Hacktivist sees too much, FBI lock him up on child-porn charges, produce no evidence

Matthew DeHart, a veteran from a multi-generational military/intelligence family, ran a Tor hidden service server for his Wow guildies, members of his old army unit, and whistleblowers.

DeHart once discovered an unencrypted folder of damning documents on his server, which quickly disappeared and was replaced with an encrypted folder of the same size, with the same name. The unencrypted docs detailed an FBI investigation into some very dirty CIA tricks, possibly involving the still-unsolved slew of anthrax-laced letters sent to Congress in 2001. Not long after, DeHart was spooked by a visit from the FBI to one of his contacts, and he destroyed all potentially compromising storage associated with his server.

That's when things got weird. DeHart's house was raided and all his computers and storage were confiscated (his screenshots of the FBi/CIA docs were not caught up in the sweep – they were hidden on thumb-drives in his dad's gun case). Eventually he was indicted on charges of inciting a minor to produce sexually explicit images, though the FBI found no evidence that he'd ever done this, or possessed the images in question.

Those are pretty weird too. DeHart had expelled a trollish kid from his WoW guild, and another kid later TP'ed the banned player's house. When the banned kid's mom called the police, they ended up searching his computer, and found a video of him masturbating, along with a video of an underage girl, also masturbating. The kid said that DeHart had tricked him into producing the video by sending him the video of the girl, whom he was impersonating. He also said that he and DeHart had met, but couldn't pick him out of a lineup.

DeHart left the country, intended to attend college in Canada. While crossing the border to get a visa-stamp in his passport, he was arrested, taken in FBI custody, drugged and interrogated for six days without access to counsel, and without anyone knowing where he'd gone. He resurfaced in a hospital, sick from the drugs he'd been given in custody.

He later sought asylum in Canada as a torture victim, but his request for asylum was denied and he was deported to the USA, where he is in jail, awaiting a long-delayed trial.

Whether the child porn charges are just a ruse to conceal the FBI's national security investigation is now up to a federal court in Tennessee to decide. On April 2, DeHart pleaded not guilty on all four counts in the indictment, including the charge for leaving the state while on bail. On May 11, he made his first court appearance since fleeing the country in 2013.

The Internet has become a key factor in his defense. While DeHart was in Canada, Ekeland routinely went on Anonymous online radio shows to discuss the case and keep the networks of online activists apprised of developments in his case. And the Courage Foundation, a nonprofit set up to support whistleblowers, took on DeHart as a beneficiary after he was deported, and now runs his website and defense fund. High-profile people like Radack, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Julian Assange have also expressed support for the DeHarts in their efforts to find out what happened to their son and why he is still in jail.

"The attention makes a huge difference," Ekeland says. "Before, nobody knew."

The Case Against Matt DeHart [Bethany Horne/Newsweek]

The Case Against Matt DeHart [Bethany Horne/Paywall-busting mirror]

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