Investigative Journalist, Barry R. Clausen
June 23, 2012
Are they deceitful now as they were in my case?
Note: The criticism in this article is directed at prior ATF leadership. We as a society should remember there are some outstanding agents within ATF. As you will read, my problems were with incompetent ATF leadership. Current contacts within ATF say that the issue is not ATF but rather it is Attorney General Eric Holder who is attempting to cover his own backside. They also say the new ATF Acting Director, Byron Todd Jones is a “good Director and doing a good job.” They claim, “He will clean up any problems there are within the Agency.”
President Obama’s use of “Executive Privilege” in the “Fast and Furious” debacle smacks of an apparent cover-up of the actions of some Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) agents, Attorney General Eric Holder and quite possibly Obama himself.
After 18 months of Congress trying to find out just what happened during Fast and Furious, we seem to be no closer to knowing the details of what went wrong, who was responsible and how are they going to put into place changes in policy to make sure this never takes place again. Not only that, but with the Executive Privilege being invoked, Obama singlehandedly has ensured that the American people and Brian Terry’s family may never have satisfactory answers to these questions.
While this case is certainly different than my unfortunate encounter with ATF, the lesson is still the same. ATF’s attitude, as with other federal policing agencies, appears to be cover-up the facts, lie or omit the truth in an effort to shed responsibility for legitimate mistakes or outright ineptness. When caught with their pants down is clear to even the most casual observer, it appears that their response is still – hide the truth!
The following is an excerpt from my most recent book Burning Rage – The Growing Anger Within My Country.
It all began when unknowingly I became the recipient of information relevant to the case of Leonard Peltier who was convicted of murdering two FBI Agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. On June 26, 1975, Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams were killed while attempting to serve arrest warrants for robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon on the Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Peltier, a Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) was apparently the victim of questionable actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Many years ago there was never a thought that my life of leisure would take a turn as a result of one small incident, a broken spring on my horse trailer while I was hauling horses for Texas entrepreneur Doug Durham who was the FBI infiltrator in AIM for the FBI. Durham and FBI agents shared confidential information with me about the shootings.
Following my association with Durham I worked as a deputy sheriff as an undercover narcotics deputy for several years in conjunction with different federal agencies. Eventually, I became a licensed private investigator and later, with an unexpected and surprising recommendation from the FBI, attorneys and investigators for multinational companies came to me for help in domestic terrorism issues. Eventually, my work led me to become a journalist and the author of two books, Walking On the Edge and Burning Rage - The Growing Anger Within My Country.
As a result of the work I did on Ecoterrorism I was asked by Julie Rodgers of Congressman Riggs’s office to testify at a Congressional hearing by the House Subcommittee On Crime.
Because of the information I possessed on several issues there were many unexplained problems with the U.S. Department of Justice, only to learn later that the problems were a deliberate, orchestrated attempt by ATF Agents to keep me quiet.
The information in my possession regarding the Peltier case has caused federal authorities no end of consternation and myself no end of trouble. Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) agents in Montana got creative when they initiated a contrived “investigation.” That investigation would enable maliciously trumped charges to be brought against me.
On February 11, 1990 the charges against me were felony theft of an AR-15 rifle. Even though there was no arrest warrant, it was alleged I had converted the AR-15 to a full automatic machine gun and then, allegedly, tried to blackmail Livingston, Montana rancher Allen Carter, the man that had given me the automatic weapon. According to court documents the charges were a result of an ATF “investigation.”
The truth is that on October 22, 1988, Montana’s Park County Sheriff Charlie Johnson had deputized me and requested my help in obtaining intelligence information on drug trafficking within his county. During that time Carter had approached me and offered me the opportunity to purchase an AR-15 that had been converted to a full automatic machine gun. Carter gave me the weapon on condition it could be tested before purchase. When Sheriff Johnson refused to accept the weapon from me and ordered that the gun be returned to Carter, there was no choice, I gave the machine-gun to Gary Lincoln of the FBI in Butte, Montana. My belief was that Lincoln would order an investigation. Nothing happened until 18 months later, at which time charges were filed against me for stealing it from Carter and converting it.
