Newly Revealed FBI Files On Kerry

John Kerry testifies before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington D.C., 4-22-71
AP (file)
John Kerry knew, given his high profile anti-war activities during the Vietnam War, that he was watched by the FBI, which under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover kept a long list of people under surveillance - including the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.

What Kerry didn't know was just how much the FBI had its government eyes trained on him and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the protest group Kerry helped lead.

The Los Angeles Times reports FBI files just now coming to public light show Kerry was watched closely by the FBI in 1971 and 1972: following him everywhere he went, recording his speeches, and taking pictures of the future politician and others involved in the VVAW.

The FBI agents' observations of Kerry were reportedly sent to both President Richard M. Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, whose reign as Director of the FBI lasted for nearly 50 years until his death on May 2, 1972.

According to files obtained by the L.A. Times, it was 22 days later that the FBI decided to abandon its surveillance of Kerry - who had just begun to take the first steps toward a career in politics.

"It should be noted that a review of the subject's file reveals nothing whatsoever to link subject with any violent type activity," says an FBI memo from May 24, 1972. "Thus, considering the subject's apparently legitimate involvement in politics, it is recommended that no further investigation be conducted regarding subject until such time as it is warranted."

Kerry's office is reportedly the one making public the FBI's final memo, after receiving it with 49 pages of other FBI files that were obtained by author Gerald Nicosia while working on his book "Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement."

Nicosia says it took the government 11 years to respond to his 1988 Freedom of Information request, and 14 boxes of files - which arrived too late to be studied closely for his book, published two years ago - have been sitting unread in his office.

Selected files from those boxes - which were first given to the L.A. Times - were a surprise to Kerry, who 17 years ago, armed with the clout of being a senator from Massachusetts, had the FBI turn over what he thought then was its file on him.

Much of what is in the newly revealed files reportedly wasn't in the folder turned over to Kerry at that time.

"I'm surprised by extent of it," says the Democratic presidential candidate, in an interview with the L.A. Times. "I'm offended by the intrusiveness of it. And I'm disturbed that it was all conducted absent of some showing of any legitimate probable cause. It's an offense to the Constitution. It's out of order."

He and peace activists who worked with him at the VVAW do however remember always feeling that they were under surveillance.

"I remember coming out of a meeting and seeing one of their unmarked cruisers sitting there. Somebody had left a firearm on the seat, as a form of intimidation," Kerry told the newspaper. "In Washington, when I walked the streets ... I knew there were surveillance cars. But never to the depth I know about now."