An Australian attorney went on-scene and asked tough questions of the FBI:
“What’s the deal? Are there any dangerous substances in there?” Barlow asked in a thick New Zealand accent. “It just seemed to me, when I was looking at the complaint, the allegations in there didn’t seem to me that there was anything other than stuff you might find anywhere, any guy who likes playing with engines you know, computers or anything.”
Then Barlow started speaking about green fuzz.
“There didn’t seem to be any imaginable potential dangerous materials in any conceivable way,” Barlow said. “Green fuzz on the end of a battery? I’ve got that. Anywhere you have moisture and a battery, you’ve got green fuzz. Has that been tested yet? Why is it taking them that long to conduct the test?”
The “green fuzz” Barlow was referring to stems from the federal affidavit unsealed on Tuesday.
FBI Special Agent Michael Eldridge stated in court documents that agents found “a green powder,” along with a model rocket motor, a circuit board, ball bearings, screws, batteries and an electric igniter in Chamberlain’s apartment – materials for a remote-controlled bomb that was “designed to maim or kill.” The materials were discovered Saturday during the first search of Chamberlain’s apartment.
Lee, fully aware that cameras were capturing the exchange, remained patient with Barlow, saying that agents were there to make sure they hadn’t missed anything during the first search. He addressed her as “ma’am” and politely asked her to discuss the events away from the camera, which she declined.
She peppered Lee with more questions. And she tried to point out that, on one hand, the FBI is now telling people there is no longer a “public threat” because of the explosives, but on the other hand, the agency hasn’t yet released the results of tests conducted on the “green fuzz.”
Apparently, the FBI “found” a .22 rifle in his apartment. Wow, how much can we trust these guys with hazardous materials if they completely missed a huge rifle the first time around?
KTVU is reporting that sources say among the items found in the search of Chamberlain’s Russian Hill apartment, authorities also they found “a long gun — possibly a .22 rifle — with its serial number filed off,” and residue that “tested positive for explosive material.”
Am I the only one thinking that it was a drop weapon? It makes sense, considering that Ryan Chamberlain seems to be the kind of guy who would be too afraid to have a serial number-less gun.
The reality: The feds want people to call the cops on those who are already depressed and isolated, even if they’re not hurting anyone and not indicating violence in any way:
“I think you can tell from Facebook and social media posts attributed to him,” San Francisco Police Chief Greg Sur said during a press conference.
As more details emerge about Chamberlain, the former political consultant, Sur urged other people who might know someone suffering from severe depression to come forward.
“If anybody knows anybody reported to be in a dark place or someone who may cause danger … please tell us,” he said at the press conference.
While FBI and SFPD officials are patting themselves on the back for “catching a terrorist”, his friends have been questioning whether he was actually capable of domestic terrorism.
And that’s the catch: Ryan Chamberlain committed no crime, and didn’t hurt a soul. But the FBI insists that because he was planning on carrying out some kind of bombing using the materials he had in his home, and because he was admittedly depressed and suicidal, he should be treated in the court of law – as well as the court of public opinion – as if he had already set plans in stone, and that he had directly threatened the health and safety of others.
Before a federal magistrate on Tuesday morning, Chamberlain was charged with one count of illegal possession of a destructive device. The problem: It was only materials that could be used to create an explosive device that were found, not an actual explosive device itself.
“Anyone who has the means, methods and access to make a bomb should be considered armed and dangerous,” Lee said before the arrest.
Johnson said the device would have caused significant damage had the parts been put together.
Authorities admitted that they were surprised that Chamberlain remained in San Francisco given that he was the subject of a nationwide manhunt.
The search of his apartment then turned up the potentially explosive satchel bag. Agents X-rayed the bag and found it contained all the makings of a homemade, remote-detonated bomb crafted from a glass jar and packed with shrapnel. According to the affidavit, the bag contained:
- A screw top glass jar containing batteries and a powdery, green substance
- A model rocket motor lodged within the green powdery substance
- An ‘electric match,’ a common igniter for improvised explosive devices (“IEDs”)
- An assortment of ball bearings and screws believed to be intended projectiles
- A wire extending from the glass jar attached to the metal lid of the jar
- A circuit board, configured as a remote-controlled receiver.