During those 18 months federal agents discovered that I had obtained information about the Peltier case, therefore the fictitious investigation was contrived. The purpose of the fictitious investigation was to protect two brothers, John and Doug Durham, who are featured in my book Burning Rage.
In the summer of 1988 during a conversation with Sheriff Lee Edmisten of Madison County, Montana the sheriff leaned over and in a secretive tone of voice asked, “You know Durham? What do you know about the ballistic reports… you know, the killing of the FBI agents at Pine Ridge?”
What was Edmisten talking about? I knew nothing about FBI agents being killed and certainly had no idea what Pine Ridge had to do with John Durham. As the realization of what Edmisten was talking about sunk in, he said: “Ballistic reports show it was Durham’s gun that killed the agents. Durham did it.”
I had never said anything to anyone about any ballistics reports so Edmisten’s comment was a shock. In reality, Edmisten was talking about Doug Durham, not John. My first question to Sheriff Edmisten was to ask where he got his information, he replied, “Someone told me,” refusing to answer the question. Less than one month later during a visit to Edmisten’s home in Sheridan, Montana he told me he had received the information from FBI Agent Gary Lincoln.
Several months following my conversation with Edmisten Dallas, Texas FBI Agent Dave Gillis and I discussed that conversation and the Pine Ridge ballistics report. After explaining to Gillis that Edmisten had told me it was Durham’s weapon that was used to kill FBI Agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler at Pine Ridge, Gillis told me he did not know agent Lincoln or Sheriff Edmisten, but he did confirm the information was correct. On two occasions, he told me it was in fact Durham’s weapon. Here were two FBI agents who did not know each other and both had the same information about Durham’s weapon.
While many say, it is common knowledge that the “AR-15” allegedly used by Peltier to kill the FBI agents could not be linked to a .223 shell casing found near the bodies. It has also been said that an FBI communiqué invalidated the testimony of the FBI ballistics expert at Peltier’s trial and that information about the ballistics report was illegally withheld from Peltier’s defense.
What is not common knowledge is that the ballistics report shows the gun in question, according to Gillis, Edmisten, and apparently Lincoln, was Doug Durham’s.
The questions I had, and still have is if Edmisten got the information about the ballistics report from Lincoln, as he stated, how did Gary Lincoln know about Durham’s weapon? How did Lincoln know of my relationship with Doug Durham, and how did he know that it was Durham’s weapon that was used in the shooting of two FBI agents? Is this information common knowledge within the FBI?
Not long after the conversation with Edmisten I decided to run against him for the office of sheriff. Over the previous two years I had returned to college studying violence and aggression, child abuse, child sexual abuse, criminal justice and criminal law. In addition my schooling had made me a court-recognized facilitator in domestic abuse cases. My work had included involvement with the local schools on drug related issues and working with the Montana Battered Women’s Network. Those qualifications, my involvement over those last few years with drug-related work, the number of young people within the county who approached me with their problems and my understanding of the local drug problems, made me believe I was well qualified and could make a positive change, if elected to office.
Within three weeks of picking up the paperwork to file for the office, the charges were headlines in the local papers; they told the story about my alleged conversion of the semi-automatic rifle Carter had given me. The charges were filed by Nels Swandal, the Park County, Montana Prosecuting Attorney on February 11, 1990.
There was no conviction of anything as the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. There was no evidence because it did not happen. However, the damage was done and my idea of running for office was dashed. I sued Park County, Sheriff Charlie Johnson, Madison County, Sheriff Lee Edmisten, Madison County Attorney, David Hoffman and Montana rancher Allen Carter. At that time it was my contention that all had worked together to have me convicted of the contrived charges.
