Matt DeHart in Canada c. 2014
|Born||June 11, 1984|
|Occupation||Former intelligence analyst|
Matt DeHart is an American citizen and former U.S. Air National Guard intelligence analyst known for his involvement with the Anonymous hacker group and WikiLeaks and claims to have received classified documents alleging serious misconduct by the CIA.
He was indicted for alleged possession of indecent images from under-aged boys in 2010, but claims that this was a ruse in order to punish him for his online activities. A judge ruling on the case found this credible. He was, however, imprisoned for 21 months without access to proofs for these allegations. After being released on bond in 2012, he unsuccessfully sought asylum in Canada, claiming he had been tortured by the FBI with regards to the classified documents. In November 2015 he struck a plea bargain to serve a 7 1⁄2-year sentence.
Early life and education
As Matt DeHart's parents, Paul and Leann (married in 1978), were both members of the U.S. military, he lived and grew up in many different places: Fort Meade, Maryland (age 1–2); Wheeler Air Force Base, Hawaii (age 2–4); Prattville, Alabama (K–3rd grade), Fort Meade (4th grade); Prattville (5th grade); Birdsboro, Pennsylvania (6th grade); Randolph, New Jersey (7th – 11th grades); Washington Township, Pennsylvania (12th grade); Elmira, New York (2002–2005); and Newburgh, Indiana (2005–2010). The DeHart family is based on military tradition and Christian and conservative beliefs.
From an early age, DeHart was a tech geek. He started a group called KAOS (Kaos Anti-Security Operations Syndicate) in 2000. He graduated from high school in 2002. He took classes through Corning Community College; BOCES, Horseheads New York; and IVY Tech Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2004, he spent time on 4chan, a message board which gave birth to Anonymous. Besides socializing and gaming online, DeHart developed interests in encryption, internet freedom and privacy. In 2008, he took part in Project Chanology, Anonymous' anti-Scientology campaign.
In 2008, DeHart enlisted in the U.S. Air National Guard, becoming an intelligence analyst. In June 2009, he was discharged from the National Guard, with an honorable discharge, as a consequence of a diagnosis of depression. DeHart says after his superiors had learned about his activism he had been offered a lump sum if he resigned but he had refused to do so.
Timeline of events
Receipt of documents
DeHart was involved in online activities with a small group 'Anonymous Anti-Security' using the anonymity network Tor. As a part of these activities, DeHart ran a dead drop server named 'The Shell', on a computer in his bedroom. In September 2009, while monitoring the server, DeHart claims to have found an unencrypted folder containing hundreds of documents, including one detailing what looked like an FBI investigation into some particularly shady deeds by the CIA. He deleted the unencrypted folder from the server, but claims to have kept screenshots. Shortly afterwards he claims to have found an encrypted version of the same file placed on another hidden server he believes was meant for WikiLeaks.
January 22, 2010 he claims to have received a 'pretty detailed tip' from an associate who claims they were asked about the server by the FBI related to the file from a few months previously. At this point he shut down his server entirely and claims to have destroyed its hard drives.
Initial charges and indictment
On January 22, 2010, the State of Indiana issued a search warrant for the DeHart's home in Newburgh in with the expressed purpose of searching for child pornography. The search was executed on January 25, seizing DeHart's computers and every data storage capable device that could be found. However, two encrypted IronKey USB devices with the sensitive server data were stored in the family gun case at the time and were overlooked. DeHart suggests the drive may have also contained documents from his former military unit. During the forensic analysis of the evidence seized, officers stated child pornography was found.
Following these seizures, DeHart drove to Mexico where he mailed one drive to a contact in the United Kingdom and the other to a contact in the United States. Shortly after he would travel with his father to the Russian Embassy in Washington DC to seek asylum. The request would be denied, as would a subsequent request at the Venezuelan embassy.
In March 2010 DeHart applied for a US updated passport, which he got in less than a month. The following month, April 2010, DeHart moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada and started an eight-week French immersion course with ILSC-Montreal, staying at a home with other international students. DeHart planned to take a welding class at Holland College in Prince Edward Island, and his parents settled him into a studio apartment in Charlottetown, near Holland College campus. Whilst applying for a student visa at US border patrol office and after handing over his US passport, DeHart was arrested and taken into custody by FBI agents. US authorities contacted police in Charlottetown, asking for his studio apartment to be searched as part of a child pornography investigation. The material seized from DeHart's apartment was not sent to Tennessee but to the FBI's field office in Washington DC, U.S. Department of Justice.
