According to testimony given by FBI Agent Chadd Lapp in the ongoing trial of seven defendants charged with conspiring to impede federal officers from fulfilling their duties as a result of their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that began January 2, 2016, the FBI received advanced warning of the plan on January 1, 2016. It has been acknowledged during the trial that there were informants at the refuge during the occupation.
On Wednesday, September 28, 2016, Agent Lapp testified that on January 1, one day before the planned rally supporting the Hammonds, FBI agents learned there was a plan to take over the refuge. Maxine Bernstein wrote in the Oregonian on September 29, 2016:
“Lapp said he heard the information from another agent. Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford referred to an email sent to the chief regional refuge law enforcement office that he said made mention of ‘intelligence from four people within the militia about a plan to take the refuge.’
‘I remember telling him there was intelligence. It was a potential target,’ Lapp said. ‘It was really basic words…Malheur…wildlife refuge, and there may be a plan to take it.’
Under questioning from Mumford, Lapp said he conveyed the intelligence to several people in his office, but didn’t do anything further with the information.”
That nothing was done to prevent this plan, even with the short notice, is surprising given the testimonies made previously by Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and Chad Karges, the manager of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, who both spoke of taking preventative measures prior to the January 2 rally.
Sheriff Ward testified earlier in the trial that after several meetings with Ammon Bundy prior to the January 2 rally and numerous emails, warnings, and his own research into what had happened at Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014, he prepared by moving the inmates from his jail in Burns, Oregon to the next county. He added that he moved all of the weapons and ammunition to the jail, which could serve as a fortified bunker should something happen during the January 2 rally.
Chad Karges testified that “he made the decision to keep employees away after New Year’s Day because of the ‘continued intimidation and threats towards federal employees,’ ‘type of arms that they had,’ and the ‘type of stand they were taking.'” Defense Attorney Lisa Maxfield asked Karges why no security was placed at the refuge before the rally, Karges answered, “at that time, federal agencies were being told the threat was towards the BLM, and the refuge hadn’t entered into the conversation.”
If the FBI had received information a day in advance of the takeover of the refuge, as Agent Lapp testified yesterday, why indeed weren’t steps taken to increase security at the refuge? Clearly law enforcement and federal employees were concerned in the months leading up to the Hammonds returning to prison and the January 2 support rally. Considering that, and the stand off that had occurred in Nevada nearly two years before, why would such a warning not be taken seriously?
With the well-known presence of the Bundys and the others who joined them in taking the refuge, as well as that of the Pacific Patriots Network and other “militia” groups in Burns, Oregon, for the support rally for the Hammonds, I find it difficult to believe there was a shortage of law enforcement in Harney County on January 1, 2016. Why then was there no law enforcement presence placed at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2, 2016 after the FBI received warning of the planned occupation?