- LOS ANGELES (Reuters)
- Almost 20 years after the assassination of John Lennon, a government
lawyer warned Friday that releasing documents about the former Beatle's
left-wing political activities could damage national security.
- An attorney for the government said he would probably
appeal the ruling of a federal judge Friday ordering that three letters
about Lennon from an unidentified foreign government -- believed to be
Britain -- be turned over to a college professor.
- Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of
California, Irvine, wants to use the letters as part of his legal battle
to obtain 10 classified documents remaining in Lennon's FBI file. The singer
was murdered Dec. 8, 1980, by a deranged fan as he returned to his apartment
on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
- The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Robbins was
a small victory for Wiener, who has been battling the FBI over Lennon's
file since 1983 in a case that has gone all the way to the United States
Supreme Court. The University of California Press last year published Wiener's
book "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files."
- In 1997, as part of a settlement with the historian,
the FBI released all its Lennon files except for the 10 documents that
are the subject of the current litigation. The FBI says a foreign government,
which it will not name, has asked that those documents remain secret.
- Wiener, relying on information from a former MI5 officer
named David Shayler, believes that that the documents refer to the murdered
Beatle's financial support of left-wing groups in the 1960s.
- Robbins ordered the government to release "redacted,"
or censored, versions of the three letters, which amount to the unnamed
foreign government's explanation of its position on the still-secret documents.
- But Justice Department Attorney Thomas Caballero told
Wiener's attorney after the hearing that the U.S. government was likely
to appeal Robbins' ruling because it still believes the release of the
10 documents in Lennon's file could jeopardize national security.
- "This is not 'national security information,"'
Wiener scoffed. "It consists of 30-year-old reports on the political
activities of a dead rock star."
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