PUBLIC TIMELINE BEGINS IN NOVEMBER 2015, NOT MARCH 2017
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 4, 2019) — Recent interviews and articles focusing on former NSA and CIA contractor Dennis Montgomery’s claim to have evidence of widespread, illegal government surveillance of average Americans engineered by Obama-era intelligence officials present the issue as “new” and “exclusive” when, in fact, The Post & Email has reported it for nearly four years.
Mary Fanning and Alan Jones of The American Report describe Montgomery as “a whistleblower singing for America’s protection” who should be “embraced and celebrated.” Dave Janda of “Operation Freedom” and “Insider Insight” has feted the two as having conducted “multi-year investigations as a team” (21:02) and achieved widespread publication.
“The two of you are the ones who broke this wide open,” Janda said on August 2 regarding the existence of “parallel platforms” of government surveillance outside of the system maintained by the NSA, as alleged by Montgomery.
In actuality, the Montgomery story, which has achieved a new iteration through Fanning, Jones and others of late, became public in November 2015 when then-Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Cold Case Posse lead investigator Mike Zullo testified in a federal civil case, Melendres, et al v. Arpaio, et al, as to his direct supervision of Montgomery while he was working as an MCSO confidential informant for approximately a year.
In an interview Thursday with Jason Goodman of “Crowdsource the Truth” and former CIA agent Kevin Shipp of “The Intelligence Assessment,” Zullo related in unprecedented detail the timeline and events beginning with Montgomery’s overture to the MCSO in late 2013 claiming government data-collection on tens of thousands of Maricopa County residents.
The Post & Email’s coverage of the Melendres hearings, which unexpectedly turned to Montgomery’s work for the MCSO, began in May 2015. Articles at The American Report about Montgomery began appearing on March 17, 2017, three days after Fanning last spoke with this writer and Zullo about “The Hammer.”
Fanning and Jones claim that Montgomery was unaware he was being recorded when he met with Zullo. On May 15, 2019, Montgomery made the same claim to this writer in an email, but Zullo told us on July 9 that “Montgomery was fully aware he was being recorded during his numerous interviews with us.”
Fanning and Jones implied that the recordings are their exclusive property by having “transcribed” them in “November 2015.” Dubbing the recordings “The Whistleblower Tapes,” they did not mention that Zullo was the source of the recordings and that they were first released by The Phoenix New Times in November 2015 as the result of a leak.
In his August 2 broadcast, Janda claimed that Jones and Fanning “found” the recordings (24:25). “Who was being taped, and what did they say…?” he asked, to which Fanning responded that beginning in “February 2009,” John Brennan and James Clapper “had the ability to spy on all of America…”
Brennan was not then Obama’s CIA director, as Fanning implied.
Over the last nine months, Montgomery has been seeking “positive” news coverage as expressed to this writer in an email on May 9, 2019. “What is the deal with doing a positive story about me?…How can I be more direct?” he wrote.
Zullo described the recordings to this writer as investigative material rather than a “whistleblower” speaking to law enforcement.
Carl Gallups discussed Montgomery’s work on his December 12, 2015 radio show, “Freedom Friday.”
Zullo was not only a firsthand witness to Montgomery’s testimony to a federal judge in 2015, but also arranged for Montgomery to be represented by Attorney Larry Klayman and for Montgomery’s travel to Washington, DC while Montgomery was recovering from a severe stroke. Zullo said he and MCSO Det. Brian Mackiewicz carried Montgomery, who was in a wheelchair at the time, into the judge’s chambers and were present while Montgomery spoke with Judge Royce C. Lamberth.
Zullo disputes Fanning’s claim that Lamberth extended “whistleblower protection” to Montgomery. “If he had said that, I would’ve remembered it,” Zullo told us on Saturday.
Zullo has said that initial data Montgomery provided to Arpaio’s office contained “verifiable” information which Zullo, a former detective, ultimately “verified.” However, Zullo stressed, that information was overshadowed by a lack of additional actionable data.
During a Melendres hearing, then-MCSO Chief Deputy Gerard Sheridan echoed Zullo’s description of Montgomery’s work product. “…like many informants that we deal with, there’s a very shady side of them and then there’s also a very credible side for them,” he testified.
Beginning in August 2015, through Klayman, Montgomery approached the FBI with the information he claimed to have of government surveillance, reportedly providing “47 hard drives,” the same number he provided to the MCSO and which were later said to contain nothing of value. In November 2014, two former NSA program developers with whom Zullo contracted to perform an analysis of the data Montgomery produced termed Montgomery “a complete and total FRAUD.”
Fanning and Jones’s articles completely omit Montgomery’s history with the MCSO, which necessarily encompasses The Post & Email’s coverage of the subject. In several emails to this writer between last October and June, Montgomery stated that he wished to disassociate himself from Zullo, Klayman, and the MCSO.
In a July 5 broadcast with Jason Goodman, Fanning claimed Montgomery is a former “biochemical engineer,” a credential which does not appear in his Wikipedia biography. Montgomery did not respond to our inquiry as to the accuracy of Fanning’s statement. In 2011, The New York Times reported Montgomery to have been a “biomedical technician.”
