By John Kiriakou
Twenty years ago I took two of my sons to a World Wrestling Entertainment fight at Madison Square Garden. They were obsessed at the time with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and other “wrestlers” whose names I still remember all these years later.
Very few of these characters seemed compelling to me at the time, and at one point during a match, I turned to the boys and asked, “So which one is the good guy?” My older son responded, “That’s just it, dad. There are no good guys.”
That’s exactly the situation we’re seeing in the Washington, DC trial of members of the Proud Boys, who allegedly participated in the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol building. Four out of the five defendants in this trial were convicted ultimately of sedition. The star witnesses against them were FBI agents. And just as in the WWE, there are no good guys.
At one point, the trial of the Proud Boys was suddenly brought to a halt when an FBI agent on the witness stand admitted, after attempting to conceal the fact, that she and her colleagues had monitored privileged communications between one of the defendants and his attorney in 2021.
When FBI agent Nicole Miller was asked by defense attorney Nick Smith to confirm whether she and another agent had discussed the content of emails exchanged between defendant Zach Rehl and one of his attorneys, she responded, “It appears so.”
Smith then read aloud from one of Miller’s texts to one of the prosecutors and to another FBI agent: “I need to find other emails, but this one email definitely indicates that they want to go to trial. But don’t freak out, Jason and Luke.”
Smith then turned to Miller and asked, “Now, ‘Jason’ you understand to be referring to the prosecutor in this case, Jason McCullough. Correct?” Jurors never got to hear an answer. The prosecution objected, the judge sustained the objection, and the jury didn’t get to hear how and why in the world the FBI was intercepting privileged attorney-client information.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. A few days later, defense attorneys revealed that in the subsequent conference in the judge’s chambers, the FBI agents and prosecutors admitted that the FBI had doctored internal reports in the case, destroyed evidence, and tipped off prosecutors about defense strategies.
One message referenced a confidential informant and told Miller, “You need to go into that report you just put and edit out that I was present.” In another message, Miller and another FBI agent discussed emails between Rehl and his attorney, emails that were protected by attorney-client privilege.
“Found an email thread with Rehl and his attorney, Moseley. The attorney raised some interesting points.” Miller replied, “Hopefully all related to him pleading out.”
Perhaps even worse, the FBI admitted that it had purposely failed to turn over to the defense 12,000 rows of information from an evidence spreadsheet, and admitted further that they had destroyed 338 pieces of evidence, rather than to turn it over to the defense. The only response was another text from Miller to another FBI agent saying, “OMG. Insane.”
So how did the FBI get away with this obviously and patently unconstitutional behavior? They used the magic words: “Classified information.” Without any proof whatsoever, the FBI told the judge that “the 338 items of destroyed evidence might impact a classified equity.”
In the end, all judicial decisions related to evidence in the case were in favor of the FBI and the prosecution. The defense was not allowed access to any of the information. The FBI and prosecution were not sanctioned for intercepting privileged communications. The Proud Boys trial is still ongoing, but the case has “appeal” written all over it.
In an unrelated case, lest you think that this kind of behavior is specific to the FBI’s Washington Field Office, FBI agents in Los Angeles had been investigating a company in Beverly Hills called U.S. Private Vaults. It was a privately-owned company that maintains safe deposit boxes.
The FBI claims that the company had been engaged in money laundering. But when they finally got a warrant to investigate U.S. Private Vaults, the FBI instead decided to break into literally every safe deposit box in the place.
In the end, the FBI “seized” (their word) or “stole” (my word) more than $86 million in cash and valuables owned by private citizens, none of whom had been accused of any crime. Under federal seizure laws, the owner of the property must go to court to prove that the asset is not the product of illicit activity, essentially proving a negative.
But a federal judge in Los Angeles found that the Justice Department and the FBI had misled the court about its forfeiture plans when applying for the warrant, intentionally ignored the seizure law, and conducted a pretextual “sham inventory” while searching for evidence of criminality that never existed in the first place.