The L.A. Times Magazine has posted this Sunday's cover story on the John Kerry FBI files by Gerald Nicosia, the author of Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement. Nicosia is the researcher who waited 11 years for the FBI to begin releasing 20,000 pages on the surveillance of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. They remained mostly unread until this year when Kerry emerged as the Democratic candidate for president, according to an "About This Story" sidebar. The main piece begins:
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. Another image that stood out was of a ruggedly handsome young Navy veteran with a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Vietnam War was an abomination, continued for the vanity of politicians while taking American and Southeast Asian lives for no good reason. That speech made Kerry a national figure, and he began speaking around the country. The FBI documents reveal that he earned as much as $1,200 plus expenses for a single appearance—a substantial amount in 1971.
Long before the era of PCs, the Internet and digital text, Kerry's comments would have been lost to posterity had not the FBI been recording them—sometimes with a tape recorder, sometimes in notes and sometimes by pulling newspaper clippings. The Kerry who emerges from those files is a man far 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."
It's 7,800 words long for the Kerry obsessed on both sides to pore over looking for news, insight and opposition research ammunition.