DeHart's story, as recounted in the National Post by Adrian Humphreys' lengthy expose', "Hacker, Creeper, Soldier, Spy," links him to the controversial hactivist group, Anonymous, which targets governments, organizations and corporations they accuse of censorship. According to DeHart, he was part of a group of eight loosely connected Internet activists who carried out Project Chanology against the Church of Scientology. The U.S. government has charged him with soliciting the production of child pornography in a case arising out of the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis. DeHart claims that he's been targeted by the government as part of its investigation of Anonymous and Wikileaks. When he crossed the border into Canada with his parents in April, 2013, his father announced to a wide-eyed border patrol agent that his U.S. citizen family was seeking asylum in Canada to escape persecution from illegal torture in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
The DeHart family seems like the most unlikely of American families to seek refuge from this country. Matt's father, Paul, is a retired major from the United States Air Force who attained a top national security clearance during his service. His service includes stints at Augsburg, Germany and Fort Meade where he was trained to monitor foreign military communications during the height of the Cold War. Paul met Matt's mother while both were serving in the military. Leann DeHart also had a security clearance monitoring radio communications. She gave birth to Matt prematurely in 1985 at Walter Reed military hospital while she and Paul were stationed at Fort Meade. Paul worked at the National Security Agency with his top military clearance until he retired in 1994. He went into Christian ministry following his retirement and the family settled in Newburgh. In April, 2005, Rev. DeHart was quoted in an Evansville newspaper story speaking out at an Indiana Family Institute gathering of pastors opposed to same-sex marriage where former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler also spoke. "If we don't stand for God's principles in our society, who will?" "What God has given us is the gift of democracy." DeHart added, "Christians make the best citizens because we don't answer just to local magistrates."
Humphreys describes Matt as being a sharp computer geek as a child who enjoyed spending a lot of time on the Internet playing computer games with others of like mind and who was curious about the work his father did at the NSA. As a teen-ager, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for which he was prescribed Adderall. His computer adventures caused problems for him in the 9th grade when he was cited for using AOL instant messenger to post a bomb threat to the school he attended as a prank. In the 10th grade, he successfully hacked into the school's computer to steal a midterm science examination that his friends decided would be a good idea to sell for $10 a piece. By his late teens, Matt had become an activist of sorts on the government's use of security contractors like Blackwater during the Iraq War. He and an Internet community of activists communicated with one another via Tor, a hidden Internet network, and shared information using a computer server in his parents' home on which he hosted The Shell, a private document sharing database. Matt traces his troubles to the discovery of a document uploaded to The Shell anonymously back in 2009 that contained highly-sensitive information about an FBI investigation of CIA practices. Matt told Humphreys that he removed the sensitive file from the server, which he believed was intended to be leaked to Wikileaks.
In January, 2010, Matt was home alone after his parents left for work when a team of FBI officers arrived at his house with a search warrant and began confiscating computers and other items during a search of the home. When the FBI agents left, Matt discovered after reading the search warrant that the purpose of the search related to a child porn investigation, which he claimed he was shocked to discover. He tells Humphreys that he never possessed child porn or solicited it, and that there was nothing incriminating on his computers that would implicate him as being a pedophile. He believed the child porn charges were an ulterior motive being used by the government to punish him for his online activities with Anonymous. According to Matt, the FBI agents missed the most sensitive information he had in his possession, which he kept stored on two thumb drives hidden behind his father's gun case. He later drove his parents' car to Mexico where he transferred files on the thumb drives to two individuals he had met through his involvement with Anonymous.
Matt insists that he considers himself a patriot who voted for Bush. "My family is military, pretty gung ho," he said. "But everything has changed." Like his parents, Matt enlisted for military service after receiving his education at Ivy Tech following his graduation from high school where he had been described as an exceptionally intelligent student. In 2008, he enrolled in the U.S. Air National Guard and was stationed at the 181st Intelligence Wing division at Terre Haute's Hulman Field. He said he earned a top security clearance and received training on how to fly the Predator, Global Hawk and other military drones before he was honorably discharged in June, 2009. Matt attributed his discharge due to a diagnosis of depression, which the military deemed incompatible for someone entrusted to fly military drones.