Dehart was placed in a cell at Calais' Large International Avenue Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Center for questioning. He claims he was drugged and describes the treatment he received as "torture". He was taken unconscious in an ambulance from the Penobscot County Jail, Bangor, ME to the Eastern Maine Medical Center before 1am on August 7. The records from the Eastern Maine Medical Center show he was diagnosed with eye pain and a psychotic break. He was released in "guarded" condition to unnamed officials and sent back to the jail. He was further interrogated by the FBI that same day while suffering from a psychotic break. The results of that interrogation are classified. He was questioned about his military unit, Russian Embassy, Anonymous, and WikiLeaks.
They started with people in my military unit, what the connection was between them, me and the Russian embassy; and then started asking me about connections between people in my military unit and Anonymous. They also asked about WikiLeaks— DeHart
On August 9, 2010, DeHart was brought before U.S. Court Judge Margaret Kravchuk, who branded his court appearance that day as "odd". On August 18, 2010, DeHart signed consent forms (such as the permission for any FBI agent and "any Canadian law enforcement", to record his phone calls with his old military colleagues) and authorized agents to assume his online identity, giving the FBI his aliases, and passwords to his e-mail accounts. Among the accounts was a Hushmail account in the name of "Fawkes".
DeHart was then transferred to Tennessee, where he spent 21 months in jail, allegedly because of the child pornography charges against him. In May 2012, Judge Aleta Trauger, who was allowed to read classified documents about DeHart and heard the evidence on the child pornography charges, ordered DeHart releasing to a jail, with a curfew monitored via an ankle bracelet, pending trial. Judge Trauger said in her ruling:
He thought that the search for child pornography was really a ruse to try to get the proof about his extracurricular national security issues. I found him very credible on that issue. Obviously, child pornography charges are serious offenses. I have learned several aspects of this case which, in the court's mind, indicate the weight of the evidence is not as firm as I thought it was— Judge Trauger
Indecent videos were reported to be found on DeHart's computer seized in January 2012; however, they were not sent to Tennessee but to the FBI's field office. Two years after DeHart's arrest in Canada, the US Department of Justice admitted there were classified reports on him which confirmed he was arrested "for questioning in an espionage matter"; it was a "national security investigation" but made no mention of pornography.
From May 2012 until April 2013 Matt DeHart was on bond living with his parents in a rented duplex in Newburgh Indiana. His travel was restricted to the US Southern District of Indiana and was monitored with a curfew.
Deportation to the United States
He was deported to the US on 1 March 2015 and handed over to FBI agents at the Peace Bridge border crossing. He was housed at the Niagara County Jail, Lockport, New York, then transferred to a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) private jail in northeast Ohio at Youngstown, then transferred to the Grady County Jail in Chickasha, Oklahoma; then transferred to another CCA private jail in Mason, Tennessee. On 23 Mar 2015 he was transferred back again to the Warren County Jail, Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he had already spent 21 months in pre-trial detention. He will remain there until the disposition of the US case against him.
Plea and sentence
On November 13, 2015, in Tennessee, DeHart pleaded guilty to "two charges of receiving child pornography and a charge of failing to appear as ordered in court." On February 22, 2016, U.S. District Judge Aleta Arthur Trauger of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee sentenced DeHart to 72 months for the porn charges and an additional 18 months for fleeing the country.
- Canadian immigration and refugee law
- Courage Foundation – legal defence trust
- Julian Assange
- Anonymous hacker group
- “Is Matt DeHart Being Prosecuted Because FBI Investigated CIA for the Anthrax Leak?”, by emptywheel, Marc 20, 2015, emptywheel
- “I Might Have Some Sensitive Files”, David Kushner, March 20, 2015, BuzzFeed
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- BOCES, Horseheads New York
- IVY Tech Indianapolis
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- "Hacker, creeper, soldier, spy", Adrian Humphreys, National Post, April 2014
- US-Dissident DeHart: Vom Elitekämpfer zum Staatsfeind, Holger Stark, Spiegel Online, February 25, 2015
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- "Matt DeHart, the alleged Anonymous hacker, deported to U.S. after Canada refused to grant him asylum", Adrian Humphreys, March 1, 2015, National Post
- Raincoaster (11 June 2015). "#Anonymous Wishes Matt DeHart a Happy Birthday". Retrieved 23 August 2015.
- Child Porn Suspect Collapses In Court, Judy Harrison, Aug 11 2010
- Five-part feature on Matt DeHart's case by Adrian Humphreys, National Post, May 2014
- Matt DeHart: Grand Jury Indictment
- United States of America vs. Matthew DeHart, Criminal Complaint