AP file
Former Beatle John Lennon performs at New York's Madison Square Garden, in this Aug. 30, 1972, file photo. (AP Photo/FILE)
updated 9/22/2005 2:22:44 PM ET 2005-09-22T18:22:44

Was John Lennon threatening to disrupt the Republican National Convention in 1972?  Did Marilyn Monroe associate with communists? Or did Mickey Mantle actually solicit prostitutes?

The FBI just released files gathered from undisclosed sources, questioning different celebrities.  The bureau kept track of a number of them in its high visibility memorandum files over the years, many of them full of scandal and innuendo.  In some cases, many of the allegations are untrue or were never investigated. 

Among those just released, John Lennon‘s FBI file warns the singer “could engage in disruptive activity surrounding the Republican National Convention in Miami in 1972.  That he appears to be radically oriented, but that he does not give the impression he‘s a true revolutionist, since he‘s constantly under the influence of narcotics.” 

Ronald Kessler, author of The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, joins MSNBC-TV's Dan Abrams to discuss the formerly secret documents and explains the significance.

DAN ABRAMS, ABRAMS REPORT HOST: All right, so Ronald, for you, are these files that you‘ve been wanting to see for a long time? 

RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR: No, frankly these are files that the FBI‘s been collecting forever under J.  Edgar Hoover and it was all for one purpose.  Information is power and this was the way that Hoover maintained his position as director for almost 50 years because first of all, he would collect these salacious tidbits and share them with presidents, with members of Congress. 

That would sort of ingratiate himself with them.  Then secondly, everybody was aware that these files existed. 

Even if they weren‘t, they perceived them to exist.  So that made everybody afraid of Hoover and the result was, nobody wanted to remove him. 

ABRAMS: All right, let‘s go through some of these.  Mickey Mantle admitting that he‘d shacked up with many girls in New York City, according to the file, but stated that he had never been caught.  A reliable FBI informant said Mantle had been entertained at a Washington, D.C. brothel in June ‘57, arranged by a gambler and bookie.  I mean how would someone like Hoover justify investigating Mickey Mantle? 

KESSLER: Well it was a different era and in many ways, Hoover was even more powerful than presidents.  Of course, the FBI had absolutely no business doing this.  The FBI is and was supposed to simply enforce criminal laws.  This was totally outside of what they were supposed to do.  It was total abuse, but yet everyone was aware of it and it worked. 

Sometimes Hoover would actually send a member, an agent to a member of Congress and say, by the way, we understand you were with this prostitute last night and there‘s this little incident.  And of course, we won‘t say anything about it.  That would put this congressman under Hoover‘s obligation.

ABRAMS: A lot of this related to the investigation of communism or communist ties.  What, they‘d get some call from someone who says oh Desi Arnaz, you know he‘s Cuban, you should investigate him.

KESSLER: Yes, a lot of it was just foolishness, hearsay, third-hand.  Hoover knew who the members of the communist party were because he did infiltrate the communist party and he did have the membership list, so he didn‘t need all this hearsay.  But it was anything that was different, you know whether they were against the war, whether they had long hair, whether they had a gay lifestyle or whether they actually were real communists..

And meanwhile, Hoover confused this political descent with real spying, so he didn‘t do a very good job of actually catching spies. 

ABRAMS: What about Albert Einstein?

KESSLER: Well exactly the same thing.  Anybody who was at all prominent, who was at all a celebrity, he would have something on and he would trade this information.

ABRAMS: A professional associate claimed Einstein had been swayed into agreeing bomb secrets should be shared with the Soviet Union.  Associate advised that he didn‘t believe Einstein was actually a communist, but that he was becoming old and was easily led by those younger men in whom he placed great faith.

These are just random calls.

KESSLER: This is pathetic.  It‘s pathetic.  You know, if Hoover wanted to really catch spies, and as I said, he wasn‘t very good at it.  He would start looking for the KGB officers at the Soviet embassy and he would start introducing double agents, which is what the FBI does today and does a very good job.  But this business of just taking dirt off the street was just ludicrous. 

ABRAMS: Any justification for investigating Marilyn Monroe?

KESSLER: Well the justification, again, was you know, he could pass the information along to some president.  He could let JFK know that he knew about his affair with Marilyn Monroe and thereby guarantee Hoover‘s position as FBI director for as long as he lived.  And that‘s exactly what happened.  

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.


Discussion comments