Man Arrested After Attempting To Bomb BLM Facility in FBI Sting Operation

Yesterday, June 22, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested William Keebler in Nephi, Utah, after he allegedly attempted to detonate a fake bomb they had provided him with.  Keebler was present in Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014, at the Bundy ranch and apparently at the stand off between Bundy supporters and the BLM on April 12, 2014.  He is described as the leader of a citizen militia group, the Patriots Defense Force.

The felony complaint document states that Keebler was an associate of Lavoy Finicum, the Arizona rancher killed by law enforcement at a roadblock in Oregon during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.

According to the felony complaint, the FBI had had undercover officers inside the Patriots Defense Force, acting as members and participating in various training exercises with the militia group, for several months.  The felony complaint describes several meetings over that time period in which Keebler discussed “going on the offensive” and “gathering intelligence on potential targets.”  One such meeting is described as follows:

On March 19, 2016, Keebler organized and led an FTX [field training exercise] for the PDF militia group.  Keebler described the direction the PDF was going to focus on.  Keebler said the government had been allowed to harass people, but the repercussions were going to start.  Keebler had previously said the BLM was overreaching their authority to implement grazing restrictions on ranchers.  Keebler had opined the land belonged to “the people” and could be used responsibly at the American people’s discretion.  Keebler said the PDF was going to target BLM facilities in the “middle of nowhere.”  Keebler stated the PDF was going to sneak in and severely damage vehicles or buildings.  Keebler requested a PDF member/UCE [FBI undercover employees] who has explosive materials expertise, to build an explosive device that could disable a BLM vehicle or damage a building.  Keebler made it clear he didn’t plan on blowing people up for now, but he wanted his group to be prepared to escalate things, and take people out if necessary.

On May 14, 2016, Keebler announced to the group that they would target a BLM facility at Mount Trumbull, Arizona and requested two bombs be built by the UCE, one to place at the facility to be remotely detonated, and the other for use in case they were stopped by law enforcement on the way to or from the BLM facility.

According to the felony complaint, Keebler had previously scouted the Mount Trumbull facility in October, 2015, with Lavoy Finicum, accompanied by an FBI undercover employee who took pictures of the facility.

On June 21, 2016, one of these devices was “placed against the door of one of the BLM cabins in Mount Trumbull [Arizona].  After the device was placed against the door, Keebler was handed a remote detonation device.  Keebler then pushed the detonator button multiple times in order to remotely detonate the inert explosive.”  Keebler was arrested the following morning after he had returned to Utah.

This calls several things into question for me.  First of all, who placed the bomb next to the door of the BLM cabin?  Who handed the detonator to Keebler?  Was it entirely Keebler’s idea and decision to bomb a BLM facility?  It wouldn’t be the first time the FBI has stopped  a crime that they helped to plan.

One example that most of my fellow Oregonians probably remember is the case of Mohamed Osman Mohamud who was arrested in Portland, Oregon, in 2010 for attempting to detonate a fake car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  The FBI had provided him the bomb after encouraging the plot.

In a September 18, 2011 Los Angeles Times Op ed, Petra Bartosiewicz writes:

The government’s marquee post-9/11 terrorism investigations, including cases such as the Miami Seven, the Ft. Dix Six and last year’s Portland Christmas Tree Bomber, have not involved real attacks but, rather, have been sting operations involving plots invented by law enforcement. New York University’s Center on Law and Security, which tracks federal terrorism prosecutions, reports that since 2009, the FBI has escalated its use of stings in which a confidential informant or undercover officer approaches a suspect and “assists him in the planning of an attempted terror crime.”

The defendants in these plots, most of them male Muslim immigrants with no history of terrorism or violence, have become unwitting actors in a disturbing theatrical performance: The FBI scripts the plot and provides the weapons, along with money, cars and any other logistical support needed to carry out the “attack.”

She goes on to discuss the argument that only the “true bad guys will take the bait” in such sting operations by stating, “terrorism stings go much further than presenting a likely bad guy with a passing criminal opportunity. The operations last for months and sometimes years, with suspects offered all manner of enticements to participate in a plot they probably would never have come up with on their own.”

I suppose that we should all feel so much safer as the FBI is so effective at stopping their own plots.  Even though they were unable to stop Omar Mateen from killing 49 people in Orlando, Florida in spite of the fact that the gun dealership where Mateen requested a thousand rounds of ammunition and body armor reported concern about him to the FBI weeks before the shooting.  And this after Mateen had previously been on the terrorist watch list and under intense investigation in 2013-2014.

Even though they seem unable to stop armed wildlife refuge “take overs” in spite of their success, as demonstrated in this case with Keebler, at infiltrating groups associated with those who did occupy the Malheur refuge.  Clearly all the surveillance and infiltrating works wonders.

UPDATE, June 29th, 2016:  According to this Salt Lake Tribune article published today,  “Lavoy Finicum did not accompany Keebler when he scouted the BLM cabins in October 2015, as was alleged in the charging documents.”  The article also states that Keebler’s federal defender said in court:

“…undercover agents proposed the explosive types, drove Keebler to the location, placed the bomb, handed Keebler a remote trigger and told him to press the button three times.”



