Vancouver Sun

Hacker sues in U.S. for time served in Canada

- ADRIAN HUMPHREYS

An Anonymous “hacktivist” and former U.S. airman, who sought political asylum in Canada claiming torture by American officials over his access to secret government documents, is suing the U.S. prison bureau to reclaim time he served in Canada’s prisons.

Matt DeHart spent 439 days in prison in Canada before his refugee claim was rejected and he was deported to the United States in 2015. Waiting for him in Tennessee were child pornograph­y charges he claimed were a ruse to probe and curb his online activism.

DeHart’s case became a bizarre and troubling story involving Anonymous hackers, WikiLeaks whistleblo­wers, Russian spies, military secrets and a classified dossier purporting to contain highly inflammato­ry U.S. intelligen­ce secrets. His story was revealed in a detailed investigat­ion by the National Post in 2014.

From 2005 until he was arrested in the United States in 2010, DeHart ran a communal computer server on the so-called “dark web” and was involved in early campaigns by Anonymous, an internatio­nal affiliatio­n of computer hacktivist­s.

In 2009, DeHart found an alarming file that had been uploaded to his server. It was probably supposed to be encrypted but it opened without a password. He believes it was destined for WikiLeaks, the whistleblo­wing organizati­on. WikiLeaks itself refers to DeHart as an “alleged WikiLeaks middleman.”

At the time of the Post’s investigat­ion, DeHart declined to detail the contents of the files saying only that “it was an FBI investigat­ion into the CIA’s (Central Intelligen­ce Agency’s) practices.”

In his lawsuit, he alleges the files “implicated a federal agency in criminal activity against United States citizens, as well as documented apparent malfeasanc­e by American and multinatio­nal companies.”

At the same time as his online activism, DeHart was a member of the U.S. Air National Guard, part of a drone team where he had access to top-secret informatio­n.

DeHart says his two worlds — Internet freedom fighter and military operator with security clearance — made him a target of U.S. national security agents. After his house was searched and his computer equipment seized, he visited the Russian embassy and discussed defecting to Russia. He was later arrested by U.S. border agents when he was trying to enrol in college in Canada.

While detained for days in 2010 he was interrogat­ed by the FBI about Anonymous, his computer equipment, his drone team and other national security matters without making a court appearance, which would be the normal routine. While in custody, DeHart claims he was given unknown drugs against his will, deprived of sleep, food and water, and left naked in solitary confinemen­t.

An FBI document on the interrogat­ions, obtained by the Post, suggests DeHart said that when he went to the Russian embassy in Washington, he was told to contact a Russian agent in Canada at the Russian embassy in Ottawa. He later said that wasn’t true.

His period of detention included a hospital visit for symptoms that hospital records describe as “most consistent with possible drug-induced psychosis.”

He was then taken to Tennessee, charged with soliciting the production of child pornograph­y and released on bail. DeHart, along with his parents, then fled to Canada on April 3, 2013, and claimed refugee protection.

DeHart was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency and, because of an arrest warrant in the United States, spent five months in prison before his release on strict house arrest. Seven months later, he was returned to prison in Canada for a further 10 months until his deportatio­n to the United States.

DeHart entered a plea bargain with U.S. prosecutor­s, admitting to possession of sexually explicit photos of two underage teenagers and avoiding court by fleeing across the border. He was sentenced to 7½ years in prison.

Negotiatio­ns for the plea included an understand­ing, including by the judge, his time in prison in Canada would count toward a time-served deduction, his lawsuit says. When he was

AFTER HIS HOUSE WAS SEARCHED ... HE VISITED THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY AND DISCUSSED DEFECTING TO RUSSIA.

first admitted to a U.S. prison, his release date given as Sept. 11, 2018.

Last year, DeHart was asked to fill in a questionna­ire about foreign custody by prison staff at Federal Correction­al Institutio­n Ashland, a low-security prison for men in Kentucky. His lawsuit claims he asked to speak to his lawyer about it. Instead, the prison stripped him of all his Canadian prison credit and falsely stated the recalculat­ion was done at DeHart’s request.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, DeHart’s release date is now Nov. 24, 2019. The suit claims DeHart exhausted all of his administra­tive remedies and grievances. In fact, the suit alleges, when DeHart first objected to the change, he was threatened with retaliatio­n for disputing it.

The claims have not yet been tested in court. The Bureau of Prison has not yet had an opportunit­y to respond to the claims in court.

 ?? PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST/FILES ?? “Hacktivist” Matt DeHart, seen here in 2014, spent 439 days in prison in Canada before his refugee claim was rejected and he was deported to the U.S. Waiting for him were child pornograph­y charges.
PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST/FILES “Hacktivist” Matt DeHart, seen here in 2014, spent 439 days in prison in Canada before his refugee claim was rejected and he was deported to the U.S. Waiting for him were child pornograph­y charges.

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