The FBX Blog: The Unfolding Story
The FBI (and ASIO) stole my girlfriend
[Updated 7 May 2013]
There is no hard and firm definition of what makes someone a ‘dissident’ in the US, no red line one crosses from being a regular citizen to becoming a political target of the state. But once that line is crossed, one is sanctioned, kneecapped, the silent, democratic way, in secret, isolated and cast aside socially and economically as effectively as if renditioned to a remote halfway house enroute to a gulag archipelago somewhere in Siberia.
Dissidents on Wall Street
In my case, I found where the line is drawn after publication of a work report on the US mining company Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine killings. I thought the report could possibly meet with professional rebuke from within the corporate hierarchy and a chance I would lose my job if the world were truly corrupt. But as a gross understatement, the actual response it drew was considerably more vicious. I had not envisaged the full-on onslaught the US and their allied foreign intelligence agencies were inclined to launch.
At the time, I was a young mining analyst, with a recent Wharton MBA working in the NY equity research division of SG Warburg (now part of UBS). One of my research reports (published 12 March 1996; report) had raised the issue of NYSE listed mining company Freeport McMoran, which was under investigation by the US Department of State following widely reported eyewitness allegations it was involved in the killing of indigenous protestors at its massive, remote Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua, Indonesia. The project has had a long history of killings, and the brutality seemed to be spiralling out of control with seven indigenous protestors shot and killed in a short period around Christmas Day 1994. Some of the protestors were reportedly killed at point blank range, inside steel shipping containers on Freeport property. For a sensitive topic it received unusually wide publicity and the US State Department had taken the unusual step of launching a formal investigation.
West Papua has been plagued with security challenges since Indonesia took control in 1969 and large scale open pit mining commenced in the Grasberg region in 1972. In 2003 Freeport publicly acknowledged it directly paid Indonesian military and police units and officials. In 2005, the New York Times reported that the company had paid US20 million dollars between 1998 and 2004 for these services including paying one individual US150,000 dollars. The size of the payments Freeport makes to the Indonesian military and police appear to have increased significantly over time: the company’s SEC filings, for example, indicate spending on internal civilian security in 2011 was US37 million dollars plus an additional US14 million dollars paid directly to the Indonesian government and military – a total of US51 million dollars spent in relation to Grasberg – just in 2011.
Freeport says there is “no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police…” Indeed, Freeport CEO Jim-Bob Moffett reported security matters relating to the mine as the ‘new cold war’, and anthropologist Hugh Brody has called it the militarization of mining.
With the killings of 1994-95 attracting worldwide attention, Freeport’s public relations machine went into overdrive. It paid for a full page ad in the New York Times, made an infomercial, threatened to sue journalists and academics covering the matter and withdraw university funding.
But what is little known and not reported is the role the FBI played during this time to lower the profile of Freeport’s controversial Grasberg operation and silence discussion in the US that included targeting Wall Street analysts.
The use of FBI power in this way is all the more disturbing given the agency’s dual role in helping to identify and interview eyewitnesses to the alleged Freeport human rights abuses on location in West Papua. (Alleged human rights abuses were never proven in relation to Freeport in U.S. courts.)
The confluence of titans
Grasberg is one of the largest, most profitable mines in the world and is expected to remain in operation beyond 2040 – at least another 30 years. Production in 2011 was 882 million pounds of copper and 1.4 million ounces of gold, contributing US5.4 billion dollars to Freeport’s revenues and US2.9 billion dollars to gross profit.
The advent of the internet brought new transparency and enabled news of the 1994-95 killings to be relayed to media outlets and NGOs around the world. The FBI and Freeport were nervous about a backlash – particularly in NY, where the financial community played a key role in the financing of Freeport’s activities. But it was impossible for corporate PR and the FBI to entirely stop the backlash against Freeport, and over the years large investment funds have dumped their holdings in Freeport shares on ethical concerns: the Government Pension Fund of Norway is the highest profile fund to dump and blacklist Freeport’s shares, which it did in 2006 with much publicity.
