On Monday, February 9th, Matt DeHart’s parents, Paul and Leann, received notice by mail from the Refugee Protection Division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board that the family’s claim for Refugee Protection had been denied. The family fled the United States after Matt was interrogated and tortured during an FBI espionage investigation in which child pornography charges were hastily filed after Matt was detained at the Canadian border, an action which was triggered by an espionage alert.
The Refugee Protection Division determined that because they found no “credible and trustworthy evidence” to support the US government’s child pornography charges against Matt, the DeHarts weren’t excluded from refugee protection on the basis of those criminal charges. However, the determinative issue for the board was whether they considered the DeHarts would be afforded adequate protections by the United Sates.
Since the Board found the US to be a “democratic country with a system of checks and balances” and that Matt had the “ability to access and retain counsel for the purposes of defending himself” the Board ultimately ruled the DeHarts were not persons in need of protection at this time.
The DeHarts’ Refugee Protection process was frustrated by the fact that there was “no indictment or prosecution with regards to the National Security issue at the present time in the US.” But this has never been a case about child pornography; In this context the child porn charges appear to be nothing more than a pretext to discredit and silence a whistleblower who came across information implicating criminal activity against United States citizens by their own government.
As noted in the ruling, after FBI Agents detained Matt at the Canadian border, the “first notations in documents regarding his detention by the US authorities in August 2010 were made with respect to espionage” — not child pornography. During his detention by the FBI at this time, as also noted in the ruling, Matt was drugged against his will, tortured, and denied access to a lawyer. The criminal complaint and arrest warrant for Matt came later in the day after he was detained at the border on the espionage alert — a timeframe that speaks volumes given that the alleged crimes occurred in 2008 and, despite an investigation, no previous charges had been filed.
Matt brought two thumb drives of data implicating United States government agencies in criminal activity to Canada, which supported his claim for refugee protection. He gave them to the Canada Border Services Agency for use at his refugee hearing. The thumb drives were then retained by the CBSA, who refused to give Matt’s attorneys access to them. Therefore, a significant portion of evidence was not considered by those making the refugee decision
Following the ruling, Matt’s parents Paul and Leann DeHart have been given 30 days to leave the country. It is not yet know when Matt will be deported, but that is also expected to be within the next 30 days.
The full Immigration and Refugee Board ruling can be found here.
Statement From Tor Ekeland, to One Matt DeHart’s Attorneys
While I am disappointed that Matt and the DeHart family’s Refugee Claim was denied, I am heartened by the fact that the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada was just as skeptical as I am about the government’s child pornography claims against Matt. So skeptical, that the Board found that the Canadian Government had not met its low burden of proof to show that there were serious grounds to exclude Matt based on the allegations against him. Ultimately, however, the Board found that Matt’s solution lay with the US Court system and not Canada. We intend to vigorously defend Matt in the United States, as well as file a civil suit against the Federal Government for violations of Matt’s constitutional rights that he has endured in this process.
Statement From the DeHart Family
Leann, Matt, and I are all terribly saddened with the Canadian Refugee Protection Division’s February 5, 2015 decision not to grant refugee protection to our family. We received the comprehensive 171-paragraph decision in the mail on Monday, February 9, 2015. We cried, prayed, and wondered how we were going to break the news to Matt.
Matt called at 9:30am on February 10, 2015 when he was released from his cell as he usually does. I informed him immediately. We prayed and cried together as well over the course of the many calls he made that day as he tried to comprehend the impact of this decision on his future. Matt specifically asked we relay this statement from him while he is still able to talk.
“I am extremely concerned not only for my own safety but for the safety of my parents. I have endured three years of maximum security prison conditions in Canada and the United States for something I didn’t do. But, the thought of my parents suffering at the hands of the US government as well is unbearable. I cannot imagine any life in a country which has already tortured me. Am I now to be given into the hands of my torturers?”
We were encouraged by the fact that the Refugee Board thoroughly reviewed the evidence submitted against Matt regarding the Child Pornography charges in the US and found the evidence so lacking that it didn’t even meet the low standards for excluding him from seeking refugee status. Therefore, part of their ruling was that he was not excluded. We are working with our Canadian attorneys to explore what legal options we have left in Canada including a stay of removal for Matt pending a judicial review of the refugee decision.
The central issue for us has always been Matt’s torture at the hands of US officials in August of 2010 and we specifically asked the Canadian government for protection based on torture in accordance with international law under the UN Convention Against Torture. Our claim of torture has never been investigated or addressed by officials of the US government. Unfortunately, this specific claim was not addressed by Canadian authorities either.
We commit our lives and future into God’s good hands. Our next steps will be taken with the very capably advice of highly dedicated attorneys both in Canada and the US. We ask the public in Canada, the US, and the world community to follow closely what happens to us so that no evil may befall us in the dark.
Statement From Jesselyn Radack, Prominent Whistleblower Attorney Familiar With the Facts of the DeHart Case
(1) The DeHart case involves an intersection of torture and national security whistleblowing. On both issues, the US justice system is fundamentally flawed.
