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Exposing Corruption at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM)
by JBLM Cop Watch
A review of the corruption, illegal surveillance, and abuse of those who oppose the years of malfeasance at JBLM.
It is near certain that the authors of America’s Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights could not have anticipated a government that secretly monitors our personal communications, collects and stores vast quantities of information about its citizens, and a government in which the concept of civil liberties and Americans as a free and sovereign people is fast approaching extinction.

Today, out of control government agencies label American citizens as “homegrown violent extremists” (domestic terrorists) for questioning government misconduct or requesting information about government activities. The following notice was repeatedly posted throughout the civilian community in Pierce and Thurston counties in Washington State, between June and October 2019, after community members expressed concern over the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) Anti-Terrorism Office conducting unlawful surveillance and monitoring of the civilian community. This was a clearly an attempt by out-of-control government agents at JBLM to intimidate the community into silence; even though DOD regulations clearly prohibit DOD agencies from gathering information about individuals or organizations solely because of their opposition to government policies.

“No information shall be acquired about a person or organization solely because of lawful advocacy of measures in opposition to Government policy. No computerized data banks shall be maintained relating to individuals or organizations not affiliated with the Department of Defense, unless authorized by the Secretary of Defense, or his designee.” (DoD Directive 5200.27)

In the above notice, the JBLMATO used a Gmail address to limit the ability of the community to gain information about their surveillance activities through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Using non-government addresses as a reporting channel is nothing new for JBLM. Daniel Vessels, the Deputy Chief of the JBLM Protection Division / JBLMATO previously created Facebook and Twitter reporting channels in order to collect information about the civilian community and avoid having to disclose that information under FOIA. The photo, in the above notice, of the JBLMATO evidence technician processing documents from the civilian community, clearly shows that the notice was produced at JBLM.

Illegally gathering information about individuals, maintaining unauthorized records, conducting illegal investigations, manufacturing evidence, and submitting false police reports and perjured testimony, and using their official position to harass and intimidate anyone who questions government misconduct is an on-going problem at JBLM.

The Olympian Newspaper, in Olympia, WA reported:
“A former Joint Base Lewis-McChord employee who spied on war protests in Olympia helped compile detailed information on protesters, including their names, photos, addresses and, in some cases, Social Security numbers, according to 133 pages of law enforcement records released by the City of Tacoma... The detailed information collected about the protesters continues to be stored by area law enforcement agencies.” (Pawloski 2011)

Heidi Boghosian, the former director of the National Lawyers’ Guild, wrote in her book, Spying on Democracy:
“A civilian employee of the Fort Lewis Force Protection Division in Washington State struck up friendships with many peace activists. For at least two years, he posed as an activist with Port Militarization Resistance (PMR), a group in Washington opposing the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. He gave information about planned protests to his supervisor, Thomas Rudd, who wrote threat assessments that local law enforcement officials used in harassment campaigns that included “preemptive arrests and physical attacks on peaceful demonstrations, as well as other harassment”. One individual was arrested so many times that his landlord evicted him… In the words of the government agencies involved, they aimed to neutralize PMR through a pattern of false arrests and detentions, attacks on homes and friendships, and attempting to impede members from peacefully assembling and demonstrating anywhere, at any time. Harassment was systematic and pervasive. PMR participants were arrested not just locally, but in other venues, including the Denver Democratic National Convention in 2008 and a San Francisco protest at which they were the only ones arrested… The case revealed that today’s military has continued to engage in COINTELPRO-type operations and shows the extent to which the lines between the military and civilian law enforcement have blurred. Forces now used against ordinary people engaged in free speech and protest include, increasingly, weapons and tactics used by the U.S. military for combat missions. The drift from passive intelligence gathering to offensive counterintelligence is one manifestation of the difference between civilian law enforcement principles and the military’s exclusive focus on defeating perceived enemies through combat, propaganda, and covert operations… The role of civilian law enforcement, in theory, is to protect the public and the Constitution whereas the role of the military is to identify the enemy and neutralize them… When the military starts identifying peaceful dissenters here as the enemy, God help us all.” (Boghosian 2013, 107-108)

Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spoke out against DOD agencies illegally monitoring the civilian community:
“There is simply no reason why the United States military should be monitoring the peaceful activities of American citizens who oppose U.S. war policies... When information about non-violent protest activity is included in a military anti-terrorism database, all Americans should be concerned about the unchecked authority this administration has seized in the name of fighting terrorism... Spying on citizens for merely executing their constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly is chilling and marks a troubling trend... It is an abuse of power and an abuse of trust for the military to play any role in monitoring critics of administration policies.”