Indeed critics rightfully claim that lending agencies, and institutions such as Australian commercial banks Westpac and ANZ which were part of the syndicate of banks that financed Freeport’s mining activities in West Papua in the 1990s, should demand environmental and social accountability from their clients and in turn provide accountability and transparency to their own shareholders about such investments. Without such demands, these banks and others that lend money to finance Freeport’s Grasberg mine appear to have accepted the corrupt business practices that prevailed under Suharto and subsequent governments.
It has been my experience that certain institutions involved with the financing of Freeport, at least senior people employed by those institutions, viz Westpac and ANZ, and also Warburg for example, in the wake of my new found notoriety as a target of the FBI and ASIO, had aligned with the intelligence agencies and interfered with my new job search, and career.
My experience on this issue with ANZ and Westpac, as well as other banks, serves as a reminder, and another example, of the close link between bank employees and intelligence agencies and the manner in which they work co-operatively with each other.
Meeting with the FBI and Freeport
In response to the analyst report, the FBI’s threat came promptly – delivered by their man who had been sitting among the analysts in Freeport’s New Orleans’ boardroom where CEO James (Jim Bob) Moffett had just conducted the annual analyst briefing and Q&A. It was May 1996, and my report had been published two months before. The FBI’s man came up to me and threatened me in an icy tone that left no uncertainty as to its ill intent. He was around my age (early 30s) and dressed in a business suit. He had stood beside me as I spoke briefly with the CEO after the meeting and in which I had asked a question about the investigation into the killings.
As I started to move away from the CEO and out of the boardroom alcove, the FBI’s man moved with me. Emerging from my shadow, he stepped squarely into my space and without introducing himself said directly, using my first name, “…I respect you for asking that question but you might wish you hadn’t,” referring to my question to the CEO during the briefing.
I replied “So what, what do I care? What can they do to me?”
He said “You might not want to find out”. I held his gaze for a moment and then moved away. It was a threat in no uncertain terms. More accurately, it was a disclosure, that like tarantulas walking over one in their sleep, the FBI, the supposed protector of democratic freedoms in the US, had emerged from its dark cover and was now on the prowl.
In 1996, the Grasberg killings two years earlier had seemed like a distant memory and of no apparent connection to my life in NY. Nor did it seem of particular relevance for my girlfriend. But we were innocent and naïve! The FBI honed in and targeted my various personal relationships – work, social and family. From the outset, they focused their attack on my relationship with Susan, my long term girlfriend.
Susan graduated from Dartmouth in the mid 80s with a liberal arts degree and was now a professional environmental advocate living in NYC. She was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club. Complicating matters, she was an undercover FBI agent and had been for around 6 years, since she was 27. She discussed her work with me on occasion and at the time she was involved with pursuing environmental outlaws on the east side of the US.
Threats and interference from the FBI
My report had been well received by investors, but evidently, not so well received by the CIA, the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the FBI where it apparently was a matter of grave embarrassment. Since its publication and Freeport’s analyst briefing, I have faced strange and unpredictable headwinds. Over time, I learned this was the FBI playing the heavy hand of what can most accurately be called ‘police state’ payback, with vast numbers of undercover agents in the hundreds of thousands, each earning a pittance, employed in numbers that greatly exceed the agent head count disclosed on the FBI website, using tactics more commonly associated with the former Stasi of East Germany or the KGB of Russia, or indeed, the Grand Inquisitors of the Middle Ages identifying and ridding the world of heretics. These headwinds affected my career, my relationships and ultimately forced me to leave the US.
The FBI’s dark arts were turned against me for reasons that have nothing to do with protecting democracy, freedom or justice, and everything to do with bending American law to the will of power and money.
Throughout their reprisal attack on me, they have colluded with and liaised closely with their counterparts in the Australian intelligence agency ASIO (I am a dual American/Australian citizen). And there is no recourse, no protection against them. Their activities are officially hidden, protected by state secrecy laws and an oversight culture in the US (and Australia) that looks the other way.
