Longbow Productions: The FBI’s Fake Documentary Film Crew

 

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

“If criminal organizations in the world know that the FBI is willing to pose as journalists in order to infiltrate groups then it puts all of us in danger.”

Rick Rowley on OPB’s Think Out Loud.

The long-rumored and quietly discussed Longbow Productions came out of the shadows this week with the release of the Frontline documentary American Patriot which showed some clips of footage filmed by the Longbow team.  Longbow Productions was a fake documentary film crew, created by the FBI to gather evidence against the people involved in the 2014 confrontation between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and supporters of rancher, Cliven Bundy.

Longbow Productions was the creation of the Las Vegas FBI office after the Bunkerville standoff in 2014.  It was led by an undercover agent who went by the name of Charles Johnson, and who has since been arrested in an unrelated case where he posed as an “investigative consultant for a journalist.” A fake website was set up and the crew obtained professional recording equipment, and then approached the Bundy family and supporters requesting interviews.

A motion to exclude Longbow evidence from Cliven Bundy’s trial, filed in February 2017, states, “the FBI created a fake film production company designed to trick defendants into making boastful, false, and potentially incriminating statements that could be used against Defendants.”  It also claims that the FBI “delayed filing of any criminal accusations in this case in order to launch a wide-reaching deceptive undercover operation known as ‘Longbow Productions.'”

The film crew traveled to five states, possibly more, and interviewed at least 20 different people in an effort to gather evidence.  According to the Intercept article America Reloaded (named for the working title of Longbow’s supposed documentary) by Ryan Devereaux and Trevor Aaronson, there were over 100 hours of video and audio recordings from the Longbow team.

That article goes on to call into question the usefulness of such an undercover operation, pointing out that the majority of what was said in the Longbow interviews was already well-documented in many ways, by many different sources. The article states, “despite a clear risk that considerable resources would be expended to gather publically available information, incurring a guaranteed backlash from legitimate members of the news media along the way, Johnson and the FBI pressed on.”

Rick Rowley, Frontline producer of American Patriot, also questioned the operation in an interview with Dave Miller on OPB’s Think Out Loud.  Rowley states, “it seems like it must be part of the case because it’s an embarrassing thing that you wouldn’t want to reveal unless you needed the evidence from it, but to my ears, it’s difficult for me to see what the logic is behind it.”  He describes the questions asked in the Longbow interviews as leading, and that they “seem to be about trying to build a conspiracy.”

The effectiveness of evidence gathered using this undercover film crew is also worth questioning.  In a February 7, 2017 Guardian article by Sam Levin, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Daniel Hill, is quoted as saying, “when the jury finds out this tactic they used, none of them will think it’s okay.  It shows the lows the government was willing to go to.”  Indeed, after Longbow evidence was presented in the first trial of defendants in the Bunkerville case, it’s been reported that jurors did in fact think that it was not okay.  According to the Intercept article, Eric Parker’s attorney, Jess Marchese, “said a number of jurors he spoke to were turned off by the government’s presentation of the Longbow evidence.”

The Longbow operation undoubtedly had a high price tag as well.  Cliven Bundy’s motion to exclude the Longbow evidence states, “the FBI’s Longbow operation spent taxpayer money extravagantly and with wild abandon.”  It goes on to describe how the agents conducted many interviews in expensive hotels, plied some interviewees with alcohol, and paid for the interviews.  Charles Johnson even offered to buy the rights to the Bundy’s story, and his assistant, known as Anna, offered to buy tickets to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to entice the Bundy’s to Las Vegas for interviews, according to the Intercept article.

What is perhaps most disturbing about the entire undercover operation, is the effect it has on journalism and news gathering.  From Levin’s February 2017 Guardian article, “‘if you think every reporter you meet could be an agent of law enforcement, it really has an immediate impact on any journalist coming to try and cover that story,’ said Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.”

Daniel Hill, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, is quoted in this Frontline article by the producers of American Patriot as saying “they impersonated journalists so they could interrogate people the FBI fully intended on charging with serious crimes, without any lawyers present.  We should not have to fear that our government is infiltrating America’s sacred press and media institutions in order to try to gain prosecutorial advantages against its own people.”

