On Monday, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain documents related to the FBI’s impersonation of the press as documentary filmmakers to infiltrate Cliven Bundy’s ranch in 2014.
The FBI admitted that they deceived Bundy and his supporters by sending in undercover agents into Nevada in 2014 in an attempt to gain information.
The Washington Times reports:
Footage shot for the fake documentary was later used by the government during criminal trials of some of those involved in the standoff.
The reporter’s committee sought through Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain FBI records regarding the bogus film crew as well as any records on the bureau’s use of the tactic dating back to 2010. The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes after the committee said the FBI has failed to act on the FOIA requests.
FBI agents pretended to work for a bogus film company, Longbow Productions, to gain access to and interview Mr. Bundy and others who aided him during the standoff. The agents created a website, business cards and other credentials to make Longbow Productions look like an authentic company.
“The FBI’s impersonation of journalists and documentary filmmakers undermines the credibility and independence of those who are trying to report on matters of importance to the public,” said Katie Townsend, litigation director for the committee.
“The public deserves to know more about the FBI’s use of this tactic, and has a right to this information under the law, but the FBI seems determined to evade disclosure,” she added. “We’re asking the court to step in and compel the agency to release these records.”
Two men were convicted on a few of the charges against them in the Bundy Ranch case earlier this year. Gregory Burleson was caught in some of the FBI’s footage claiming, “I was hell bent on killing federal agents that had turned their back on we the people.”
As far as I know, that is the only statement towards any sort of violence at Bundy Ranch by anyone. Everyone came to support the Bundys and help defend them if necessary.
In February, 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.
In October 2016, I reported that the Inspector General discovered that the FBI had not only been impersonating journalists, but had posed as an Associated Press editor without the AP’s permission.
At that time, the Inspector General wrote:
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.
While then Director James Comey declared that their deceptive tactics were “lawful and, in a rare case, appropriate,” the AP begged to differ.
“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.”
Don’t forget James Comey’s corrupt $6 million deal with a Clinton Foundation Defense Contractor and tampering with Clinton evidence.
Are we sure that the FBI should be in the business of impersonating journalists? I think not and I believe every document on this should be seen by the public, as well as the AP should be suing the FBI for using their brand without permission.
The four men who were not convicted in the first round of the Bundy Ranch case are now in their second trial, and things are still not looking good for the government who have done all they can to keep the defense from defending their clients.