“It’s almost like you’re trying to make us incriminate ourselves.”
May 16, 2017 6:06 PM   Subscribe

As the trial of Cliven Bundy and his sons over their 2014 armed standoff with federal agents draws closer, The Intercept has obtained footage and documentation from something exceptionally strange: The Bizarre Story Behind the FBI’s Fake Documentary About the Bundy Family.

The Bundys previously on Metafilter:

Their original armed standoff with federal agents in 2014
The two parter megathread on their armed takeover of a visitor's center in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon
Their acquittal on all charges related to the Malheur standoff
posted by indubitable (20 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The Bunkerville trials are underway, and there have been both convictions and a mistrial.

Paraphrasing from that article: Todd Engel of Idaho was found guilty on two counts out of ten: obstruction of justice and interstate travel in aid of extortion. Gregory Burleson, who carried a long gun in the wash and told an undercover FBI agent that he went to Bunkerville to kill federal employees, was found guilty of eight charges out of ten — excluding conspiracy against the U.S. government and conspiracy to impede and injure a federal officer. The jury was “deadlocked,” or undecided, on ten counts each for four of the six defendants, prompting Judge Gloria Navarro to declare a mistrial.
posted by the Real Dan at 6:33 PM on May 16, 2017

The Intercept article also talks about Burleson's history as a paid FBI informant.
posted by indubitable at 6:40 PM on May 16, 2017

I'm gonna need some snacks.
posted by mochapickle at 6:44 PM on May 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

I read about a month ago a long, mournful article about the Malheur occupation, the Sagebrush Rebellion, and the mythologization of the rancher. And how mismanagement, greed and frontiersman-as-bank-tool led to the actual current land practices in the West. Sadly, I cannot find it again.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:44 PM on May 16, 2017

But I trust the government.

Or I don't.

I'm confused. :(
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:18 PM on May 16, 2017

I think this is one of those times where it's OK to not see any good guys here.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:25 PM on May 16, 2017 [15 favorites]

Al always seemed like a good guy, what do the feds want with....

never mind.
posted by jonmc at 7:28 PM on May 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

“We definitely ran you guys and found out that you’re not related to FBI, BLM, or ATF,” Cavalier told the undercover agents.
All you need to know, really.
posted by scruss at 8:08 PM on May 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

This undercover documentary was mentioned at the end of the FRONTLINE2 piece about the Bundy trial in Oregon, which aired tonight on PBS. Apparently the FBI were building their Nevada case the entire time the Oregon trial was underway. The Bundy's were suspicious of the production company and had their guard up, but were obviously desperate for media coverage. Some of the interviews were used in court, where at least one guy may have admitted to his intentions to incite violence, if I recall it correctly.
posted by Brian B. at 9:17 PM on May 16, 2017

I'm not generally a fan of police pretending they're not police. . . but it's pretty hard to think of a less unreasonable guise than documentary film crew holding visible cameras and microphones. It's almost like they're trying to play fair in this case.

(One might also ponder the concept of a "fake" documentary using working cameras to interview real people about actual events.)
posted by eotvos at 9:36 PM on May 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

I concur. As an editor for 30+ years, this footage could be used to create an actual documentary that is as un-fake as any. Unless the footage is unedited there is a limit to its objectivity.
posted by DaddyNewt at 9:58 PM on May 16, 2017

Worst case of white privilege I've ever seen play out in the American justice system. The fact remains that they grazed cattle on public lands for years without paying license fees, obstructed the Feds while actually brandishing and pointing weapons at them, and laid armed siege to a National Wildlife Refuge costing the local community literally millions of dollars, not to mention the damage and cost to the Refuge itself.

Ryan and Ammon's acquittal on the Malheur charges made me so disgusted, I quit following their story. And after reading the article, it's STILL not clear that they'll ever do real time for any of it. Only the swaggering sovereign citizen wannabes and hangers-on are getting indicted, it seems.
posted by darkstar at 10:26 PM on May 16, 2017 [36 favorites]

I guess, to be fair, in an age of Brock Turner getting only 3 months for sexual assault, and the "affluenza" defense dude, I really should say "it was ONE of the worst cases of white privilege I've seen play out in the American justice system," and then further qualify it by adding "in recent years."

posted by darkstar at 11:53 PM on May 16, 2017 [16 favorites]

Since there was a regional MetaFilter campout at Malheur, like, a year or 18 months before this happened (too lazy to check my calendar), I took special interest in following that occupation all along its path.

I have wondered whether the acquittals were jury nullification or not, but of course we will never know because that's illegal even to talk about.

Land management in the West is very very problematic for ALL kinds of reasons. The balance between resource extraction and resource exploitation that does harm is a very fine line. Aside from reimbursing the American people for the resources used by ranchers grazing cattle, another reason for grazing fees is to force a limit on how many cattle are being grazed on open rangeland, because cattle create a lot of change to what those areas would be like without cattle there.

