FBI gets sued again, this time by last remaining member of iconic rock band

The FBI is being sued by the last surviving member of legendary rock band, The Monkees, for full access to the agency’s file on the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by George Michael Dolenz, Jr., better known by his stage name, Micky Dolenz.

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Over a decade was needed for this litigation to come after the FBI’s partial file on the band was released and posted on the agency’s website in 2011. In the document dated July 26, 1967, “The television show “‘The Monkees’ is,” the popular group’s file reads before a section of redacted text, said Law & Crime. It appears that the Los Angeles-based rock band’s file is contained in a broader case file regarding the “Radio-TV Industry” in “the Hollywood area” based on an informant’s impressions. The Monkee’s information is specifically slotted under the title: “Additional Activities Denouncing the U.S. Policy in the War in Vietnam.”

The file says: “This series, which has been quite successful, features four young men who dress as ‘beatnik types’ and is geared primarily to the teenage market. During recent weeks, the four stars of the show have been making public appearance tours throughout the U.S.”

There are several additional redactions before the publicly-available information picks back up again: “that “The Monkees” concert was using a device in the form of a screen set up behind the performers who played certain instruments and sang as a “combo”. During the concert, subliminal messages were depicted on the screen which, in the opinion of [redacted] constituted “left-wing innovations of a political nature.” These messages and pictures were flashed of riots, in Berkley, anti-U.S. messages on the war in Vietnam, racial riots in Selma, Alabama, and similar messages which had unfavorable response [sic] from the audience.”

But the government censors make sure that the remainder of the file is blacked out. In early June of this year, Dolenz filed a FOIA request in which the FBI “was provided with relevant search times to apply (as a starting, not ending, point), and was specifically directed to process all redacted information within the seven pages of records posted to its website, as well as tasked to search” additional “files/systems as potentially containing responsive records,” according to the lawsuit.

“The FBI electronically acknowledged receipt the same day as the submission and then by letter dated June 23, 2022,” the lawsuit goes on. The request was assigned reference number 1550135-000. No further responses have been received from the FBI.” The lawsuit says: “This lawsuit is designed to obtain any records the FBI created and/or possesses on the Monkees as well as its individual members (with all records concerning the deceased members processed pursuant to FOIA and with respect to Mr. Dolenz under both [the Privacy Act] and FOIA). Mr. Dolenz has exhausted all necessary required administrative remedies with respect to his FOIA/PA request.”

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Famous whistleblower and FOIA attorney Mark Zaid told Law&Crime in an email: “Most people might not think a lawsuit concerning the 60s rock band The Monkees would reveal what our government was up to, but this litigation actually demonstrates the intended power of FOIA. The FBI was actively monitoring war dissenters, perceived radicals and anyone counter to J. Edgar Hoover‘s cultural beliefs, and that included the Monkees!”

Other pop icons once under the FBI’s watchful eye are also noted in the lawsuit: “The individual members of the Monkees, both in their own right and as a group, were known to have associated with other musicians and individuals whose activities were monitored and/or investigated by the FBI to include, but not limited to: John Winston Lennon (and the three other Beatles as well) and Jimi Hendrix.”

Photo: Nightscream, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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