Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan, and five other militants arrested last night in Eastern Oregon made their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Portland this afternoon.
As part of the the arraignment of the Harney County seven, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a probable cause affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Katherine Armstrong.
The criminal complaint includes many facts that have already received extensive press coverage as the crew seized Malheur National Wildlife Refuge—but a few details stand out.
First, the affidavit quotes from an email sent by Ryan Payne, a Montana militiaman who was one of the seven arrested yesterday.
The email highlights both the fact that Payne has been in Oregon for more than two months, and that as early as last November he contemplated the violence that erupted during yesterday's arrests, leaving Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum dead.
"The opportunity to defend the Hammonds [the ranchers whose federal prison sentence incensed protesters] is not the first, nor will it be the last. But the display of tyranny in this particular case is so appalling, the people being directly subjected to it so undeserving, and the oppressive weight so heavily and completely applied; upon not only the Hammonds, but their entire community; that to decide to allow it to persist should trouble the soul such that death might be a welcome relief," Payne wrote in a Nov. 20, 2015, email.
"We must be wise, and great discernment must guide our decisions, particularly when we ask that others be willing to shed their blood alongside us. We must choose our engagements with great care and consideration for the lives of all involved, on all sides."
Second, the affidavit includes a chilling instance of the kind of treatment the FBI says federal employees in Harney County faced:
On December 18, 2015, a citizen (hereafter Citizen) of Harney County was shopping at the Safeway grocery store in Burns, Oregon. Citizen was wearing a BLM shirt. Citizen was confronted by two men, one whom she identified as [Jon] RITZHEIMER. Citizen reported to law enforcement that she heard yelling, and when she turned around, the second individual shouted “you’re BLM, you’re BLM” at her. That person further stated to Citizen that they know what car she drives and would follow her home. He also stated he was going to burn Citizen’s house down. RITZHEIMER and the second individual left the area in a black pick-up truck with black canopy and no visible license plate. Since the incident, Citizen has observed a similar vehicle outside her residence. Citizen was unable to identify the driver of the vehicle when she later saw it. The following week, a second vehicle, described as a white truck with a pink license plate and a big rebel flag sticker on the back window, aggressively tailgated Citizen, flashing lights and driving erratically. Citizen believed the second incident was related to the first. Citizen also saw the black pick-up truck outside of her place of employment early in the morning hours of Christmas Day.
Third, the complaint shows the degree to which federal officials built their criminal case from the militants' own social-media posts and broadcasts.
The complaint relies particularly heavily on the YouTube broadcasts of Cincinnati radio host Pete Santilli. That's in part because prosecutors are trying to prove that Santilli was not just a media member embedded in the occupation, but an active participant recruiting people to take up arms against the government.
The complaint also shows that federal officials were listening to Santilli's broadcast to hear him implicate himself and his friends in a criminal conspiracy.
The document also gives lengthy transcriptions—and a very rich flavor—of Santilli's show.