Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Grounded Walrus: That Last Niggling Detail

The Christic Institute, a non-profit law firm founded in 1980 by attorney and activist Daniel Sheehan, Sara Nelson and Fr. William Davis, represented litigants in a number of high profile cases during its brief existence. Begun as a means by which to promote social justice, it successfully won civil verdicts against the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and (representing the estate of Karen Silkwood) Kerr-McGee.

While critics charged that the focus of the Christic Institute had become mired in "conspiracy theory," it is in this capacity where some of their investigative research really sheds light on a number of issues. Concerned by how a nexus of military, industrial and espionage factions seemed to be manipulating public policy, and wresting control of it away from the elected officials charged with overseeing it, the Christic Institute began to delve into questions that not many legal firms would, investigating, among other things, the potential operational legacies of Projects ARTICHOKE and MK-ULTRA.

Understanding this, Fenton Bresler approached the Christic Institute for their take on whether or not someone might have programmed Mark Chapman. Sheehan's response to Bresler was careful, yet insightful:*
We have discovered in doing the kind of investigations that we've done, with regard to the Karen Silkwood killing, the killing of the people in Greensboro and other places, that we've come to the point of not speculating on things like that. We know we can find out but you cannot find out really responsibly without looking over specifically at each particular case and analysing it.

Now we have made no enquiries into the John Lennon killing--but I would definitely assume, as a generality, from what we know about the MK-ULTRA programme and other things that the CIA was definitely into trying to create a hypno-programmed Manchurian Candidate.

As for the specifics, I don't know one way or the other about Mark Chapman whom you say may have been programmed to kill and then kept 'on hold' with built-in memory loss, but we have uncovered a sort of halfway spot to that situation. We have talked to half-a-dozen individuals who have told a startlingly similar story about how, at a very young age, usually between twenty and twenty-five, they were contacted, usually within the context of military training, and told: 'Look, we've got a special deal for you. You're going to come into the service under the normal designation of being an infantryman but you're going to leave the service after a while and you're going to have special training, and you're going to be brought into a special programme.

They're sent to special places where they are trained by mercenaries and then they're told: 'You're going to be called upon from time to time to do some things for us.'...[Programmed assassins constitute] a very weird group of people who it's very hard to get a handle on how they got into this kind of thing, but it also happened when they were very young--like, between twenty and twenty-five--and they ran into someone who was like this mentor type of guy in the context of some sort of authoritative structure.
In summary, Sheehan told Bresler that he could offer no comments on Chapman, for neither he nor the Christic Institute had looked into the Lennon case. He did, however, expound on the nature of Manchurian Candidates, based upon the experience of people who told them they had received such training. We can see that some of these characteristics (e.g., age, "mentor type guy") definitely apply to Chapman. Some of them might apply to Chapman, (e.g., approached by someone for special training, taken somewhere with the purpose of training), but we can't be sure. Others (e.g., military enlistment) don't seem to apply to Chapman at all, yet do not exclude him as a possible MC.

Sheehan, nevertheless, noted a critical criterion that would eliminate Chapman as a possible Manchurian Candidate:
And again, they [i.e., programmed assassins] get some kind of special training...and then they go and do this sort of stuff--kill someone on order.

But the only thing is that they don't just allow these guys to walk up and shoot somebody and get caught--like Mark did. It would be too dangerous. They would start talking and tell people about their exploits. These guys have a great tendency to do that--that is how we've gotten them to talk to us!
In short, nothing excludes Chapman as a possible Manchurian Candidate (according to Sheehan) except his actions on the night of the crime. As lead investigator, Lt. Arthur O'Connor noted immediately, Chapman had ample time to leave the crime scene in one of eighteen different directions, yet chose to stay on the site, reading The Catcher in the Rye.