In 2015 the Associated Press (AP) along with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press sued the Department of Justice.  The lawsuit was the result of unanswered Freedom of Information requests made by the organizations seeking information about a 2007 sting operation in which an undercover FBI agent posed as an AP reporter.

“We cannot overstate how damaging it is for federal agents to pose as journalists,” Katie Townsend, the litigation director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in a statement. “This practice undermines the credibility of the independent news media, and should not be tolerated.”

The Hill, August 27, 2015

And of course, there is Rick Rowley’s perspective, from his Think Out Loud interview about the Longbow operation.  “For people that are reporting on other stories, it puts their lives in danger.  If criminal organizations in the world know that the FBI is willing to pose as journalists in order to try to infiltrate groups then it puts us all in danger.”

The use of a fake documentary film crew is just one more thing to question about the way the FBI handled this entire investigation, from Bunkerville to Malheur.

 

 

US Airstrikes In Yemen Increasing

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Katie Aguilera

According to Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, the US has conducted some 50 airstrikes in Yemen from February 28 through last week.  And last weekend, after numerous strikes in eastern Yemen targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the total now stands at 70, according to Captain Davis.

Bill Roggio wrote in his April 4, 2017 Long War Journal post that the total number of US airstrikes in Yemen since the beginning of the year is more than 75, which he notes is “already nearly double the yearly total since the drone program against al Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009.”  He adds that “the previous record number of airstrikes conducted by the US in Yemen in any one year was 41 in 2009.”

(Just a reminder, the United States is not at war with Yemen.  For more on how the US justifies such strikes outside of areas it is actively at war, read what I wrote here.)

Yemen has been in the midst of a brutal war with Saudi Arabia for nearly two years.  Adam Johnson writes in a February 27, 2017 FAIR article that the war has “left over 10,000 dead, 40,000 wounded, 2.5 million internally displaced, 2.2 million children suffering from malnutrition and over 90 percent of civilians in need of humanitarian aid.”

His article goes on to discuss the threat of famine Yemen faces as a result of the war that has received media attention lately.  Johnson rightfully points out that the major media outlets ignore the role of the US in the crisis.  He concludes his article with this:

A first step to putting political pressure on Trump to mitigate the suffering in Yemen is for the US public to speak out about their government’s role—a condition unlikely to be met if corporate media never bother to mention it.

Another question the media rarely raises is what these airstrikes ultimately accomplish.  Captain Davis stated that “we continue to target AQAP in Yemen, and this is done in the interest of disrupting a terror organization that presents a very significant threat to the United States.”

That vague explanation does not address the threat of increasing the ranks of the very terrorist organization we are attacking.  In a September 2, 2014 report for Yemen Times, Ali Abulohoom discusses the PTSD experienced by Yemeni citizens as a result of drone strikes, as well as the continuous fear of future strikes that they live with.  He also writes of another effect of airstrikes.

The article states, “it is well-known that animosity against the United States is mounting as the attacks have intensified in recent years,” and concludes with the following quote:

“As long as the United States continues to strike areas in Yemen with drones which are claiming the lives of innocents in addition to their targets, support for Al-Qaeda is going to increase.”

Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmadi

This statement has been echoed by four former drone operators who wrote an open letter to the Obama administration arguing against drone strikes.  In the letter, they state that the killing of innocent civilians by drone strikes served to fuel “the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay.  This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

As many feared, the new administration shows no indication of slowing the use of targeted killing through drone strikes.  Instead, it appears the strikes will increase, leading to more innocent lives lost, and more anger and hatred towards the United States.  And the drive for revenge.

Image courtesy of pixabay

 

Fiction Frenzy

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Recently, I spent about a month turning this:

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into this:

neat-draft

An 80,000 word draft that is nearing completion.  Along the way, I have immersed myself in fiction, taking a break from the usual nonfiction books I read most, in order to re-inspire the story teller in me. It has been a welcome, and effective, change.  And with today, April 1st, marking the beginning of Camp NanoWrimo, I’m planning to continue with my fiction frenzy, for a while, anyway.  My goal is to finish the novel!

I haven’t written a whole lot here about my endeavors in the world of fiction, partly because I haven’t wanted to give too many details before the story is finished.  But also because it isn’t the primary focus of this blog.  However, since I haven’t posted for a while, and fiction has been consuming most of my writing time, I thought I’d do a quick post with some of the things I’ve shared on Twitter about my novel.

