Harris (December 21, 2006). "Who'd be a Lennonist? Contrary to the latest burst of revisionism, the ex-Beatle's politics amounted to nothing much at all.". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Martin Chilton (19 Nov 2012). "I Told You So, Gore Vidal Talks Politics: review -- A new book of four interviews with Gore Vidal highlight his controversial views on Lincoln and Roosevelt - and include a witty tale of taking the mickey out of President Kennedy.". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 23, 2012.
- Michael Kammen (November 6, 2012). "I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics. Interviews with Jon Wiener". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved December 23, 2012. "...Jon Wiener, Professor of History at UC Irvine and contributing editor at The Nation, knew Vidal for more than a quarter century; he interviewed him several times ..."
- "The Scholar Squirrels and the National Security State: An Interview with Gore Vidal -- Jon Wiener". Radical History Review. Spring 1989. Retrieved June 2, 2012. "Non-Thematic Issue -- Issues 44"
- ADAM NAGOURNEY (August 6, 2010). "Watergate Becomes Sore Point at Nixon Library". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- William M. Welch (April 1, 2011). "Nixon library now tells full Watergate story". USA Today. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- ADAM NAGOURNEY (September 12, 2011). "What’s a Presidential Library to Do?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- "Uncovering The 'Truth' Behind Lennon's FBI Files". NPR. October 8, 2010. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Matt Welch (September 9, 2011). "In fact, on Dec. 7, 1951, Pearl Harbor wasn't remembered". Reason Magazine. Retrieved June 2, 2012. "Writing in the L.A. Times, Jon Wiener compares two 10-year anniversaries."
- Jon Wiener (January 25, 2012). "When art and politics collided in L.A.: The Tower of Protest, being rebuilt as part of Pacific Standard Time, incited passion and vandalism for a few months in 1966.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (book reviewer) (January 13, 2002). "Survival During a Dark Time (book review title) A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, By Ruth Kluger (book and author being reviewed)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Wiener, Jon. "American History 101". Slate.
- Wiener, Jon (August 16, 2009). "'The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business'". Los Angeles Times.
- Jon Wiener (July 27, 2011). "The Nation: Florida's Infamous Other Fruit". The Nation via NPR. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- CHARLES McGRATH (January 7, 2007). "Plagiarism: Everybody Into the Pool". The New York Times: Education Life. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (August 16, 2009). "'The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business': The retailing behemoth has created a unique corporate subculture that is rooted in its hope of Bentonville, Ark.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (October 15, 2010). "The Nation: Sarah Palin's California Problem". The Nation via NPR. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (February 27, 2008). ""Obamacans" Could Be A Significant Force". The Nation via CBS News. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Peter Johnson (January 26, 2004). "Worlds of politics, comedy converge". USA Today. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- DONNA LADD (2001). "The Other-Cheney Doctrine: Veep's Wife Wants School Kids Ignorant, Happy and Patriotic". The Progressive Populist. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- "Thursday Notes". History News Network. February 8, 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (May 19, 2005). "American History 101". Slate Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- DINITIA SMITH. "Would Groucho Have Joined a Party That Would Have Him as a Member?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Tribune News Services (September 14, 1998). "Groucho Marx Was On Fbi's Watch List". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (1999). "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files". University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 978-0-520-22246-5. "FBI Airtel report; Figure 46 NY-17 of FBI documents; page 194 in Wiener's book"
- JONATHAN LEVI (book reviewer) (December 30, 1999). "The U.S. Campaign Against John Lennon (title of book review) GIMME SOME TRUTH, The John Lennon-FBI Files; by Jon Wiener (title and author of book)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Note: the month is uncertain but the year 1973 is probably right.
- Note: the month is uncertain but the year 1976 is probably right.
