by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 24, 2023) — Late last month, The Post & Email published an initial story featuring an interview with cyber expert Joshua Merritt, who attended MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s 2021 Cyber Symposium in Sioux Falls, SD. Prior to the event, Lindell built suspense by pledging to release unassailable evidence of 2020 election fraud in the form of electronic data known as “PCAPS,” or “packet captures,” which he later revealed were received from “computer scientist” Dennis L. Montgomery.
Who is Dennis Montgomery?
The saga of Lindell’s election claims involves his heavy reliance on information he said he gleaned from software developer and former government subcontractor Dennis Montgomery in early 2021.
The Post & Email has written extensively about Montgomery, who negotiated contracts with the U.S. Defense Department when he was a partner at the Nevada-based eTreppid Technologies LLC in the early 2000s. Montgomery’s unexpected and abrupt departure from the company in January 2006 led to extensive litigation with his business partner, Warren Trepp. As the litigation proceeded, the federal government requested and was granted a protective order in the case as it pertained to contracts between eTreppid and “any intelligence agency.”
Over the years, Montgomery has frequently claimed the protective order constrains him from discussing the work he performed with and on behalf of the government, including what he now claims was his invention of election-related technology allegedly utilized by the federal government during the 2020 election.
On the second of three nights of the Symposium, which ran from August 10-12, 2021, Lindell reneged on his promise to release the evidence pertinent to the election, claiming the data had been contaminated by a “poison pill.”
Following that, and in Montgomery’s vein, Lindell began to claim that the protective order prohibited him from releasing the 2020 election evidence for which he reportedly paid Montgomery “$1.1 million” and a “2 million dollar home” in Florida.
In August 2022, Lindell attempted to intervene in the long-settled eTreppid case, petitioning the Nevada court originally presiding over the litigation to lift the protective order, but last month U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du denied that request.
While outwardly defending Montgomery as a “hero,” text messages recently made public in a lawsuit appear to reveal that Lindell was aware no “PCAPS” were provided prior to his announcement at the Symposium that he would not release them.
Merritt was asked to participate in the Symposium as an analyst on Lindell’s “Red Team” for a fee of $30,000 which he said he was never paid. In fact, following the event, Lindell threatened to sue Merritt, alleging Merritt’s remarks to The Washington Times, albeit unaware he was speaking to a reporter, indicating he saw no evidence of “PCAPS” from the 2020 election during private breakout sessions prior to Lindell’s promised public reveal, contradicted Merritt’s alleged previous assessment that “Montgomery is golden.”
Last month we sought out Merritt for his recollection of events, experience and insight from the Symposium stemming from our long-running reportage about Montgomery, whose 2013 claim to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) that he possessed evidence of government intrusions into tens of thousands of residents’ bank accounts was never substantiated.
“The American Report”
Since March 2017, Montgomery’s allegations have been published at The American Report operated by Mary Fanning and Alan Jones, who claim to be “national security” journalists but lack the requisite experience and portfolio. In fact, neither has put forth a bio with a verifiable photo and history, and in the case of a defamation lawsuit filed against them early last year, Jones was noted to have no known address.
On October 31, 2020, Fanning and Jones reported that a computer system Montgomery allegedly built for the government dubbed “The Hammer” and software he allegedly invented, “Scorecard,” were commandeered by bad internal actors to change the outcome of the 2020 election from incumbent Donald J. Trump to Joe Biden.
On January 3, 2021, Fanning and Jones reported that Montgomery captured real-time evidence that the election was hijacked by a “cyberwarfare attack” perpetrated by China and, to a lesser extent, other countries, at least temporarily abandoning the “Hammer/Scorecard” explanation for the election outcome.
The “cyberwarfare” claim became the foundation of a nine-part video series Lindell, Fanning, Jones and Worldview Weekend TV broadcaster Brannon Howse produced beginning in February 2021. The series gained the attention of the mainstream media, which labeled Lindell’s assertions as a “debunked” “conspiracy theory.”
The “Hammer and Scorecard” claim was featured in a December 2022 article by journalist Matt Taibbi in a “Twitter Files” release identifying it as some of “the fringiest material” flagged by the federal government’s “Foreign Influence Task Force” requesting social-media platforms’ censorship of certain accounts prior to the election.
Merritt’s Background, Findings
As we related in Part 1, Merritt described his experience in cyber operations dating back to the time he was seven, when he “hacked” into a government system using a relative’s computer. The relative received a visit and “warning” from the FBI, Merritt recalled.
After serving ten years in the Army during which he said he independently acquired cyber skills, Merritt attended college, majoring in “cyber security.” According to his bio and our August 21 interview, Merritt’s background includes having breached terrorist communication networks, reporting the information gleaned to Congress, and researching domestic crimes.
Following the 2020 election, Merritt assisted former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell in her investigations into voting machines and election fraud in Georgia.
Merritt wrote a report on his experience and conclusions from the Cyber Symposium which can be found here (The Lindell Report).
