“Journalists should not pose as police officers, and police officers should not pose as journalists. The welfare of the republic requires it.”
Rumor has it – much of the evidence gathered by the government for the upcoming trial, United States vs Cliven Bundy et el, will come from footage taken during and after the “Bundy Ranch Standoff” by FBI agents who posed as a film crew gathering information for a documentary being made by a company called Longbow Productions. Sources who were present during the filming say, it was strange that the film crew asked the Bundy’s to meet them at the Bellagio Hotel, and not out at the ranch. The Bundy’s were given hard to get tickets for shows in Vegas by the crew. Longbow Productions cannot be found for comment.
It is not clear just exactly when the agents would have gained access and who specifically they spoke with. If this information is true then it answers the question as to just one of the ways the FBI infiltrated Bundy Ranch, and almost certainly raises the question of whether or not the persons being filmed and interviewed had their 5th amendment right violated.
We spoke with John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, who explained why this type of interrogation if true, would raise serious doubts as to whether or not it was legal and should be allowed to be used in this case.
If the FBI went to Bundy Ranch with the intent to interview possible suspects, and build a case against them while posing as “Press [journalists]” to do it, then yes – it most definitely would be the duty of any defense attorney to vigorously challenge it. If this “documentary film crew” were indeed FBI agents asking specific questions to build a case against the person they were speaking with, then it would be in my opinion, a direct violation of that person’s 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves.
In simple terms; if any person being interrogated has not been Mirandized and given the choice to have legal counsel present before the questioning begins it would not be a legal interrogation, and the information they garnered in my opinion, cannot be used against them in this case. ~ John Whitehead
Posing as journalists in and of itself is a serious breech that has been opposed by The Society of Professional Journalists;
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has no business permitting its informants to impersonate journalists, said G. Kelly Hawes, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, after learning that an informant posed as a newspaper reporter during an FBI sting operation.
“The Society of Professional Journalists opposes the practice of police officers or FBI agents or their informants posing as journalists to obtain information,” said Hawes in a letter to Louis J. Freeh, FBI director. “It is imperative that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies be able to do their jobs. The American system of justice depends on it. But it is also imperative that journalists be able to do their jobs, acting as the watchdogs on government and the criminal justice system. Journalists should not pose as police officers, and police officers should not pose as journalists. The welfare of the republic requires it.”
The Press is the only directly protected occupation mentioned in the 1st amendment to the Constitution and should be considered sacred. When someone is speaking with someone whom they perceive is a journalist, they have every reason to believe that the person to whom they are speaking is engaging in a constitutionally protected act.
Is it any wonder why FBI director James Comey made this statement in December of 2014 – after the Bundy Ranch [Operation Longbow] had supposedly taken place;
The AP sought assurances from the Justice Department and the FBI that impersonation would not be used again following revelations that an agent in Seattle posed as an AP journalist in 2007 during an investigation into bomb threats at a high school.
“I’m not willing to say never,” Comey said. “Just as I wouldn’t say that we would never pose as an educator or a doctor or, I don’t know, a rocket scientist.”
There is no doubt; “if” evidence collected in an FBI operation like this proves to be what happened at Bundy Ranch, defense attorney’s in this case should and probably will oppose it. The government would just as likely argue the interrogations conducted at Bundy Ranch under the alleged FBI operation were legitimate because the persons being interrogated were not yet in legal custody. There would also be a strong argument as to whether or not “documentary filmmaker” is the same thing as “journalist.”
What future implications this has for an already rocky relationship between activist and journalist remains to be seen. If the FBI chose to use the cover of being a journalist to gain access to this historical protest, it will likely have many repercussion for the legitimate media when future events take place.
It’s not like filmmakers at Bundy Ranch were not willing to help the FBI out. Dennis Michael Lynch, a renowned documentarian who filmed at Bundy Ranch and was present at the gate when the standoff ended, has already admitted he turned all of his footage over to the FBI without even putting up a fight.
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