During the entire legal process, no one ever asked if I could prove my innocence. I knew there would never be a conviction as my documentation included enough to prove my own innocence. My knowledge and documentation included the fact that Fido Henderson, another Livingston cowboy, had manufactured the parts for the machine-gun conversion. If no one else was going to investigate, I decided to do it myself. At the advice of my attorney I paid a visit to Henderson’s home. After a short conversation Henderson decided to come forward. He immediately went to Prosecutor Nels Swandal and identified the parts he had manufactured for the machine gun conversion. Henderson went even further, he gave a statement to the prosecutor that he had unknowingly manufactured the parts for Carter. My own investigation took less than two hours and in those hours I proved my own innocence.
Eventually, there was an out of court settlement from all concerned. Each of the counties involved gave me a check and Carter made payments for quite some time. As part of the settlement Park County Attorney Nels Swandal sent my attorney John Doubek of Small, Hatch, Doubek & Pyter in Helena, Montana a letter stating: “Much information has been gathered and analyzed since Barry Clausen was charged with the felony crime of theft in 1990. Based upon our closest and best review and evaluation of the same we must now conclude that if we knew then what we know now, we would not have charged Mr. Clausen with any crime. We do not believe that Mr. Clausen would be convicted by judge or jury of the theft charge, which was based on an allegation that he had converted the involved weapon to an automatic. We hope this letter will be of assistance to Mr. Clausen.”
During discovery, Sheriff Edmisten, Sheriff Johnson, Madison County Attorney David Hoffman and Allen Carter all suffered from convenient memory loss, but even with that, the information obtained clearly showed that ATF was responsible for the fictitious, maliciously contrived charges being brought against me. Apparently, the plan was two-fold; one was to have me discredited throughout the county, therefore not standing a chance to win the position of sheriff. In the process, if there had been a conviction and later I came forward with the information about the Leonard Peltier case, the government could then say, Clausen is a convicted felon and should not be believed. Their effort failed miserably.
On November 23, 2010 there was some justice as an Associated Press story states, “LIVINGSTON - A former Park County sheriff [Charlie Johnson] has been sentenced to five years with the state Department of Corrections in an intimidation case that initially involved allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage girl and several years earlier Edmisten was defeated in an election for the sheriff seat he once held.
Discovery in a lawsuit can sometimes be fun, depending on the case. Mine was, as I had an outstanding attorney and we both knew I had done nothing illegal. Watching those who had attempted to set me up squirm, and even lie under deposition, was enjoyable.
Not only was the truth surrounding the set-up uncovered, but also according to Sheriff Edmisten, ATF agents were behind the charges. There is no question, the charges were contrived to keep both of the Durhams’ names out of the press. John for the drug involvement within his company and for his involvement with the DEA resulting in the arrest of Jim Menece the Vice President of Digital Pro, one of John’s companies. Doug’s name would need to be kept out of the press because of his involvement in the Peltier case.
According to Sheriff Edmisten’s conversations with Deputy Sheriff, JoAnn Johnson, Edmisten stated numerous times that federal agents knew about my association with the Durhams. Even though they were unaware of how much I knew, they were worried. Had the truth come out, the press would have had a field day investigating the Durhams. Information was later given to me showing that John Durham assisted the FBI with the arrest of all involved with major drug trafficking within his company.
What adds interest to the story is the fact that illegal firearms dealer Allen Carter was never charged with any crimes and the illegal machine-gun was returned to him. For what reason we may never know. ATF agent Blair Barney in the Seattle ATF office told me they were going to use Carter to assist in the arrest of Cy Anderson, a firearms dealer from Spokane, Washington. According to Carter, Anderson had been selling him firearms. However, when I talked with Carl Knuchel, Carter’s attorney about Anderson in April 2000 he stated: “To the best of my knowledge that never happened.”
Sheriff Lee Edmisten of Madison County, Montana opened the doors when, during discovery in my lawsuit against him, he stated twice under oath that ATF agents preformed an “investigation.” However, when asked the names of the ATF agents, Edmisten suffered from memory loss.
