[Postscript updated 10 November 2012]
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, 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.
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, and available at www.facebook.com/Mininganalyst) 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.
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 help lower the profile of Freeport’s controversial Grasberg operation and silence discussion.
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. 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. The company’s SEC filings indicate spending on internal civilian security in 2011 was US37 million dollars plus an additional US14 million dollars for government-provided security and military – a total of US51 million dollars spent in relation to Grasberg – just in 2011. Indeed, Freeport CEO Jim-Bob Moffett reported security matters relating to the mine as the ‘new cold war’.
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 was a professional environmental advocate living in NYC and 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 that time she was involved with pursuing environmental outlaws on the east side of the US.
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, 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 democracy, freedom or justice, and everything to do with bending American law to the will of power and money. The FBI was sending a message of deterrence to other analysts, bankers, journalists and anyone else who cares to listen or speak. Throughout their reprisal attack on me, they have colluded with and liaised closely with their counterparts in the Australian intelligence agency ASIO. 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 – I am a dual American/Australian citizen) 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.
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, had me distracted and her miffed, they gave her access to the FBI file they had been building on me since the March 1996 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 intended, the three year relationship between Susan and me was damaged and never recovered.
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! 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 Steve Garber (White Plains, NY; formerly NYC), one of Susan’s colleagues and a ranking officer at 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, to rattle and perturb my psyche, like twisting the knife in a stabbing victim. The FBI’s timing in its disclosure was deliberately calculated, waiting till 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.
This is the story of what the US (and Australian) intelligence agencies did to my girlfriend and me, 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 10 November 2012]
Aside from the above, other undercover FBI agents and collaborators 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 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 a boutique M&A firm in Boston.
– Stephan Chenault: volunteer Sierra Club NYC Group.
– 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.
– Steven D. Garber – 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).