The intelligence agencies in the West, like their kin in parts of the world with more notorious reputations, use their powers ‘strategically’ – for institutional enhancement or to embellish individual career paths, but not necessarily to protect and advance American (and Western) values of the masses which expect justice, truth and equality. These values have now been surrendered to political expediency, replaced with the sophistry of the new elite: realpolitik – where policy choices are made on the basis of how far into the future the decision maker’s calculus can forecast benefits accruing to their self interest.
At the time the FBI and ASIO campaign commenced I was young, 33 years old, new to Wall Street, a relatively unknown analyst with limited influence. I had no connections into the political world that could be called upon to pull strings and haul the FBI into line on this issue. The FBI seeks targets where it calculates there is little risk of political ricochet, blowback that might result in unintended repercussions for the agency, such as increased scrutiny and accountability of its activities – and the corollary to that, criminal prosecution.
While my Freeport McMoran research report and questions obviously hit a sensitive chord with certain powerful people, one of the key factors in the agency choosing to target me seems to have been my ‘new boy on the block’ status with lack of political connections to hit back and cause them problems. I was an easy target.
In the FBI’s calculation, it is a one sided fight – the FBI builds its influence and power, like a schoolboy bully – attempting to crush someone in full view of select analysts, bankers, journalists and those who shape institutional and corporate cultures; they send a message that to speak out in this democracy against vested financial and political interests will result in ‘unregulated’ retribution. In the FBI’s calculus, there was virtually nothing I could do about their attacks, though this changed with the advent of social media, the power of which the FBI did not foresee.
FBI targets my girlfriend
The FBI did not initially tell Susan they were targeting me. They kept the details quiet from her and obviously from me. In fairytales true love prevails, but in real life love has cracks and relationships have periods of respite – cracks which the FBI helped to engineer in my relationship with Susan, then ruthlessly exploited.
Once the FBI had helped facilitate the split between Susan and me in late 1997, through tactics we later learned included the deletion of phone messages to each other, had me distracted and her miffed, they gave her access to the FBI file they had been building on me since March 1996, the date of the offending Freeport report. Mischievously, they told her I was the subject of a criminal investigation in relation to my work; but this was a false justification for the file, it was an outright lie, and the ‘investigation’ in fact political payback. However, the FBI got the result it intended, the three year relationship between Susan and me was damaged and never recovered. But their payback was just beginning.
Many years later Susan told me I could not imagine how surprised she was at the moment she saw my name on the FBI files. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing…but she did believe it! That she was one of ‘their own’, an undercover FBI agent, only made it easier for them to betray her. She was young, inexperienced and foolishly did not doubt the integrity of the FBI! She accepted their word and their files as legitimate, took them at face value because she was in the habit of trusting and being obedient to them.
Her response at the time she was given the files, however, paled in comparison to how she reacted when she found out later that they were part of an FBI setup – a hatchet job. She said she had been physically sick and vomited.
I learned the truth about the FBI’s involvement in this revenge attack from Dr Steven D. Garber (White Plains, NY; formerly NYC – see details below), one of Susan’s colleagues and a ranking officer at the FBI who had apparently managed the operation for the FBI. In 2004, on one of my return trips to NY, he told me all during a long walk in Central Park. He had been closely involved in managing the payback for the FBI and his intention in telling me was malicious, like twisting the knife in a stabbing victim: to rattle and perturb my psyche.
The FBI’s timing in its disclosure was deliberately chosen, once Susan was married and pregnant with her first child, for maximum impact and to ensure there was no way back for our relationship, just in case any ember remained that could re-ignite the fire that once burned.
Steve’s disclosure to me was in the days before mass social media networking and the FBI assumed this story would never be heard.
The hollowing out of FBI oversight
My various efforts to have the agencies held to account have failed. Attempts to do so in the US include:
- Letters to the FBI’s and DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General – the offices responsible for FBI oversight. My allegations and complaints have been rebuffed with deceitful and disingenuous responses.