FBI agents believed the green powdery substance to be an explosive and the model rocket motors are commonly used to ignite the powder.
An open laptop—apparently the one Chamberlain admitted he used to access black market websites—and a tool box containing, “apparent additional IED components similar to those used in the messenger bag device” were also found in the apartment.
However, officials have been less-than-trustworthy regarding information about this man (initially insisting that he possessed ricin and was planning on killing people with it, which turned out not to be true at all), and seeing as how he was unarmed and cooperative when the police arrested him, I have a hard time believing that he owned any such “potential device” at all.
Just to recap, Ryan Chamberlain caught the attention of the FBI some time last week, apparently via his use of black-market websites and his alleged attempt to gather materials to build an improvised explosive device (IED). During a raid of his Russian Hill apartment, investigators indeed found such a device contained in a messenger bag, which consisted of a screw-top glass jar; batteries; a powdery, green substance; an ‘electric match’ igniter; a model rocket motor used for remote ignition; ball bearings likely meant to be projectiles; and an improvised remote control device.
Chamberlain made no reported threats against any people or organizations, and the FBI has remained quiet as to what, if any, his actual motives may have been.
The alleged explosive materials were found in Chamberlain’s Russian Hill home when authorities served a search warrant on Saturday. That means that a judge had to have signed off on a search warrant, so what kind of evidence did the FBI and SFPD have that allowed that search warrant to be signed?
Simply being in possession of such a device means Chamberlain could face up to 10 years in prison, and a fine of $10,000.
In his apparent suicide note, posted online Monday, Chamberlain admitted to having “morbid fantasies” in the midst of long periods of depression, and alluded to internet “activity” that had apparently caught the attention of the feds, who questioned him on Saturday morning before he fled in his car.
Because of the “potentially explosive device” found in his apartment, a nationwide manhunt for Chamberlain began, with officials saying that he should be considered “armed and dangerous”. Although it does appear that the time-delayed suicide note was written by him, at no time does he make any kind of threats of violence toward anyone (in stark contrast to the so-called “Santa Barbara shooter”, who made youtube videos while talking about how he was going to shoot people and run them over with his BMW). In fact, Chamberlain tweeted a panicked update on Monday morning, claiming that none of the charges were true ; However, he didn’t turn himself in, which has raised suspicion among certain circles as to his innocence.
Chamberlain on Monday posted what appeared to be a suicide note on social media detailing his struggles with depression and trouble with family and work. He then posted a follow-up note saying he was not armed and dangerous and that “no one was ever in danger.”
At a news conference Tuesday morning, San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr said Chamberlain appeared to have been “a very dangerous and desperate person.”
But he didn’t run away. He carried on as usual, hanging out at the Lower Haight bar the Mad Dog in the Fog, and then at the Marina. He was arrested Monday evening near the Beach Hut at Crissy Field. Interesting to note: He was unarmed, was not carrying any of the explosive device parts mentioned in the search warrant, and did not fight the police while being arrested.
Chamberlain had another hearing this morning at 9:30, in which a psychological evaluation was ordered. His friends have already raised over $11,000 for his legal defense, #FreeRyan is now trending on Twitter and suspicion of the FBI and the SFPD – rather than Chamberlain – is growing by the day. He was ordered to be held without bail, and so far has refused to enter a plea. The FBI’s court documents were sealed until just yesterday, which only makes those suspicions even stronger:
During Tuesday’s hearing before a federal magistrate in San Francisco, the government tried to get the complaint against Ryan Chamberlain sealed, but the judge did not fully comply. The affidavit and federal criminal complaint charging him with possession of an illegal destructive device were unsealed — and detail a device “designed to maim or kill a human being or human beings.”
