US Anonymous “Hacktivist”, seeks Asylum in Canada

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'Anonymous' supporters campaigning for Mat Dehart

‘Anonymous’ supporters campaigning for Matt Dehart

by Jamison Maeda

Twelve protesters stand in the rain in front of the American consulate in Toronto. They hold signs that say “FREE MATT DEHART.” Some wear Guy Fawkes masks. Members of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police keep their eyes fixed on the protesters. Most passers-by don’t know who Matt DeHart is. It’s unlikely anyone would guess that 30 year old Matt Dehart is a former U.S. soldier and Anonymous hacktivist, arrested and allegedly tortured by the FBI in an attempt to recover a highly sensitive national security document.
 
How did a right-wing, conservative, gun owning, American military man who was cleared for top secret training end up a in a maximum security prison in Canada? “It’s not that I’m not patriotic. I am. I voted for Bush. My family is military, pretty gung ho” says Matt.  His parents were both American military. He was born at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. 
 
But his life took a turn and instead of following in his parent’s footsteps, Matt ended up working with Anonymous, being investigated for espionage, and subsequently imprisoned.  It started in 2008.  “Part of my job with Anonymous was I helped people communicate securely. I would protect people from NSA spying.” Matt claims he assisted the hacktivist organization Anonymous with “Chanology,” their campaign against the Church of Scientology. It’s difficult to prove his connection with Anonymous because by their nature, Anonymous activists are anonymous. Their members don’t sign a form. They don’t register online. What you will see online however, are numerous twitter handles such as @AnonymousTDOT, @freeanons, @youranonnews, @youranonglobal, @anon2k13, @anonyops, @AnonUKRadio_TV, all calling for the immediate release of Matt DeHart.
 
What most likely put Matt on the FBI’s radar was a file that showed up on a server run by him and his friends. In 2009 a mysterious file appeared on the server. Matt won’t say exactly what it was except that he believes it’s an FBI report about CIA practices he thinks was meant for Wikileaks. Matt removed the file but he discovered a file with the same name on another hidden server. Soon after, he received a warning that a friend had been questioned by the FBI about the server.  That’s when Matt’s troubles began.
 
One morning while Matt’s parents were at work, half a dozen police officers appeared at the door with a search warrant. They took his computers, his Xbox and anything in the house that could store digital data. They had a search warrant from the Memphis, Tennessee FBI field office. It said they were searching for child pornography. This is when Matt’s case starts to look less like a criminal investigation and more like a government operation to retrieve a mysterious FBI file and destroy a 30 year old man. “From that moment,” says Matt, ” I knew they wanted my server and they wanted information related to Anonymous.”
 
Government documents confirm that while Matt was charged in the U.S. for pornography, he was actually arrested and interrogated by the FBI for espionage. The U.S. Department of Justice had classified reports about Matt. One document confirms he was arrested after crossing the border from Canada because of an “espionage matter.” Another document calls it a “national security investigation.” There is no mention of pornography.

One U.S. judge described the circumstances of Matt’s case as odd. And a second judge questioned the strength of the case saying “The weight of the evidence is not as firm as I thought.” Though presumably if there were evidence, Matt would have been arrested the day his home was raided.

Matt’s computers had not been analyzed for evidence of pornography nearly a year after being taken from his  house, and in fact had never been sent to Tennessee but were actually delivered to the FBI’s field office in Washington, D.C. It’s clear that the pornography charge against Matt was a weak cover for the FBI investigation of his connection to Wikileaks and Anonymous. 

Panicked, Matt looked into leaving the U.S. and eventually headed to Canada. In 2010, he wanted to apply for a student visa, but to do that he needed to cross back into the U.S. When Matt presented his passport at the border, suddenly a group of men blocked the exits, more men ran out from the back and grabbed him. He was arrested and taken to the Immigration & Customs Enforcement facility and repeatedly interrogated by the FBI. They asked him about his military unit, Russia, Wikileaks and Anonymous. An agent showed him a document that listed the charge of pornography. Matt said ‘I didn’t do that.’ Matt says the man replied, ‘I know.”  He  says he was drugged and that he was tortured. 

Matt was put on house arrest in the tiny apartment he shared with his parents in Canada. He had a GPS monitoring device installed around his ankle. He applied for refugee status in Canada based on his claim of torture by the United States due to his  involvement with Anonymous and WikiLeaks. But the pornography charges held that up.

Then in April, the DeHarts were told by their landlord to move to another unit in the same building. Matt’s father notified the GPS monitoring company who notified the Canada Border Services Agency. A representative of the GPS company arrived at the apartment and confirmed that the monitoring equipment was in place. But the next day police arrested Matt for breaching his release terms, which required him to notify the Canada Border Services Agency of a change of address in person.

It seems the FBI believed if they labeled Matt a pedophile that no one would want anything to do with him or his case. And in fact, neither CNN nor Fox News have reported on Matt’s case at any time since 2010. However, Adrian Humphreys of the National Post in Canada published an exhaustive five-part series on Matt’s case. On August 20, Humphreys also attempted to report on Matt’s refugee hearing, but was denied access and banned from publishing any details of the case including Matt’s name. 

The refugee hearing wrapped up on August 21st with written arguments still to be submitted by October 3rd.  Matt is currently incarcerated in Lindsay, Ontario.