FBI WIRT Inquiries


December 10 & 19, 2014

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent Travis Thiede placed missed phone calls from Coeur d’Alene cell phone number 208-661-0316 to Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT)/Helen Yost three times on December 10, 2014, at 8:10 am, 11:21 am, and 1:07 pm [1-3].  Mr. Thiede called WIRT during the Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! meetings, likely drawn, with his agency, to these gatherings in Sandpoint, Idaho, on December 8, in Spokane, Washington, on December 9, and in Moscow, Idaho, on December 10 [4].  Helen did not notice these three missed calls until about 3 pm on December 23, 2014.

A little before 10 am on Friday morning, December 19, 2014, WIRT/Helen received another missed, incoming phone call from the same Coeur d’Alene cell phone.  After this fourth call at 9:47 am, Mr. Thiede messaged the WIRT phone, and Helen replied via the following text messages:

TT (12/19, 9:51 am): “Helen, I am trying to get a hold of you to speak with you.  An issue has come up, and I need to speak with you.  Please give me a call.  I am an FBI agent.  SA Travis Thiede.  208-661-0316”

HY (12/19, 9:59 am): “NO!”

TT (12/19, 10:03 am): “OK, I understand, just wanted to have a conversation with you.  Thanks.”

HY (12/20 next day, 9:17 am): “I do not wish to speak with you or any of your associates about anything.”

The December 23, 2014 Morning Mix and Evening Report radio news programs of KRFP Radio Free Moscow ran an interview about the situation with core WIRT activist Helen, by station manager Leigh Robartes [5].  The news story discussed FBI conversation requests and offered updates on the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) petition and demonstration advocating safety measures for U.S. Highway 95 before re-routing south of Moscow, Idaho.  During the December 23 midnight interview, Helen read directly from the text messages on the cell phone, still unaware of previously attempted FBI contact.  The interview implied that the special agent had called concerning December 17 WIRT comments on the PRDC highway safety petition submitted to various agencies and/or about December 19 WIRT remarks about our motivations for this campaign [6, 7].  A PRDC/WIRT co-activist noticed at least two unmarked cars observing the December 19 PRDC safety demonstration, which occurred only 3 1/2 hours after the FBI text messages [8].

October 9, 2014

Despite WIRT awareness of likely surveillance since September 2011, these encounters represent the second/third recent instances of direct contact.  Late in the morning of October 9, 2014, the FBI came to the door of a distant, core WIRT activist in Bellingham, Washington, wanting to ask questions about the activities of another group, Deep Green Resistance (DGR) [9].  Our great comrade correctly declined giving answers, which resulted in the agents leaving.  That evening (at about the same time as Payette, Idaho police arrested Alma Hasse of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction at a county meeting), he graciously provided this description of his FBI interactions:

FBI activity in Bellingham today 10/09/14 targets activist(s)

Intimidation by visitation – Campaign against DGR expands beyond membership

I was approached at my door in Bellingham, Washington, at 10:45 am by two suits from state security.  The lead flashed a badge and claimed to be from the FBI.  She said “We are here to ask if you will answer a few questions about DGR.”

“I will not,” I replied.  Then I asked for their cards.

The male passed me a card from the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Bellingham Police Department.  It identified him as Detective Al Jensen.  The female said that she did not have a card, so I asked for her name, so I could write it on Jensen’s card.  “Brenda,” she said.  I asked “Is that all of it?” and she replied “Yes.”

Jensen jocularly mentioned that we knew each other from the Occupy movement/camp and train blockade, attempting to coax up conversation.  I did not take the bait.  They gathered themselves and left.

The Law Offices of Lawrence A. Hildes at 360-715-9788 want to hear from anyone questioned or visited during this visitation sweep.  This includes those DGR members who have been or become targeted.

It is expected that this state security team was on a round of visitations/questionings in Bellingham today.  If you know of someone they contacted, please get this notice to those people.

No one should hide an encounter like this with state security.  No one should fear backlash as a consequence of effective activism.  Activist attorneys wish to hear from you if you have been questioned or visited by state security seeking dirt on other activists.

I subscribe to the DGR News Service, where this article appeared on 10/07/14 [10, 11].

