Federal prosecutors are trying to remove a Northern California man’s internet posts about confidential informants involved in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last year in Oregon.
PORTLAND — Federal prosecutors want a judge to order a Northern California man to remove all information from his website about confidential informants involved in the takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon last winter.
In court filings Friday, prosecutors said the information posted by Gary Hunt, 70, was turned over to defense attorneys in the case pursuant to a protective order that barred it from being shared with outside parties, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Hunt has been involved in Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and supporters founded by Ryan Payne, one of the refuge occupation’s organizers.
“Public dissemination of the material produced under this Court’s Protective Order could threaten ongoing investigations and the safety of government confidential human sources, informants or others,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamala Holsinger.
Occupation leader Ammon Bundy and six others were acquitted of conspiracy and other charges after a five-week trial that ended Oct. 27; a trial for seven other defendants looms. The presence of nine informants on the eastern Oregon refuge during the 41-day occupation last winter as well as six other informants who worked on the case for the FBI was revealed during testimony in the first trial of occupation leaders.
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Hunt visited the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the standoff but wasn’t charged in the occupation. He argues that the court’s protective order doesn’t apply to him, but only to the defendants and their legal teams.
Hunt said an FBI agent on Thursday handed him a cease-and-desist order signed by Holsinger, chief of the criminal division in the Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Office, and asked where he received the documents. The agent wanted him to delete his blog posts and hand over the reports he obtained.
Hunt didn’t comply within 24 hours, so prosecutors on Friday asked the court to compel him to do so, contending Hunt is “illegally in possession of protected sensitive discovery materials in this case.”
“I don’t think it has merit,” Hunt said.
Hunt has written stories under the heading “Burns Chronicles” on his Outpost of Freedom website. He has quoted from the FBI’s 130 reports on the informants, which span 246 pages, but he hasn’t posted the actual documents. The names of the informants were redacted in the reports, but investigators worried that the information within could be used to identify them.
In one post, Hunt surmised that a fellow member of the Operation Mutual Defense advisory board was an informant, an FBI agent noted in an affidavit filed in court.
Hunt said he has written about the informants because he believes that “every defendant has a right to meet his accusers” in preparing a defense. He expects his blog posts might help the second round of defendants charged in the refuge takeover, who are set to go to trial Feb. 14.