Tuesday 24 March 2015
The government says Matt DeHart is an online child predator. He says that’s a ruse created because he discovered shocking CIA secrets and claims he was tortured by federal agents. The only thing that’s clear is that he’s in deep trouble.
On the evening of April 3, 2013, a battered blue pickup truck slowly crossed a bridge from International Falls, Minnesota, to the border station at Fort Frances, Ontario. The family inside — a clean-cut middle-aged couple and their dark-haired 28-year-old son — looked like any other vacationers heading north. The father handed over their IDs to the border guards. “We need the protection of the Canadian government under the U.N. convention against torture,” he said. “Because our son was tortured by the FBI.”
It sounded like something out of a Soviet-era spy thriller. Yet the family making the request couldn’t have been more all-American. Paul DeHart, a church pastor, was a retired Air Force intelligence analyst whose work was overseen by the National Security Agency. His wife, Leann, was a former Army voice interceptor. Paul explained that Matthew, their only child, had followed in their footsteps, poring over spy data gathered by drones in the Middle East for the Indiana Air National Guard. They had just driven through the night from their home in Indiana, Paul said, because they were fleeing the country they had once pledged to serve.
Matt, he explained, was a member of the hacktivist collective Anonymous and had created a repository on the Dark Web for leaked government files. After stumbling on a file that he believed detailed an FBI investigation into the CIA, Matt, the family was convinced, was subject to what Paul described as an elaborate and increasingly frightening ruse: raided and tortured by the FBI, hit with bogus child porn charges, shuttled between prisons for nearly two years.
Paul told the agents that his family had evidence to back up their account: court documents, medical records, and affidavits — along with the leaked FBI document Matt had found that exposed an explosive secret. It was all on two encrypted thumb drives, which Matt later pulled off a lanyard around his neck and handed to the guards.
But Matt, as one federal prosecutor had put it, was “your classic child predator.” In order to flee the country and avoid charges, Matt — a seasoned hacker with military ties — had, according to the FBI, tried to become a spy for the Russians.
Today, Matt sits in a prison in Oklahoma after being deported from Canada earlier this month, waiting to face the child porn charges. But he has a high-profile team of believers and backers behind him, including Tor Ekeland, an attorney famous for representing hacktivists, and Jesselyn Radack, the former ethics adviser to the Justice Department who exposed the FBI’s interrogation of John Walker Lindh, the American sentenced to 20 years for joining the Taliban.
On March 2, he was named the third beneficiary of the Courage Foundation, an international organization that defends whistleblowers, whose advisers include Daniel Ellsberg, the former United States military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers, and former NSA executive Thomas Drake, who revealed post-9/11 mass surveillance. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange recently said, “The abuse of the law in DeHart’s case is obvious, shocking, and wrong. Matt DeHart and his family have suffered enough.”
If Matt is, in fact, wrongly accused, answers could be on the thumb drives taken by the Canada Border Services Agency, which have yet to be returned to the DeHarts. But without access to the leaked files Matt claims to have seen, there is no way to verify whether he was actually in possession of them, and, if he was, whether they’re authentic. If Matt DeHart is a government whistleblower, he has yet to produce the whistle, let alone blow it.
Back at the Canadian border, as the processing dragged on into the next day, the guards had the DeHarts each write a statement explaining their request for political asylum. “I have loved the United States of America since I was old enough to understand what it meant to be a citizen,” Paul wrote with a shaky hand. By the time he finished the story 11 pages later, he could barely read his words through the tears in his eyes. “What happened to my country?” he concluded.
“I plead for your help and protection of our lives. Please help us!!!”
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