This fact seriously challenges the Manchurian Candidate scenario. But instead of actually dealing with this datum, Bresler glosses over and tries to explain it away by suggesting that such drugs as sodium pentothal might have clouded his thinking, and confounded his programming--a rather convoluted explanation if you think about it. He did, however, get Sheehan to admit that despite its unlikeliness, the Manchurian Candidate scenario might apply:
We haven't run into that yet. There is no direct evidence of it having actually happened--but it is a plausible kind of situation. It is clear that the MKULTRA programme was where they were experimenting to see if they could get people to behave in that way--and I cannot say it has not happened.
Bresler based Who Killed John Lennon on the premise that someone trained Chapman to kill, programmed him to kill Lennon specifically, and then programmed him to forget. Yet, even when we look into possible cases of programmed assassination, the killer does not act the way Mark did. Instead of letting go of a firmly entrenched belief, or dismissing this last niggling detail out of hand, Bresler might have done better to reconcile this bit of cognitive dissonance with his overall suspicion that some faction of US Intel played a role in Lennon's demise. He could have then either modified his position, or dumped it completely, concluding that Lennon's murder was simply a random act of violence.

Taking into account Sheehan's observation and Bresler's unquestionably thorough research, and then coupling that with Chapman's movements and, what the late Professor Melanson would call the "time and motion" of the crime itself, we can form an alternative to both the official version and the Manchurian Candidate scenario. The strength of this alternative hypothesis (and any other, for that matter) would rest upon how closely we can link Chapman to either US Intel. After all, we can demonstrate that Intel had sufficient motive to murder Lennon. We can also show that they had at least some of the means by which to program someone to do that, although whether or not they could do it reliably is a controversy worthy of its own series. What we have to do now is to see if Intel had the opportunity to program Chapman specifically. But we have to question whether or not they had sufficient access to him.

_________________
*Although Sheehan himself is American, Bresler quoted him using British spellings and punctuation; hence the appearance of these things here.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Grounded Walrus: One Personality at a Time

To consider the possibility espoused by Mae Brussell, Fenton Bresler, Sean Lennon and many others that someone programmed Mark Chapman to act as a Manchurian Candidate, we would have to compare his behavior to that of the subjects of Drs. Herbert Spiegel, Martin Orne, George Estabrooks and career spy Morse Allen. We would also have to exercise some judgment as to whether or not he might have had the logistical support that he needed to carry out the murder of John Lennon.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Chapman was in fact a programmed assassin. He would, in fact, display many of the characteristics that one would expect of such a person. For example, there's the distortion of reality referred to by Donald Bain as "changing the visual." By most accounts, Chapman was rather indifferent to Lennon until making the decision to kill him. Were someone to hypnotize him to simply go to New York and murder Lennon, he most likely would have said, "Why bother?"

Chapman, at the recommendation of an unnamed friend, first read J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye as a teenager, but picked up another copy of it (actually two copies, one for him, one for his wife, Gloria) in early summer 1980. Now, however, the book seemed to have a more profound meaning. It wasn't simply a story about a guy named Holden Caulfield. It symbolized the protection of innocents from phonies. In essence, Chapman began to identify with the fictional Caulfield, but on a much larger scale. Slowly, he began to believe that he alone stood between some major catastrophic trauma and the youth of the industrialized world. From his childhood, we can see a similar grandiosity in his thinking when fantasizing himself the king of imaginary little people.

At the same time, despite his obsession with saving the kids, he didn't have any concrete action in mind until September 1980 when, for reasons unknown, he picked up a copy of Tony Fawcett's 1976 biography, John Lennon: One Day at a Time. Fawcett, a close friend of Lennon and Ono, included a few warts in his depiction, but the book, overall, is pretty much the kind of loving tribute one would expect a guy to write about his friend. Nevertheless, Chapman saw a number of negatives in Fawcett's depiction. Fawcett didn't shy away from descriptions of Lennon's rather opulent lifestyle, derived from his royalties, and augmented by Ono's shrewd investing. This, more than anything else, struck a raw nerve in Chapman. As his wife, Gloria, explained to Jim Gaines, Mark "...would get angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet have millions."

