MIKE ZULLO: DESPITE PITFALLS, MONTGOMERY “HAS A STORY TO TELL”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 28, 2019) — In Part 1 of this series, The Post & Email presented an overview of a YouTube broadcast by Dr. Dave Janda with guests J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney, both former NSA officials who resigned from the agency in 2001 with the troubling finding that government surveillance of average Americans was routinely violating Fourth Amendment rights.
Along with several others, both became whistleblowers detailing the enormous expense the NSA incurred in launching “Trailblazer,” a tracking program which replaced the less invasive “ThinThread.”
In late 2014, Wiebe and another whistleblower, Thomas Drake, signed a letter contending that former NSA and CIA contractor/software developer Dennis Montgomery was a “complete and total FRAUD” based on their analysis of approximately four dozen hard drives which Montgomery purported contained proprietary information gleaned from government surveillance.
However, on Janda’s broadcast as well as a follow-up session, Binney, who did not sign the letter, and Wiebe suggested that Montgomery’s past claims about government surveillance might be credible after Janda extolled the work of Mary Fanning and Alan Jones at The American Report about Montgomery’s employment with the federal government.
Janda emphasized Montgomery’s designing for the government years ago of “The Hamr,” a computer-breaching software, and its use as a “parallel platform” for government actors who wish to gather information on Americans without a warrant and without the customary logging procedures which would accompany the use of a standard NSA database.
Zullo has previously reported that Montgomery claimed to have approximately “600 million records” showing mass surveillance of Americans by the federal government between the years 2001 and 2010, when Montgomery left government service.
Wiebe’s response to The Post & Email’s questions regarding what appeared to be a shifting of position on Montgomery were published in Part 1, while Part 2 contains a response from Mike Zullo, who oversaw Montgomery’s work as a confidential informant for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), which lasted approximately a year.
A request for comment from Janda prior to the publication of Part 1 received no response, although he had replied to several previous emails in which we suggested that he contact Zullo as the sole authority on Montgomery’s claims vs. his work product and other details Janda excluded from his broadcasts.
In November 2013, Montgomery approached then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio with the claim that he possessed information demonstrating that mass surveillance and the breaching of Maricopa County residents’ bank accounts had been conducted by a government entity. At the time, Zullo made recordings of discussions with Montgomery and others which became public after U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow ordered that they be provided to him as he presided over a civil contempt-of-court case naming Arpaio, several of his deputies, and Maricopa County at large as defendants.
Once provided to Snow, the recordings were released to The Phoenix New Times, a publication virulently opposed to Arpaio’s policies and critical of Zullo’s investigation, conducted under Arpaio’s authority, of Barack Obama’s “long-form” birth certificate which determined that the image posted at the White House website on April 27, 2011 is a “computer-generated forgery.”
It was Zullo who conceived of the idea of contacting Binney, Drake and Wiebe to request an analysis of 47 hard drives Montgomery provided to the MCSO during the course of his work to determine if any of the information they contained would reveal illegal government activity, as Montgomery had claimed.
In November 2014, Zullo and Detective Brian Mackiewicz traveled from Arizona to Maryland, as the letter summarizes, to deliver the hard drives for analysis.
Although Zullo said he suspected the hard drives’ contents would prove disappointing, the letter Wiebe and Drake provided was “devastating,” he said, to the MCSO’s investigation into Montgomery’s claims and led to the severing of the relationship between Montgomery and the MCSO. He added that while the report was a blow to the investigation, the evidence represented for months by Montgomery as “highly classified” in nature was in actuality nothing more than “junk” and contained absolutely nothing of a classified nature. “The evidence was not evidence at all,” Zullo said, “yet Montomery falsely led investigators to believe otherwise.”
In sworn testimony during Arpaio’s civil-contempt trial in November 2015, Zullo attested to the lack of usable information found on the 47 hard drives by the analysts, but he was not asked whether or not Montgomery provided anything of value during his relationship with the MCSO. Zullo did state in court that some of the information Montgomery provided had some value. He was never asked to clarify the statement.