There are so many writers and artists supporting and encouraging each other on Twitter with hundreds of different hashtag games and I’ve been enjoying connecting with some of them.  I recommend some of the one-line prompt hashtags for a way to discover some incredibly talented writers.  There are a lot of these, I haven’t discovered them all, but the two I sometimes participate in are #1linewed and #2bittues.  A search of either will bring up loads of great lines.

Another hashtag game I’ve really enjoyed is #authorconfession, hosted by author JM Sullivan.  This game is a series of questions about one’s work in progress (WIP) or just general questions about writers and writing.   Since I’ve enjoyed the game, I thought I’d share some of the answers I gave for the months of January and March.  So, here is a little sneak peak at my own work of fiction.

January #authorconfession

Day 1:  Who is your favorite character in your WIP?  Answer: This guy:

C1XAK2gVEAATvvx

Day 5:  Describe your main character in three words.  A:  Full of rage.

Day 6:  What word do you use too much?  A:  Hmm, probably some four-letter words…just, that, the f-bomb.

Day 12:  Describe your villain in three words.  A:  I have many villains.  The worst one described in three words: psychopathic, corrupt, ruthless.

Day 15:  Tell a secret about your WIP.  A:  It is about a really big secret.

Day 16:  Who is your least favorite character in your WIP?  A:  Paul Douglas.  You’ll have to read the book to find out why.

Day 21:  What do you want to accomplish with writing?  A:  I want to get people to think about the reality of never-ending war, among other things.

Day 22:  What is your favorite scene in your WIP?  A:  My favorite scene is a confrontation between MC (main character) and antagonist that takes place in a bombed Afghan farmhouse.

Day 30:  Claim your hashtag!  Explain your choice.  A:  I’ll claim #compasscode, I’ll explain later.

Day 31:  Pitch your WIP.  A:  A young US soldier finds himself targeted for his father’s secrets.

March #authorconfession

Day 1:  What is the first line of your WIP?  A:  It was a powerful sense of impending doom that awoke James North with a start.

Day 3:  Describe your WIP in three words.  A:  War, corruption, secrets.

Day 4:  What is your MC willing to die for?  A:  Revenge.

Day 5:  Do your protagonist/antagonist have anything in common?  A:  Yes, they are all guilty of something.

Day 8:  How would your antagonist describe your MC?  A:  One antagonist would describe my MC as a dangerously impulsive smart ass, but a potentially useful idiot.

Day 12:  Is your MC superstitious?  A:  Although others have described him as a walking good luck charm, my MC is not superstitious.

Day 18:  Do any of your characters ‘get lucky’?  A:  Of course my characters get lucky, but you’ll have to read it to find out which ones.

Day 25:  What is your character’s worst memory?

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Day 28:  When is your main character’s birthday?  A:  My MC’s birthday is September 12th, something he prefers to keep to himself so he doesn’t have to celebrate it.

So, there you have it, just some little hints about my story, I hope you enjoyed them.  I’ll be sharing more details as it gets closer to completion.  Which will hopefully be soon, so I can move on to other writing projects!  Like part two.

 

There Is No Fear In Love

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Hatred never ceases by hatred; by love alone is it healed.  This is the ancient and eternal law.

-Buddha’s Little Instruction Book by Jack Kornfield (find it here).

It’s Valentine’s Day again.  Sure, it’s become a day of splurging on greeting cards, flowers, chocolates, etc, to show our romantic love for our partners.  But, I hope on this day of celebrating love we can remember to show some love for all of humanity too.  There seems to be a shortage of love lately.

In this increasingly divisive climate of fear, anger, and hatred, let’s all pause and remember to treat each other with compassion.  Let’s treat each other like the humans we all are.  Let’s honor our differences rather than attacking each other for them.  Let’s stop fearing each other, for we are all people who love, and are loved.  And there is no fear in love.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Leaves Are Changing

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The leaves are changing color, and the days are taking on that golden fall tint.  September is settling in and the nights are growing colder.  I’ve always loved the season changes.  I nearly always find myself anxious for the switch from one passion to another, from the river to the slopes, usually with some quality single-track time in between.  I’ve been anticipating this fall for awhile, as it promises a return to those long-neglected passions.

