‘Shattered,’ an essay by Matt DeHart

Published exclusively in The Gad About Town.

This is the third article in a series of prison essays by Matt DeHart. The first essay is here: “You don’t act like an American,” and the second is here: “Hospitality in Mexico.”
“Shattered” was written in May 2018.

* * * *
Last November, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) informed Matt DeHart, a former U.S. Air National Guard drone team member and alleged WikiLeaks courier, that it had reversed its decision that the fourteen months he spent detained in a Canadian prison would be credited toward his sentence as time served. No hearing was held. His release date of September 2018 is no longer in place.

The decision was announced in a letter that neither acknowledges DeHart’s right to due process nor concedes that he has been denied due process. “An inmate held pending a civil deportation determination is not being held in ‘official’ detention pending criminal charges,” the BOP letter reads. This reverses the stance the government took when it sentenced DeHart. It is worth noting that the BOP employed the quotation marks around the word “official” in its letter to Matt DeHart.

DeHart continues to appeal the BOP’s unilateral decision to effectively extend his prison sentence by fourteen months even though the BOP’s paperwork requirements are Kafka-esque: In December 2017, DeHart was required to include with his appeal of the extension of his sentence a sheet that detailed the computation of his time served; it was to be stapled to the document. This is a page that the BOP already possesses as it is that department’s own computation. DeHart did not staple it; he sent it in a separate envelope with explanatory statements (i.e.: This is exhibit 14 that was not included in the earlier letter which states exhibit 14 will be forthcoming). The BOP did not accept the documents (which is an insidious method of rejecting an appeal) and returned them to DeHart.

His mother, Leann DeHart, writes, “Matt had 15 days to resubmit; but, the prison held on to it for 20 and gave it to him today. Matt has lost the opportunity to have his last remedy reviewed and a decision made.”

This was in January. The most benign interpretation of the situation is that the prison did not know what the BOP had required of one of its prisoners (please return this in fifteen days), and the BOP did not know the prison would not deliver one prisoner’s mail in a timely manner. There are less benign interpretations, of course.

Matt DeHart, former U.S. Air National Guard intelligence analyst, is prisoner #06813-036 at the low-security federal correctional institution FCI Ashland in Ashland, Kentucky.

It has been learned that the prison has added further restrictions to Matt DeHart’s communications: cards can not be in color and letters must be written on white paper and no longer than ten pages. He can receive books.

The essay published below is one of the few public statements he has made.

On February 22, 2016, he was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a charge of soliciting child pornography—files that documented conversations soliciting photos of two underage (at the time) boys were found on his computer; DeHart claims the documents were fabricated outright by the FBI. DeHart claims that FBI agents told him that they knew him to be innocent of the charges against him.

Further, a judge who was hearing his case in May 2012, Aleta Trauger, expressed doubts about the FBI’s child pornography case on the record and in open court.

In May 2012, Judge Aleta A. Trauger of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee released Matt DeHart on bond. He had spent the previous twenty-one months in prison with two pornography indictments against him.

Judge Trauger had learned that computer materials seized from Matt’s home in Indiana, where he lived with his parents, had not been sent to Tennessee, the proper jurisdiction, but to FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. The judge finally learned from the U.S. Department of Justice that Matt DeHart had been “arrested for questioning in an espionage matter.”

Thus, what she said from the bench that day remains important:

I can easily understand why this defendant was much more focused on that [national security] investigation, much more afraid of that investigation, which was propelling his actions at that time. He thought that the search for child pornography was really a ruse to try to get the proof about his extracurricular national security issues. I found him very credible on that issue.
Obviously, child pornography charges are serious offences … [However,] I have learned several aspects of this case which, in the court’s mind, indicate the weight of the evidence is not as firm as I thought it was.
Judge Aleta Trauger, May 22, 2012

After the judge released DeHart on bond, he and his family fled to Canada to seek asylum. He was detained in Canada, his asylum request was denied, and he was deported back to America in March 2015, where he was promptly imprisoned pending trial.

DeHart pleaded guilty largely because he no longer had access to his own computers or files to provide a defense. (The FBI perhaps thought that possession of the evidence it collected was more important than the trial of the individual from whom it was collected, an action that is one more point in favor of Matt DeHart’s version of his remarkable story.) After his sentencing hearing, DeHart told the National Post of Toronto, “In light of the disappearance of nearly all exculpatory evidence in my case, including the Kangaroo Defender Elite encrypted thumb drive I brought with me to Canada, as well as the seizure or deletion of numerous email and social media accounts, my defense was completely emasculated.”

The FBI wanted every computer hard drive and USB thumb drive that DeHart may have ever had in his possession for reasons outside child pornography: DeHart was a member of Anonymous, and in 2009, while he was employed by Air National Guard intelligence, an unprotected file appeared on a server he had access to. It was a report of an FBI investigation into the CIA. According to DeHart, he deleted the file but it later reappeared in an encrypted form on another server he had access to. According to the Courage Foundation’s biography of Matt, “Whilst he deleted that file, there was also an encrypted file of the same size and name on another server that he says was headed for WikiLeaks.” It is for this reason that Matt DeHart is considered to be an “alleged WikiLeaks courier.”

He took screenshots of the report. These remain unseen by the public. He states that, in the files, he saw a report that detailed CIA culpability in the 2001 anthrax attacks and another in which a prominent agrochemical company explained its role in the deaths of 13,000 individuals due to genetically modified organisms the company had developed.