During the process of trying to clear my name I had gone to several public officials for help. One of those was Montana’s Attorney General Marc Racicot who I knew personally. When he ran for office I had helped him, however when I requested help from Racicot, he stated: “I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole, I want to be governor next time.” He was successful in obtaining that position.
When he was Attorney General, Racicot did respond to the massive number of letters I sent him. One response was dated November 21, 1991 when he told me he did not understand what I expected from his office. Personally, it didn’t appear that hard to figure out. Another response was dated November 8, 1993 after he became governor.
In that letter he stated: I received and carefully reviewed your letter of October 31, 1993 concerning your request for an investigation. Your request involves a legal matter that I do not have authority to address, and as a result I am obliged to advise you to contact the Montana Attorney General, Joe Mazurek for assistance.”
Wait a minute! Racicot could not help me as governor and referred me to the man who took his prior position. Why hadn’t he done something when he was attorney general? I did contact Attorney General Mazurek and again nothing was done. While it is easy for me to be critical of Racicot because of personal issues, it is also painless to applaud his professionalism to his constituents as Montana’s Attorney General and later as Governor.
Unlike Racicot and Mazurek, two who did help despite all the negative press regarding the ATF “investigation” were Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Slade Gorton (R-WA). With their much-appreciated help, the truth was eventually uncovered. According to ATF and other government documents the “investigation” was not really an investigation but a “thorough review.” As time progressed the “thorough review” turned out to be a “review,” which turned out to be an “oral review” and there were no records.
The massive number of letters sent by both senators started with a letter to ATF from Senator Gorton. The response was dated February 12, 1991 from Daniel M. Hartnett, which stated: “…Mr. Barry Clausen wrote you alleging violations of the federal firearms law by Mr. Allen Carter. Additionally, Mr. Clausen wrote that he reported these allegations to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and was not satisfied with the response he received.
“ATF is mandated with the enforcement of the Federal firearms laws. When an allegation is brought to our attention, we investigate the allegation and if founded, provide the U.S. Attorney’s office with the results. Mr. Clausen’s allegations of criminal activity by Mr. Carter were investigated and unsubstantiated.”
After numerous letters requesting information about the “investigation,” Karl Stankovic, Special Agent in Charge, Firearms Enforcement Branch of ATF sent me an undated letter that stated: “In response to your recent letter dated May 2, 1991, we have reviewed your prior allegations and conclude that the investigation will not be re-opened. Unless new evidence surfaces, we consider the matter closed.”
After the senators became involved the tone changed. An ATF letter dated December 15, 1993 was sent to Senator Slade Gorton from John W. Magaw, ATF Director, in which he states: “At that time a thorough review of the facts and circumstances was conducted with regard to Mr. Clausen’s alleged involvement regarding an illegal machine gun. We determined that no ATF investigation was warranted. Mr. Clausen’s request to obtain ATF documents cannot be honored because no such records exist.”
Senator Burn’s staff was relentless in their effort to get to the truth. For over two years letters were exchanged. To me there was a little humor in one of those letters. Senator Burns sent it on December 16, 1993 to Mr. James O. Pasco, Assistant Director, Congressional Affairs & Media Affairs of ATF that stated, “Upon reviewing the information provided, some additional questions come to mind. The response is a little confusing in one regard. According to ATF, “a thorough review was conducted.” However a statement follows that “no such records exist.” My question is – what happened to the documents generated by the “thorough review.” I would accept that no records of an “investigation” exist, but are the records of the “review” available to my constituent?”