Following the search warrant executed on the DeHart's family home in Newburgh, the military family's view of their government changed considerably. Matt's parents protest their son's innocence of the child porn allegations. This is where things take a strange twist. Paul's father drives Matt to Washington, D.C. where Matt pays separate visits to both the Russian and Venezuelan embassies. Matt insists that he was looking for a way out of the country, and he hoped to leverage his military background to win that exit. What Matt didn't know was that the FBI was tracking his movements in D.C. Dissatisfied with his interviews with officials at both embassy officials, Matt decided to move to Canada where his parents had frequently vacationed to enroll in school. After making plans to attend a small college on Prince Edward Island, he traveled back across the border at Calais, Maine in August, 2010 to get his U.S. passport stamped at the border patrol office for a student visa to re-enter Maine, which turned out to be a big mistake.
Matt tells Humphreys that a scan of his passport triggered an alarm that led to his immediate apprehension by border patrol agents. According to an FBI document, Matt was interrogated by agents about his plans to sell military secrets to the Russian government. Matt had supposedly waived his right to have an attorney present and began spilling the beans. The government believes that Matt had reached an understanding with a Russian agent at the embassy in Washington to relocate to Canada where he would begin working as a spy for the Russian government through liaisons there. The FBI claims that Matt also outed other military colleagues in the Air National Guard in Terre Haute who were trying to sell military secrets. One of them supposedly had access to a Defense Department Internet portal, while another had training and repair manuals for fighter jets and other military secrets.
Matt's version of the interrogation is entirely different. He claims that he was taken into a room and held down in a chair and forcefully administered a drug through an IV inserted into his arm before being taken into a room to be interrogated by two FBI agents. Throughout a lengthy interrogation, Matt claimed that he was denied access to food or water or bathroom facilities. When he defecated on the floor at the instructions of one of his interrogators after being denied access to a bathroom, he claims bleach was poured on him. He claimed he was stripped naked and tied to a submission chair with a bag over his head, awakening to find burn marks on his arms. The only drink he was offered was Kool-Aid he claims that he could only have to wash down pills he was ordered to swallow. He claims that he would have told the agents anything they wanted to hear, including providing them user names and passwords to all of his online accounts, which government agents he said later used to communicate with others with whom he had associated online under his identity to get more information from them in their investigation of Anonymous and Wikileaks.
When his interrogation on espionage matters ended, he was then told he was being formally charged with the child porn charges arising out of Tennessee. Before making his first court appearance, however, he was rushed to a hospital where an emergency room physician diagnosed him with suffering from a drug-induced psychotic episode. When he was finally taken before a U.S. magistrate in Bangor, Maine four days after his initial arrest, the judge wondered why the government had misstated in their court filing the day of his arrest by two days and delayed his initial appearance. She also wondered why the government was bringing what she viewed as stale charges against the defendant or why it hadn't bothered to analyze the computers they seized from his home so many months earlier for child pornographic materials.
Meanwhile, DeHart's parents had totally been in the dark about his whereabouts until medical bills from his emergency room visit to the hospital in Maine started showing up at their house. After Matt collapsed during a court appearance, officials finally put him in touch with his parents by telephone who they described as sounding like a complete zombie. Over the next 17 months, they would spend their life savings on attorneys seeking to exonerate him on the child pornography charges in Tennessee, which the judge there concluded during a bail hearing seemed rather thin. Matt claims federal agents doctored Internet chats he had with a 14-year old boy who was assisting him on Anonymous to make it appear that he had engaged in sexual discussions with the teen and to make it appear that he had posed as a girl to entice the boy to provide nude pictures of himself. According to Humphreys' story, an affidavit completed by a detective in Tennessee contradicted testimony offered by the teen's mother about nude images she supposedly found on her boy's cell phone. The mother denied finding any images on her son's cell phone, as well as the circumstances of her expressing concerns about the communications he son was having with an older person.
The Tennessee judge hearing his case eventually released him on bail in May, 2012 nearly two years after his initial arrest. He filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him in November of that year, but he didn't stick around to wait for the judge's ruling. DeHart's parents tell Humphreys they grew weary of their son's prospects in the U.S. following Internet activist Aaron Swartz' suicide death in January, 2013 after the government devoted enormous resources in an effort to send him to prison for downloading materials from the Internet, including academic articles, without permission. In April, 2013, Matt drove with his parents to the Canadian border where they sought permission to enter under a claim of asylum where their case is still pending. Matt tells Humphreys that he turned over the contents of his thumb drives to Canadian officials, along with other documents he says supports his claim of asylum to escape torture in the U.S. while awaiting a decision strongly opposed by the U.S. government, which has requested their extradition back to the U.S. Matt has twice tried to commit suicide while being detained at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex, a maximum security facility near Toronto pejoratively referred to as the Milton Hilton.