In any scenario of this crime, one cannot possibly understate the importance of John Lennon: One Day at a Time in providing the inspiration to kill Lennon specifically. Under cross-examination by prosecuting attorney Allen Sullivan, Chapman's defense expert, Dr. Daniel Schwartz stipulated the book's influence:
Q: As a matter of fact, did you learn that [Chapman's] interest in John Lennon largely stemmed from his reading of [Fawcett's] book in Hawaii during either September of October of 1980?

A: Yes....

Q: Did you learn that the defendant said that at or about the time that he was reading that book he felt, 'Gee, wouldn't it be funny, wouldn't it be a kicker if I killed John Lennon?,' said that to himself, words to that effect?

A: I believe so, yes.
Whether you buy into the mind-control scenario or not, John Lennon: One Day at a Time and Catcher in the Rye effectively worked together to change the visual of John Lennon in the eye of Chapman's mind. Fawcett's book transformed Lennon from a has-been rock star trying to make a comeback to a dangerous phony, coldly manipulating young souls into adopting atheism, anarchy, and poverty when he himself lived as large as a baron. Any way you look at this, Chapman didn't make the double trip to New York simply to kill John Lennon. He made the trip to kill what he thought Lennon stood for, and the dark forces of hypocrisy he marshalled.

Also, one has to keep in mind Dr. George Estabrooks' finding: "The key to creating an effective spy or assassin rests in splitting a man’s personality, or creating multipersonality...." Nowadays, a number of shrinks view Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID--what they used to call Multiple Personality Disorder, or MPD) as a malady caused by iatrogenesis. In other words, the psychiatric treatment itself can lead to the fracturing of a person's behavior, perspective and memory. The aforementioned Dr. Herbert Spiegel examined one of the most famous cases, that of Shirley Mason (aka Sybil Dorsett, or just plain Sybil), and discovered that her therapist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, had coaxed the alternative personalities out of the patient, in effect causing the MPD she was ostensibly treating.

At the time of the crime, Chapman repeatedly commented as though two distinct psyches inhabited his body, one that wanted to kill Lennon, the other that wanted to spare him. The benign self, he referred to as "the big part [of me]." You can see it in his initial statement to police:
I went to the building. It's called the Dakota. I stayed there until he came out and asked him to sign my album. At that point my big part won and I wanted to go back to my hotel, but I couldn't. I waited until he came back. He came in a car. Yoko walked past first and I said hello, I didn't want to hurt her.
The big part triumphed over the other (little, or child) part earlier in November, when Chapman initially came to New York to murder Lennon. He alluded to this internal conflict when he called Gloria to tell her that he had won a great battle--i.e., decided not to go through with the killing.

Self-struggle becomes an issue at the moment of the crime, when before pulling the trigger, he imagined a voice inside his head say "Do it!" over and over again. Defense psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Lewis interpreted this as "a command hallucination," but noted that he also suffered "...from a seizure disorder often indistinguishable from the psychosis of schizophrenia."

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the defense shrinks all found schizophrenia, while the two court-appointed and three prosecution psychiatrists didn't. Also as mentioned earlier, Chapman insisted (in fact testified) that he didn't actually hear voices in his head, but rather imagined others saying something. This is significant because his only possible defense was insanity, which would necessitate him claiming auditory hallucinations and delusions. While one can, like Dr. Lewis, interpret the "voices" inside Chapman's head as command hallucinations, one might also wonder if they might represent some sort of dissociated identity, one that various sides of self have to struggle over.

I've argued against the hypothesis that Chapman murdered Lennon simply out of psychosis, for I don't think his defense psychiatrists really offered compelling evidence of it. In order to make the case, they had to fudge, or make up a personal history that those who knew Chapman could easily disprove. At the same time, the Manchurian Candidate hypothesis is farfetched, and not all that compelling.

