#1 Feds Fighting To Keep Oregon Standoff Evidence Secret by Cincinnatus 10.03.2016 14:14


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government is pushing to keep some evidence in the criminal case against militants who occupied federal property in Oregon secret from people who are not directly involved, including the press. Federal prosecutors claim releasing this information will endanger witnesses.

More than two dozen people face felony conspiracy charges for their role in the 41-day occupation of a remote federal wildlife refuge near Burns. Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada " rancher " Cliven Bundy, who is dealing with his own charges related to a 2014 standoff, led the effort. The armed militants seized the facility to protest the imprisonment of two local ranchers and the federal government's control of public land. The standoff, which ended last month , resulted in numerous arrests and the death of one prominent occupier, LaVoy Finicum, who was shot dead by authorities in January.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to order certain sensitive government documents, including interviews, physical evidence and law enforcement reports, to be made available only to the defendants and other people closely connected to the case. The government has reportedly shared about 3,500 pages of evidence with defense attorneys so far. The feds want this evidence sealed from anyone not directly involved with the case, including the media.

A federal judge on Wednesday agreed to the government's request, but only on an interim basis. She asked the parties to come up with an order that's more limited in scope. The government will be meeting with members of the defense to figure out what that looks like in the next two weeks, Andrew Kohlmetz, counsel for Jason Patrick, an occupier from Georgia, told The Huffington Post.

The feds' request came the same day federal officials announced an inquiry into why FBI agents did not disclose that they fired shots during the confrontation that led to Finicum's death. (The shots that killed him were fired by Oregon state officers, not the FBI, investigators said .) Sympathizers to the occupiers have treated Finicum -- who police said was armed -- as a martyr, but investigators ruled the use of lethal force was justified.

Government requests for secrecy are not unusual, but they're not common. In a survey published in 2011, about half of defense attorneys reported that the government had requested no protective orders prohibiting or delaying disclosure because of witness safety concerns over a 5-year period. And a little over 20 percent requested protective orders for only two to four cases.

In this legal fight, with activists spreading conspiracy theories and protesters pointing to documented FBI misconduct during the deadly 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, the secrecy is likely only to draw more attention to the case.

One of the defendants argued the feds' request is too broad, especially in light of the federal inquiry. "The recent allegations of FBI misconduct in the shooting death of one of the protesters militates for public access to much, if not all, of the discovery material," Kohlmetz wrote in a filing.

The feds argued that good cause exists for their request, because if the names of witnesses are released, they will "almost certainly be subject to threats, intimidation and harassment," wrote FBI special agent Katherine Armstrong.


What's up with this? Is it connected to the lies the FBI agents told about shooting at the LaVoy vehicle? Are they trying to protect an undercover agent, or agents, they had within Malheur? Anybody got any other ideas?

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