According to a Seattle, Washington DGR activist, the FBI visited a fourth Deep Green Resistance member in a week, on the same morning as they approached the DGR/WIRT supporter who lives in Bellingham: October 9 [12].  He also refused to speak with the agents and walked away.  Because intimidation and information trolling obviously drove this visit, the activist advised others to stay aware and safe and to never talk to cops, who will lie and do anything to extract information.  Upon joining, DGR members pledge to observe prescribed principles of security culture [13].

When WIRT notified facebook friends of the October 9 Bellingham confrontation, an activist acquaintance reported that:

A few weeks ago, I had a small drone hovering over in front of my house.  I’m not close to the road and have trees 150 feet tall.  It was low enough to hit with a sling shot.  If it reoccurs, maybe I’ll have physical evidence.  I have no idea who controlled it.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t neighbors, and when it headed off, it didn’t go along the road.  So I assume it wasn’t a google one.  At that altitude, they’re in my face.  I wouldn’t hesitate to sling shot a rock in its direction.  My air space at that level and our state do have rights to privacy laws that exceed the Fourth Amendment [9].

Several comrades have remarked that WIRT “must be doing something right,” or that “you know you are being effective when [FBI contacts] like this happen.”  Others have blessed or thanked us for “strength in the face of FBI harassment” and for our “perfect response.”  An Earth First! Newswire writer provided a third explanation for FBI calls and text messages to WIRT, potentially scrutinizing increasing opposition to natural gas extraction infrastructure in Idaho.  State security and FBI inquiries in the Northwest during October through December 2014 expand prior, similar harassment and experiences of fellow climate change resisters:

Last year, the FBI visited numerous Rising Tide activists in Portland and Seattle.  This is the latest in their extended campaign to silence dissent.  The White House has declared that the export of fracked natural gas through the Pacific Northwest is a top national security concern, like gas imports to Europe through Ukraine.  Rising Tide opposes all fossil fuel shipments through the Pacific Northwest, and WIRT is actively involved in campaigns against fracking and infrastructure in Idaho [14].

Protective Actions & Information

Within hours of the October 9 and December 19 FBI intrusions, WIRT released and requested sharing of public notices via facebook, entitled Idaho FBI Harassment Warning! and describing and referencing the Bellingham and Moscow circumstances and discussions, all embedded with door-slamming images declaring Build a Wall of Resistance: Don’t Talk to the F.B.I.  We reminded WIRT friends that:

You have the right to NEVER talk to the police (who can lie), NEVER consent to a search of your person or home, and ALWAYS insist on having a lawyer present.  RECORD all police interactions via audio or video devices, and WARN friends and family to resist this corporate/government intimidation [3, 9].

To keep you and your loved ones safe, WIRT is also providing further, helpful, online resources, informing activists about protective responses to similar approaches: the website of the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) in Eugene, the CLDC Agent at the Door one-page fact sheet/flyer (for posting near your front door?), the Earth First! Newswire article with CLDC advice about the October 2014 FBI visits, and preeminent civil liberties lawyer Lauren Regan’s invaluable CLDC Know Your Rights Activist Training video [15-18].  We also offer again for everyone’s knowledge the extensive Center for Constitutional Rights manual If an Agent Knocks [19].

Immediately after the December 19 incident, we alerted three attorneys with whom WIRT has worked in the past: a CLDC board member and two lawyers who have either legally defended or assisted Helen with other cases.  Upon discovery of the three December 10 FBI phone calls missed by WIRT, we also called Bellingham, Washington-based attorney Larry Hildes (360-715-9788), who had requested contact if this situation arose.  Karen Weill and Larry Hildes have served as great assets to Northwest climate change and economic resistance, representing dozens of civil disobedience practitioners at the recently resolved trials of Occupy Bellingham activists and the Bellingham 12 and Montana 23 coal train and Montana Capitol blockaders.  Larry is calling Mr. Thiede to tell FBI agents to stop contacting Helen and WIRT activists.  He asks that, if we or anyone else gets harassed by them again, please let him (and everyone!) know.

