By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
Former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher has given City Pages a batch of documents he says are some of the terrorism briefs he has been accused of lying about creating.
The documents—some marked "Confidential Law Enforcement Only"—outline investigations of anarchist and protest groups prior to the 2008 Republican National Convention.
"Those are, in fact, domestic terrorism briefs," Fletcher told City Pages.
While Fletcher was still in office, Twin Cities Daily Planet reporter Karen Hollish submitted a data practices request asking for records of counter-terrorism investigations referred to in a chart from a 2009 budget document.
She specifically asked for the 78 "Terrorism Information Briefs" that the chart estimated had been compiled since 2005.
Her request was never granted.
Once newly elected Sheriff Matt Bostrom took office in January, his public information officer Randy Gustafson finally sent a response. He wrote that he could not locate any written record of terrorist investigations or the "Terrorism Information Briefs."
"They never existed," he told her. "It is a very big lie."
Fletcher was quick to defend his terrorism work, saying that because the new sheriff had let go a key member of his homeland security team, it was no wonder he had no record of the investigations. Fletcher said the terrorism briefs were often paperless, and could have come in the form of emails or oral presentations.
Since then, City Pages has been trying to track down hard evidence that those briefs exist.
In a 2010–11 budget document, Fletcher's office claimed to have distributed terrorism briefs to 65 partner organizations.
But neither the St. Paul nor Minneapolis police have any memory of receiving any terrorism briefs from Fletcher.
Same goes for the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department and the state troopers.
The Minneapolis FBI would only confirm that a member of the sheriff's department has been serving on the Joint Terrorism Task Force for years.
However, Maplewood Police Chief David Thomalla recalls briefs being distributed at the monthly meeting of the East Metro Weapons of Mass Destruction Community Protection Terrorism Task Force.
He remembers info on two motorcycle gangs and a burglary ring that had possible international ties.
"There was information sharing," says Thomalla, though he didn't remember them being specifically labeled as terrorism briefs. "What it was called, I guess, is a matter of semantics."
Fletcher also said that most of the briefs would have been sent to the Minnesota Joint Analysis Center, operated by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
But a City Pages data practices request to MNJAC reveals that they only have nine submissions from the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department from 2007-2010, and none of them concern terrorism.
Reached a second time for comment, Fletcher offered to bring City Pages a stack of briefs he created prior to the Republican National Convention in 2008, saying they prove investigations of "a potentially terrorist act."
The eight briefs date from January through August 2008. They include material gathered online about the RNC Welcoming Committee, including descriptions of YouTube videos and photos of past anarchist protests.
A May 21 brief contains 40 pages of notes and a program taken from a pre-RNC planning meeting called pReNC 5.3.
A July 8, 2008, brief details the "Most Likely Protest Scenario" for the RNC. It warns police to prepare for up to 3,000 "anarchists and affiliates."
"[Anarchists] also believe violence is justified against government once law enforcement uses force," one brief warns. "This belief extends to violence against police horses and canines, because they are seen as law enforcement and not animals."
Information from the Ramsey County sheriff's investigations, in part from informants and undercover cops, was used in the trials of eight protesters dubbed the RNC 8. After initially charging them with furtherance of terrorism, the county attorney wisely abandoned the inflated case. Charges for three of the RNC 8 were dropped altogether, and four pleaded to reduced charges without jail time last October.
Gustafson says he was told by deputies that their investigation of the RNC Welcoming Committee was a criminal matter, not an investigation into a terrorist group. And while he acknowledges that deputies give briefings at task force meetings, he says he still has no physical record that actual investigations on terrorist organizations took place in 2009.
"We're willing to say that briefings happened," he says. "The central question to this is: 'Were terrorists groups investigated by the Ramsey County sheriff? Is there documentation to point that out?' That's what's missing."