According to closed-door testimony to members of Congress, in 2016, then represented by Atty. Larry Klayman, Montgomery provided certain materials to the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, then led by James Baker, with a request for an investigation into alleged illegal government surveillance. In two depositions last October, Baker affirmed to members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees receipt of the materials and said that to the best of his recollection, an FBI probe was launched.
Baker was unsure of the date the FBI retrieved the storage devices from Montgomery, he testified (p. 4 of transcript), although he said he believed it occurred in the fall of 2016.
In late 2015, Montgomery testified to the FBI on two occasions, first under a “production immunity” agreement, and later, under a “testimonial immunity” agreement, Zullo reported in a number of radio interviews with Carl Gallups of “Freedom Friday.”
During Baker’s second deposition on October 18, 2018, Rep. Mark Meadows asked Baker, who had left government service the previous May, if he recalled whether or not “six thumb drives” were among the materials Montgomery provided (p. 100 of transcript).
In numerous interviews over the last several years, Zullo has confirmed that while much of Montgomery’s work product yielded no valuable data, information provided on thumb drives prior to his commencing work for the MCSO proved “verifiable,” and, in fact, was later verified by Zullo himself. However, none of that information was deemed to be classified.
In addition to the hard drives, he and Mackiewicz provided the thumb drives to the former NSA officials for analysis, Zullo told The Post & Email on Wednesday.
At one point, Montgomery was told his work encompassed in a “Special Access Program” (SAP), which, according to USLegal, “is a sensitive program, approved in writing by a head of agency with original top secret classification authority. The SAP imposes need-to-know and access controls beyond those normally provided for access to confidential, secret, or top secret information.”
I let Binney, Wiebe and Drake know in 2014 when we met with them for the first time that there’s evidence in a criminal trial that Montgomery was “SAPped.” We showed them documentation of that, and it was one of the motivating factors for the sheriff’s office to continue with Montgomery. I told Wiebe about Montgomery going to the FBI. Did they impugn Montgomery for no good reason?
That letter they handed us saying Montgomery was a fraud was detrimental to our investigation. They were laughing as they were looking at the hard drives; now they want to say that Montgomery is to be believed.
About a year and a half ago, I spoke with Kirk Wiebe about Montgomery, and I said that the government wouldn’t have SAPped him if there weren’t something to SAP him about. They’re taking the same source information and now saying he had a Special Access letter, but that was documented in court.
This is not new. How does Montgomery go from being a “fraud” and a “con” to being credible? They supplied a scathing letter with two signatures and now want to gloss over the sheriff’s office involvement as if it didn’t happen. There is no credibility as far as the information Montgomery provided on 47 hard drives is concerned. Wiebe and Drake said they couldn’t find the source of origin to any of the documentation. Montgomery deceived investigators for months regarding those hard drives, even as all types of measures were taken to ensure those drives were safe and secure up and until the time Wiebe and Drake discovered them to be junk.
There was a Sunday night, and I was listening to Montgomery’s free talk on tape again, and I heard him talk about other whistleblowers. It had gotten by me before. So I ended up tracking down William Binney and I found Kurt Wiebe and Thomas Drake. Binney was on with Alex Jones, so through him I got some contact information. I started looking around and found that the thing that Binney made was ThinThread, then I found out about Trailblazer and a host of other things.
I was on the phone with Montgomery and I asked, “Did the CIA ever give you software of other people’s?” and he said, “Yeah.” So I said, “What’s in it?” and he said, “It’s a bunch of computer codes.” So I said, “Is there anything in there with ThinThread?” So he went to look and called me back in an hour and he said, “Yes, I have code line in here with the source material; ‘ThinT,’ it’s called.” Then he looked and he found Trailblazer. And I said, “Dennis, tell me how that happened.” So he said, “Well, they came by; they gave me these drives and they said, ‘We want you to start working from this.'” “Then they “SAPped me,” Montgomery told me. “So I said, ‘What’s that?’ and he told me what “SAP” was.