Further Discussion & Advice

The FBI and other state and federal investigative agencies are searching for weak links in the regional activist community, but they will not find any.  Because WIRT and allies continue to publicly disclose our beliefs and non-violent methods, we have nothing to hide.  Stealth agents can take their McCarthyism-like intimidation tactics elsewhere.  We would recommend that they knock on Warren Buffet’s door or speak with the Big Oil and railroad terrorists who ship exploding, mile-and-a-half-long, oil tankers and leave evidence of wrongdoing in their wake throughout the Northwest.

Please uphold the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, stand steadfastly for fabled American freedoms, avert risks to fellow resisters, and take similar precautions if agents show up at the houses or phones of you and your contacts.  We appreciate the well-intended and -expressed, potential statement of a Montana comrade in response to such officers, acknowledging that these humans have consciences and the ability to understand protesters’ and protectors’ perspectives:

I know that you are only serving your corporate masters, or just trying to stay alive and support your families, but I have no legal obligation to help you serve those who are destroying the planet and us all.  That is all I have to say to you [3].

But WIRT and most direct action trainers suggest the fewest possible words and absolutely no “chit-chat” if approached by police or the FBI, because investigative, manipulative cops can twist activists’ words to fit their agenda, and they often play by their own rules that override the legal ones.  Giving police too much information about oneself or someone else can subsequently and permanently undermine significant relationships.  Your silence and words are a matter of trust that reaches farther than you can imagine in such intense circumstances.

Although core WIRT activists have recently grown weary of facebook, smart phones, and the internet, via which purportedly patriotic police spy on concerned citizens (FBI = FaceBook Informants), a core WIRT activist recently reminded observers of the limited, safe capacities of WIRT’s primary communication tool, facebook:

Facebook (FB) has its uses, but it is for sharing and connecting, not for secrets: different tools for different jobs.  It can also be useful for misdirection/misinformation, but that door swings both ways.  And as far as building intimate cadres for civil disobedience actions, you especially don’t do that on FB, even though you may meet people there.  You don’t do it on cell phones, either, unless you constantly buy new throwaways and change numbers.  Even email is suspect.  You approach people privately, one on one, and the fewer people each one knows, the better, until it is time to do whatever.  There is lots to be learned from people allied with us in World War II, who developed underground networks [2].

Thanks, everyone, for your advice, compliments, and moral support.  This situation will not deter WIRT activism!

[1] Travis Thiede (LinkedIn)

[2] FBI/WIRT Contacts Update (December 23, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[3] Idaho FBI Harassment Warning! (December 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[4] Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! (December 5, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide website post)

[5] Moscow Activist Receives Text from FBI Special Agent (December 23, 2014 KRFP)

(Between 11:57 and 3:07 LoFi of the Tuesday Evening Report FBI Text)

[6] First WIRT Warning, ITD! (December 17, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[7] Why WIRT Cares About This (December 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[8] Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration (December 16, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide website post)

[9] Idaho FBI Harassment Warning! (October 9, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[10] FBI Activity in Bellingham Today 10/09/14 Targets Activist(s) (October 9, 2014 Herb Goodwin facebook post)

[11] A Note on Recent FBI Contact with Deep Green Resistance Members (October 7, 2014 Deep Green Resistance Steering Committee)

[12] Another Member of Deep Green Resistance Was Visited by the FBI Today (October 9, 2014 Max Wilbert facebook post)

[13] Security Culture (Deep Green Resistance)

[14] FBI Continues Campaign of Harassment Against Rising Tide in Cascadia (December 19, 2014 Earth First! Newswire)

[15] Civil Liberties Defense Center (Civil Liberties Defense Center website)

[16] Agent at the Door (Civil Liberties Defense Center fact sheet)

[17] A Word about FBI Harassment from the CLDC (October 17, 2014 Earth First! Newswire)

[18] CLDC Know Your Rights Activist Training (April 16, 2014 Civil Liberties Defense Center/Lauren Regan video)

[19] If an Agent Knocks (Center for Constitutional Rights manual)

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One thought on “FBI WIRT Inquiries

  1. Pingback: Wednesday Sandpoint Oil/Coal Train Forum & Other Events | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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