Former U.S. Air National Guard intelligence analyst and online activist Matt DeHart is set for release on October 3rd, after eight years’ imprisonment. He was jailed after pleading guilty to two counts of soliciting child pornography but has maintained that the FBI told him they knew he was innocent of the charges and that evidence supporting the charges was fabricated. DeHart is incarcerated in Ashland, Kentucky.
The Courage Foundation indicated that his release will coincide with a set of over twenty restrictions for a period of ten years, including prohibitions on using a computer or any electronic device that accesses the internet and alcohol consumption.
Matt DeHart’s mother, Leann DeHart, told this writer: “After losing his fourteen months credited time, Matt ended up qualifying for the First Step Act changing the release date of Nov 14th to Oct 3rd. After all that has happened, we are grateful for even this small relief.”
Matt DeHart, image via Wikimedia Commons.
Matt’s service in the Air National Guard as an intelligence analyst coincided with his activism in association with Anonymous. The Courage Foundation notes that as part of his service, he was also granted Top Secret security clearance.
In 2009, DeHart came across what he alleged to be “evidence of wrongdoing by a specific agency, namely the CIA,” in an interview with Robbie Martin on Media Roots Radio. DeHart explained: “By late 2009, someone had uploaded a file to the shell, which is a server, which I operated the front end of… It had a text intro by an individual claiming to be a special agent from the FBI. He was describing how the included documents pointed to the CIA involvement in the Amerithrax case…”
Sources close to the story confirmed the existence of the files received by DeHart to this author, but could not establish whether they originated with the FBI.
In January of 2010, shortly after receiving the file, DeHart’s computers were seized by authorities as a result of a warrant executed on the suspicion that DeHart was in possession of child pornography. During the same time period, Matt was honorably discharged from the Air National Guard, with the official reason citing depression.
DeHart subsequently left the United States to study in Canada. He was first arrested on August 6th, 2010, on charges alleging his solicitation of child pornography. DeHart claims evidence supporting the charges was fabricated. The arrest took place when DeHart crossed the US-Canadian border to process his student visa.
On the evening of August 6th, “when Paul and Leann checked in with him, the call went straight to voicemail: “This is Matt DeHart. Please leave a message.” But the voice wasn’t Matt’s. It was an unknown man who didn’t pronounce their last name correctly (“Day-Hart” rather than “Deh-Hart”),” reported Buzzfeed.
Immediately after this initial arrest, DeHart alleges he was drugged and tortured by FBI agents who interrogated him, an incident which he claims produced coerced and false admissions. Newsweek summarized DeHart’s recollection:
Matt DeHart says he was tortured for nearly a week by FBI agents chasing Anonymous, the hactivist collective, and WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing site. He says they forced him to take an IV with drugs in it, and later they bullied him into swallowing pills in order to get water to drink. (He says he later discovered the pills were chlorpromazine, a popular antipsychotic.) The FBI’s declassified records verify that DeHart was questioned about his links to the hacktivist group and about running an online server that someone used to transmit classified documents, perhaps to WikiLeaks. The bureau denies he was forced to take the drugs that induced his psychotic breakdown.
Declassified FBI records of DeHart’s interrogation do confirm that he was detained for “national security” reasons, and that “The FBI interrogated Matt about his military unit, Anonymous, WikiLeaks and visits he made to the Russian and Venezuelan Embassies before going to Canada. Agents asked him nothing about teenage pornography, but presented him with a Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant that was not filed until the afternoon of his border detention,” as pointed out by The Courage Foundation.
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DeHart was not the only one to question the legitimacy of the charges laid against him. After his arrest, a judge in Bangor, Maine, “found it odd that prosecutors were suddenly citing the two-year-old porn accusations and that police hadn’t analyzed DeHart’s computers for illicit files seven months after they were seized. A judge in Tennessee… admitted that “the weight of the evidence is not as firm as I thought it was.” And most recently, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board concluded there was “no credible or trustworthy evidence” that DeHart had solicited child porn, as reported by Al Jazeera.
In reference to the child pornography charges, a CTV News anchor stated that: “Even the Immigration and Refugee Board [of Canada] questioned the evidence behind the case.”
DeHart subsequently applied for asylum in Canada, but was denied protection and was eventually deported to the United States. Shortly after his extradition, he was named the third beneficiary of the Courage Foundation.
According to the Courage Foundation, Sarah Harrison commented on Matt’s story, saying: “The FBI has ruined Matt’s life to cover up what he knew and to punish his support of WikiLeaks and Anonymous. Objective judges have agreed that the child porn charges are a ruse to smear him in pursuit of national security information.”
DeHart’s father stated during the CTV News interview:
There’s some information they [the Immigration and Refugee Board] did not get to consider, that he submitted on encrypted thumb drives. The CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency] would not allow that to be submitted, and that information, had it been considered, perhaps might have changed the outcome. It would have shown some information about the United States and the threat that Matt was potentially under in returning to the United States.
In 2013, the DeHarts drove across the US-Canadian border seeking refugee protection: they claimed U.S. authorities had tortured Matt, as detailed in a multi-part series published by the National Post deconstructing the intricacies of DeHart’s legal battle.
DeHart’s case sadly echoes the character assassination of numerous other individuals who have held or published damning information regarding the U.S. government and Western power structures. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, wrote in his report on the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that “the ‘rape’ suspect narrative appears to be misused to deliberately undermine his reputation and credibility and, ultimately, to facilitate his indirect refoulement from the United Kingdom to the United States.”
According to the Courage Foundation, Assange said of DeHart’s case: “The abuse of the law in DeHart’s case is obvious, shocking and wrong. Matt DeHart and his family have suffered enough.”
Leann DeHart has created a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the transition period following Matt’s release in October.
Image credit: WEDA Coalition
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