- I have approached my New York federal elected representatives Senator Schumer and Congressman Nadler – but on both fronts I have been stonewalled. Any effort made by my representatives to engage the agencies on my behalf was rebuffed, again with deceitful and disingenuous responses from the agencies, and subsequently my matter was then dropped by my elected representative. Further, it appears the FBI has co-opted a staff member within Congressman Nadler’s office.
- My representations to the two Judiciary Committees have been rebuffed. In the case of the House Judiciary Committee, preliminary interview records and case files in relation to my allegations and complaint have disappeared. Again, it appears that the FBI has insiders positioned within the oversight agencies to circumvent the complaints process and undermine accountability.
My Sydney Member of Parliament, Tanya Plibersek raised my concerns about abusive ASIO surveillance and interference in a speech to the Australian Parliament in 2007. A transcript is available in Hansard (28 March 2007); click to read. She pointed out the injustice of Australian law, whereby Australian citizens have no rights to receive official confirmation of ASIO allegations against themselves and therefore no opportunity to respond to them. Neither ASIO nor the Government responded to the concerns she had raised which remain unanswered to this day.
My Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon also raised the matter in 2012, this time in Senate Questions on Notice (SQON) directed to the Australian Prime Minister and the Attorney General but which produced the typical blow-off answers here and here. At least one of Senator Rhiannon’s staffers I dealt with is an ASIO operative. A letter I sent to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security apparently raised heads but resulted in no action: Letter to PJCIS.
Oversight of the FBI’s activities in the US is a rigged game (likewise with ASIO in Australia). The oversight agencies are a tease; a public deception. They blatantly deceive and shamelessly lie, protected from higher standards by a cloak of secrecy that shrouds their self defined ‘national security’ activities. Statutory authorities and their ‘team’ bound bureaucrats are neither sufficiently independent nor culturally free to act impartially. Furthermore, the intelligence agencies are able to recruit, or position their agents within the various oversight groups and undermine their independence. It is my experience that intelligence agency accountability has been thoroughly undermined, completely hollowed out, like termites with an insatiable appetite, the agencies have invisibly hollowed out the grand old structures for accountability that our democracy depends on.
In Australia, Ian Barker QC, a leading lawyer, wrote of the lack of ASIO accountability:
“Any defence lawyer having anything to do with a case involving ASIO will know that its agents habitually act outside their powers and routinely abuse them, always in secret. It is rare indeed for their conduct to be exposed.”
The sole potential domain for justice, if there is any at all in such matters, in holding US (and Australian) intelligence agencies to account, appears to be the courts. As yet, this is not something I’ve tested, though some of my lawyers in Australia have been interfered with leading me to have early doubts about the system’s integrity.
The European scourge
The European scourge of the 20th century is making its way to the US in the 21st century: unlimited power of national intelligence agencies. Further to the inability to hold the agencies to account, counter threats have been made to me to desist. Threats include those of personal harm; negative media delivered by agency aligned/paid journalists; damaging my business; jailed for treason for naming government agents that have been involved in this abuse; and the most bizarre and sick warning of all – the threat posed by government agencies that have the power to mobilise and break up or destabilise families, that they can fabricate reasons to remove children from their parents – something Susan said was considered a fair tactic by the FBI – specially reserved for ‘dissidents’ who the agency believes are deserving of such treatment. Susan was not joking; she was deadly serious.
The FBI (and ASIO) has thrown nets over all my communications, identifying and targeting friends, associates and colleagues. They have approached old friends and current, and in cases succeeded in recruiting them. Over the course of my life, I have had many hundreds of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Several dozen of these I am now aware of have been approached, and in cases interfered with and recruited. In addition to people I already knew, others have made themselves known to me, in cases befriending me, only later to reveal their involvement with an intelligence agency.
One of the more intrusive things the FBI did was to plant an agent in my New York apartment where the person had access to all my stuff. Unbeknownst to me at the time, after I advertised for a sublet tenant, one of their agents applied – he was the only one of two applicants to come by for an inspection. The agent, Michael Mills, occupied the apartment at 170 West 74th Street (Upper West Side) for a number of years after I departed New York and returned to Australia.