The Owyhee Canyonlands Debate


Katie Aguilera

On Monday, May 23rd, I spent a good part of the day at the Oregon state capitol in Salem attending the House Interim Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water informational hearing regarding the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument proposal.  It was a very well attended meeting, with  the main hearing room and an overflow room filled to capacity.  This is a pretty important topic here in Oregon right now, in the aftermath of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year which brought national attention to a number of issues.  Not the least of which is the debate over who should control public lands, the states those lands are contained within, or the federal government.

The Owyhee Canyonlands Monument proposal seeks to add an additional layer of permanent protection to 2.5 million acres in southeast Oregon by having the area declared a national monument by the President through the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906. According to this report written for Congress by the Congressional Research Service, the Antiquities Act “authorizes the President to create national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.”

The canyonlands are located in Malheur County, Oregon’s second largest county. This area is incredible, and certainly unique as one of the largest roadless areas in the lower 48 states.  It is very remote, rugged and beautiful, home to petroglyphs, plant species found nowhere else, and vast habitat for a wealth of wildlife.  It is also home to one of my favorite rivers to float, the Owyhee.


There is no doubt the Owyhee Canyonlands are a special place cherished by anyone who has explored them, and especially by those who live in the area.  That fact was made very clear by all who spoke before the House Committee during the meeting.  It seems that everyone agrees there needs to be some level of protection for these lands, and there have been numerous plans and discussions over the years about implementing various forms of protection.  Also, as was pointed out at the meeting, as well as here on a website formed by some of the opponents to the monument, 100% of the 2.5 million acres are already public and protected.

Richard C. Niederhof, professor emeritus of Central Oregon Community College, in a letter to the Bend Bulletin, puts it this way:

The Owyhee River canyon is already protected from rim to rim. Congress has already designated 120 miles of the Owyhee River in Oregon as a wild river component of the National Wild and Scenic River System, extending from the Oregon-Idaho border to the Owyhee Reservoir, excluding only 14 miles of non-canyon river near Rome.

Furthermore, the actual canyon lands, river and all significant canyon tributaries make up only 9 percent of the 2.5 million acres in the proposal. Therefore, the primary “selling point” of “saving of the canyon lands” is unjustified and deceptive.

So why, if this land is already protected, is this now an issue so hotly contested and up for discussion in a House Committee meeting?

The real debate, as Rep. Sherrie Sprenger stated very clearly during the meeting, seems to be about control.  This is the very debate that is sparking growing frustration, anger, and even violence throughout the western states.  Who should control and manage these lands, the federal government, or the states?  And the push for monument status for the Owyhee Canyonlands demonstrates exactly why this has become such a hot debate.

Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a Bend based organization that works to “protect, defend, and restore Oregon’s high desert” and Keen Footwear company have proposed the establishment of the monument.  They cite a poll that suggests as much as 70% of Oregonians support the proposal, 66% in the district where the canyonlands are located.

However, Malheur County residents voted no in an advisory vote on the monument proposal in March of this year.  This was a single-action ballot, the monument proposal the only issue on it, and according to Elias Eiguren, a Malheur county rancher who spoke at the meeting, 54% of Malheur county voters participated in the vote.  90% of those participants voted no on the monument proposal.

According to this Oregon Business article, a poll they conducted showed that 54% of Oregonians supported the monument (vs. the 70% in the poll ONDA promotes), and the article makes the point that this is largely a divide between urban and rural residents.  The majority of the people who are most likely to be affected by the monument designation, and possible resulting legislation over use of the area, do not support the proposal.  So why the push now, as President Obama nears the end of his term, and the local areas are still reeling from the divisive effects of the Malheur Refuge take-over?

Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe spoke of the very real sensitivity in the area after the refuge occupation.  He clearly stated his concern that outsiders would come in with their own agenda if the area is declared a monument, and stated his belief that public safety will be at risk.  More than one member of the committee also questioned the timing of this proposal.

When asked about this, Brent Fenty, Executive Director of  ONDA, reminded the committee that permanent protections for lands such as the Steens Mountain area were not agreed upon until the possibility of monument designation was discussed for them.  As if to suggest that the monument proposal is a way to force the establishment of permanent protection.  It is a tactic reminiscent to the use of litigation to force legislation by groups like ONDA, often referred to as sue and settle.  Exactly the sort of tactics that increasingly lead to management policies that hurt local residents and economies.  This leaves local people feeling unheard and irrelevant in the process, resulting in mistrust, frustration, and anger.

The reality is, the Owyhee Canyonlands are worth protecting, and the local people living and working in the area have done a good job for over 100 years of doing just that.  They deserve to have a say in how the lands are protected and managed, and asking for a monument designation completely disregards that.  It is time that people on both sides of debates such as this one stop allowing special interest groups to drive the decision-making that effects us all and instead return the decision making to the local level.