Washington The FBI considered John Kerry a "glib, cool" spokesman for Vietnam war protesters when he was attached to an anti-war veterans group, but the bureau focused on more radical elements of the organization during an investigation spanning four years, documents show.
In more than 9,000 pages from the early 1970s, the FBI is seen tracking the protests, manifestos and myriad activities of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and concluding that the group took a more extreme turn in the years after Kerry, now the Democratic presidential candidate, quit it.
FBI files on the organization were released Wednesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press and other news organizations.
Kerry is accused in the file of little more than charisma.
An FBI summary of the anti-war protests he helped organize in April 1971 says Kerry, a decorated war hero, "overshadowed" many of the organization's other leaders and was "a more popular and eloquent figure" than the rest.
"Kerry was glib, cool, and displayed just what the moderate elements wanted to reflect," the summary says.
Although the FBI was watching Kerry and the other protesters earlier in 1971, it placed the group under active investigation in August of that year following reports from many field offices that members were "engaging in illegal and subversive activities," an FBI memo says. Kerry left the group before the end of 1971 and was not implicated in violent activities or conspiracies attributed to other members in the file.
That memo, which does not mention Kerry, says that in 1972, the group "moved toward increased militant and revolutionary-type activities in addition to continued cooperation with communist-dominated groups and foreign elements hostile to the U.S."
By then, Kerry had moved on to an ill-fated run for a seat in Congress.
The FBI memo -- the names of the sender and recipient are blacked out -- asserts that the investigation of the group was never directed or influenced by the Nixon White House. This, despite known efforts by Nixon's aides to discredit Kerry.
Campaigning Wednesday in Los Angeles, Kerry welcomed the release of the records.
"I think it's great," he said. "I'm very proud of my efforts to end the war. I welcome anybody's perusal of them. I'm proud that I stood up to Richard Nixon. And you know, I personally have also requested those documents. So I'm happy to have them out there. It's terrific."
Kerry is mentioned only sporadically in the file, most of which covers the group's activities from 1972 to 1975.
In one document, the FBI notes that Kerry spoke at the University of Pittsburgh on Nov. 3, 1971. "The essence of Kerry's speech was to condemn those who did not get involved in social change," the FBI memo says. "He urged those present to make a conscientious commitment to end the war."