“I Helped Destroy People” – The New York Times
Albury arrived in November 2018 and was treated, to his surprise, like a celebrity. The anti-government militias and sovereign citizens, who had a particular hatred for the Federals, wanted to shake his hand and do him a favor. The fact that many of the rulers were white supremacists did not seem to deter them. “They saw me as one of them, which was weird,” he said, “but it was easier to accept than some of the cops who thought we should be friends.” Michael Slager, the South Carolina police officer who killed an unarmed black man named Walter Scott in 2015, was especially friendly with Albury. Former law enforcement officers had to stick together, Slager suggested. Albury walked away. I’m not like you, he thought.
He spent his days reading books by Nelson Mandela, Howard Zinn, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the Berrigan brothers, Catholic priests who went to jail for their anti-war activism in the 1960s. He read “Resisting Illegitimate Authority” by Bruce E. Levine as well as “Guantanamo Diary” by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the chilling account of Slahi’s imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay under the supervision of military interrogators, the CIA and the FBI. Strangely, Albury felt freer in prison than he had ever been since joining the FBI. “A lot of people are ashamed to be in prison,” he says. “I have never been ashamed. I felt this overwhelming sense of relief that at least this chapter of my life was over and that I could be who I really am.
He dedicated himself to being a thorn in the side of the Bureau of Prisons, which subjected him, he said, to “special administrative measures” which called for regular monitoring of his phone calls and emails. , as well as his letters, which always arrived. open, if they reached it at all. Albury peppered his correspondence with attacks on prison staff, whom he called “insignificant and insecure tyrants”, fully aware that they were reading at the same time. In April 2020, as the coronavirus began to spread in Englewood, Albury filed a grievance with the Bureau of Prisons to protest the overcrowded conditions and was sent to the special housing unit, or solitary confinement. When he was released 10 days later, a one-page report was struck from his file. There was no evidence that he spent more than a week locked in the special housing unit on charges of “incitement to riot,” Albury wrote in a letter in May.
A few weeks later, Albury cut off all contact. He had had troubling experiences after being released from the special housing unit, he wrote in a final letter. He didn’t elaborate. He was due to be released in November, and until then “it is prudent that I keep my head down and stay off the radar,” he wrote.
Albury left prison on November 18, 2020 and returned to his family and the house they had moved to in Berkeley, with an ankle monitor. Two days later he contacted me on Signal. “I am officially back in the ‘free world’,” he said. He looked defiant. His experience at Englewood had hardened his belief that he was a prisoner of conscience, but he refused to consider himself a whistleblower. “I didn’t ‘postpone’,” he told me over the phone. “I tried to expose a whole system.”
It was “really overwhelming,” he says, that his revelations didn’t cause more of a stir. “I thought things would come out and there would be a drastic change, like church committee hearings. I guess it was naive. Could Albury’s revelations have had more impact if they had been released before the Trump era? “I think part of what happened here was the timing,” says Mike German, now a member of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. After Trump’s election, even many members of the progressive left became FBI champions due to the Russia investigation and Trump’s attacks on office independence. “What this meant was that those who allegedly criticized the types of programs exposed in these documents ended up as staunch supporters of the FBI as an institution,” German said.
In the absence of this scrutiny, the FBI’s counterterrorism operations against Muslims have remained constant, although they have received far less public attention. Over the past year, FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly stated that “racially motivated extremist violence” is high on the bureau’s national security priority list, along with foreign terrorism. . The FBI has used the same investigative approach with suspected domestic extremists – a category that includes white supremacists and anti-government militias as well as Black Lives Matter and “antifa” activists – as it has with those suspected. to support international terrorism. “None of the FBI’s authorities, guidelines or policies regarding terrorism investigations have changed” since 2008, German said. “So it shouldn’t be surprising that he continues to use the same tactics when pivoting to new targets.”