Perhaps we could clarify the issue by turning to the same people Fenton Bresler did.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Grounded Walrus: I'm Afraid He Would Have Shot Mr. Lennon

In 1967, Dr. Herbert Spiegel (Columbia University) participated in an NBC News special about Jim Garrison's case against Clay Shaw. Reporter Frank McGee asked Dr. Spiegel if he could debunk the then-prevalent belief that everything said in a hypnotic trance has to be true. Spiegel not only told him that it was easy, but set up a demonstration for NBC's cameras to record.

With film rolling, Spiegel hypnotized the anonymous subject, self-described as liberal, into believing that the good doctor had massive dossiers on an international communist plot. Without giving any further information, Spiegel asked the subject to provide details, and to forget about the plot once he touched him on the shoulder. As described by Time magazine, in its May 24, 1968 edition, McGee asked about the involvement of a completely fictitious person:
Almost as soon as he was awake, the subject began talking about the plot. NBC's Frank McGee, who had been present throughout, tried to shake his story. But the more McGee questioned, the more elaborate the story became. Where had he heard about the plot? In a loft over a playhouse in Greenwich Village. What did he remember about the loft? There had been an old movie poster of Rin Tin Tin on the wall, and he and his friends had been drinking Miller High Life beer. McGee asked if a Jack Harris had been involved. The name was completely imaginary, yet soon the subject slipped it into the conversation, confessing that Harris had really been the ringleader, and was a big man who 'looks like he could kill an ox.'
After more prodding, this liberal had transformed into a red-bashing ultraconservative within a matter of several minutes. His hatred of the imaginary Harris figure was genuine and palpable. McGee tried to ask questions that would elucidate the obvious fact that none of this had a basis in reality, but the more the newsman probed, the more convinced and the more rabid the subject became, finally shouting, "That's the action of Harris and his group! That man is a demon!"

When taken out of the trance state, the subject, per Dr. Spiegel's instruction, remembered nothing about his tirade. Moreover, he didn't believe McGee and Spiegel when they told him what he had said, simply because it contradicted his beliefs, his values, his morality. In fact, he assumed they were joking until they showed him the actual footage some five months later.

When the cameras went off, McGee, somewhat lightly, asked Dr. Spiegel what would have happened if he pointed out a random individual as Jack Harris, and given the subject a gun. Spiegel replied, "I'm afraid he would have shot him."

The above story is an example of what author Donald Bain so succinctly described as "changing the visual." If you asked someone under hypnosis to shoot a random stranger, the subject would probably refuse. But if you convince someone that the random stranger is in fact Jack Harris, or Osama bin Laden or any other boogeyman--real or imaginary--that's a different story.

The concept wasn't new, even in 1967. Dr. George Estabrooks (Colgate University), who claimed in all seriousness, "I can hypnotize a man--without his knowledge or consent--into committing treason against the United States" firmly believed in the viability of Manchurian Candidates ever since the 1930s, when his research into hypnosis began. Moreover, he claimed to have programmed them, stating, "The key to creating an effective spy or assassin rests in splitting a man’s personality, or creating multipersonality, with the aid of hypnotism.... This is not science fiction. ...I have done it." As an advisor to the US War Department, and later the CIA, Estabrooks was no crank. However, he never really gave details on his creation of such a Frankenstein.

One study, in which the details were well documented by the researcher, came not from a highly esteemed professor of psychology or psychiatry teaching at a prestigious university, but rather from a career spy. Morse Allen, a Naval Intelligence and CIA veteran, conducted his own private experiments to test the viability of getting someone to murder another person. In February 1954, after learning the basics of the craft from a stage hypnotist, he programmed one of his secretaries to believe that another secretary was in fact a deadly communist agent. He also left a gun lying in plain sight of the subject. Sure enough, fearful for her life, and protective of her country, the young woman snatched the firearm, aimed it at the unsuspecting lady typing away at her desk, and repeatedly pulled the trigger.