School has started, and I’ve sent my youngest out into the world for Kindergarten.  An empty and silent house is perhaps the greatest, and most eagerly anticipated, change for me this past week.  I’m suddenly rediscovering just how many hours there really are in a day.

Change is also in store for my career as a writer.  I will no longer be contributing articles to Newsbud, though I wish them success.  I’m hoping to write more here on the blog again.  More importantly, with all this newly recovered time on my hands, I plan to finish my long overdue novel.  I’m eager to return my focus to fiction for a while, and I’m feeling a great sense of freedom and inspiration.

The leaves are changing, and I’m excited.

Never Enough Time

It is April already, spring is upon us here in Central Oregon, and it is beautiful outside.  It is the sort of weather that makes it impossible for me to remain inside, dutifully typing away on the computer.  So things might get a little bit quiet around here, and I apologize.  I started several posts here in the past week, only to set them aside after a paragraph or two to go play outside.  And, I confess, I’ve also been pretty distracted by my fictional endeavors too.  I’m increasingly anxious to get this novel finished and published!  There is never enough time to get everything done.

I mentioned starting a few posts this past week, and I decided this morning to just combine a couple here rather than go back to finish them.  As I said, the weather is beautiful, way too nice for me to spend much time here!

First, the Panama Papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) last Sunday.  Everyone is talking about them, there’s plenty of good posts out there analyzing the coverage, and I don’t really have anything to add.  But, I do want to say that there is a lot of speculation being tossed around because the leaked data itself isn’t available to the public.  Of course the leak is being framed and micro-managed to serve someone’s (or many someones’) purposes.  Rolled out like a thriller novel or movie, (I’m sure that’s already in the works) to grab our attention and point that attention in the direction desired by those managing the release.

The fact is, leaks happen.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and for many reasons.  How they are framed and spun can be quite telling.  The very fact that the Panama Papers leak is getting so much media attention is telling.   Obviously it was a ‘safe’ leak in the sense that it is unlikely to make anyone in real positions of western power too uncomfortable.  Here is an interesting perspective by Eoin Higgins on why that might be the case.  Also consider this article on the ICIJ’s website describing what looks like a possible cleaning up of any suspicious evidence in Nevada by a Mossack Fonseca owned company.  And remember that this data was leaked to the journalists a year ago.  That’s a pretty fair amount of time for damage control.

What should be demanded of this international consortium of journalists is a full release of the data to the public, to be searched and analyzed freely.  But so far, we are only allowed to view the information through a certain media lens, just as has often been the case with big leaks in the past.  Perhaps this leak will follow the same course as Edward Snowden’s, with the ICIJ destroying the Mossack Fonseca data to protect the source and the journalists, as was the case with Snowden’s data and the Guardian.  But don’t worry, there will surely be copies of the information safely stored elsewhere, to ensure ongoing reporting, as needed, on things that are useful to serve powerful agendas.

Which leads me to the incredible idea of media that isn’t funded by large corporations and powerful elites.  If investigative journalists could be freed from those ties, they would be free to report information without framing it to fit a narrative dictated by those powerful sponsors.  A leak such as this Mossack Fonseca one could be released to the public, allowing everyone to see the information, and determine their own conclusions.  The reality today is that the media serves only the less-than-one-percent of the population to manipulate and control the rest of us.  Because they own it.

So why don’t we, the people, fund our own source of information?  Of course, there are many great sources for independent news and analysis available for anyone taking the time to find them, and there are plenty of willing supporters supplying well earned donations to those sources.  But why not help fund something even bigger?  Something that might actually give all those independent sources a larger platform in order to reach a much larger audience.  A real chance to counter the corporate owned media and their dictated narrative.  Why not?

The Kickstarter campaign for Newsbud is down to the final six days.  The total amount donated is nowhere near the goal, but the donations have continued to come in daily.  If the Kickstarter campaign had more time, I think the goal would be reached, but it is limited to sixty days by the crowdfunding platform.  There is certainly support for such an idea, as is demonstrated by the nearly $190,000.00 pledged as of this posting.  We may not make the goal in six days, but I hope that the support for this idea will remain strong.  If at first you fail, try, try again, right?