In April 2017, an article in the Huffington Post stated:
“On multiple occasions, PMR activists were pulled over on their way to protests and arrested on bogus charges that were later dismissed. Activists engaged in symbolic civil disobedience were violently attacked by police and arrested en masse. Information obtained surreptitiously by the Army was used to disrupt a criminal prosecution then under way in state court. The Army even distributed dossiers on some of the plaintiffs to law enforcement, characterizing the activists as terrorist threats.”

The article continues, “Although [Thomas] Rudd said he was reprimanded after the 2009 Army investigation, he admitted in his 2014 deposition that he continued to anonymously spy on email listservs of political activists in order to assess their perceived threat to Army operations.”

Community members frequently contacted JBLM to protest the on-going illegal activities of the Protection Division (Anti-Terrorism Office). JBLM ignored these community concerns, covered up Protection Division / JBLMATO misconduct and questionable activities, and failed to implement changes and policies to ensure compliance with law and regulation. Several local political activists filed a lawsuit (Panagacos v. Towery, 782 F.Supp. 2d 1183 (2011) against the Protection Division / JBLMATO because of the government’s illegal activities. The case made it to the 9th US Circuit Court in May 2017. JBLM then moved to have the court records sealed in order to conceal years of illegal activities disclosed by the evidence submitted in this case, and to prevent this information from being obtained by citizens in the community or by the news media.

Protection Division / JBLMATO personnel at JBLM, Washington engaged in a multi-year pattern of illegal spying on political activists, monitored electronic communications, created databases containing the personal identifying information of American citizens, and labeled them domestic terrorists for peacefully protesting government policy. Even after being ordered to stop their illegal activity, according to court depositions, government employees in the Protection Division continued to anonymously spy on American citizens and monitor their communications. This illegal collection of information about, and surveillance of, American citizens by government civilian employees in the Protection Division / JBLMATO continues even to this very day.

(From an article posted to IndyMedia disclosing the link to an ‘Intelligence Database’ being used by JBLM to post information about American citizens that they collected in violation of law and regulation.)

It isn’t only members of the civilian community that object to the illegal activities of the JBLM Anti-Terrorism Office. According to January 2019 court records, “It is alleged that [a JBLM employee] has a long-standing professional and personal feud against D.V. (Daniel Vessels) and T.R. (Thomas Rudd). Several of their arguments stem from [the employee’s] claim that D.V. and T.R. are unlawfully releasing personal identifiable information and [illegally] collecting intelligence on U.S. citizens.”

Even JBLM Military Police (MP) officers submitted ICE complaints about the JBLMATO collecting information about the community without lawful authority to do so.

In the above excerpt from a sworn statement we see that the JBLMATO is collecting information about non-affiliated civilians who protest government activity or submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for copies of government documents.

In addition to collecting intelligence on Mr. Hendricks, as he admitted to in the above statement, it was found that Daniel L. Vessels, the Deputy Chief of the Protection Division / JBLMATO, had hundreds of pages of information about other individuals hidden on his government computer. There is no question about whether Mr. Vessels knew that the files he was maintaining were unauthorized. He disguised the file folders where he was illegally collecting information to look like photos in a back-up folder, thus trying to conceal the information from standard audits and reviews of file systems; and clearly demonstrating knowledge of his own guilt. Note that this wasn’t a case of maintaining official reports of a questionable nature, but was fraud and misuse of a government computer system to maintain files and records that were completely unauthorized and specifically prohibited by DOD regulations.