Fortunately, Allen had the sense to empty the gun of bullets first.

Research into using hypnosis to make someone violate their own moral code continued well after the 1950s. Dr. Martin Orne (University of Pennsylvania), who publicly argued against the possibility of creating a Manchurian Candidate, nevertheless conducted research indicating that a hypnotized subject can act in ways that would shock them in an unhypnotized state. In the video below, for example, Dr. Orne convinces a woman to disfigure a man by throwing (what she thinks is) nitric acid into his face, for no other reason than he pissed her off.

Figure 1. Dr. Martin Orne Experiment, with commentary at the end by Lt. Col. Dr. Michael Aquino, USA




By now, I'm hoping you get the picture. The belief that you can't hypnotize someone to do something they're not already willing to do is simply a comforting fiction. Yeah, there is some truth to the supposition. But there are ways by which the hypnotist can distort a subject's perception, so that he or she will do something that, in their waking state, would violate their moral code.

At the same time, just because such research bolsters the possibility of creating a viable Manchurian Candidate--hence the reason why the CIA pursued hypnosis so ardently in Projects ARTICHOKE and MK-ULTRA--it doesn't prove to any legal standard that creating a Manchurian Candidate is possible. After all, the MC would have to have more going for him or her than simply programming. Such a person would need training, hardware, logistical support and so forth. Furthermore, you really wouldn't want to use a person who had never killed before. You wouldn't know if they would do what you wanted them to do, or if they would freeze up, despite the change in visual.

Of course, that brings up another question: assuming you couldn't train a subject to be an effective Manchurian Candidate, might you program a subject to be something else?

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Grounded Walrus: Means

Copious declassified documents--let alone the paperwork still classified--indicate that US Intel had an almost obsessive interest in John Lennon, and an animus against him. Sure, one could argue quite convincingly that the FBI and the CIA (whom the Bureau consistently informed with respect to Lennon's activities) had created a mountain out of a molehill. One could also say, quite credibly, that their surveillance of him seemed rather irrational, if not out-and-out pathological. Admittedly, this degree of electronic and other surveillance comes across as over-the-top, out-of-control, perhaps even a bit cartoonish, nothing to take seriously--especially for a celebrity with no titular or legal authority.

At the same time, the FBI's actions, and the numerous commnications CC'ed to the CIA in the Lennon file give us strong evidence that Intel had more than enough motive to want Lennon neutralized (as opposed to naturalized). If they couldn't find a bogus charge to pin on him (specifically perjury in the Cox kidnapping), they would attempt to get rid of him by trumping up a misdemenor offense. If they couldn't do that, they'd have to find some other way of getting him to keep his mouth shut.

Well, the FBI couldn't tie Lennon in with the Cox kidnapping. And the Bureau and INS lost the fight to deport him. Worse yet, on the dawn of the neo-Con triumph that would install Ronald Reagan into the Oval Office, Lennon broke his artistic silence by releasing the Double Fantasy album in the fall of 1980. Moreover, Lennon had become politically active again, pledging support to Asian and Asian-American laborers in California, for starters. If all other means to dissuade Lennon from influencing the public failed, then one can safely assume that there were people in Intel who didn't mourn his passing.

Although we can argue in favor of motive, the hypothesis of a government conspiracy in the death of John Lennon requires considerably more before we take it seriously. If we posit that Mark Chapman had become some type of mind-controlled Manchurian Candidate, we first have to consider whether or not this is even possible.

Perhaps you've heard the old saw that a person under hypnosis would never do anything that's against his or her nature or moral code. Maybe you've heard that he or she would not do anything in a trance state that they wouldn't do in a normal waking state. For example, if someone hypnotized you to murder the person whom you loved most, you would never do it.

If you believe in both this conventional wisdom and the Manchurian Candidate hypothesis, then you would have a rather interesting conundrum regarding Chapman. After all, the man is, according to all who actually knew him, non-violent by nature, with no history of exacting injury on anyone but himself (i.e., a suicide attempt) until that fateful night in December 1980, and never since--almost thirty years later. So either his waking state is lying, or the old saw is incorrect.