Then I looked at some more and found that Gen. Hayden was testifying in front of the Intelligence Committee and ordered to shut down Trailblazer. I believe this was in 2006. All references to this have since been scrubbed from the internet, including video. He shut it down at the same time Montgomery got this information. That’s why they’re calling it “parallel” systems. Montgomery didn’t even know that happened, but he said to me later, “Now it all makes sense.”
Old News made to look like new news
This is part of Dennis Montgomery’s method of operation: to find someone who desperately wants to believe what he’s saying and will write about it in some kind of electronic medium. That’s where this problem is. One thing I’ve learned in doing this kind of work is you don’t want to be in a position to want something so badly that you’re willing to forego your own common sense and logic, which I think is what is happening here.
If you go back to every interview I’ve ever done involving Montgomery, I come out and say, “I’m not a proponent of him. I’m just telling you that he has a story to tell; there is some truth here, but there were a lot of things that weren’t.” But I strongly believe he needs to be interviewed at the least, and not by the FBI.
About the hard drives I took to Bill Binney, Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe to examine, in the courtroom I testified that I knew it was going to be problematic before I ever posed the question. It was at my prodding that the sheriff told me to take a chance to determine if there was anything creditable on those drives. The whole time, Montgomery was telling us that there were all kinds of sensitive information on them, but in my dealings with him I was starting to get an idea that wasn’t going to be the case.
I described the chain of events and contacted Kirk Wiebe, and I told Montgomery we were going to do this. I described in courtroom testimony how I watched the back of Montgomery’s neck and the top of his ears go bright red, as I told him we were going to have the hard drives analyzed and invited him to join us. I knew right then and there that these things were going to be bogus and he was going to pull a maneuver and not attend.
Let’s assume Kirk’s contention about Montgomery’s having been silenced by the State Secrets Privilege – and it turned out to be true and that he didn’t attend – is it possible that Dennis Montgomery just did not want to give that type of information for fear he would have been violating the State Secrets Privilege? Well, I’m the one who proposed that, because I said, “There is a possibility he’s giving us remanufactured information because he doesn’t want to hand over the real stuff, and he’s transposing things. that’s always a possibility. But here comes the rub: why would you send the sheriff’s office, who’s paying you, on a wild goose chase, when you knew there was nothing on those of any value? All he had to do was come clean and tells us. He didn’t. Why would you allow that to even happen? And he did, and it was when he got caught in a very big problem and damaged his own credibility. No one did that but him.
Kirk Wiebe and Tom Drake’s letter was the death knell in this investigation. The minute that letter was received, Montgomery was over and so was this investigation. Do I blame Kirk Wiebe and Thomas Drake? No. I blame Montgomery because he should have provided what he said, or he should have just come right out and said, “Mike, don’t go there, because I didn’t put anything on those drives worth anything,” or “Don’t go there for whatever reason because there’s nothing of value there because I’m afraid.” But he didn’t do that; he stood by and let us go. So that is a problem as far as credibility is concerned, and this is why we had issues like this. And this is why Montgomery attempts to write Sheriff Arpaio’s investigation out of a contrived narrative. Deletion by omission. He found reporters willing to omit pertinent details as if it all will go away and never happened. Well, it won’t; it is court-documented.
The bottom line to all of this: I fully believe Dennis Montgomery worked for the three-letter agencies. I fully believe he developed some portion of The Hamr. I saw the patent for “Medusa,” the program he wrote that does the illegal hacking. I believe he was part of two corporations. I believe he was doing hacking for the government, and I believe he is in possession of some information. I am not too confident he is in possession of everything he claims he is, and I am not too confident that every aspect of the story is reliable. But what I am certainly confident of is that the Janda interview was conjured up for one purpose and one intent: to make Montgomery look completely creditable in the eyes of his well-respected peers and to give credit where credit wasn’t due by two purported journalists who want the public to believe they are breaking this story and are the sole owners of certain things such as released conversations that were taped by me with my voice on them and turned over by me as evidence. They’ve tried to portray that they somehow magically got these things and they own the rights to them and they are somehow exclusive to them. That’s false; they don’t. But they’re trying to create an illusion.
