The United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations sent officers to the home of the mother of a drone whistleblower to inform her she was on an Islamic State “hit list.” The officers indicated her information was compromised in the Office of Personnel Management hack, however, the drone whistleblower’s attorney sees this as a clear example of retaliation.
Brandon Bryant is a former drone pilot, who has been outspoken on the role the U.S. Air Force plays in carrying out CIA drone strikes, testified to the German parliament on October 15. He specifically offered testimony about the Ramstein air base in Germany as being integral to the U.S. drone program. Hours later, the Air Force sent two men who represented themselves as OSI officers to speak to Brandon’s mother.
On the same day, The Intercept published secret military documents, “The Drone Papers,” from a source within the U.S. intelligence community who was not identified by the media organization.
Jesselyn Radack, an attorney for Bryant and the national security and human rights director for the Whistleblower and Source Protection Project at ExposeFacts, told Shadowproof, “Given Mr. Bryant’s testimony to the German parliament and the government’s swift response, this is witness tampering. It is also further whistleblower retaliation, and amateurish at best.”
It is very peculiar that the OSI claims it sent officers to personally meet with someone to talk about their identity being compromised. Radack has clients like NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who had their information compromised, and they were notified with a boilerplate letter advising them on what had happened.
The government attempted this same “ruse” seven months ago, according to Radack. In March, Bryant was notified by the FBI he was on an Islamic State “hit list.” It changed from Islamic State “hit list” to “a terrorist group in the Middle East searched his name.”
In March, Radack asked the government what officials planned to do to protect Bryant. She wanted to know about the State Department’s involvement in ensuring nothing happened. All the government could do is urge Bryant to quit “bragging” on social media about his past history as a drone pilot.
Another drone whistleblower, who Radack represents and did not want to be identified, has had a similar experience. OSI advised a family member of this whistleblower that they were put on a “terrorist hit list.”
All of which leads to the question: Has this become policy in the Air Force, to notify family of whistleblowers that they may be in danger if their outspoken children do not silence themselves?
Drone Whistleblower’s Mother Describes How OSI Came to Her House
Bryant’s mother, LanAnn, is a public high school teacher living in Missoula, Montana. She recounted in an interview how she was out of school on October 15 when her doorbell rang and two men flashed identification at her. They said they were OSI.
“I had no idea who they were, and they asked for me and I said I wasn’t there,” LanAnn shared. “I didn’t know who they were. And they were like, well, we really need to talk to her. Does she live here? And then I finally said yes, I’m her. I have a short amount of time. I have to get on the road. I am supposed to be to Spokane to catch a plane.”
LanAnn said she was told her identity was compromised through a database. The Islamic State was mentioned and she asked how this happened. The men informed her back in the spring there was some kind of a “leak.” Some data system was targeted, and “by law, they had to notify me.”
“One gentleman read me some statement,” LanAnn added. “I was kind of in shock at that point.” She asked what was being done to protect her, and they did not seem to know. The men could not tell her if the government was stepping in to help people protect themselves. All they had for her was a brochure on how to protect yourself on social media.
The men advised her there was a 99.99% chance nothing would ever happen. Still, LanAnn was to contact 911 if she saw suspicious vehicles or people hanging around or if she received “strange phone calls.”
She was told not to talk to anyone about how she was supposedly on an ISIS “hit list.” LanAnn informed officers she had family in the Missoula area. The officers changed their message to her. She could tell her family.
Next, LanAnn asked if she could tell her principal because she is a teacher. The men said no because once you start talking about terrorists people just freak out or panic.
It was not entirely clear why LanAnn had been in a database, but she was led to believe it was a result of her ex-husband, who she was married to twenty years ago, because he was in the Air National Guard.
The men peculiarly claimed they had a hard time finding LanAnn. That did not make sense because she recently renewed her driver’s license in June. It has her current address. Plus, she works for a public high school.
Nevertheless, the Air Force enlisted the Montana Highway Patrol in tracking her down and notifying her of an “urgent matter.” A note was put in her door with contact information for another individual who was not sent to talk to her.
“If it had been more serious, I would hope they would have done better research about who I was and what they were going to do about it,” LanAnn concluded. “If they needed information about me, it’s there already. I have a very unusual name.”
LanAnn found it more than a “coincidence” that her son was in Germany testifying before parliament.
Drone Whistleblower: “They Should Leave Myself and Those That I Love Alone”
Brandon Bryant, who at the time of publication is still in Germany, reacted, “I hope that my government and my people will trust me in what I’m doing. My record shows my integrity and my struggle.”
“If they want to help me, then they can openly give me their support and I will do whatever I can with that to represent a true-blooded American Man,” Bryant added. “If they want to remain mostly silent like they have, then they should leave myself and those that I love alone, and help me avoid as much of the slovenly bureaucratic mess as possible.”