Actually, we have enough research to indicate that the old saw is incorrect.

We can cite a number of psychiatrists who will tell you that a hypnotized subject can do any number of things repugnant to his or her values, morals, or nature--whatever those might be. These shrinks are hardly crackpots, mind you. In fact, they constitute the experts in the field of hypnosis. Curiously, some of them worked for the CIA, at one time.

Of further interest: the opinions of these shrinks, regarding the viability of creating a Manchurian Candidate, differ greatly. That's a stickier little wicket than simply hypnotizing someone to do something against his nature/morals/values/whatever. After all, a Manchurian Candidate needs skills to (1) obtain the right equipment, (2) know how to use it, (3) get into position, and (4) do the job right. Most important, he or she must remain impervious to interrogation techniques that might expose the fact that someone has tampered with his or her gray matter.

When you lump all these traits together, you realize the difficulty in pulling off the fabled(?) Manchurian Candidate ploy. After all, that's a lot to ask for in someone who's seemingly coming in from off the streets. Most critically, it takes a fair degree of skill to kill someone, as hard as that might be to believe--especially for a generation who's grown up watching violent movies and TV shows. The human body is actually pretty damn tough at times, and it can take a significant pounding (or bludgeoning, or stabbing, or shooting, or poisoning, etc.) and still keep ticking. Professional killers know anatomy. They understand where the body is most vulnerable. They have had the practice to maneuver themselves and their weapons to those vulnerable spots.

Can an amateur kill someone with a gun? Sure. In fact, amateurs kill people every day. Every year, they kill hundreds by accident. But if one wants to argue the Manchurian Candidate scenario, it would make no sense to use an amateur, someone who has never killed before, as an assassin. Think of it this way. If you wanted a target eliminated, would you send a pro who knows how to get 'er done every time? Or would you send in an amateur? Okay, the amateur might hit the target, but opting for him would be opting for a huge gamble over a sure thing, for no additional gain.

In future posts, I'll critique the strictly interpreted argument for the Manchurian Candidate. But before doing that, I should discuss some of those studies that compellingly show that a person who would never murder someone in their waking state, could and would do so in an hypnotic trance.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Grounded Walrus: The Siege and the Stress

I apologize for my scarcity lately, but I have had increasing difficulty in gaining cybertime and access. Rest assured, however, that I have no intention of leaving the blogosphere anytime soon, and that I will visit your pages as time permits. Update 10/10/10.

US Intelligence stepped up surveillance against John Lennon in 1972, when his association with Rennie Davis and other leftist activists intensified. The FBI, in particular, noted with some concern the amount of money ($75,000) Lennon donated to the Election Year Strategy Information Center (EYSIC--formerly known as the Allamuchy Tribe), an organization founded in large part by Rennie Davis. Davis, along with Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, had been convicted earlier on conspiracy charges stemming from the Chicago Seven protests at the 1968 Democratic Party convention.* Rumors persisted that Davis' EYSIC would engage in similar protests at the 1972 Republican Convention, originally to take place in San Diego, CA.**

President Richard Nixon, seeking reelection, worried in particular about the effect Lennon might have had on his bid to remain in the White House. The 1972 election would be the first in which eighteen-year-olds would exercise the right to vote, and such a charismatic figure as Lennon might have swayed them away from the GOP. Senator Strom Thurmond, a Republican ally from South Carolina, also worried about the effect Lennon might have had in 1972, and personally suggested to Nixon that they prod the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to find a way to deport the ex-Beatle back to England. The misdemeanor drug charge Lennon pleaded guilty to in 1968 might have been enough to declare him an undesirable alien. The FBI subsequently emphasized Lennon's drug usage in communications with INS, the CIA, and local police forces.

