Spying on the patriot
Antiwar leader John Kerry was followed by the FBI during two Nevada appearances in the 1970s.

The revelation about the apparent Democratic presidential nominee came in a long report by Gerald Nicosia in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.

Nicosia described the contents of FBI files on Kerry that he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. He received about 20,000 pages, most of which he had not reviewed until Kerry became the Democratic frontrunner. However, his report may not cover all the information on Kerry in FBI files, since on March 26, he filed a police report on a burglary of his Marin County home in which the only thing taken was three of 14 boxes of Kerry files.

Nicosia began the Times piece, “Arguably the most telling piece of information in the FBI files on Sen. John F. Kerry is his speech at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Sept. 30, 1971. He was at the height of his success as a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a motley, grass-roots group of about 20,000 war veterans trying to bring an immediate end to the Vietnam war. Although the peace movement comprised hundreds of groups, this veterans’ organization caught the nation’s attention that year with a series of actions in Washington, D.C.

“Millions watched televised images of long-haired, angry veterans in fatigues, many bearing scars or missing limbs, throwing their medals over a wire-mesh fence at the Capitol … The Kerry who emerges from those files is a man less guarded than the candidate we know today—a man experiencing a visible conflict between head and heart. ‘My 10 years of political consciousness in America is very wrapped up in gravestones,’ he told the 200 students at the Las Vegas campus. ‘These are the gravestones of John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, the Kent State students, the men of Attica, and the other 53,000 brothers in Vietnam.’”

Nicosia is author of the widely praised Home To War, a history of the Vietnam veterans movement.

In the Times piece, Nicosia describes Kerry as a moderating force in the VVAW, steering it away from violence and even earning grudging praise from the FBI agents who filled out the reports. Kerry was also capable of harsh criticism of inequities in U.S. society. In a Reno appearance, Kerry said, “The United States has become a society based on whose ox is being gored.”

Nicosia’s report on the FBI files quickly shot around the Internet. It was posted on literary agent Lucianne Goldberg’s Web page. (Goldberg was a key figure in the Watergate and Lewinsky presidential scandals.) It also appeared on pages hosted by veterans on both sides of the Vietnam question and was discussed on message boards and Web logs.

The Times report also says Kerry raised $50,000 in a meeting with Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman, RFK aide Adam Walinsky, Abe Feinberg, and others. The money was raised to help low-income veterans travel to the Washington protests. Feinberg, a rabbi and author (Hanoi Diary, Sex and the Pulpit), who once recorded a song with John Lennon, was a familiar figure on the UNR campus until his death in Reno on Oct. 5, 1986.