Diary

Spygate: A Strange Coincidence, or More Evidence?

FILE _ In this May 22, 2018, file photo, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a campaign event in Phoenix. Arpaio said Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, that he's being unfairly blamed for releasing from custody a Mexican immigrant featured in a political ad that shows the man in a California courtroom bragging about killing police officers. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

This is a very strange story in the entire saga and one that really has not received great notoriety or publicity, mainly because it borders on conspiracy theory right up there with the fake moon landing, Roswell, and the Kennedy assassination.  However, sprinkled within the story are some strange coincidences and tidbits of truth confirmed, albeit circumstantially, with other bits of evidence.  Connecting the dots, if the dots even exist at all, may possibly explain a lot in the entire story which takes a strange turn and runs through Maricopa County, Arizona and their flamboyant sheriff, Joe Arpaio.  

Arpaio was the county sheriff from 1993 to 2017.  Beginning in 2005, he became the face of a crackdown on illegal immigration long before Trump took up the torch.  The media frequently ran stories on his exploits such as establishing tent city jails for the overflow from county jail and providing prisoners with pink jumpsuits.  

He was also accused of racially profiling Latinos in his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.  In 2007, Sheriff’s officers stopped and detained for nine hours Manuel Melendres, a Mexican tourist.  Melendres then sued Arpaio and the MCSO claiming racial profiling.  The case eventually ended up before Judge G. Murray Snow.  The disposition of the case took some winding turns through the courts but eventually Arpaio was found guilty of contempt in July 2017 and was pardoned by Trump the following month.  

Just as Obama was up for reelection in 2012,  so too was Arpaio for another four year term as sheriff.  Businessman Donald Trump had toyed with the idea of a presidential run in 2012 and in the lead up to the primary season, Trump had rekindled the rumor that Obama was not born in the United States- the so-called birther controversy.  Obama eventually released a copy of the long form of his birth certificate seemingly putting the controversy to rest.  

Not so fast, thought Arpaio.  Convinced that Obama was either born in Kenya or that he was a closet Muslim, Arpaio opened an investigation into the authenticity of the birth certificate posted by the White House.  Besides being a somewhat flamboyant officer, Arpaio was also a good fundraiser.  Arpaio’s campaign became adept at blasting out emails soliciting donations from people who believed Obama was hiding something, and those emails targeted people far from Maricopa County.

Arpaio had contracted with a group called the Cold Case Posse (CCP) which was a repossession organization led by Mike Zullo.  Unsatisfied with the long firm certificate, Arpaio tasked the CCP with investigating its authenticity and he dispatched the CCP to Hawaii along with a MCSO detective, Brian Mackiewicz, and Sergeant Travis Anglin.  

Investigations by local journalists into the machinations of the sheriff’s office and the investigation of the Obama birth certificate eventually discovered that Arpaio’s office had hired a confidential informant who entered the scene in a roundabout way.  The informant hailed from Seattle and the journalists discovered that both Mackiewicz and Anglin were repeatedly making trips to Seattle.  It was later determined that the informant was Dennis Montgomery.

In November 2013, Montgomery had approached the MCSO with a claim that about 150,000 residents of Maricopa County had their bank accounts breached.  Montgomery further alleged that the perpetrator of the breaches was a government entity.  Concerned that a crime was committed, Arpaio dispatched Mackiewicz and Zullo to assess Montgomery’s claims.  Zullo recorded the conversations among Montgomery, Mackiewicz and Montgomery’s business associate, Tim Blixseth.  

In one particular conversation, Blixseth mentioned the previously-discussed HAMMER project which Montgomery allegedly developed for the government in the aftermath of 9/11.  In one recorded conversation, later dubbed “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, Part 2,” Blixseth told the investigators that he was told of crimes against 152,000 citizens of Maricopa County.  Blixseth said that Montgomery would be willing to come to Arizona with the evidence and testify before a grand jury provided he received “some type” of immunity.  Blixseth prefaced his comments that Montgomery had been branded a fraud by some within the government and the media.  

Blixseth also noted the previous controversies when it came to Montgomery.  Despite the smears in the press, the government continued to do business with him, and no charges were ever filed against Montgomery with any of his allegedly fraudulent actions.  Arpaio decided to contract with Montgomery as a confidential informant in order to organize and produce the data he possessed relative to the allegations of government intrusion into the bank accounts.  Montgomery then turned over six thumb drives to Zullo.