The country hangs in the balance on this, and the one thing you want to stay away from is anybody who’s trying to build a name off of this. There’s no room for this; there’s no room for misleading the public; there’s no room for conjuring up stories and phony narratives and creating controversy where it didn’t exist before. The country hangs in the balance, and every American citizen is at risk. It’s time to stop the nonsense; don’t worry about who gets the credit; just do what you have to do as an American, and do it straight-up and honest. Stop misleading people with garbage like what I just witnessed.
Montgomery’s name is out here now because of Joseph Arpaio. People are talking about him because of the involvement with the sheriff’s office; otherwise, nobody would be talking about Montgomery. I’m the only person still talking about Montgomery, but because I talk about him doesn’t mean I believe him to be 100% because I don’t. I have first-hand experience that tells me different.
When I watched Janda’s broadcast on Sunday, he said Montgomery wasn’t a gambler, but Montgomery told us he was a major gambler. He was always in the casino and got a $1 million marker, then he could not pay the marker and got arrested for it. I’m being kind to Janda, because I think he’s a dupe.
The one thing nobody can take away from me is that I lived this. I know this guy; I sat with this guy; I have countless hours of communication with this guy, and I sat there when those hard drives were reviewed. I lived it.
Zullo then took our questions.
The P&E: Do you recall if Binney, Drake and Wiebe went through the hard drives all in one day?
Mike Zullo: I believe we went through them all in one day. I think we left some information there for them to review for a little while after we discovered these were nothing but junk, and when we came back, they were still trying to look for things. I know they issued the report later. I think they were trying to find anything that would prove that what Montgomery was saying was accurate, and it wasn’t.
The P&E: Do you know what Binney was talking about when he said they saw a photograph of a check?
Mike Zullo: There were pictures of cancelled checks, banking information; I’ve alluded to this over the years. I didn’t disclose the cancelled checks. But this is nothing new; I’ve said for years now that there were banking records. To be honest with you, I think the checks that showed up were Montgomery’s paychecks or something. If I remember correctly, what they saw was the original information first that Montgomery gave us on thumb drives. Anything not on those thumb drives for the most part was garbage.
The P&E: Did you bring the thumb drives with you?
Mike Zullo: Yes, we did, and we showed them those first.
The P&E: Why did Judge Snow care about what Montgomery was doing for the sheriff’s office?
Mike Zullo: He got rolled up in it. People from the Justice Department were sitting right there during the trial.
The P&E: Do you think that the 47 hard drives are what Larry Klayman talked to James Baker about? Do you know what Montgomery gave to Baker?
Mike Zullo: No, I don’t. Here’s the thing: Now we come up with another 47 hard drives, another same representation of 600 million pages of information; that is the same thing we’ve heard. I don’t know what he gave the FBI. I don’t know if it’s the same garbage he gave us or something different. But here’s what I’m going to say: I believe, based on conversations I had with Montgomery, that his initial meeting Montgomery – and this was misstated on Janda’s show — got with the FBI was for what is called “production immunity,” – “Give us something.” And Montgomery told me that the FBI looked at him and said, “Don’t scr*** around with us; if you’ve got something that we can verify, you better cough it up.” My understanding is he did and at a later date they gave him testimonial immunity. So he must have given them something of value.
My gut is telling me that what he gave them was, if not identical, then similar to the very first thumb drives he gave the sheriff’s office. As far as what he turned over later, I don’t know.
My understanding is that the second go-around was with testimonial immunity. He would not get that if the info he provided did not pan out.
During Baker’s second deposition, he said he did not know the outcome of the investigation he believed the FBI launched into Montgomery’s data. In previous interviews, Zullo has said without equivocation that Baker and then-FBI Director James Comey “deep-sixxed” it.
On his website Friday, former CIA officer Kevin Schipp wrote:
“The “Hammer” controversy: Dennis Montgomery, a fraud and a con man. However, it appears that former NSA/CIA Director General Michael Hayden used Montgomery and fed him NSA surveillance capabilities to hide them from Congress.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.