|Matthew Paul DeHart|
By Adrian Humphreys
Canadian authorities are seeking to deport an American man who claims he is a founding member of the notorious hacking group Anonymous (Wikipedia), accusing him of espionage (Wikipedia) against Canada’s national interests.
The story of Matthew Paul DeHart — once cloaked by court-imposed secrecy — is muddied, however, by his claim of being psychologically tortured by U.S. agents trying to recover sensitive national security information, by child pornography charges he faces in the United States and by concerns over an apparent psychotic break (Wikipedia).
Mr. DeHart, 30, was released on bail last month — after nearly five months in detention — as quietly as he was arrested.
He is currently confined to his parents’ care, apparently in the Toronto area, and is under constant GPS monitoring.
After Mr. DeHart’s April arrest by the Canada Border Services Agency, six detention reviews were held in private. After finally being released, a confidentiality order was issued by the Federal Court of Canada, which has now been lifted.
The Canadian government opposed his release, claiming he is a danger to the public and involved in espionage and the Minister of Public Safety unsuccessfully appealed when his release was granted.
It adds layers of intrigue to what began as sordid allegations of tricking boys into making pornographic video and photos of themselves.
He is charged in the U.S. with production and transportation of child pornography. In 2010, Mr. DeHart was arrested at the U.S. border, trying to return to Charlottetown, P.E.I., where he was enrolled in a welding course at Holland College. He collapsed in a Bangor, Maine, courtroom.
Last year, he was released pending trial on a bond secured by his parents’ two cars and his grandmother’s house. Before he could face trial, however, Mr. DeHart returned to Canada with his parents.
On April 3, 2013, all three claimed refugee protection, saying Mr. DeHart had been psychologically tortured in the United States and feared persecution if he returned.
His father, Paul, is a minister in an Indiana church, a calling he had after leaving the U.S. Air Force where he worked in military signals intelligence; he intercepted, transcribed and processed foreign communications. His mother, Leann, works at a seminary, also following a career in the U.S. military.
Mr. DeHart, himself, had Top Secret clearance with the Air National Guard, according to previous court testimony, although he was eventually discharged from the military over concerns he was prone to depression, seen as incompatible with remotely flying drone aircraft.
But it was in Canada that he dropped his bombshell.
He says in his asylum claim he has been a member of the hacker group Anonymous since it was founded. During his online activities he obtained a leaked government document relating to the national security of the United States, court heard.
He says that is the root of his trouble.
He claimed the child pornography charges are a ruse for U.S. agents to retrieve the security document and investigate him for espionage. It was in pursuit of this sensitive information, he says, that he was psychologically tortured during interrogations in August, 2010.
He alleges he was drugged, subjected to psychological torture and questioned by FBI agents. While in custody, he was diagnosed with a psychotic break and has shown signs of post traumatic stress disorder (Wikipedia), Federal Court heard. He claims this was a result of the torture.
At previous hearings in the U.S., a government lawyer asked Mr. DeHart’s father about his own service in military intelligence and about colleagues he kept in touch with, including those from a posting in Germany.
He was also asked about any “online alter-egos or personas” that his son might have assumed. His father said he was aware his son played online games, including World of Warcraft, Halo and Tribes but was unaware of more.
There has not yet been a hearing to test the veracity of Mr. DeHart’s unusual claims.
Canada has been a refuge for Mr. DeHart before.
Shortly after the Deharts’ house was searched by police and his computers seized, Mr. DeHart enrolled in an eight-week language course in Montreal, living with a host family, and then in a welding program in Charlottetown.
His parents drove him to P.E.I. in July, 2010. Afterwards, they spoke every night, saying family prayers together over an online Skype link, his father testified earlier.
In order to process his student visa he had to leave Canada and apply at the border. In August, he took a bus from Charlottetown to Calais, Maine, and crossed the border back to St. Stephen, N.B., on foot.
He was stopped at the border and arrested on a charge of possession and distribution of child pornography.
He is now back in Canada but his future is uncertain. His immigration arrest suspends his refugee claim pending an admissibility hearing.
Mr. DeHart’s Toronto immigration lawyer, Lily Tekle, said she consulted with her client and he declined to authorize her to comment because of ongoing proceedings.