It was the kind of clerical error that happens all the time, if with a twist. Last September, reporter Curtis Waltman filed a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request with the Washington State Fusion Center for law enforcement documents about anti-fascist activists and various right-wing and white-supremacist groups.
Waltman got back the emails and intelligence briefings he was expecting, he wrote last month. But there was something he didn’t expect: documents claiming the government uses “psycho-electronic weapons” and “remote brain mapping” to control people’s minds, give them unexplained physical symptoms, and, well…make their feet itchy. One of the documents among these unexpected surprises even included a literal black helicopter.
This odd tranche of materials obviously weren’t law enforcement records, and their inclusion seemed like a harmless mistake on the part of the Fusion Center. Waltman wrote a story about the documents for the public-records focused news site MuckRock, which subsequently got picked up by Popular Mechanics. But the mix-up ended up being an inside joke among FOIA nerds.
Then Alex Jones found them.
“I reported on this 20 years ago with Dr Nick Begich,” Jones said. “The exact patented documents just not from the CIA.”
I reported on this 20 years ago with Dr Nick Begich. The exact patented documents just not from the CIA. That’s why they hate Infowars so much. Tomorrow’s news today! https://t.co/WUrElNFvuD
— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) April 22, 2018
The Infowars host and conspiracy-theorist-in-chief retweeted himself Tuesday, obviously, ensuring the Washington State Fusion Center’s FOIA follies got a second turn in the newscycle.
This reporter, no stranger to the CIA, decided to get to the bottom of things. Now, after another FOIA request with the Washington State Fusion Center and a short — by public-records-request standards — one-month wait, the answers are in.
The government, and the CIA in particular, has certainly experimented with mind control before on unwitting subjects. But don’t worry — the government probably isn’t using satellite dishes to control your thoughts.
Back in January of last year, a member of the public apparently sent an email to the Fusion Center with these “psycho-electronic weapons” documents attached. The body of this email, released to ThinkProgress after making a FOIA request of its own, featured an article about John Akwei, who sued the U.S. National Security Agency in 1992 over a host of allegations — including harassment, attempted poisoning, and mind control — by former high school classmates who supposedly worked at the agency.
Judge Stanley Sporkin dismissed Akwei’s case less than a month later, calling the claims “frivolous” and saying the suit didn’t state “any identifiable legal cause of action.”
Another email released to ThinkProgress in response to its FOIA request makes it clear the Fusion Center didn’t intend to release these conspiratorial documents to Waltman. Records officers are among some of the most overworked and under-appreciated people in government, and this was an honest mistake.
But, hey, if any FOIA officers out there ever want to slip ThinkProgress their best theories on Area 51, we’re all ears.