All up, I have had a dozen or two agents, or informants, collaborators, etc make themselves known to me, in each of the US and Australia, as part of the ongoing harassment and interference I have experienced since publishing the note on Freeport in 1996. The names of these agents, wedged between the government, the constitution and the people, are gradually being disclosed below in successive updates of this note.
Not much has changed in the intervening years since 1996. The killing of indigenous people continues in West Papua, Freeport McMoran’s operations have at least another 30 years life there beyond 2040, and I will remain on the FBI target list, it seems forever.
America is full of good people, it is a great country. Its leaders, if allowed to govern with the support of strong democratic institutions to ensure accountability to the wider electorate, to good people, will take America, and the world, to a better place.
The plight of indigenous people caught in military conflict zones, with domestic and foreign backers funding armed violence to secure resources, deserves much greater public attention: West Papua, Nigeria, DRC and elsewhere. It is moral bankruptcy for the world’s most powerful to target indigenous people for their resources on account they are easy military targets; no match for the US or other industrialised societies and their modern weaponry. Killing men, women, and children of all ages, as if they were legitimate military targets; indiscriminate killing of people who have no means of defending themselves is a war crime. Indeed, international mining major Rio Tinto is accused of helping the government forces during the Bougainville war in PNG, by lending the military trucks, accommodation, secretarial services, communications equipment and other material support, and has been named in a US class action law suit for complicity in atrocities and war crimes. The allegations are denied by Rio. At the time of writing in 2013, the court action was ongoing.
Further details to come
This story starts with what the US (and Australian) intelligence agencies did to my girlfriend and me while we were living and working in New York, set against the background of the killings of indigenous protestors at the Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia and subsequent human rights investigations.
The details are set out below [details to be posted].
Postscript [Updated 7 May 2013]
Aside from the above, other undercover FBI agents and collaborators self-disclosed include:
– Michael Mills: the FBI agent who moved into my apartment in NYC and occupied it for several years when I sublet it before my return to Australia.
– Kathleen Walton: former mining analyst at Merrill Lynch in NYC.
– Matthew Levey – Kroll Associates, Inc (New York City midtown office): consulting work case manager 2003 and 2004. Former State Department employee.
– Jeffrey S Robards: corporate finance, formerly Ernst & Young (E&Y) NYC. Now working for C.W. Downer & Co – a boutique M&A firm in Boston.
– Stephan Chenault and John Klotz: volunteers Sierra Club NYC Group since 1990s.
– Ben Worden, Rob Haggerty and Allison Dey (Tucson area): FBI agents involved with Diamond Mountain Buddhist group in southern Arizona and California.
– George Schneider and Livingston Sutro (Sierra Vista, AZ); Jennifer Conner (NYC): Associated with Diamond Mountain Buddhist group in southern Arizona.
– Paul Whitby (Tucson): biologist.
– Robert Schultz – Albuquerque based head hunter. MRC Mining Search.
– Steven D. Garber – (wife Andrea – collaborator) additional details: biologist; lived in Manhattan for much of the 1990s, before taking a two year posting to teach biology at Embry Riddle in Prescott, AZ. Books authored include The Urban Naturalist (New York. John Wiley and Sons. 1987). PhD in Ecology, Environmental Sciences – Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Newark. B.S. in Natural Resources – Cornell University.
ASIO agents, informers and collaborators self-disclosed include:
(to be disclosed)
Note: The above memoirs are based on the author’s records and recollection of the events depicted. The author has taken all reasonable steps to verify his recollection against contemporaneous records. It is, however, possible that he has misremembered or misinterpreted some events. Dialogue may be paraphrasing of actual conversation. The author would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers matters differently with a view to correcting any errors or omissions. The author has asserted his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This material is being released as work in progress in draft form that will be updated and extended over the coming year.
Author: John Wilson
Copyright 2015 by Mininganalyst. All rights reserved.