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Frequently asked questions

Who is Matt DeHart and what did he do?

Matt DeHart is a 31-year-old former US Air National Guard drone team member and alleged WikiLeaks courier. He became disillusioned with post-9/11 America when he realized that the CIA knew it was killing children and innocents, and began working with Anonymous. In mid-September 2009, he found an unprotected file, an FBI investigation into the CIA, on The Shell, a server he ran. He deleted the file but it later reappeared in encrypted form on another server he had access to, and he thought it was destined for WikiLeaks. Matt was honorably discharged from the military in June 2009 when, ostensibly, the Air National Guard deemed that his depression was incompatible with his work. However, he believes the Air National Guard knew about his online activity. “Part of my job with Anonymous was I helped people communicate securely,” he said. “I would protect people from NSA spying.”

Why was Matt arrested for child pornography?

The solicitation of teenage pornography allegations against Matt originally date from 2008, when Matt was 23, and stem from a complaint made by the mother of a teenaged member of his World of Warcraft guild, who alleged that Matt solicited nude photos via text message. Matt vehemently denies the allegations and no incriminating material has ever been found on his devices, even after the FBI raided his family’s home in 2010. Moreover, the Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant on the charges were not filed until after Matt was detained at the US-Canadian border on what an unclassified FBI report reveals was an espionage alert. The National Post has written about the claims in detail.

These allegations still form the basis for the only criminal charges laid against Matt (aside from failure to appear in court — added in a superceding indictment after Matt fled the US), and three judges in two separate countries — the United States and Canada — have now said that they lack credibility.

Why did Matt go to the Russian and Venezuelan Embassies?

On 25 January, 2010, law enforcement agents raided Matt’s home, seizing his computer and all digital devices save two encrypted thumb drives that were hidden in a locked gun case. He believed that the raid was a search for information related to Anonymous, not teenage pornography as the agents claimed. “They think of WikiLeaks like Al-Qaeda,” he said of the US government, and he felt his online activism might put him at risk. Fearing political persecution, he visited the Russian Embassy seeking protection. “They tried to shake me down for information; told me it wasn’t practical for them to get me out [of the country],” Matt said. “They said they’d pay me for this information. I wasn’t going to do that. Take me as an employee, but I’m not selling you information. I wasn’t in the military anymore so it was not like I had a ready supply of information, and, personally, I wouldn’t do that. I haven’t done that.”

Matt then tried the Venezuelan Embassy, but left in short order. “It wasn’t to work against the United States government it’s just, I literally had nothing else to do,” he said. “I didn’t sell secrets. I was just trying to leave.” Two months later, still feeling unsafe in the United States, Matt left for Canada, where he would later enroll in college.

Why is the FBI pursuing Matt for national security matters?

Matt ran a Tor hidden server called the Shell Onion, to which someone uploaded an encrypted file that Matt believes contains an FBI investigation into the CIA’s practices. He deleted the file but it later reappeared in encrypted form on another server he had access to, and he thought it was destined for WikiLeaks. Matt has also worked for Anonymous, assisting with activities to secure communications. He says he “protected people from NSA spying.” Matt contends that the US is pursuing him to learn more about his activity with Anonymous.

Why did Matt and his family seek asylum in Canada?

After Matt was released on bond in mid-2012, Matt and his family experienced repeated delays in his case and suspected he was being forced into a plea deal. Matt’s parents were concerned about the impact of the prosecution on their son, who has a long-standing diagnosis of depression and who now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the torture he endured while detained by US authorities. In early 2013, technologist and campaigner Aaron Swarz committed suicide, an event linked by many who knew him to the pressures of a criminal investigation against him that had continued for several years.

Matt’s father Paul DeHart has cited Aaron Swartz’s death as a turning point, explaining that ultimately it was the family’s fears for their son’s health that led them to decide to cross the border and apply for asylum in Canada. When Matt and his family entered Canada on 3 April, 2013, they applied for asylum as a family – Matt’s parents on the basis that they felt they were being threatened with possible conspiracy charges.

Where is Matt now?

On 1 March, 2015 Matt DeHart was deported by Canadian authorities. He is now in federal custody in the United States. We will continue to report on his status and condition and work to secure his safety and freedom.

Why was Matt deported?

In February, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board turned down the DeHart family’s asylum application. While the Board expressed scepticism regarding the child pornography charges and that Matt DeHart was likely the focus of a national security investigation, the Board held that the US justice system would allow Matt adequate opportunity to defend himself against the charges he does face.

What will happen next?

Matt’s lawyers have said that they “intend to vigorously defend Matt in the United States, as well as file a civil suit against the Federal Government for violations of Matt’s constitutional rights that he has endured in this process.” His lawyers need support to make that happen.

Where are Matt’s encrypted thumb drives?

Matt gave two encrypted Iron Key thumb drives, and his parents gave hundreds of supporting documents, to the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) when they first applied for asylum, hoping to corroborate his claim that the US was persecuting him for national security matters. Despite repeated requests, the CBSA refused to return the thumb drives to the DeHart family’s lawyers, so that evidence could be presented to the Canadian Board assessing their asylum application. Instead, the CBSA gave the drives to US authorities, according to the US prosecutor at Matt’s sentencing hearing. The US will not turn over the drives, which Matt contends contain exculpatory evidence. Matt and his family will continue to fight for the return of these devices.

What can I do to support Matt DeHart?

Matt needs your help today. His lawyers are working pro bono and funding the case themselves. They also intend to sue the FBI for its mistreatment of Matt after they detained, drugged, tortured and interrogated Matt at the US-Canadian border from August 6th-20th 2010. They need money so they can mount a full defense for Matt by paying for computer forensics experts, investigators, travel costs to Maine and Tennessee, court costs, electronic discovery, and their time. A donation to his defense fund will help his lawyers to focus resources on his case and vigorously litigate it fully.

What is the Courage Foundation and who runs it?

Courage is a trust, audited by accountants Derek Rothera & Company in the UK, for the purpose of providing legal defense and campaign aid to journalistic sources. It is overseen by an unrenumerated committee of trustees. Matt DeHart is its third recipient. The terms of the fund and its trustees can be obtained from Derek Rothera & Company.

Who runs this website?

The site is commissioned by the trustees of Courage to provide information on the threats Matt DeHart faces, his current situation and what you can do to support him.