Zullo, Mackiewicz, and Montgomery, in an effort to verify the authenticity of the information, contacted Thomas Drake, J. Kirke Wiebe, and William Binney.  Binney was a former NSA whistleblower who left the agency in 2001 along with Wiebe after they went to Congress complaining that the government was collecting communications data on Americans without a warrant.  All three were investigated by the Bush administration’s DOJ for leaking information about the secret program to the New York Times in 2005.  Later, their treatment at the hands of the DOJ became the inspiration for Edward Snowden to leak his story to The Guardian coupled with James Clapper’s lying to Congress.

In November 2014, Wiebe and Drake signed a legal affidavit stating that the information on the thumb drives could not possibly come from the clandestine collection and processing of modern network communications and was instead most likely a fraud “perpetrated for personal gain” on the part of Montgomery.  Binney did not sign the report and later told reporters that the information included images of bank checks and the only way to get those images would be to hack into a bank’s computers.

What piqued the interest in Arpaio in the first place is Montgomery’s claim that Eric Holder, the attorney general, and the judge, G. Murray Snow was “out to get Joe.”  Montgomery then tried to inject himself into Arpaio’s contempt trial and Snow demanded that the Zullo tapes be turned over to the court.  Although never intended to be heard publicly, somebody at the court did make them public after leaking them to the ACLU which had become a party in Melendres case.

Then, sometime later in 2014, Montgomery hired Larry Klayman as his lawyer.  Klayman was known in conservative circles as the founder of Judicial Watch which had forced the release of many government documents under the Freedom of Information Act.  On August 1, 2014, Klayman and Montgomery approached US District Court Judge for DC and Chief Judge of the FISC, Royce Lamberth.  Montgomery gave Lamberth a 200-page document along with one data disc.  Lamberth recognized some of the information Montgomery had presented since it had previously crossed his path while sitting as a FISC judge.  After confirming Montgomery’s security clearance credentials (despite the alleged fraud, he still held a security clearance with the CIA and NSA), Lamberth afforded protection to Montgomery.

In 2015, Lamberth finalized two immunity agreements for Montgomery.  The agreement was signed by Montgomery, Klayman, DOJ assistant attorney Deborah Curtis, and FBI general counsel James Baker.  One agreement was for testimony and the other was for the production of evidence.  As part of the production aspect, Montgomery turned over 47 discs of evidence to the Miami field office of the FBI.  The discs had been encrypted although Montgomery claims he decrypted them before turning them over.  According to Montgomery: “I produced 600 million pages…The information is very sensitive information.  They collected Google searches, credit cards, phone records, images, pictures, anything, everything, and they did it for one reason: leverage…The amount of information is mind-boggling.”

As for the testimony, Montgomery agreed to be interviewed under oath by FBI agents.  This took place and the interviews were conducted by FBI special agents Walter Giardina and William Barnett.  After the authenticity of the discs was verified, Montgomery underwent another interview with greater immunity by Deborah Curtis at the FBI field office for over three hours of testimony.

One does not know whatever happened to the testimony or the discs of evidence.  According to Montgomery in a lawsuit, the information was either ignored or destroyed by the FBI.  Montgomery was subsequently placed under a gag order by the government.  Klayman, however, has been outspoken and has stated that the evidence proved that the government had been illegally harvesting data on Americans without a warrant and that among those targeted were Klayman himself, Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and businessman Donald Trump.  He specifically noted that the financial data of Roberts had been collected.  

On what was to be called the “Whistleblower tapes” recorded by Zullo, Blixseth states that Trump had been wiretapped “a zillion times” and that this had been going on for years.  Klayman further stated that 156 Article III judges had been targeted, the FISA court, and Reggie Walton, the former presiding judge of the FISC, as well as several prominent US businesspeople.  Before the gag order, Montgomery said he provided the FBI with information on 17 Trump businesses as well as illegal surveillance on members of the Trump family and business organization.  In that interview, Montgomery claimed that both James Clapper and John Brennan had been collecting this information for “leverage” and possible “blackmail.”

The “whistleblower tapes” were recorded well before Trump announced his candidacy in 2015.