And cattle's impact on dry open range is the least of the problems facing the West as far as resources go. In order, the top 5 I can think of are water, water, water, water, and fires.

This was a fascinating article to read. I truly HATE that the FBI is posing as reporters of various types to do investigations. We're at a moment of in-my-lifetime low trust in the media as it is. This does not help at all.
posted by hippybear at 3:18 AM on May 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

Found it
The Darkness At The Heart Of Malheur
Buyers, in a world packed and competitive beyond the imaginations of those who set aside these unclaimed and abandoned lands as forest reserves and public grazing lands in the early 1900s, are now everywhere, planet-wide. As Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, when he was president of the American Lands Council, famously said of privatizing federal lands, “It’s like having your hands on the lever of a modern-day Louisiana Purchase.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:06 AM on May 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I used to live in Utah. I finally realized just how brutally that system is gamed, and runs on open eyed greed, and delusions of grandeur, fueled by (of course,) the religious opinion that centers around true churchism. Whatever they did, whatever they do, whatever they will do is because they are the true church, every means justifies whatever end they deem Godly.

So, the 14 child Bundy family wants enough land for each of their 14 to be able to graze 400 cows on land owned by the American people. The Bears Ears monument has to do with roughly 1000 adults who want rights to acreage belonging to again, the American people. They want a Uranium mine right in the basin with the Bears Ears. The livestock is not such a question there, and those folks out in western gear with Zinke are just in costume. You see, 1000 adults in the Blanding/Monticello area have at least 5000 children. That is where the numbers come from. The Navajos as recently noted in the SL Tribune are not well counted. They deliberately maintain private existence, if you want power to your hogan, you have to draw the power company a map. If you want to receive mail, you go to a PO Box.

The Bundys live in that bubble where whatever the patriarch wants is holy. They link up with a whole lot of others who also get lots of privilege in Utah from that kind of thinking. Cliven Bundy has not, nor Ammon Bundy struck me as rocket scientist material. They are just needy, they made a grundle of kids, and their multi level marketing scheme is falling apart. Ranchers down in Blanding were complaining they could not make the $340,000 per year, they were making running cattle on land they were destroying with over grazing. So now they can only make about $175, 000, more than a start up Pediatrician makes. They can get home schooled and become millionaires, on the lands owned by, again, the American people. The powers that be use the term Federal Land to separate concepts, so lands owned by the American people, appear to be owned by a huge, horrific, institution that is keeping them from their futures. But that old song goes, "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My land, From California to the New York Island. From the Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream Waters, this Land is Made for You and Me.

It was not set aside for God's chosen few, whoever they deem themselves to be, whether that be the religious, or the oligarchs deemed to be blessed by God, because they are oligarchs. The energy companies are not the American People. The Bundy's are typical of folks who have no feeling for the land, but who want more than their share at the table.
posted by Oyéah at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2017 [11 favorites]

Someone was telling me that the land was originally in the Bundy family, then sold to a friend, then Bundy bought it back. There was Federal land adjacent to it all this time and BLM wanted to buy his land all this time. He said no. This all took place before the whole refusing to pay fees thing because he wouldn't have to pay fees on land he owned.

So when he bought it back, BLM or whoever rezoned the federal area that was adjacent so that now it was not adjacent but covered the area his home and out buildings are/were on. Something about eminent domain and who knows what the government wants with the land, this was a play to see how people react etc. And when this rezoning happened he was required to get a permit to graze and then decided to stop doing that one year and 20 years later this whole wacky standoff happens.

I'm having a hard time finding anything that says anything about the land before he stopped paying the grazing fees.

Bundy is definitely 100% wackadoo but I'm interested to know if that was originally his land way back when. I'll probably find a page about it right after posting this.

I wish the land had its own Wikipedia page bc that would make my head stop spinning. Id rather just watch the Netflix documentary on this in 5 years because it will prob be easier to follow.
posted by sio42 at 1:38 PM on May 17, 2017

Well, I did find this timeline from WaPo.

posted by sio42 at 1:46 PM on May 17, 2017

Pro tip for the younger Bundy, based on the first video clip in the piece: if you ask someone whether they're an FBI mole, and they DON'T SAY NO but instead they avoid the question with a platitude, perhaps you should ask a follow-up question. Also, don't try to cheat the United States out of a million dollars.
posted by sheldman at 3:37 PM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just watched the Frontline from this week about the Bundys. It infuriates me that they keep getting acquitted or mistrialed. They're domestic terrorists who need to be in jail. That they keep getting away with breaking the law is fueling Trump-loving extremists.
posted by dnash at 8:15 AM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

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