A February 2015 lawsuit filed by Montgomery against former New York Times reporter and author James Risen alleging defamation was dismissed after Montgomery failed to produce, upon court order, software he claimed to have invented which Risen cited in his book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.” In a July 15, 2016 opinion granting summary judgment to the defendants, Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote (citations omitted):
As explained in more detail below, after initially objecting to that request, Montgomery eventually claimed that he had turned over the only copy of his software to the FBI, along with a large volume of other computer drives and electronic information, in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation. Magistrate Judge Goodman ordered Montgomery on more than one occasion to produce the software and to coordinate with the FBI in locating the software, using his self-described right of continued access to the software…Montgomery filed objections to those orders with the district court…In addition, Defendants eventually filed a motion for spoliation sanctions, arguing that Montgomery’s Amended Complaint should be dismissed, and Defendants should be awarded attorneys’ fees, as a consequence of his failure to produce the software…
In the interest of full disclosure, Contreras is a member of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and reportedly recused himself from hearing the case against President Trump’s first national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret) in 2017. In March 2018, multiple sources reported that Contreras and then-FBI Counterintelligence Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok were personally acquainted.
On November 17, 2017, a three-judge appellate panel upheld Contreras’s decision, stating:
Faced with a court order directing Montgomery to provide the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) with instructions on how to pinpoint the relevant software among the volumes of software in its possession, and requiring that he turn over the software to Risen within a ten-day period, Montgomery failed to comply…
Thus, cases like this one, where a journalist discusses central figures involved in matters of national security,present the greatest justification for requiring the higher burden of proof. As a limited-purpose public figure, Montgomery must demonstrate that Risen acted with actual malice in his reporting. He cannot meet this daunting standard. See Montgomery, 197 F.Supp.3d at 247 (finding Montgomery “fails to point the Court to sufficient evidence from which a rational jury could conclude by clear and convincing evidence that Defendants published the Chapter with actual malice; in fact, the record contains overwhelming evidence to the contrary”).
“This judge comes to the same conclusions that I did,” Zullo commented. “It points to what Montgomery was asked for and what he didn’t provide. This is why I have said that Montgomery can’t be a creditable witness.
“Part of Montgomery’s ruse is, ‘I turned it over’ or ‘I gave it to you,’ or ‘I don’t have it any more,’ and that’s always been the game.” Zullo said. “He talks a good game, but when it’s time for the rubber to meet the road, he’s running on slicks because he can’t get any traction at that point. That’s why I keep saying this is the same ‘con’ he’s running. At the critical moment he fails to provide the very key to his credibility. This has happened with us, the FBI and in his own lawsuit. In my opinion, he’s trying to rebuild his image, erase his past interactions with the sheriff’s office because they are not favorable to him.
“Mary Fanning’s timeline is deceptive. I don’t believe they worked on this story for five years. The only way they could have worked on that story would have been to have direct contact with me, and that would have been reported at that time. No one else in that two-year investigation was talking to them. The story broke in 2015 because of the leaked recordings from ACLU attorney Cecillia Wang. I filed a motion trying to suppress the release of Montgomery’s materials to the judge, but it was defeated.
“If this information wasn’t drawn out in the trial, it would never have reached the public. As an investigator, I knew the information had to be preserved. The trove of information on those tapes is because I had the foresight to preserve what he was telling us. The fact that Fanning and Jones ‘transcribed’ them doesn’t give them any special or exclusive knowledge. So to reintroduce this as new information is completely disingenuous. To state that they broke this story some two years after it has been reported on by others is just beyond the pale. Any ‘new’ information was from an interview I just did. They don’t have anything new. So to herald them as ‘investigative reporters’ breaking this story is intellectually dishonest.
“I gave Montgomery every opportunity to be the man he said he is, and he failed. He failed with us, the FBI, and he failed in his own civil lawsuit.
“I believe Mary Fanning wants to leave the sheriff’s office part of this narrative out for a number of reasons. One is she gets to leave out your reporting of this years earlier. In my opinion, you wrote your James Baker story a month prior to her realizing what she wrote about a month later. I think your story was the road map. Now she’s bringing Montgomery forward as if he’s never been reported on before.
“No one would have known about the Montgomery story if I hadn’t given it to you. I went on Carl’s show; I did Alex Jones, and you. Nobody else. What I told Jones was about Trump surveillance; I didn’t go into much else.
“In the interview with Shipp and Goodman, I stressed that Montgomery never produced the source code, the secret key. He didn’t produce it in his own civil suit or to the FBI. He didn’t produce it to us. Whenever it comes down to this source code, or anything pointing to the origin of his information it comes down to, “It’s classified” or “I don’t have it; I gave it to the FBI.” The judge said it perfectly: ‘This argument is circular.’
“Here was the most interesting fact with Montgomery: Whenever there was something that would benefit him, it seemed he could produce information at will when he was dealing with us. But when it comes down to providing the very thing that would give him undeniable credibility, he can’t do it.
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.