Sunday, January 18, 2009

The FBI Rears Its Ugly Head

"If people are going to get back into balance, one of the
things they have to do is seek the truth. They have to start really speaking the truth themselves, and that's a difficult thing to do. The way it is now in the world, we don't mind lying." --John Peters (Slow Turtle), WAMPANOAG

Enter former agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joseph Trimbach. As some of you know, Joseph Trimbach recently issued a press release, “Urgent: Fight to Keep Leonard Peltier Behind Bars”. The guy’s been up to no good for about a year now and together with others of his ilk who also have a beef with the American Indian Movement (AIM)--more often than not based on purely personal disputes--he has no problem with stretching the truth or telling an outright lie.

But who is this "champion of justice"?

In February 1973, tension grew on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Activists had formed the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization to challenge the corrupt leadership of Dick Wilson, Tribal Chairman. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officials saw this organization as an extension of AIM, whose presence they believed increased the tensions. However, those most responsible for increasing tensions were the 63 U.S. Marshals assigned to the reservation “to help,” joining an undisclosed number of FBI agents led by none other than Joseph Trimbach, Special Agent in Charge of the regional FBI office in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

When the siege began at Wounded Knee that year, this was the man who assured then Lieutenant Colonel Volney Warner (82nd Airborne, a division with special training in putting down civil disturbances) that the standoff was a case for the U.S. Army. He requested that 2,000 soldiers be deployed at Wounded Knee, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, to restore order. After that, the FBI would move in and make arrests, he said. But did Trimbach really believe any Indians would be left standing to arrest?

Thankfully Warner recommended against any such action because the Indians were not trying to harm anyone. He also recommended that the FBI change its standing orders from shoot-to-kill to shoot-to-wound. Colonel Warner was likely single handedly responsible for preventing a second Wounded Knee massacre (the first being in 1890, when two hundred or more unarmed Minnecojou men, women, and children, with a few fugitives from Sitting Bull's Hunkpapa band, were slaughtered by the Seventh Cavalry) since he blocked the all-out attack that the FBI had in mind.

During the Wounded Knee trial of Dennis Banks and Russell Means, Trimbach denied that he had applied to a court for wiretaps on the Wounded Knee telephone, despite the presence of his signature on the application.

A surprise witness at that trial was former AIM member Louis Moves Camp. Prosecutor Hurd himself reviewed affidavits produced by the FBI. After meeting Moves Camp, he apparently had some doubts as to the witness’ honesty. So much so, that he requested that a lie detector test be administered. Trimbach refused.

Also, during the trial, Trimbach testified that the FBI had no informers infiltrating the defense team. His lie was exposed when Douglas Durham’s infiltration of AIM became known.

A couple of months later, during the trial of Leonard Crow Dog, Trimbach testified that he had no idea that Durham had been an informer, although one of the three agents in his own Minneapolis office, who followed him to the stand, acknowledged that Durham had contacted him at a special phone number at least 30 times during the Banks-Means trial; this agent said that Durham had been known to Trimbach from the start, and that he had notified Hurd and the other U.S. attorneys about Durham.

After the Oglala shoot-out on June 26, 1975, Trimbach could hardly wait. He assembled a special sniper team and was en route to Rapid City, SD, within an hour of the first shots fired. He bragged in his “press release” about shooting at mostly unarmed women and adolescents as they escaped and was horrified that someone shot back in defense? He was soon consulting with Governor Richard Kneip about bringing the National Guard into Oglala, and meanwhile he radioed for high explosives, which arrived by Marine jet. The next day, SAC Trimbach, who had taken command in Rapid City was replaced. It would seem that even the FBI lacked confidence in Trimbach’s leadership.

At the Cedar Rapids trial of Dino Butler and Bob Robideau, Trimbach denied knowing that Banks or the AIM group were on the Jumping Bull land. Another lie.

These facts indicate that Trimbach had a thirst for blood and the destruction of Indian lives. They also prove his propensity for not telling the truth, even under oath.

In his “press release,” he faults the late Coretta Scott King for supporting Peltier. She wasn’t an intelligent human being who dealt in fact, we’re led to believe, but “misguided”. Be careful Joe. Your racism is showing again.

He says Peltier was convicted of “aiding and abetting”. Then he calls Peltier a “cop killer”. Well, Joe, it’s one or the other. Oh, but as you stated, Peltier didn’t pull the trigger.

The jury in the trial of Leonard's co-defendants—Dino Butler and Bob Robideau—recognized that the will to survive is instinctive and the right to self-defense is fundamental. The Indians had a right to be on the Jumping Bull property and they were not engaged in unlawful activity. There was no evidence that they either provoked an assault or were the aggressors in one. In light of the terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the previous three years, the history of official misconduct on the part of the FBI in its war against AIM, and the reckless behavior of the agents on June 26, 1975, the jury decided Butler and Robideau had a reasonable belief that their actions—meeting force with force, even deadly force—were necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or others. The jury acquitted Butler and Robideau on grounds of self-defense.
The Butler/Robideau verdict indicates that the defendants' actions on June 26, 1975, did not constitute a crime. Yet, Leonard is imprisoned, the government now claims, for "aiding and abetting" a crime. What crime? Self defense? Who did Peltier aid and abet? Innocent men?

