The Monkees weren’t the poster child of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the late 1960s, but the pop-rock band was still the subject of an FBI file. In it, an agent reported seeing “subliminal messages” on screens at one of his concerts, including racial-equality protests and “messages on the US war in Vietnam.”
That massive 1967 file was declassified almost a decade ago. But now, the last surviving member of the American rock group Mickey Dolenz wants to know more. On Tuesday, 77-year-old Dolenz sued the Justice Department for releasing FBI information collected on the band and its members from that time period.
“If the documents still exist, I sincerely hope we learn more about what prompted the FBI to target the Monkees or those around them,” said Mark Zaid, the attorney representing Dolenz. told The Washington Post.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post about Dolenz’s lawsuit, which was first reported by Rolling Stone.
The Monkees were put together in 1966 by television producers for a sitcom that lasted two seasons. Their style largely imitated British-invasion bands, liking the Beatles, and the Monkees produced several hits including “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville”. The band broke up in 1970.
In the 1960s, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI infamously surveyed and persecuted civil rights and counterculture figures, as revealed by The Post and other news outlets at the time. That surveillance sometimes focused on pop-culture icons who spoke out against the Vietnam War, such as John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.
The monkeys were also caught under the supervision of the government. In a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Dolenz said that his band’s 1966 hit “Last Train to Clarksville” was an anti-war song about a man walking to an army base and He did not know when he would return to his girlfriend. But what really caught the FBI’s attention about the band—what the agent called “left-wing” images during a 1967 concert—is unclear.
Most of the seven-page memo issued by the agency has been redacted, though Zaid told The Post that it is possible that other files exist that are shown on the declassified document.
“It is very clear that there are other linked files,” he said. “Now, this may not be directly on the Monkees — it may be peripheral — but these files are linked to other files.”
It was Zaid who suggested that Dolenz, whom he had met through a mutual friend in April, demand more information about his band’s FBI files, he told The Post. The Washington-based attorney has represented government whistleblowers, including the one who filed the complaint that ultimately closed the first impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
But the 55-year-old lawyer has a personal interest in the Monkeys case. When he was a kid, his babysitter from across the street gave him all of his Monkees albums, and when the band went on their reunion tour in 1986, Zaid was there. He watched them live about eight times, he told The Post.
“I mean, literally, it’s fun for me,” Zaid, who is working on the free case, said of the FBI files suit.
With Zaid’s help, Dolenz filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents with the FBI in June. According to the lawsuit, he requested the agency to review the revised document and provide other possible files relating to the band and its members.
The government has 20 business days to respond to FOIA requests, except in “unusual circumstances.” The lawsuit states that Dolenz has so far only received acknowledgment of her requests.
“Whatever the FBI was doing, any window could lead to the opening of another window,” Zaid said. “That’s the beauty of getting access to these types of files — because there are so few nuggets and pieces within them that can lead to a bigger picture in understanding what was going on within the FBI at the time.