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Canada deports alleged Anonymous hacker Matt DeHart to U.S.

By Brett Wilkins     Mar 1, 2015 in Internet
A former US soldier who unsuccessfully sought asylum in Canada, claiming he was tortured by American agents investigating Anonymous hackers and WikiLeaks, has been deported to the United States, raising concerns about his wellbeing.
The National Post reports Matt DeHart, 30, was able to make a quick phone call to his parents, who are also in the process of being removed from Canada, before being handed over to US agents at an unspecified border crossing. Father Paul DeHart said Matt is "peaceful and in good health," but said he and his wife Leann are very worried about his wellbeing.
“We are concerned about Matt’s safety as he transits,” he told the National Post. “We said a prayer together on the phone and gave him into God’s hands for protection.”
While little-known outside Internet activist and national security circles in the United States, DeHart's case has attracted considerable attention in Canada, thanks largely in part to an incisive National Post investigative series chronicling his bizarre and alarming case.
DeHart grew up in deeply religious and patriotic family in Newburgh, Indiana. Both of his parents are US military veterans; his father was an Air Force major who worked for the NSA. In 2008, he enlisted in the US Air National Guard, where he was a drone pilot and intelligence analyst. He was honorably discharged the following year after being diagnosed with depression.
Since as far back as at least 2008, DeHart has admitted being a member of the hacktivist collective Anonymous. He also secretly ran a computer server on Tor, free software that enables anonymous online communication. In 2009, another user uploaded an unencrypted file to his server. DeHart testified that the file, which pertained to an FBI investigation of alleged CIA wrongdoing, “contained information that demonstrated malfeasance and criminal activity on the part of a government agency.”
In January 2010, DeHart's Indiana home was raided by FBI agents, who had a search warrant for child pornography. No such material has ever been found, and DeHart and his family vehemently deny he had anything to do with such a crime.
Fearing that he was being targeted by the government, DeHart sought, and was denied, asylum in Russia. Instead, he moved with his family to Canada. While attempting to obtain a student visa, which required him to cross back into the United States, he was arrested in Maine and taken into FBI custody. DeHart received psychiatric 'treatment,' including involuntary medication, which he called torture. He was then intensively interrogated by FBI agents, and denied access to an attorney.
“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," he told the National Post. "They also asked about WikiLeaks." US authorities have alleged that DeHart may have tried to sell military secrets to Russia, and that he moved to Canada not to seek asylum but rather to contact Russian agents at that country's embassy in Ottawa.
According to government documents, DeHart admitted under interrogation to involvement in a spy ring during his time as a drone pilot. He 'confessed' to agreeing to arrange the sale of military secrets through a Russian spy in Canada. But DeHart told the National Post that he made false confessions so that his interrogators would stop torturing him.
“I would have told them anything,” he said. “Information that is derived from torture—to use it against somebody is ridiculous. It’s garbage. I already said it’s not true.”
Two years after his arrest, the US Department of Justice admitted to having classified reports on DeHart. These files confirmed he was arrested “for questioning in an espionage matter" in what was described as a “national security investigation." Child pornography is never mentioned.
After spending 21 months behind bars, Judge Aleta Trauger ordered DeHart released from jail, finding his assertion that the child pornography allegations against him were "really a ruse to try to get the proof about his extracurricular national security issues" to be "very credible." Two other courts had also questioned the validity of the child pornography charge.
Despite being ordered to remain in his parents home, DeHart was driven back to the Canadian border by his father. He again attempted to claim asylum, citing the United Nations Convention against Torture. His bid again failed, and he was arrested for “engaging in act of espionage that is against Canada or that is contrary to Canada interest." Under the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has been increasingly unsympathetic toward Americans seeking asylum or refuge, mostly conscientious objectors and other war resisters, who face harsh penalties upon their return.
In August 2013, DeHart was freed but placed under house arrest in Brampton, Ontario. He was allowed to leave his apartment to obtain medical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as for legal consultations. The stress of his ordeal proved too much for DeHart to handle, and he twice tried to kill himself. Earlier this month, he was informed that he had lost his bid for asylum.
Although Canada's Immigration and Refuge Board (IRB) found no “credible or trustworthy evidence” that DeHart committed any child pornography offenses, and despite legitimate concerns about torture in the United States—in 2008 the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department placed the US on a list of countries where prisoners are at risk of torture and abuse—it ruled that the United States “has a fair and independent judicial process."
“I cannot imagine any life in a country which has already tortured me,” DeHart told the National Post Tuesday from an Ontario prison after he learned of the decision to deport him. “Am I now to be given into the hands of my torturers?”
In light of the United States government's persecution and prosecution of hackers and whistleblowers, which has intensified during the administration of Barack Obama—who acknowledges that the US "tortured some folks," and its documented track record of torture, there are legitimate reasons to fear for DeHart's safety now that he is being turned back over to those he claims tortured him. But DeHart's parents hope the high-profile nature of the case will help protect him.
“He has publicity now so maybe he will transit without incident,” his father told the National Post.
Paul DeHart compared his son's case to that of Aaron Swartz, the open Internet activist who killed himself after being targeted by federal prosecutors for downloading academic articles from the JSTOR online library. As in the case of Barrett Brown, the journalist who probed links between the government and private intelligence contractors, prosecutors were accused of withholding evidence and coercing Swartz into pleading guilty.
“Aaron Swartz had very similar psychological makeup, similar age, same circumstances as Matt,” Paul DeHart told the National Post. “I do not want to wake up one day and find my son hanging from a rope in the garage of our house. And I have no place to go to bring this to anyone’s attention.”
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