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TV Eye

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Published 6/13/2007

According to the old counterculture adage, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you. Take the case of John Lennon: While he was somewhat aware that the government was interested in him in the late '60s and early '70s, it was only after his murder that it became clear just how much of a threat the Nixon administration considered him.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon details the political shenanigans driving Lennon's immigration troubles during that period. Michigan plays a large role in the story. Lennon's outrage over White Panther leader John Sinclair's infamous 10-years-for-two-joints conviction helped radicalize him. There's plenty of local interest, with a recent interview with Sinclair and footage from Steve Gebhardt's concert film of the Crisler Arena rally where Lennon shared a stage with Bob Seger, Stevie Wonder and others. (It's a crime that that film has never been commercially released.)

The DVD draws from archival footage and new interviews — from radicals like Sinclair, Angela Davis and Bobby Seale to Nixon administration officials like G. Gordon Liddy and John Dean to media figures like Walter Cronkite, Geraldo Rivera and Carl Bernstein. What's most chilling is that, even with this balanced cast of characters, Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover's persecution of Lennon comes off as completely indefensible. It's a cautionary tale that has increased relevance in these post-Patriot Act days. —Brian J. Bowe

Brian J. Bowe is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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