DENNIS MONTGOMERY, GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE, AND “FRAUD”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 25, 2019) — On June 7, 2019, Dr. Dave Janda of “Operation Freedom” hosted former NSA Technical Director William Binney and former Senior Analyst J. Kirk Wiebe to discuss the existence of “parallel platforms” used by the U.S. intelligence community to harvest personal information on Americans without a warrant.
At the opening of the show, Janda introduced Binney and Wiebe as “legends in the world of [the] National Security Agency and in surveillance platforms.” Both resigned from the agency in 2001 as “whistleblowers,” Janda said, and as has been reported by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and other outlets. Janda stated that their resignations were tendered because “NSA platforms were being illegally used to monitor American citizens’ phone calls, emails, internet activities, financial transactions.”
One of those “parallel platforms,” Janda contended, was “The Hamr,” designed by former NSA and CIA contractor Dennis Montgomery, and, as Janda correctly reported, referenced in WikiLeaks’ release of “Vault 7,” subtitled “CIA Hacking Tools Revealed.”
In 2002, Binney and Wiebe met with House Intelligence Committee “senior staffer” Diane Roark to register a complaint against the NSA for “corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse,” Binney told Reason Magazine in May 2014.
In a video interview in January 2014, Reason reporter Nick Gillespie compared Binney to “Edward Snowden 1.0,” referring to the former CIA contractor who in June 2013 released classified documents to The Guardian detailing governmental collection of virtually all Americans’ communications.
Binney told Gillespie that the government “brought in contractors from the outside – engineers and computer scientists and things like that – to solve what is fundamentally an analytic problem” in order to modernize data-collection processes in the internet age. He also described “ThinThread,” a program which he said was effective in identifying national-security threats but was set aside in favor of the more expansive and costly “Trailblazer.”
“Not only did Trailblazer waste billions of taxpayer dollars, but it was declared an utter failure by 2005,” Wikibooks reports. “Many within the NSA and Bush Administration supported or went along with the decision to use the program, but five officials in particular, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loomis, Diane Roark, and Thomas Drake stood up and blew the whistle.”
Last August, lead investigator of the Obama birth certificate probe Mike Zullo told “Freedom Friday” host Carl Gallups that although the Senate Intelligence Committee had ordered Trailblazer to cease, “Dennis Montgomery told us he had information, he had proof, that…they never shut it down. [Then-NSA Director Michael] Hayden unloaded it to Montgomery when he was operating in Nevada as a contractor for the CIA; all the while he’s leading the Intelligence Committee to believe that it was, in fact, shut down.”
In his May 2014 Reason interview, Binney described a 2007 FBI “raid” on his home also referenced by Janda. “They came up and pointed guns at my family and me as I was getting out of the shower,” Binney told Reason. “I just asked them if I could put some clothes on. And they went through and searched everything and took my computer.” Binney further claimed that the confiscation of his equipment decimated a consulting business he was running and that “not all” of his materials were returned. The pretext for withholding them, Binney said, was that “under the NSA Act of 1959, if there was something that was sensitive to them they could keep it and not tell us what it was or return it.”
Binney has previously claimed, as he did on Janda’s show, that it was not the Russians who “hacked” the DNC servers, as the “Mueller report” states. Rather, Binney said, someone copied the documentation onto an external device and provided it, indirectly or directly, to WikiLeaks, which published it in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Just before the 4:00 mark, Janda depicted Montgomery as “a lightning rod” in exposing the existence of “parallel platforms” used by rogue government actors to collect Americans’ personal data. Montgomery has suffered reputational damage as a result of his whisleblowing efforts, Janda said, after which he responded to a litany of allegations he said have been made about Montgomery.
“This is exactly what they also tried to do to Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe to dirty them up,” Janda said at 5:32. “Actually, after Kirk and Bill became whistleblowers in 2001, Robert Mueller, who was director of the FBI, he had the FBI tear down their doors…”
“Bill and Kirk took a look at the Dennis Montgomery information and what Dennis Montgomery has said and what others have said about him; they address that as well,” Janda said before bringing them in at 6:57.
At 21:10, Janda asked about “parallel platforms that exist for surveillance that don’t have the internal reporting systems that the NSA systems have in place.” He continued, “I have been told that I am not only wrong, but the discussion of parallel platforms — parallel platforms are illegitimate; they’re a fraud; they don’t exist; they never have been in place…Have you ever participated in a program that was a parallel surveillance program to the existing NSA platform?”
