Report: Oregon militants use federal IT to make website

Shutterstock image (by Ivan Lukyanchuk): web development concept.

The armed occupiers in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Ore., are accessing Interior Department computers and using them to make a website that supports their occupation, according to an Oregon Public Broadcasting report.

It was discovered that the self-styled militia group, which took over the compound on Jan. 2, had access to government computers when LaVoy Finicum, a member of the group's security team, led a reporter into a back office with four desks and computers, three of which were turned on and in screen-saver mode, according to the story.

Finicum said the group plans to "turn the office into a media center that would eventually house reporters."

Oregon Public Broadcasting also said reporters saw a list of names and Social Security numbers as well as government employee ID cards "in plain sight."

Ryan Bundy, one of the militant leaders, has denied using the computers.

"No, we haven't touched a single personal item," he told Oregon Public Broadcasting. "We haven't touched any of the computers, we haven't tried to log on -- we haven't done anything."

The news reports offer video evidence contradicting Bundy's denial, and the FBI is reportedly investigating whether the occupiers have indeed accessed government computers.

David Fry, who drove from Ohio to join the militants, posted a video of himself using one of the computers and said he used a flash drive loaded with Linux to get the computers running. However, he added that "their data is perfectly preserved.... You can't access any of that, it's got encryption on it."

The occupiers' website contains several recordings of Fry, a "List of Serious Injustice," a link to purchase Finicum's novel and the ability to share the site via a variety of social media platforms.

"If you talk to a lot of the people here, everybody's got their reason to be here, everybody's got their quarrels with the government," Fry told Oregon Public Broadcasting. "I see this as a good stand for America. These are really good people out here."

Fry regularly posts government conspiracy content to his Google Plus account. In response to news reports categorizing his postings as "anti-Semitic, homophobic and pro-Nazi propaganda," Fry deleted posts he referred to as "facetious jokes and obscene comments."

According to The Oregonian, Finicum said the militants will announce their plan to exit the federal facility at a Jan. 15 meeting.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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