Merritt also described “forensic examinations” in which he has participated, including for “the Las Vegas incident” through “back-channels.” The reference was to the October 1, 2017 mass shooting in which 58 people were killed and more than 500 injured allegedly by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who reportedly then turned a gun on himself in his room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
“I was working with a former National Security Council guy and a former DIA guy on that investigation,” Merritt told us.
Our curiosity piqued, we asked if his investigation concluded “anything different than what was publicly reported,” to which he replied, “A hundred percent different; that whole operation was a failed assassination attempt against Mohammed bin Salman.”
“Was he there in Las Vegas?” we asked.
“Yes, he was in the room above Stephen Paddock‘s.”
In a November 16, 2018 article titled “Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory,” Keith Kloor of Politico Magazine reported:
In the sweaty, waning days of August, I went to a Cheesecake Factory in the Virginia suburbs to learn about a conspiracy that would rock the FBI, if true. The two men who met me for lunch, a retired CIA agent and a former National Security Council official in the Trump administration, were wearing shorts and flip-flops. Otherwise, they were all business, and utterly serious. “There’s substantial evidence that ISIS was involved in this,” the former NSC staffer told me, a few minutes after we had settled into our booth at the back of the restaurant.
He was referring to the worst mass shooting in American history, which happened last year in Las Vegas when Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and wounded more than 800 others at an outdoor concert. According to a final report issued by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on August 3, Paddock’s motive was unclear, but he “acted alone” and had no links to “any hate group or any domestic or foreign terrorist organization.”
My two lunch companions believe otherwise. They belong to a small group of about a dozen members from the intelligence and special operations community pushing the theory that Paddock’s rampage was part of a coordinated anti-Trump plot involving the Islamic State and Antifa, or left-wing “anti-fascist” activists.
The article claims the theory originated with broadcaster Alex Jones, citing his on-air commentary “days after the Vegas attack.”
Kloor revealed the identities of his “lunch companions” as “Brad Johnson, a retired CIA officer, and Rich Higgins, a former Pentagon official who last year served for a few months in the White House as director of strategic planning for the National Security Council,” adding, “(Yes, the same Rich Higgins who infamously got tossed off the NSC for writing a controversial memo warning that ‘Islamists,’ ‘globalists’ and the ‘deep state’ together were trying to subvert Donald Trump’s presidency.)”
Was Higgins Correct?
Kloor’s article predated a December 2019 report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealing “potentially serious problems” and “significant errors” (p. 14) in the FBI’s investigation, known as “Crossfire Hurricane,” into whether anyone in the 2016 Trump campaign “colluded” with Russian operatives to gain an advantage.
The probe would color Trump’s time in office until the release of a March 2019 report from a 22-month Special Counsel investigation commissioned by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein which reported no evidence that “collusion” took place between the Trump campaign and Russian government, a theory generating the very basis of Crossfire.
Later that year, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives over a phone call made to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy requesting he investigate whether corruption had occurred on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in their dealings with that country. Ironically, such a probe is now taking place in the Republican-majority House’s Oversight Committee, whose chairman, James Comer, has reported significant evidence of bribery on the part of both Bidens while the elder was vice president.
Following the January 6, 2021 “insurrection,” the House impeached Trump a second time; Trump was acquitted by the Senate on February 13, 2021.
To this day, facing a total of 91 criminal counts from four jurisdictions stemming from his alleged handling of classified documents and allegations of fraud following the election, Trump has expressed his belief that massive cheating and violations of state laws rendered the election “stolen.”
A lengthier investigation opened in May 2019 by Special Counsel John Durham to discover the origins of “Crossfire Hurricane” this past spring yielded the finding that “senior FBI personnel displayed a serious lack of rigor towards the information that they received, especially information received from politically affiliated persons and entities. This information in part triggered and sustained Crossfire Hurricane and contributed to the subsequent need for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. In particular, there was significant reliance on investigative leads provided or funded (directly or indirectly) by Trump’s political opponents. The Department did not adequately examine or question these materials and the motivations of those providing them, even when at about the same time the Director of the FBI and others learned of significant and potentially contrary intelligence.”
The Las Vegas Shooting: A False Narrative?
The Politico article continues:
A month after the October shooting in Vegas, Johnson, Higgins and a handful of associates collaborated on a 51-page PowerPoint document based, according to its executive summary, on “open source information with tactical counter terrorism analysis, cyber intelligence, and digital data mining capabilities.” Higgins and Johnson told me they sent the document to contacts in the CIA and FBI, as well as to conservatives in Congress and the media. Higgins claims a current FBI agent in his and Johnson’s circle—who he says had input on the document—“filed it as a formal report with the bureau.”
So far, however, nobody with any real standing has taken the document seriously, much less acknowledged having received it. The findings of the Las Vegas police investigation—in which the FBI was of assistance—directly contradict Higgins and Johnson’s theory. In response to questions about the theory, Sandra Breault, an FBI spokesperson, said only: “The FBI Las Vegas office has the utmost confidence in our agents and analysts’ investigative techniques.” The CIA declined to comment.