“I am not here to harm anyone. Our actions have done enough of that, and there is enough pain and suffering in the world without us adding to it,” Bryant stated.
“Laughable If It Were Not So Amateurish”
Radack called the Air Force’s actions “appalling.”
“It would be laughable if it were not so amateurish that the military tried the exact same ruse seven months ago,” Radack explained. “It was bizarre back then, but we identified it as what it is today—yet another attempt by the Air Force to try and get drone whistleblowers and people involved in the drone program to tamp down their social media usage and speaking out. It’s a very effective way of shutting up a whistleblower.”
The Air Force contacts parents and gets them “completely freaked out that either they or their children are on an ISIS kill list. It’s only when you begin peeling back the layers of the onion that you realize this is a case completely built on sand.” However, the parents are unable to discern whether it is true or not.
“I’ve been having horrible nightmares,” LanAnn shared. “I live by myself.” She mentioned her mind hears things and grabs on to “every little sound.” Plus, she said one hears ISIS and thinks, “Oh my gosh.”
FBI Directed OSI to Meet With Drone Whistleblower’s Mother?
Linda Card of the Office of Public Affairs for OSI was contacted by Shadowproof and asked about the policy of notifying officers, who were victims of the OPM hack. She appeared to suggest OSI has nothing do with this and suggested the Secretary of the Air Force handles notification.
When pressed to explain why OSI investigators were visiting homes of individuals to inform them their data had been compromised and they were on ISIS hit lists, she nervously laughed and said, “Well, that’s not exactly so.”
“What happened is that—I’ve already answered this question a couple times today. It may or may not be related to the OPM fight,” Card stated. “That’s not for a fact. It could be many other ways that the information is getting out besides OPM. Everybody keeps saying that, but it’s not necessarily OPM. It could be or it might not be.”
“As far as OSI people contacting anybody, the only people they contact is the ones that the FBI tells them to and it is simply force protection issue,” Card additionally explained. “It falls under Eagle Eyes program.”
The Eagle Eyes program is an anti-terrorism initiative by the Air Force that “enlists the eyes and ears of Air Force members and citizens in the war on terror,” according to OSI’s military website.
“If you see something, say something basically,” Card said. When Air Force people show up on a list, the FBI has OSI investigators notify Air Force members they should “watch their surroundings and basically be careful online and stuff like that. It’s force protection.”
In other words, it seems the OSI investigators would not have approached or attempted to “locate” LanAnn unless they were directed to do so by the FBI.
Drone Whistleblower’s Attorney Talks With OSI Officer Who Visited Mom
Radack detailed the phone call she and another attorney had with OSI officer Michael Crunk, who left his card with LanAnn.
Crunk informed Radack that LanAnn’s name was “released by ISIS, so her identity was compromised.” When Radack asked if the U.S. military had been hacked, Crunk shifted his answer, “OPM was hacked and all security clearance files included information about families.” He said it was Air Force policy to go out and notify people in person.
Radack suggested the hack compromised the names of over 20 million people. If the government was talking to everyone in person, they would potentially have to talk to “hundreds of millions” of people.
“Well, we’re in Montana,” Crunk answered, which seemed to imply there were none or very few military victims of the OPM hack in the state.
According to Radack, the explanation intensified as Crunk insisted the “OPM information was on the black market.” The Islamic State purchased the information.
“I told him that it was a huge and riddled leap of logic to assume that ISIS is buying up OPM data from the Chinese (suspected of perpetrating the OPM hack) and culling through it to find military members to single out,” Radack recalled. “If [the Islamic State] wants to kill American military, I would think they’d start with the ones in Syria.”
As Radack pressed Crunk, he explained this was the first notification in Montana he had to do, and since he received an order, he completed the notification. After Radack noted she had numerous clients, who were victims of the OPM hack, and they did not receive in-person meetings with any officers or government agents, he claimed it was Air Force policy and said he could not speak anymore because the matter was “classified.”
Radack insisted this is an example of American taxpayer dollars “being used to shut up whistleblowers.”
“Not surprisingly, their suggested ‘remedy’ is for folks on this mythic terror watch list to minimize their social media presence and ‘public footprint,'” Radack added. “The government has no shortage of ways to silence whistleblowers.”
LanAnn suspected there might be some kind of ulterior motive as well.
“One of the gentleman knew more than the other one knew, but then he kept correcting the other one and would step in. Yet, he was in the background and never gave me his information,” LanAnn recalled. “They were not in uniform. They looked like any other guys except the only thing they had on were North Face jackets, lightweight jackets that were exactly alike. They didn’t have any identification on the outside of their jackets.”
Both identified themselves by flashing OSI badges, but only one of the two men provided a card to LanAnn.
“They have destroyed the lives of so many people around the world. If this was an act of retaliation, then they know I’m right,” Brandon Bryant declared. He then added, “I do see this as retaliation.”