As the trials of men arrested over the Bundy Ranch siege begins in Nevada, it's coming out now that the FBI used agents posing as a "fake film company" to obtain evidence to be used against them in court. However, that is quickly becoming an ethics scandal which may demonstrate just how corrupt the bureau has become and may hurt their case against the Bundys and their supporters, who are also being held as political prisoners.
The Guardian reports:
FBI agents posed as journalists and tricked the Bundy ranching family and their supporters into giving on-camera interviews that prosecutors may use in upcoming trials, according to defense attorneys and court records.
The FBI’s “fake film production company” and “wide-reaching deceptive undercover operation”, as lawyers described it in a court filing, is one of multiple controversies that some say could derail the government’s prosecution of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his four sons and a dozen of their followers. A recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ethics scandal involving tickets for the popular Burning Man festival could further hinder prosecutors in the high-profile trial, which began this week in Las Vegas federal court.
Attorneys for Cliven and defendant Gregory Burleson have alleged that the FBI created a bogus film company called Longbow Productions, tricking many defendants into making “boastful, false and potentially incriminating statements” in interviews. Masquerading as journalists, agents paid defendants for their testimony, and in Burleson’s case, gave him alcohol with the intent of extracting incriminating admissions, according to defense attorneys.
In one filing, prosecutors admitted that FBI agents “acting in an undercover capacity as independent documentary filmmakers” interviewed Burleson, though the full extent of the Longbow operation remains unclear.
Ammon Bundy's attorney, Daniel Hill said, “When the jury finds out this is a tactic they used, none of them will think it’s okay. It shows the lows the government was willing to go to.”
This kind of tactic was used in Oregon and didn't turn out too well for the prosecutors in that case either. According to one juror, hearing about paid FBI informants did not help the government's case against the Bundys there nor the other prisoners who were acquitted or had their charges dismissed.
“The jury did not like hearing there were undercover agents,” said Lisa Bundy, Ammon’s wife. “They’re using yours and my tax dollars to hurt other Americans.”
“The government is going to an extreme when they claim to be the free press and are trying to manipulate you to say things," said Bret Whipple, Cliven Bundy's attorney.
Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, added that it has a serious effect on reporting if people believe that a reporter could be an informant or agent of the government.
“If you think every reporter you meet could be an agent of law enforcement, it really has an immediate impact on any journalist coming to try and cover that story," he said.
This is nothing new. In October 2016, I reported on the fact that FBI agents were impersonating journalists, and not journalists from a made up film company. No, they were impersonating the Associated Press, and they were doing so without their knowledge. This is criminal behavior.
In a report released in September 2016, the Inspector General wrote:
Over the course of 1 week in June 2007, a 15-year old high school student emailed a series of bomb threats to administrators and staff at Timberline High School, near Seattle, Washington. The threats caused daily school evacuations. The individual used "proxy servers" to e-mail the bomb threats in order to hide his location. When local law enforcement officials were unable to identify or locate the individual, they requested assistance from a cybercrime task force supervised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Seattle Field Division.
FBI agents on the task force, working with FBI technology and behavioral experts at Headquarters (FBIHQ), developed a plan to surreptitiously insert a computer program into the individual's computer that would identify his location. An FBI undercover agent posed as an editor for the Associated Press (AP) and attempted to contact the individual through e-mail. During subsequent online communications, the undercover agent sent the individual links to a fake news article and photographs that had the computer program concealed within them. The individual activated the computer program when he clicked on the link to the photographs, thereby revealing his location to the FBI. FBI and local law enforcement agents subsequently arrested the individual and he confessed to emailing the bomb threats.
The FBI did not publicize the assistance its agents provided local law enforcement. However, on July 18, 2007, 2 days after the individual pleaded guilty, an online technology news website published an article that detailed the method by which the FBI identified the individual. Seven years later, in October 2014, The Seattle Times published an article that disclosed the fact that an FBI employee posed as a member of the news media when it contacted and then identified the subject as the author of the bomb threats. Later that same month the AP sent a letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder protesting the FBI's impersonation of a member of the news media in connection with the FBI's investigation of the bomb threats. In addition, several newspapers wrote articles questioning the tactics the FBI used to identify and arrest the subject who sent the threats.
"The Associated Press is deeply disappointed by the Inspector General's findings, which effectively condone the FBI's impersonation of an AP journalist in 2007," Associated Press Vice President Paul Colford said in a statement. "Such action compromises the ability of a free press to gather the news safely and effectively and raises serious constitutional concerns."
Now that we know that the government's key witness in the case, BLM agent Daniel P. Love, has been found guilty of misconduct in a report by the Inspector General and we have questionable ethics used by the FBI, does anyone actually think the government has any intention on giving these men a fair trial?
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