Binney responded, “Yes, as subcontractors,” and Wiebe responded, “Yes.” Binney described a “platform” he said was successfully utilized to increase national security in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and both guests agreed that the claim that parallel platforms are “a fraud” is “simply not the case.”
Specifically as to “The Hamr,” Janda asked at 24:20, “Why would they have to have a parallel platform?”
Binney responded that if a government employee works within the NSA’s framework for collecting information, all activity is “documented,” whereas in a “parallel platform,” the user can seek information secretly.
At the 27:25 mark, with a passing reference to “Arpaio’s detectives,” Binney recalled that information he reviewed from Montgomery appeared to show internal bank-account information. “Kirk and Tom Drake and I looked at that data and could see that obviously, he was hacking in or capturing data from banks…” he said.
In order to obtain that type of information, Binney told Janda, “You either have to surveil a transfer of data between banks or you have to hack in to the bank to get it.”
“Montgomery has become the lightning rod on this,” Janda repeated, although adding that certain individuals have expressed doubt in Montgomery’s claims. Referencing articles by Mary Fanning and Alan Jones at The American Report, Janda asked, “Do you have a problem with what they wrote about or the evidence they produced?”
“No,” Binney responded.
Janda went on to cite from the Fanning/Jones articles that in August 2019, Montgomery provided “47 hard drives” to a Florida office of the FBI under a “limited immunity” agreement. A second meeting with the FBI in Washington, DC, Janda said, resulted in a grant of “full immunity.” “If he had presented bogus information to them, what are the chances that they would have first given him limited immunity, not charged him with perjury, and then given him full immunity?” Janda asked his guests.
Zullo presented a similar premise in March 2017 when he said on Gallups’s show, “It’s public information now that Montgomery presented millions and millions of records that have been collected from Americans without their knowledge by government entities, and he now has both production and testimonial immunity. Now, you don’t get that kind of immunity from the FBI; that has to come from the DOJ, and they don’t just hand that out like popcorn.”
“I’m a mathematician; random probability is roughly zero,” Binney replied to Janda with a laugh (30:18). “Kirk?” Janda asked for Wiebe’s response, which was, “I agree; zero chance” and a chuckle.
As Binney referenced, in November 2014, he, Wiebe and another former NSA analyst, Thomas Drake, performed an analysis of data contained on 47 hard drives Montgomery supplied to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), with Zullo and Detective Brian Mackiewicz the emissaries.
Approximately a year earlier, and as The Post & Email has reported for more than four years, in November 2013 Montgomery approached Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio with the claim that data he possessed from his work for the intelligence community indicated not only mass surveillance of Americans, but also bank-account breaches of more than 150,000 Maricopa County residents. Concerned that crimes may have been committed against his constituents, Arpaio contracted Montgomery to organize the material he claimed to have, with Zullo designated in an oversight capacity.
A report signed by Wiebe and Drake stated that after they examined the hard drives, they determined that the information they contained was useless and Montgomery “a complete and total fraud.” An email from Mackiewicz to then-Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan states as an introduction, “The written report from the three guys from the NSA regarding the Information Dennis provided us, interesting read.”
In November 2015, Zullo testified in a civil-contempt case, Melendres v. Arpaio, et al, that he did not expect the hard drives to yield any usable data, although he has maintained that Montgomery did provide “verifiable” information on separate thumb drives which he himself was able to substantiate.
On June 20, prior to our having become aware of Janda’s broadcast, The Post & Email reported:
On November 12 and 13, 2015, Zullo testified in Melendres that data Montgomery provided stored on numerous hard drives to Arpaio’s office was determined to be “worthless” (p. 158 in transcript below) by two former NSA officials, Thomas Drake and William Binney.
On page 152 of the court transcript, Zullo is noted to have said:
During the trial, recordings of Montgomery’s initial 2013 interactions with Zullo, Mackiewicz and Arpaio, leaked to The Phoenix New Times by an attorney for the plaintiffs, were played. After providing sworn testimony, Zullo said that the recordings “were only ‘snippets’ of longer segments” which did not provide full context. Questioners for the plaintiffs did not inquire as to whether or not Montgomery provided materials other than the hard drives to the MCSO.
At 30:45, in response to apparent doubts expressed by members of the audience, Janda addressed Montgomery’s “security clearance” by stating that Montgomery supplied evidence that he was included in a “Special Access Program” (SAP) while working for the government.