Even as there appears to be no evidence supporting Higgins and Johnson’s theory, it is having alarming, real-world effects. At least one member of Congress whom Higgins says he briefed about the theory appears to have parroted its contents on television.
“What brought you to that conclusion?” we asked Merritt, referring to his work on the mass shooting.
“There was a gentleman by the name of Brian Hodge, which everyone saw on TV; he was the Australian,” Merritt responded. “He was a member of Australian intelligence and we found people he was connected to. There was a lot that that guy was involved in. Paddock was actually dead by noon before the shooting even happened, and that was per the autopsy report.”
According to public reporting, Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg ruled Paddock’s death “a suicide.”
The timeline of events on the evening of October 1, 2017 was disputed, CBS further reported.
“Are you saying the FBI or the CIA was the real perpetrator?” we asked Merritt.
“No, Five Eyes,” he said, referring to an alliance among New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., Australia and the UK to supply one another with intelligence information.
“The actual assassination attempt was done by the Saudi Royal Air Force, who were in Vegas on a training mission for about a month, and that’s why you hear multiple shooters, because there were about 400 Saudi military guys who were there during that event,” Merritt added.
“And you got this information by going into computers?” we asked, to which Merritt responded, “Yes.”
“Did you officially report it to the FBI?”
“We built a briefing, and that briefing was given to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by Rich Higgins and Dr. Lynn.”
“Did they do anything with it that you know of?”
“No, they just ignored it.”
United States congressmen on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence received information at a Capitol Hill briefing on multiple shooters carrying out the Las Vegas mass shooting attack on October 1, 2017, with Antifa and ISIS involvement. National File recently published the report prepared for recently-deceased former Trump National Security Council (NSC) official Rich Higgins, which states that Stephen Paddock was executed by terrorists involved in the attack.
Joshua Merritt, whose research helped to produce the Higgins report, told NATIONAL FILE: “That report was briefed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) yet they never acted on it. I helped gather some of the info on that report as well as some other work.” Merritt said that “The briefing was at the House chambers.” At the time, Rep. Devin Nunes was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee before the Republicans surrendered control of the House in the 2018 midterms. “They hid our report from the public,” Merritt said.
Further, Howley wrote:
The Las Vegas official single-shooter narrative has been torn apart by recent evidence from Mindy Robinson’s “Route 91” documentary which shows that other 911 calls identified multiple shooters. There is a ton of evidence that there were clearly bodies in other locations and shooters in other locations. This reporter has been in communication with a group that created an open source intelligence virtual map of video evidence and incident reports from Vegas, which ranges in location all around the city, a very wide radius.
Of Hodge, Merritt told us, “Brian Hodge Instagram and Twitter had his GPS positioning turned on. We knew for a fact where he was and when he went there.”
The 52-page “Higgins report” suggests Paddock did not act alone and includes a screenshot of “Melbourne Antifa” stating of the attack (p. 48), “One of our comrades from our Las Vegas branch has made these fascist Trump supporting dogs pay.”
According to Howley, Higgins passed away on February 23, 2022. Merritt told us for this article that Higgins’s death was caused by “a COVID complication” necessitating surgery.
On July 20, 2020, CNN reported of Higgins:
The White House is pushing the Department of Defense to hire a former National Security Council staffer who has repeatedly pushed fringe conspiracy theories on Twitter and in media appearances.
Rich Higgins, a former aide who says he was fired from the National Security Council in 2017 for sending a conspiratorial memo, is currently being considered to serve as chief of staff to retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, the White House’s nominee for the under secretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon.
A source familiar with the internal discussions told CNN the White House has pushed the Pentagon to hire Higgins and he is under consideration to be chief of staff for Tata, if Tata is confirmed by the Senate. Foreign Policy and the Washington Post first reported on the push to hire Higgins.
CNN then expounded:
Higgins, who served in the Army and later in the Pentagon as a career official in the Bush and Obama administrations, according to his biography, was fired from the NSC in 2017 after authoring a memo claiming that a “deep state” band of officials and movements were opposing President Donald Trump. He defined the opposition as the media, Islamists, Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, the United Nations and cultural Marxists leading a coordinated effort to delegitimize and subvert the President.
What About PCAPS?
For this article, we asked Merritt, “Was there ever a time when you thought Lindell might have had real PCAPS prior to the Cyber Symposium, or were you convinced before attending that there was nothing there?” and Merritt responded, referencing others working with Lindell:
I had discovered the possibility of HAMR and Scorecard in 2018, briefed Sidney and others in 2019, so I believed it to be a possibility from my research. We started reviewing information on Aug 4, 2021 but from the start the data looked manufactured and false. So we gave the benefit of the doubt and waited till we had a face to face with Conan and Todd before it became concerning. I reserved judgement till we had that meeting which was in SD the night before the Symposium started.