The FBI questioned DeHart on three occasions in August 2010. Only one of those interviews is not classified. DeHart claims he was tortured while interrogated: drugged for one interview, and during another, while he was in prison, placed in restraints while naked and burned. As Buzzfeed wrote about him in 2015: “Whatever happened to Matt behind bars, it produced valuable results. FBI records show that he signed over control of his email accounts, and provided agents with the accompanying passwords—a move that would have enabled the FBI to infiltrate the hacker underworld by impersonating Matthew DeHart. The unclassified FBI report includes a document, signed by Matt, authorizing the FBI to install a recording device on his phone for the purpose of taping any future calls he had with Deal and the two other airmen. At the bottom of the form are the words, printed in Matt’s own sloppy handwriting, ‘Statement Made Voluntarily,’ along with his initials.”

The essay published below is one of the few public statements he has made. It was sent to me by his mother, Leann DeHart, with the request that I publish it as written.

In his essay, “Shattered,” DeHart reveals he is devastated by circumstances—his own and our nation’s—yet hopeful that common ground can yet be found. Devastated yet hopeful; for some of us that describes our experience of America in 2018.

Matt DeHart’s voice is one worth listening to.

Freeze me, put me in a time capsule, and wake me up when most of society cares. I am a damaged relic. I wanted to write about the chimeric corporate security state we live in. I wanted to discuss the benefits of proportional representation and Westminster parliamentary governments. I wanted to talk about general strikes and forcing change. I wanted to do this but I’m shattered. I feel like I can’t write anymore, not anonymously, not as myself.

I want to communicate experience. How do you describe torture? I can’t. I went to counseling at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture. I explained how all I wanted for myself and my family was a safe place—then I was handed over. Shattered is the closest description of how I feel; shattered in my mind, shattered in my relationships with other people and institutions, shattered in my soul.

I’m finding solace in Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time. I empathize with those who lost something they believed in, who could only reminisce amongst themselves. I love my family. They understand. I wonder how many others do. Torture doesn’t “officially” happen here and even if it did, half of America seems to support it if you believe in the polls. Who are you people? Are you my neighbors? Did I go to church with you? Did you think I was lying? If you were against torture, what did you think once the medical records came out?

Maybe you are shattered, too … but in a different way. Come to think of it, that’s our country—beyond fractures, cuts and gouges, we’re shattered. All the pieces are still here. The mass is the same. It’s just not fitting together. I don’t fit together. We don’t fit together. I’m one of you. I would have died for you. I still would. But, would you have cared if I made that sacrifice? How much do we really support the troops, and I don’t mean just sending them to countless wars. I’m in prison with quite a few and they don’t fit either.

May 1996, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania. I go outside one Friday evening knocking on every door down my street, down others as well, asking, “Do you have kids? If yes, do they wanna play flashlight tag?” Twenty or thirty of us played outside from twilight until 10, sometimes later. We did this all summer until I moved to New Jersey. I was 11. I had been walking to school since I was 9 when we lived on Ft. Meade—next to the NSA, but I was doing what was normal for generations. I “grew up” in New Jersey. I took the train alone into the city (NYC) when I was in high school. My friends did, too. I surfed the internet and got free music and pretty much everything. I worked, too. I painted, did retail, registered and sold domains. Then 9-11 happened. I went to Ground Zero on the first anniversary of the attack, saw President Bush as he came to the city to speak. I believed in my government, in my neighbors. I believed in civil liberties and free markets—even while growing in my activist aspirations. We seemed stronger after 9-11 yet we were coming apart. We’d been split before. The Civil War was horrific and shameful, something we’ve never truly recovered from. De-segregation, Vietnam, Watergate; we were broken then, too; but, it seems like we still knew each other. We were made to fit for a while.

We didn’t shatter all at once. It took place in slow motion. The Neocons finished it. Maybe it was inevitable from the beginning with our legacy of exclusion and slavery. I do know that the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) never included all of us. Their America was always different than mine; more militant, more violent (overseas and at home), more about capital and less about compassion. How have we gotten to managed outrage, managed media, managed government? Our shattered selves, shattered communities demand distraction—our phones, our movies and yes our national news. News that when not talking Trump or disaster is pointing to everyone else’s problems, every other country’s bad leaders, their corruption, their “regimes.” Sometimes our government but mostly theirs. Let’s all be somewhere else. When we’re not, let’s point the finger at each other. Forget glue. Sweep us into a pile. Sweep us into two piles. Shattered.

Does this end? If so, how? I fit with my family, some of you more or less with yours. We fit with our friends. I’d like to fit with you. I want you to fit with each other. It wasn’t about winning wars, buying houses and cars, enjoying a cheeseburger at McDonald’s that made us great. It was our shared experiences, shared hardships. It was knocking on random doors and meeting neighbors, making friends. Could it be so simple?
Matthew Paul DeHart, May 2018

* * * *
The Courage Foundation supports the legal needs of individuals around the world who are faced with prosecution (and persecution) for whistle-blowing—funds go towards legal fees and the foundation organizes public campaigns on behalf of the whistle-blower.

As the Courage Foundation states in its materials, “Whistle-blowers become the public’s regulators of last resort. Without them, we would know far less about international diplomacy, offshore banking or the excesses of the War on Terror. Because whistleblowers are a vital link in the chain, they are also vulnerable.”

At present, the Courage Foundation supports seven individuals: Edward Snowden, Jeremy Hammond, Matt DeHart, Barrett Brown, Lauri Love, Chelsea Manning, and WikiLeaks.

* * * *
My thanks to Leann DeHart and Paul DeHart, Matt’s parents, for their example of courage.

My thanks to Raymond Johansen, board member of Pirate Party International, a human rights and privacy activist, and a hacktivist who is heavily involved in whistle-blower support, for his ongoing assistance.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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