- "FBI Releases Its Final Files on John Lennon". NPR. December 21, 2006. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Martin Bright (February 19, 2000). "Lennon aided IRA, claims MI5 renegade". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Henry Weinstein (December 20, 2006). "FBI to Release Last of Its John Lennon Files: The U.S. had said such an act could stir military retaliation. The papers, withheld 25 years, don't seem to bear that out.". Common Dreams. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- Friedman (editor), John S.; James Carroll (October 2005). The Secret Histories: Hidden Truths That Challenged the Past and Changed the World (First edition ed.). New York: MacMillan. pp. 252–254. ISBN 0-312-42517-1.
- ADAM COHEN (September 21, 2006). "While Nixon Campaigned, the F.B.I. Watched John Lennon". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Robert Scheer (interviewer) Jon Wiener (interviewee) (Sep. 12, 2006). "Jon Wiener on John Lennon (interview)". truthdig. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- Wiener, Jon (December 18, 2006). "He didn't have to do it. That's one reason he's still admired". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- Jon Wiener (18 December 2006). "He didn't have to do it. That's one reason he's still admired: The FBI campaign against John Lennon shows how far the state can go to deal with stars who refuse to toe the line". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Jon Wiener (October 9, 2010). "Bob Dylan's Defense of John Lennon". Common Dreams. Retrieved June 2, 2012. "(Dylan's request around 1972)"
- FBI (1999). "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files". University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 978-0-520-22246-5. "FBI document; Figure HQ-32; page 305 in Wiener's book -- date of FBI memorandum: October 24, 1972 ... verbatim from document: "... Inasmuch as there is no indication that the subject ever appeared in Miami Beach during either of the national political conventions in July and August, 1972, no further investigation is being conducted by Miami.""
- Jon Wiener (1999). "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files". University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 978-0-520-22246-5. "see page 13 of Wiener's book, first paragraph: "...they withheld 199...""
- Margolick, David (September 6, 1981). "Seeing F.B.I. Files on Lennon: A Hard Day's Night". New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- Richard Harrington (October 1, 2006). "Missing Peace: John Lennon's Legal Battles With the U.S.". Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- "FBI releases final file on John Lennon". USA Today. December 21, 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- FBI (1999). "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files". University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 978-0-520-22246-5. "FBI document; Figure NY-88 page 5 after settlement, of FBI documents; page 251 in Wiener's book -- date of FBI document: March 5, 1972 ... verbatim quote: "Linda's parrot interjects Right On whenever the conversation gets rousing..."
- . ISBN 9780520222465. Missing or empty
- FBI (1999). "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files". University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 978-0-520-22246-5. "FBI document; Figure HQ-24 page 1; page 289 in Wiener's book -- date of FBI "AirTel" document: July 27, 1972 ... verbatim quote: "... with regards to subject being arrested if at all possible on possession of narcotics charge.""
- "The U.S. vs. John Lennon".
- Cohen, Adam (September 21, 2006). "While Nixon Campaigned, the F.B.I. Watched John Lennon". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- "LENNONYC". Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- TOM ZELLER JR. (December 20, 2006). "Has Stephen Colbert Been Hiding John Lennon’s F.B.I. Legacy?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- . ISBN 9781565848849. Missing or empty
- . ISBN 9781565848337. Missing or empty
- . ISBN 9780520271418. Missing or empty
- Harris, John (December 21, 2006). "Who'd be a Lennonist?". The Guardian.
- Gillette, Felix (February 10, 2005). "In the Tower With the Tenure-Benders". New York Sun.
- Holden, Steven (November 25, 1984.). "Review of Come Together". New York Times Book Review.
- Andrew Sullivan (Monday, October 28, 2002). "The Daily Dish". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- J.F.K. (November 1999). "Media Jones: Pacifism Rocks!". Mother Jones. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
- "Jon Wiener". Slate Magazine. May 21, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Jon Wiener. "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files". NPR. Retrieved May 21, 2012. "...This book is about: Archives, Lennon, John, Singers, United States"
- Jon Wiener website: On the radio and in print
- Biography at The Nation
- Faculty website at University of California, Irvine
- The John Lennon FBI files website
- "Probing the FBI's Files on John Lennon" Fresh Air with Terry Gross: interview with Jon Wiener