(2) The US has been involved in “medical torture.” An executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program was recently released, and described myriad medical torture techniques such as “rectal rehydration.” Medical professionals were involved at all levels of the torture program, from approval of techniques to supervising their execution. Moreover, during the recent hunger strike at the US detention center at Gaunatanamo Bay, the United States engaged in systematic, abusive force-feeding of detainees, many of whom have been held for more than a decade without charge.
(3) GAP has had US citizen clients that the US government subjected to torture in order to keep them from blowing the whistle. (John Doe and Donald Vance). The US Justice system was unable to provide a remedy for them.
(4) While the US government has yet to file an indictment under the Espionage Act in this case, it is obvious that the flimsy child pornography charges are a pretext to punish DeHart and force him to return to the US. The Obama administration has aggressively used the Espionage Act as its weapon of choice to punish national security whistleblowers, in any case that even remotely involved disclosure of allegedly-classified information. The Espionage Act is vague and overbroad to the point of being constitutionally-suspect and is not limited to government employees or disclosures of information. NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was not charged with disclosure, but alleged improper “retention” of supposedly classified information.
The Espionage Act is viewed globally as a “political crime,” and a trial for Espionage Act charges in the US is far from fair. The Espionage Act effectively hinders a person from defending himself before a jury in an open court. In the case of Mr. Drake, the government moved to preclude the word “whistleblowing” from trial. Other whistleblowers (CIA’s John Kiriakou and Jeffery Sterling) have been precluded from presenting any evidence of their intent, essentially turning the Espionage Act into a strict liability crime.
(5) The Refugee Protection Division’s finding that “the [US] federal government has a high degree of transparency,” (¶ 156) is totally out of place in the national security, whistleblower, and torture context. The US government has a plethora of tools at its disposal to secretly conduct surveillance on suspects, including National Security Letters, which include a GAG order so the suspect does not know the government has obtained his information, and “Sneak and Peak” searches. It is only thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden that the public knows about extra-legal surveillance tactics the government uses, including hacking into third-party internet provider servers and the mass bulk collection of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans’ phone records. On the torture issue in particular, the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee staff conducting the investigation, refused to cooperate with investigators and held up public release of even a heavily-redacted executive summary of the report for years. Such actions are not the hallmarks of transparency.
Moreover, the US classification system is completely dysfunctional. Even government officials admit that over-classification has become rampant. The “classified’” information at issue in the Drake case was unclassified documents that were retroactively stamped “classified” after being seized from his home. US courts are often overly-deferential to the Executive branch on classification claims, and the Executive branch consistently claims the unilateral authority to determine what information is classified.
(6) The Refugee Protection Division’s findings that the “media is aggressive in reporting on cases of corporate and official corruption” is not especially applicable in the national security whistleblower context. While there are aggressive investigative journalists in the US, they rely on whistleblower sources who are chilled by threats of Espionage Act prosecutions and, in many US national security agencies, employees risk losing their jobs for simply having unauthorized contact with a reporter, no matter the subject of the conversation. The Editors of the Washington Post, New York Times and Politico spoke just last week about the chilling effect the crackdown has had on journalists trying to report on national security issues.
In addition, the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on alleged leaks of classified information has systematically ensnared journalists themselves and chilled investigative reporting in the United State. Under Obama, the US Justice Department has (1) maintained that there is no legal privilege protecting a reporter and his or her source while fighting to the Supreme Court to force one reporter to testify about his source, (2) accused a journalist of violating the Espionage Act by obtaining information that was in the public interest and (3) secretly obtained the phone records of hundreds of journalists at the Associated Press.
Who Is Matt DeHart?
Matt DeHart is a 30 year old US Citizen and former US airman with Top Secret clearance who the US government detained at the US Canadian border on an alleged “espionage matter.” While detained he was drugged via an I.V. without his consent and repeatedly interrogated about Anonymous, Wikileaks, and a file allegedly detailing an FBI investigation of post-9/11 domestic criminal activity by a US intelligence agency that appeared on a server he was an admin on. Later that day the government hastily drafted and filed a criminal complaint, in what looks like a smear campaign, charging Matt with the solicitation of child pornography based on two-year-old allegations it had previously investigated but never filed charges on.
The child pornography investigation began after an irate mother reported Matt following a prank involving the toilet papering of a house. At the time of the incident, no child pornography accusations were made. No child pornography has been found on any of Matt’s devices, and he vehemently denies the allegations. Following his detention at the Canadian border, the FBI interrogated Matt in Maine without a lawyer for over a week, even after one was appointed for him at his federal detention hearing, and never questioned him about matters relating to the child pornography allegations.
Matt’s parents, Paul and Leann DeHart, are active in Christian ministry, and both had Top Secret clearance while they worked for the US Military as linguists analyzing signals intelligence. After the FBI interrogation and nearly three years of trying to work through the US legal system the whole family fled to Canada to seek asylum under the UN Convention Against Torture.
READ: To learn more about Matt’s case, read author and journalist Adrian Humphreys’ award-winning National Post story “Hacker, Creeper, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Matt DeHart.”
DONATE: A defense fund has been established with the DeHart family’s approval.