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Historian: Kerry FBI files stolen

From Phil Hirschkorn

A decorated veteran, John Kerry became a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
John F. Kerry
Richard Milhous Nixon

(CNN) -- FBI documents about FBI surveillance of John Kerry in the early 1970s have been stolen, according to their owner, a historian who lives near San Francisco, California.

Gerald Nicosia, who spent more than a decade collecting the information, said three of 14 boxes of documents plus a number of loose folders containing hundreds of pages were stolen from his home Thursday afternoon.

Nicosia reported the theft Friday to the Twin Cities Police Department, which covers Larkspur and Corte Madera in Marin County, where he lives. The police report found no sign of forced entry.

"It was a very clean burglary. They didn't break any glass. They didn't take anything like cameras sitting by. It was a very professional job," Nicosia said.

"Was it a thrill-seeker who wanted a piece of history? It could be," Nicosia said. "You'd think there was a very strong political motivation for taking those files. The odds are in favor of that."

Nicosia, author of "Home At War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans Movement," had obtained about 20,000 pages of FBI documents through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The documents center on FBI surveillance of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), which Kerry represented as national spokesman. In April 1971, the decorated veteran testified in televised hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and led a large protest of veterans in the capital.

Nicosia estimated that 20 percent of his documents are missing.

"It's heartbreaking, after 11 years trying to get them," he said.

Kerry's antiwar efforts drew the attention of President Nixon, as revealed in recordings of White House conversations obtained by CNN from the National Archives, and of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, as the documents revealed.

"I hadn't gotten a chance to review them all. I am sure there were some things about John Kerry that weren't known," Nicosia said. "These files would also cast a bad light on the ... Republican Party. This surveillance happened under the Nixon White House and Nixon FBI."

Nicosia showed about 50 pages of the documents to CNN last week.

The FBI followed Kerry as he traveled the country, speaking out against the war and raising money for the cause. Kerry, a Navy lieutenant, was honorably discharged upon his return from Vietnam with three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

Kerry, who obtained his personal FBI files years ago, knew of the surveillance, but the VVAW files obtained by Nicosia detail more extensive surveillance than the senator from Massachusetts might have realized.

"It is almost surreal to learn the extent to which I was followed by the FBI," Kerry said in a written statement earlier this week. "The experience of having been spied on for the act of engaging in peaceful patriotic protest makes you respect civil rights and the Constitution even more."

Kerry was seen as a tactical "conservative" among the antiwar veterans, the FBI documents say. The 27-year-old typically opposed demonstrations that would lead to arrests.

"A review of the subject's file reveals nothing whatsoever to link the subject with any violent type activity," said a May 1972 FBI memo about Kerry provided by his campaign.

The memo recommended that the surveillance end because Kerry had quit VVAW and was launching a political career.

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