Wiebe explained that Montgomery would have been prohibited by federal law from sharing classified information with anyone not cleared to see it. As Zullo testified in November 2015, he conceived of and implemented the idea of taking Montgomery, who was quite ill at the time, to a federal judge with the proper clearance to receive the information.
Zullo also put Montgomery in touch with Atty. Larry Klayman, who came to represent Montgomery in Melendres and in Washington, DC, where Montgomery spoke to Judge Royce C. Lamberth, then the head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
On Monday, we reached out to Wiebe to ask “how the 2014 letter squares with the statements you are now making about Montgomery’s credibility” and received the following response:
For a long time, Bill Binney and I believed Montgomery had not provided solid evidence of his surveillance ops as he had claimed. There was circumstantial evidence of some type of activity, as he had provided some pictures of cancelled checks and the like, but nothing that proved how he obtained those items.
So – yes- Drake and I found no evidence of TCP/IP surveillance on any of the disks you gave us to examine.
Someone opined Montgomery did not give us the “real” data showing what he had done. Possible? Yes, as the sharing of classified data can get someone in trouble.
Note: The then DNI (Negroponte) invoked the security gag order provision of the National Secrets Act to prevent Montgomery from testifying about tech knowledge (he claimed personal intellectual proprietary about surveillance in court in the case involving the company he worked for out west.) This was ca 2006.
That fact moved our thinking about Montgomery to the “possible” category in terms of the veracity of his original claims. The other things we became aware of was that he turned in hard drives to the FBI when being represented by Larry Klayman a few years back. Comey was in charge of the FBI at the time.
That fact – turning in of hard drives to the FBI – was testified (2018) to Congress by James Baker, the then General Counsel for the FBI.
Soooo…in terms of current developments surrounding the potential illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign, we now believe the whole Montgomery issue needs to be thoroughly investigated, including the classified facts surrounding his claims.
That is all we are now trying to say. Prosecutor John Durham and AG Barr need to drive this matter to ground.
Baker was FBI General Counsel under Comey, was demoted under Christopher Wray and resigned in early May 2018. According to Baker’s attorney during his October 3, 208 closed-door deposition, he is under investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham for allegedly leaking sensitive information to the media (p. 37 of transcript).
A second deposition took place on October 18, 2018 during which Baker recalled that Klayman had approached him with “an allegation that there was an effort within the United States Government to conduct unlawful surveillance of other Americans, including government officials” (p. 100 of transcript).
The Post & Email notes that a June 5, 2019 article at The American Report references a May 29, 2019 “exclusive report” on Baker’s October 18, 2018 testimony to members of the House Judiciary and Oversight & Government Reform committees regarding Montgomery’s information. However, The Post & Email issued two reports detailing Baker’s testimony as to the materials Montgomery provided to the FBI on April 16, 2019 and April 25, 2019, respectively.
When asked by Rep. Mark Meadows if the FBI opened a responsive investigation, Baker said, “To the best of my recollection, yes” (p. 101).
In an April interview, Zullo said the FBI “deep-sixxed” the information Klayman and Montgomery provided. A lawsuit Klayman filed against Barack Obama, the FBI and other government agencies for allegedly failing to investigate was dismissed early last year.
Regarding Montgomery’s immunity agreements, Zullo told The Post & Email for its April 16 article, “James Baker knows all of it. Immunity has to come from the DOJ, and he had to give a report to the DOJ in order to get the immunity.”
On May 9, 2019, Montgomery approached The Post & Email about “doing a positive story about me.” It was not the first communication we received from him.
On Tuesday The Post & Email posed a final question to Wiebe: “Does your response mean you were incorrect in your assessment of Montgomery when you issued the report to the sheriff’s office?” to which he responded:
No, the finding is the same – none of the data on the drives supplied by Zullo and his colleague contained any evidence of intercept of people’s communications off the Internet.
What has changed is my and Binney’s view regarding the veracity of Dennis Montgomery’s claims in light of the Negroponte action under the State Secrets Act, essentially placing a gag order on Montgomery due to the sensitivity of what he did. We now say it is possible that Montgomery has been truthful about the operations he carried out and that the only way to find out is to have the matter thoroughly investigated.
Very best regards,
As a final follow-up question, The Post & Email asked:
So does this still stand?
And Wiebe responded, “Yes, it still stands.”
A request for comment from Janda received no response.
Editor’s Note: Please look for Zullo’s exclusive response to the Janda/Wiebe/Binney interview in Part 2 of this series to be released shortly.