Trimbach refers to the testimony of a paid informant, one who only surfaced five years ago, to now “prove” Peltier’s guilt when prosecutors have already admitted that they "did not and cannot prove" that Peltier caused the deaths of their agents or what role he "may have played" in the incident on June 26, 1975.

What does Trimbach NOT talk about, though? The other suspects in the Peltier case who were never investigated... others who bragged about having killed the two FBI agents... or how about the proof that the FBI decided they would pin the whole thing on Peltier and then proceeded to build a case around him whether he was guilty or not.

Trimbach also doesn’t talk about the trusted FBI informant John Stewart who, on July 2, 1975, drove Peltier and a group of people to the Rosebud Reservation. During that drive, he reported to the FBI, Peltier told the group (all of whom were present during the Oglala shootout) that his gun had jammed during the firefight. No one in that vehicle disputed Peltier’s statement.

Most important, Trimbach doesn’t say one word about the exonerating evidence in this case: the ballistics evidence that proves Leonard Peltier did not shoot the agents. (See But Trimbach won’t be satisfied until Peltier admits to a crime he didn’t commit.

As to the remorse Trimbach claims Peltier lacks, it’s a matter of public record (even stated in Peltier’s own book, “My Life Is My Sun Dance”) that Peltier grieves for the loss of life that day in 1975... for the agents... and for Joe Stuntz, who also lost his life and whose death has never been investigated.

Trimbach’s book? A venomous attempt to re-write history and restore his good name which no one but Trimbach himself is responsible for having destroyed. He’s a victim, yes, but of his own misdeeds. And like the devil himself would... much like George W. Bush does now... Trimbach believes everything he said or did back in the day was the right thing to do. With that book of his he proves only one thing and that is that he’s a legend in his own mind.

Trimbach’s book is short on supported fact—he even disputes court records—as well as downright slanderous. No publishing house would touch it, so ol’ Joe published it himself. There’s been a lot of that going around—so-called “investigative journalist” Paul DeMain, for example, who owns his own newspaper (News from Indian Country) and therefore can print any piece of gossip, rumor or innuendo as fact without any editorial oversight or adherence to the journalism code of ethics—yellow journalism at its finest.

Trimbach mentions a video posted on his Web site. The truth about that video is it was edited. Footage was manipulated to put Peltier in the worst possible light. Any film footage can be so treated by any amateur. In fact, an amateur did do it—Richard Two Elks, another guy with a personal ax to grind with AIM.

Trimbach used the word “pardon” in that press release of his. Leonard Peltier wouldn’t be eligible for a presidential pardon until he’s been on the streets (without re-offending) for a five-year period.

Trimbach demands that Peltier serve his full terms, two life sentences plus seven years. But when Peltier was sentenced there was such a thing as parole in the federal system and Peltier has been eligible for parole since the early 90s.

Thankfully, not everyone shares Trimbach’s opinions.

Former FBI agent M. Wesley Swearingen, in support of parole for Leonard Peltier, once stated: “I was an FBI agent in Los Angeles when Leonard Peltier was convicted, and I know from FBI documents that I read and from statements made by fellow FBI agents, that Peltier was wrongfully convicted of murdering two FBI agents just because the agents investigating the case wanted someone to pay for killing the two FBI agents. I know, for a fact, that the FBI is also covering up its culpability in the death of the two FBI agents.” (This is the same agent who exposed the FBI misconduct in the case of Geronimo Pratt whose conviction was eventually overturned.)

Even author Steve Hendricks, a Trimbach compatriot and no friend of Leonard Peltier, recently stated: “Peltier has been imprisoned these 32 years for killing two FBI agents, an act he may or may not have done. What is certain is that he and his people returned the FBI's fire only after years of savage provocation, that his trial was one of the grossest railroadings in the history of American courts, and that our government's guilt far outstripped anything he stood accused of. The man has done time enough.”

So what’s Trimbach talking about? Executive Clemency. A pardon is one form of clemency. Commutation of a sentence is another. But what Trimbach fails to comprehend is that clemency isn’t about guilt or innocence and never has been. It’s about mercy.

The authority to grant clemency by way of a commutation of a sentence imposed by a federal court belongs only to the President (under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution). The decision to grant clemency is the President's and the President's alone.

Write to President Obama:

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President, United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

You can fax your letter to 202-456-2461.

Or call the White House and leave comments at 202-456-1111.

Or send an e-mail message:

Do it and keep doing it.

Friends of Peltier
Time to Set Him Free... Because it’s the right thing to do.
Updated 04 February 2009

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