Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Phil Ochs' 429-Page FBI File

In his book Death Of A Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs, Marc Eliot described what happened at the Chicago 8 trial when Ochs arrived to testify in Dec. 1969:

“…After a brief series of questions to establish that Phil was a singer by profession, Kunstler began to weave Phil into the pattern of the defense:

KUNSTLER: Now Mr. Ochs, can you indicate what kind of songs you sing?

OCHS: I write all my own songs and they are just simple melodies with a lot of lyrics. They usually have to do with current events and what is going on in the news, which goes back to journalism, and you can call them topical songs, songs about the news and then developing into more philosophical songs later…

KUNSTLER: Now did there come a time when there was any discussion of Yippie plans with reference to the convention, the Democratic National Convention?

OCHS: Yes, there were. I don’t remember the exact date because there were several meetings, probably, Jan. or Feb. of 1968…

KUNSTLER: Where did these discussions take place?

OCHS: The Lower East Side, different apartments, sometimes Jerry’s apartment and sometimes Abbie’s apartment…

KUNSTLER: Can you indicate in general to the court and jury what the plans were for Yippies in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention?...

OCHS…What Jerry Rubin said to me was that he planned to have a Festival of Life in Chicago during the Democratic Convention, basically representing an alternative culture on the assumption that they felt the Democratic Party did not represent them or a whole large mass of the American public. They wanted to have, therefore, an alternate convention. They would theatrically sort of spoof the Convention and show the public, the media, that the Convention was not to be taken seriously because it wasn’t fair, and wasn’t going to be honest, and wasn’t going to be a Democratic Convention, and so they would have essentially events they hoped to do in Lincoln Park. They hoped to get permits. They discussed flying to Chicago to talk with Mayor Daley or people working with Mayor Daley. They several times mentioned they wanted to avoid any violence…”
(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 4/10/96)

Coincidentally, until his suicide on April 9, 1976, the FBI showed a special interest in investigating Phil Ochs. As The Politics of Rock Music by John Orman recalled in 1984:

“The quintessential ‘60s person not only had a cult following of politicos, folk junkies, protest fans, and movement freaks but also had a `following’ in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, it is clear that the FBI kept a domestic file on Ochs from 1963 until his suicide. As Ochs always said, `They [the government] have files on me this thick,’ and then he would laugh. He was absolutely correct. The FBI has released over 400 pages from the Phil Ochs file, and it is clear from the documents that the FBI spent an extraordinary amount of time following, checking up on, and detailing the activities of Phil Ochs…

“Agents checked Selective Service, insurance companies, the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 in New York, neighbors at 139 Thompson Street in New York City, the Credit Bureau of Greater New York, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Special Services (Red Squad), Board of Elections—Manhattan, and other sources…The FBI then checked with an acquaintance of Ochs who resided in Greenwich Village who was a folksinger and guitarist. This person was also the subject of an FBI New York file…

“The Los Angeles FBI office investigated Ochs from Aug. 31 to Dec. 12, 1968, and forwarded data to the New York office…

“…Ochs…refused to be interrogated by FBI agents on Oct. 1, 1968…

“…He was busted for possession of marijuana on Oct. 5, 1968 by the Los Angeles police department’…

“In 1973 the Agency added Ochs’ phone number to their computerized telephone file…”


(Downtown 4/13/94)

Next: Hillary Clinton’s Blind Trust Revisited Again