The Protection Division / JBLMATO Chief, Thomas R. Rudd, conducted illegal investigations, using the Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC) Department of Behavioral Health to conduct forensic psychiatric evaluations, even though Mr. Rudd has repeatedly stated that the Protection Division is not an investigative agency and has no investigative authority. Thomas Rudd then provided the forensic psychiatric evaluations he obtained from MAMC Behavioral Health to Daniel Vessels and Mr. Vessels then released this information from MAMC Behavioral Health to individuals outside of DOD, without any lawful authority to do so.

– Yes, the JBLM Protection Division Anti-Terrorism Office is ordering forensic psychiatric evaluations and then releasing the results of those evaluations outside of DOD!

In The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case No. 14-35598, JULIANNE PANAGACOS, et al. v. JOHN J. TOWERY, et al. Appellee Thomas R. Rudd opposed a Motion to Unseal documents in this case, thus making them available to the public. Mr. Rudd's argument stated in part "Rudd is a civilian employee of the United States Army. As such, he is not permitted to disclose any of the Army’s "official information" - which includes all information that he acquired as part of his official duties or because of his official status." (Case No. 14-35598, p.3 of 21) By Mr. Rudd’s own argument before the Court, he [and thus Mr. Daniel Vessels] has no authority to release information that they acquired as part of their official duties or because of their official status.

Mr. Rudd had no lawful authority to order a psychiatric examination be conducted. And, even if Mr. Rudd’s action in ordering this psychiatric examination can be excused as error or mistake, there is no question that he lacked authority to release that document to Mr. Vessels and through Mr. Vessels to individuals outside of DOD.

The JBLMATO uses its connection with the JBLM Directorate of Emergency Services (DES) to harass and intimidate into silence anyone who questions their illegal activities. As we saw with the JBLMATO notice posted throughout the civilian community – anyone who questions JBLM activities may be investigated, have their fingerprints and DNA collected and have this information permanently entered into government databases as homegrown violent extremists (domestic terrorists). JBLMATO activity is intended to harass, threaten, and intimidate into silence anyone who questions their activities and their collection of intelligence on the civilian community.

Government bullying and retaliation by JBLM against anyone reporting illegal activities of the Protection Division / JBLMATO is of great concern. Of perhaps even greater concern is the use of false information, manufactured evidence, and perjured testimony in reports to and by JBLM law enforcement. Because of JBLMATO official misconduct and false reporting; JBLM Military Police Investigations (MPI) law enforcement reports have been tainted with false information, and individuals who have committed no crime have been charged with offenses that they did not commit. The corruption of the JBLMATO has spread like a plague, infecting other JBLM agencies as well as off-post agencies that have received JBLMATO false and malicious reporting and entered information from JBLM into their own records and systems of records.

How many people have had false information about them entered into law enforcement databases, been titled with an offense or convicted of a crime based on manufactured evidence and perjured testimony suborned by the JBLMATO? How many people are listed as home grown violent extremists (domestic terrorists) in some JBLM report or government database because of JBLMATO lies? How many people will become victims of JBLMATO illegal collection, harassment, threats of violence, and intimidation in the future?

JBLM goes to great lengths to conceal the illegal activities of the Protection Division / JBLMATO. Anyone questioning the on-going violations of law and regulation by the Protection Division / JBLMATO is quickly subjected to retaliation, threats, harassment, and declared to be a homegrown violent extremist by the JBLMATO. JBLM seeks to have court records sealed to prevent discovery of their illegal activities from being disclosed to the public and the news media. FOIA requests are routinely denied or indefinitely delayed, and as we have seen if you ask JBLM to disclose records under FOIA, the JBLMATO will certainly start “keeping an eye on you”.

The corruption at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is likely far greater than we have been able to determine and disclose in this letter. Until such time as those involved in this on-going illegal activity are held to answer for their crimes, and until those falsely accused of crimes because of JBLMATO corruption are cleared, the JBLM Protection Division / JBLMATO must be seen as posing a critical threat to civil liberties and privacy rights of the surrounding community.

by JBLM Cop Watch
by JBLM Cop Watch
by JBLM Cop Watch
by JBLM Cop Watch
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