Lennon, meanwhile, had applied for a B-2 visa in an attempt to become a US citizen. He planned on touring in support of EYSIC, but now faced a serious battle to remain in New York. The tour never materialized.

Also in 1972, Yoko Ono became heavily involved with the Rainbow People's Party (RRP), which included Rubin, Hoffman, John Sinclair and the other usual suspects. The RRP, which Lennon also supported, threw its support behind the Democratic Party nominee, Senator George McGovern. The FBI followed this development closely, including in their Lennon file a column penned by journalist Lowell Young, which sought to tarnish McGovern by association.

Humorist and subversive journalist Paul Krassner met Ono in 1964, when he purchased some of her art. He later befriended Lennon when John and Yoko became an item. In 1972, Lennon told Krassner that should he and Ono die in an automobile accident, or if they both died suddenly in some other way, that he should assume that someone murdered him. By someone, he meant, of course, the US Government. He had apparently been receiving death threats.

Lennon faced a number of other problems, in 1972. In addition to harassing surveillance, which literally included agents in plain sight around his house, obvious telephone surveillance, death threats, personal foibles and political concerns, he and Ono faced a nightmarish personal problem: the kidnapping of Yoko's daughter Kyoko by her ex-husband, Tony Cox. FBI agents monitoring Lennon cynically suggested that Lennon paid Cox to kidnap his stepdaughter so that he would have an excuse to stay in the US. The FBI seized upon the chance this might be true, thus giving them a reason to arrest and deport Lennon for good. An FBI teletype dated May 23, 1972 stated:

LENNONS USING DELAY TACTICS IN DEPORTATION OF ATTEMPTING TO LOCATE YOKO ONO'S CHILD KYOKO COX WHO WAS REPORTED ABDUCTED BY NATURAL FATHER ANTHONY DAVID COX. HOUSTON COURT HAS AWARDED CUSTODY OF CHILD TO LENNONS. NO PROCESS OUT ON COX. NYD IN RECEIPT OF INFORMATION THIS DATE THAT LENNONS HAVE HIDDEN CHILD AT RESIDENCE OF [redacted] IN ATTEMTPS [sic] TO DELAY DEPORTATION.

INS HAS ADVISED THAT THEY WILL FILE PERJURY CHARGES AGAINST LENNONS IF ESTABLISHED LENNON FURNISHED FALSE INFORMATION DURING INS HEARING. [caps and punctuation original]
History would prove that Lennon and Ono had nothing to do with Cox's kidnapping. First of all, the Lennons' search began immediately in 1971, before the pressure from INS. Second, John and Yoko spent considerable money looking for her. And as it turns out, Cox had gotten involved with a Christian cult known as The Walk, through which he carefully hid Kyoko's whereabouts for over twenty years.*** Kyoko eventually contacted Ono on her own, finally reuniting with her and Sean in 2001.

Figure 1. Kyoko Cox with Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon


Curiously, the FBI thought it worthy of their attention to chronicle, in their files, the harassment of both Lennon and Bob Dylan by a guy named Alan Julius Webberman. Originally, Webberman had made a habit of trying to confront Dylan when the latter walked about Greenwich Village, and wrote little nasty notes to the editors of the Village Voice and other local papers about him. I guess nowadays, you might call him a celebrity stalker, but back then the famous weren't quite as isolated from the general population as they are now. Webberman's venom eventually turned to Lennon. Lennon and Dylan were planning a series of peace concerts (as the FBI also noted in 1972).

The FBI provides absolutely no context for this development--no explanatory memos or letters. Whether or not they or CIA had anything to do with Webberman, it's clear that he provided Lennon with one additional source of stress. And Lennon consciously realized that the stress had gotten to him. As he explained to his friend and biographer, Anthony Fawcett:

In 1972, it was really gettin' to me. Not only was I physically having to appear in court cases, it just seemed like a toothache that wouldn't go away. There was a period where I just couldn't function, you know. I was so paranoid from them tappin' the phone and followin' me.