There was never any admission of responsibility from ATF, but as recently as February 2000, the head of ATF Internal Affairs; Richard Hankinson encouraged me to resubmit my compliant against Carter and ATF, which was done. Hankinson promised during our phone conversation he would help me with my complaint against ATF. As of the printing of this book there has never been a response from Hankinson. As far as I am concerned Hankinson followed his fellow ATF agents and again we see more lies. A portion of my letter to Hankinson states:
“As you requested, the following information is being resubmitted to your agency. I appreciate your interest and comments, however when agents that represent your agency destroyed a portion of my life, it is difficult to comprehend what it is you can do at this time. However, if interested, I do have a solution that may be amicable to everyone.
“I did the investigation that resulted in proving my own innocence while your lazy agents did nothing except tell others they believed I was guilty. All of this was done to keep my information quiet. As my life was being impacted, your agents have done nothing to rectify the mistakes. Instead they have lied to me, and members of the U.S. Senate.”
There have been numerous Americans destroyed by the actions of federal agents but to destroy someone as a result of deliberate outright lies by ATF officials makes for what some may consider an interesting story.
Bob Winchel, a U.S. Forest Service special agent (a former ATF agent) once asked me: “Clausen what keeps you ticking? You have been kept broke, you have been kept down, and every time I turn around you keep coming back.”
Being a smart aleck I said: “Duracell.”
Winchel then asked, “What really does?”
“Because, someday I’m going to beat you bastards, that’s what keeps me ticking.”
“You just may do it.” Winchel responded.
After my second book Walking on the Edge, was published others came to me recounting their own stories of government atrocities. Charles Byers of Accuracy Ordinance Incorporated was one of these people. Byers had been charged with crimes by the same agencies, and interestingly, in both of our cases, one of the same agents was involved. I believe that Byers and I had become targets of the FBI’s Domestic Counterintelligence Program known as “Cointelpro,” not because we had actually committed any wrongdoing, but simply because we had gotten in their way and refused to be quiet.
During the course of the next few years, at the request and expense of actor Robert Redford, I gave a one-hour presentation to Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) in his Washington D.C. office on the emotionally charged and highly publicized Leonard Peltier issue. Once again this effort was sabotaged by Federal Agents.
Later in life, my efforts received support from both Senate and Congressional representatives for exposing environmental and animal rights terrorists. On June 9, 1998 I testified before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime in the matter of Ecoterrorism.
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My career has spanned a wide range of occupations, from railroad engineer to business management, from undercover narcotics to a consultant to American corporations on domestic terrorism issues. Early in 1999, I began working as a contributing writer/journalist for many publications including Range and Blue Ribbon Magazine. I currently write for NewsWithViews.com and the Sacramento Valley Mirror.
You have read just how hard it was for me to get justice. By never giving up, eventually there was success in clearing my name. In the process it cost me 10 years of my life. In addition to the ATF mess, on March 31, 2009 Melissa Lynn Jones a Tehama County, California Mental Health professional attempted to murder me during an interview related to her inappropriate sex with underage Hispanic boys. That case took another 3 years to settle.
With all my adventures I can just imagine how hard it is for a Native American such as Leonard Peltier, who has spent the last 34 years in prison for a crime he may not have committed.
© 2012 Barry R. Clausen - All Rights Reserved
Mr. Clausen has been a guest on over 250 U.S. and Canadian radio talk shows and TV news shows including ABC, CBS, NBC and repeatedly on FOX News. He has been featured or quoted in over 800 books, magazines and news articles including the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Vancouver Province, Canada’s B.C. Report, New York Times, Newsday, Seattle Times, Oregonian, Sacramento Bee, Christian Science Monitor, The Dallas Morning News and a lengthy article beginning on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Clausen’s information has been translated and used by publications in many foreign countries including Japan, Ireland, England, Turkey, Germany, France and Chile. In 1994, a film crew from Danish TV-2 flew to Seattle to interview Mr. Clausen for a television documentary about international and U.S. extremist organizations. The documentary, A MAN IN THE RAINBOW, was subsequently aired in several European countries.
His latest book "Burning Rage - The Growing Anger Within My Country," will be updated and available on Amazon.com early this spring.