Oregonians have been following the case of Ammon Bundy and the group of followers who staged an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since it began, in January 2016.
The story is explored again in a new “Frontline” documentary called “American Patriot: Inside the Armed Uprising Against the Federal Government,” which airs tonight on PBS.
Many of the details of the Oregon standoff will be familiar. But near the end of “American Patriot,” we see portions of undercover video filmed by FBI agents who posed as documentary filmmakers in an effort to infiltrate the Bundy family.
As a post on the FRONTLINE website explains, the FBI began the undercover “documentary” investigation in 2014, not long after the first standoff in which the Bundys were key players.
In 2014, a decades-long conflict between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management came to a head. Bundy owed more than $1 million in grazing fees and fines for grazing his cattle on federally owned lands. The BLM sent in armed agents to remove Bundy’s cattle. But as anti-federal government activists, many of them armed, arrived to support Bundy, tensions rose. Federal officials decided to de-escalate the situation and withdrew, leaving Bundy and his followers to declare victory.
But the FBI was working to build a case against the Bundys. Shortly after the Nevada standoff, agents posing as documentary filmmakers with “Longbow Productions” made contact with the family. In “American Patriot,” we hear Ammon Bundy on the phone with “Charles Johnson,” a supposed filmmaker.
Though some of the Bundys were skeptical, Ammon Bundy says he talked his family into allowing the “Longbow Productions” crew to film at the Bundy home in Nevada.
Agents also interviewed members of militia groups who supported Cliven Bundy at the Nevada standoff, including Greg Burleson. In the “documentary” footage, we hear an FBI agent (the agents’ voices are distorted) asking what the protesters’ response would have been had federal agents crossed the perimeter set up at the Nevada standoff.
“Dead bodies,” Burleson says. “Literally.”
The post on the “Frontline” website says the “documentary” footage was used to help convict Burleson on eight charges, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer, in April. Burleson faced federal charges stemming from his participation in the Nevada standoff near Cliven Bundy’s ranch.
The June 26 date is also when Cliven Bundy, and his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy were scheduled to go on trial on charges related to the Nevada standoff. But their case may be delayed until the fall.
The federal jury found two men, including Burleson, guilty. Burleson faces a minimum of 57 years in prison, and his sentencing is scheduled for July 26. Four other men stood trial, but the judge declared a mistrial when the jury couldn’t agree on verdicts on charges of conspiracy. Those men will face a new trial June 26.
In October 2016, a federal jury in Portland found Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five co-defendants, not guilty of conspiracy and gun charges relating to the Oregon standoff.