Not surprisingly given the external stress and their own strong personalities, Lennon and Ono's marriage began to derail. While recording the album Mind Games in 1973, Ono asked Lennon to leave their apartment, perhaps for good. She asked her assistant, May Pang (left), to serve as his secretary and mistress until she made a decision on whether or not to take him back. While Lennon publicly described the ensuing eighteen-month separation from Ono as "The Lost Weekend," there are conflicting reports as to his state of mind, the nature of his relationship to Pang, and the nature of his reconciliation with Ono. Ono has since said that Lennon practically begged for her to take him back while backstage of an Elton John concert. Other sources, however, have said that Pang kinda shined in her role as an ersatz Yoko, and that Lennon wasn't exactly dying for home cooking.

Whatever the case, we have to see the estrangement as an additional source of stress for both Ono and Lennon. In retrospect, Mae Brussell--introduced to the Lennons by mutual friend Paul Krassner--saw more in these stressors than simple bad luck and synchronicity. She felt that US Intel might have created the tension in Lennon's life, so that he would either move away from the US, or do something to damage his credibility among the very people over whom he might have wielded some political influence.

Undoubtedly, the surveillance came from the government. It was not only obvious, but the FBI didn't even bother to hide the fact in later years, which it often does. Lennon's declassified FBI file is pretty thick, and the bulk of it documents his life from 1971-1976. Moreover, the FBI also talks about the information it got from electronic espionage, and tacitly conceded that most of the espionage was illegal. In a memo to FBI Director Clarence Kelley dated September 18, 1973, Assistant Attorney General Henry Petersen requested information from both legal and illegal surveillance, purposefully distinguishing between the two:

Would you please supply us with electronic surveillance information pertaining to the individual named on the attached list [i.e., Lennon], following the form set forth in our memorandum to you dated April 16, 1969. In addition, should your files reveal that the individual or the premises in which he had a proprietary interest were subjected to electronic surveillance, we would appreciate your furnishing Mr. Robert P. Weidner, Government Regulations Section, Criminal Division, with the following:
The Bureau lists a number of items, among them logs of conversation Lennon had, either privately at his home or on the phone, summaries of those logs, and memos indicating leads gained from electronic surveillance. Presumably, the Justice Department wanted to investigate the FBI to see if it violated any rules in its monitoring of Lennon. However, those charged with holding the Bureau to regulations didn't seem particularly concerned about the legality of these activities. They obviously saw them as illegal, as one can see from another paragraph in this memo:

It is also requested that you advise us whether the individual has been subjected to any lawful electronic surveillance, including such surveillance where one of the parties might have consented to the surveillance....
It would be next to impossible to determine if other sources of stress and harassment might have originated from a government source. I doubt that the FBI orchestrated Cox's kidnapping of Kyoko. Yet, it is odd that the FBI seems particularly interested in A.J. Webberman. Might they have regarded him as a CIA asset? Might they have known him as an informant? Could either the Bureau or the Agency have had some involvement to interfere with Ono and Lennon's marriage? Little suggests this, but the FBI certainly engaged in identical behavior during the 1960s via its COINTELPRO.

Could government sources be behind the attempt to deport him? Undoubtedly. That's pretty clear from Sen. Thurmond's advice to Nixon. Moreover, the FBI assisted the INS in its efforts to deport Lennon on the grounds of his conviction on a misdemeanor marijuana conviction back in 1968--despite the fact that most British citizens weren't denied B-2 visas for this and similar offenses.
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*Specifically, Davis and four others were convicted of conspiring to violate a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the crossing of state lines to incite a riot.

**The Republican National Committee moved the 1972 Convention to Miami, FL for myriad reasons, among them security issues and the possible appearance of improper influence from an International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) lobbyist.

***See comments on this post made by Bluejay Young and someone close to The Walk for more details and context on this movement.

To read earlier posts in this series, click here.

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