The last surviving member of The Monkees is suing the FBI for full access to the agency’s file on the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band.
George Michael Dolenz, Jr., better known by his stage name, Micky Dolenz, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday.
The litigation comes over a decade after the FBI’s partial file on the band was released and posted on the agency’s website in 2011.
“The television show “‘The Monkees’ is,” the popular group’s file reads before a section of redacted text in the document dated July 26, 1967.
The Los Angeles-based rock band’s file appears to be contained in a broader case file regarding the “Radio-TV Industry” in “the Hollywood area” based on an informant’s impressions. The information on The Monkees is specifically slotted under the title: “Additional Activities Denouncing the U.S. Policy in the War in Vietnam.”
“This series, which has been quite successful, features four young men who dress as ‘beatnik types’ and is geared primarily to the teenage market,” the file says. “During recent weeks, the four stars of the show have been making public appearance tours throughout the U.S.”
Several additional redactions follow 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.
The remainder of the file is blacked out by government censors.
Dolenz filed a FOIA request in early June of this year. In that request, 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.”
Now, as is common in FOIA efforts, the information-seeker is seeking recourse for the agency’s delay, through the courts.
“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),” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Dolenz has exhausted all necessary required administrative remedies with respect to his FOIA/PA request.”
Similar such redacted files have been released by the FBI in recent years, proving long-assumed surveillance of political out-groups.
“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,” famous whistleblower and FOIA attorney Mark Zaid told Law&Crime in an email. “The FBI was actively monitoring war dissenters, perceived radicals and anyone counter to J. Edgar Hoover‘s cultural beliefs, and that included the Monkees!”
The lawsuit notes other pop icons once under the FBI’s watchful eye:
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.
The Monkees, sold some 75 “million records worldwide” and are one of the “biggest-selling groups of all time with numerous international hits,” the lawsuit notes. At least one of those hits, “Last Train to Clarksville,” was sung from the perspective of soldier going off to fight in the Vietnam War. Another lesser-known tune, “Ditty Diego (War Chant)” contained anti-war messaging as well as self-deprecatory lines about pop stardom and consumerism.
As Rolling Stone originally reported, Zaid and Dolenz have mutual friends, which recently led to two meeting up and the attorney suggesting filing the FOIA request and the concomitant litigation.
“We’re going to make sure the FBI doesn’t think we’re its ‘Stepping Stone,'” Zaid added. “Instead, we’ll leave no stones unturned!”
[featured image: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images; inline image via Mark Zaid with permission]
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