Reports that the FBI (search) monitored John Kerry's anti-war activities in the early 1970s are both "a badge of honor" and a troubling example of government intrusion into peaceful and legitimate protest, a Kerry spokesman said Monday.
"Revealed in page after page of FBI reports is the portrait of John Kerry at age 27 speaking with courage and conviction, leading veterans to Washington for peaceful protests, advocating nonviolent protests and moderation," spokesman David Wade said.
The Los Angeles Times, in a story published Monday, cited FBI documents indicating the agency spent a year monitoring the activities of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War (search). After returning from Vietnam, Kerry became a leader of that group, thus coming under the FBI scrutiny.
Wade noted that the FBI concluded Kerry was simply a peaceful and legitimate protester, but he said reports of the clandestine surveillance of the group brought home the troubling divisions the war created for the country.
"That the Hoover FBI and the Nixon White House paid such attention to John Kerry is both a badge of honor and a reminder of that difficult pre-Watergate era in our country," Wade said.
Kerry, a Navy officer, commanded a swift boat in Vietnam and won a series of decorations, including three Purple Hearts.
Wade said Kerry returned "with a deep sense of moral responsibility to end the war" and understood at the time he was fighting against entrenched powers.
"He knew it wouldn't be easy," Wade said. "The Nixon White House set out to destroy him because he was a credible voice speaking up for veterans. Now we learn that J. Edgar Hoover's (search) FBI was following his every move."
Although Kerry was a leader of the VVAW, he eventually left it after concluding that the most effective way to oppose the war was to run for public office, Wade said.
Kerry was vacationing Monday in Sun Valley and had no public events scheduled.