The unsealed complaint is filling in details that neither the FBI nor the San Francisco police offered during a press conference Tuesday morning. The six-page document describes a meeting between FBI agents and Chamberlain on Saturday.
FBI Agent Michael Eldridge wrote that as a law enforcement team approached the apartment, Chamberlain was seen leaving with a woman and drove away with her. When Chamberlain returned on foot 30 minutes later, Eldridge identified himself and “invited Chamberlain to talk in a nearby coffee shop,” the agent wrote.
During that conversation, Chamberlain allegedly confirmed knowledge of the Tor network, typically used by people who want to hide online activity. He “admitted that he was aware of the Tor network and that he sometimes played poker on ‘black market’ websites” and admitted that his laptop was inside the apartment, Eldridge said. “After a short interview, Chamberlain was allowed to leave the coffee shop at his request,” the agent wrote.
Chamberlain then entered his personal vehicle and was followed by surveillance teams that observed him “driving in an apparent intentionally reckless manner at a high rate of speed, failing to stop at posted lights and signs,” Eldridge said. The affidavit does not say what happened next and says that Chamberlain’s whereabouts were unknown at the time the document was prepared.
The affidavit says an open laptop was found on the kitchen table within arm’s reach of the messenger bag, but does not give any further details.
This whole thing stinks to high heaven. There is no indication that the apartment where the “bomb materials” were found is even Chamberlain’s residence, and the fact that the FBI made contact with him and didn’t want the public to know about it after the manhunt was initiated and he was arrested makes it even more suspicious.
“The system worked in this case and we got someone off the street before he hurt himself or someone else,” SFPD Chief Greg Suhr said at this morning’s press event. “Unbelievable police work,” he continued, “unbelievable collaboration with our federal partners to get somebody who was absolutely growing more desperate by the moment, in crisis.”
But was there a crisis?
Friends and people who know Chamberlain, meanwhile, seem confused by the charges he’s up against.
Brooke Wentz, who had hired Chamberlain to manage the social media accounts for her music rights consultancy group, told the Associated Press that he seemed to be under a lot of financial pressure and may not have been living in the Russian Hill apartment searched by authorities, citing an incident when he asked her to send a paycheck to a different address. Chamberlain told Wentz that he had been leasing his apartment to two friends who left abruptly, leaving him to cover rent on two apartments. When Wentz dug deeper, Chamberlain began evading her questions.
Among those who don’t believe he had it in him to be a domestic terrorist, questions remain:
Speaking to the Bay Guardian, fellow political consultant Johnny K. Wang started asking questions: “The whole thing is weird,” Wang said. “None of the FBI’s stories make sense. First he’s a domestic terrorist, then he’s made no threats to anyone. What do they know for sure? I’m assuming they know something, because you don’t start a raid and a national manhunt without some facts.” In Chamberlain’s distraught letter, the fugitive hinted that the government may had him under digital surveillance.
“It’s unacceptable,” Wang said to the SFBG, “I want to see some real bomb making materials. I want to see a car that’s rigged to explode. Because otherwise, it’s just accusations.”
Finally, a crowdsourced campaign has begun fundraising to help Chamberlain pay for completely unspecified legal fees. Elsewhere, the #FreeRyan hashtags have started flying on Twitter, and are laced with vague conspiracy theories about NSA spying and accusations that the SFPD or the FBI may have been trying to snuff out a local political activist (one who, it should be noted, was most recently working as a social media manager for sports and music companies).
The way search warrants can be issued without evidence of a crime is something I’ll bet we all see a lot more of now. Though there was no ricin or chemical weapons in the apartment, the judge must have used broad strokes to be able to justify a search warrant, since that’s all the feds suspected was in the apartment until they actually entered it.
My theory: it wasn’t personal. Do I believe the FBI set him up for terrorism charges? Yes, I do. However, they weren’t trying to “stamp out a political activist”, they were trying to set the precedent for allowing people to have their 4th amendment rights violated and be charged with terrorism without any evidence of it, and no threats of violence toward anyone.
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