 

Newsbud: Destroying Distortion With Integrity

rocky sick of media

The reporting on the Malheur refuge occupation in Harney County has, for me, been a perfect example of how corporate news networks manipulate the narrative of events to fit their own position on the issues and people involved. Admittedly, I have questioned corporate media for a very long time, for many reasons.  Perhaps it started for me with the way events were covered between September 2001 and March of 2003.  Confusion, lies and omissions, controlling (and co-opting) the narrative, and what do you know, endless war resulted.  There have been so many big events since (and before) then that show the same patterns in the media as the narrative is spun to serve the purpose of their masters.  So, the way the narrative in Harney County has been spun hasn’t surprised me, but it has been an up close view of the process.

With this situation taking place so close to home, I have had the opportunity to communicate with some of the people involved.  I have had the opportunity to learn about the underlying issues, to try and get a genuine understanding of why the protests and occupation happened.  Now, I certainly don’t expect everyone to come away from this story changing everything about their own opinions on the matter.  I don’t expect people to agree on every aspect of the issues involved.  It is, after all, a tangled combination of complicated and sensitive matters.  But, what I do expect, or rather, what I would like to be able to expect, is some honest reporting.

It has been sadly lacking.  There have been some honest and unbiased stories here and there, scattered throughout a wide range of sources.  But those were quickly buried in avalanches of speculation, distortion, name-calling, and outright hatred.  Social media has played an increasing role in this as well.  On one hand, social media has given us a platform to communicate with people involved in these stories and to share what we learn.  On the other hand, in what appears to me to be a desperate attempt to keep their stranglehold on the narrative by the media and its puppet-masters, it has become a place to whip the hateful and divisive rhetoric into a frenzy.

What is perhaps even more notable to me as I’ve followed the story obsessively, is the meticulous avoidance by the mainstream media of any perspectives that challenge the narrative the federal government has an interest in maintaining.  After all, if it isn’t in the news, we Americans won’t bother to look at or think about it.  Again, social media, with all of its clever algorithms, plays a powerful role.

How many have taken the time to look beyond our own assumptions about the Malheur refuge occupation and the shooting of Robert Lavoy Finicum?  How many have bothered to challenge the media’s presentation of the story rather than simply allowing it to shape or reinforce our own perspectives?

Can we not see that an inability, or unwillingness to question the distorted narrative handed to us will only lead to more excessive police force, more ambushes conveniently hidden from public view?  More lies about safe drinking water?  More invasions of foreign lands, more slaughtering of countless civilians?  More division, more laws, more repression?  Have we become so hopelessly detached from reality that we can’t see that every American is facing tyranny?  The front line is different for all of us, but the enemy is the same.  We are all losing our rights.

You may not see or feel it yet.  It may not have touched your life yet, and your news might not be telling you about it yet.  I wonder at what point the citizens of Germany woke up to the tyranny of the Nazi regime?  I doubt the media in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s was doing much reporting on all the atrocities being committed by the Nazis.  And the same can be said for our own media today when it comes to the atrocities being committed by the US government.

I’m sickened by that fact.  Rather than bowing to the government’s narrative, or acting as advertising for mega-corporations, the press is supposed to report the truth.  The press is supposed to investigate all angles and ask the hard questions.  The press is supposed to be a weapon for the people to wield to maintain transparency and accountability within government.

We can do better.  We need to do better.  And we can’t wait any longer.  Let’s join together, and make all those corporate, narrative-spinning, war profiteer lap dog media networks irrelevant.  Let’s make the Tamir Rices, Eric Garners, Lavoy Finicums, lead-poisoned Flint families, PTSD suffering Veterans, homeless, under-educated children, victims of wars of aggression, victims of excessive prison sentences…WE THE PEOPLE relevant again.

Please join me on Valentine’s Day in supporting Newsbud.  This is an opportunity to truly make a difference by restoring integrity in media, and we can all have a hand in it.  Please take a look at Newsbud today, sign up for email updates about our kickstarter campaign and more information about the project.  On Sunday, February 14th, we will launch the kickstarter campaign with some live-stream discussions with the Newsbud team.  Join in, add your voice to the live chats or tweet your questions or comments using #NewsbudLive.  Together we can do this!

Author’s Note: I am no longer affiliated with Newsbud and I no longer endorse the website.