Where are the FBI files concerning Myrtle Poor Bear?

This was originally posted by Brenda Norrell at http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/

Where are the FBI files concerning Myrtle Poor Bear?

Where are the FBI files concerning Myrtle Poor Bear?

by Michael Kuzma, Esq.
(attorney for Mr. Leonard Peltier)

In 1976, American Indian Movement (AIM) activist, Leonard Peltier, was extradited from Canada to the United States to stand trial for the shooting deaths of FBI Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams that occurred at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975. Peltier was extradited back to the United States based in large part on the affidavits of Myrtle Poor Bear. On October 25, 2000, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Poor Bear testified under oath before former Quebec Court of Appeal Judge Fred Kaufman that she agreed to implicate Peltier in the shooting deaths of the two FBI agents only after she had endured months of unrelenting harassment and threats from other FBI agents. Among other things, FBI agents told Poor Bear that they would take her child away from her and that she would be charged with conspiracy and face 15 years in prison if she did not cooperate. FBI agents coerced Poor Bear into signing affidavits, which indicated that she was Peltier’s girlfriend and that she saw him shoot Agents Coler and Williams. In 1978, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit noted that, “The use of the affidavits of Myrtle Poor Bear in the extradition proceeding was, to say the least, a clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI. This was conceded by government counsel on the hearing in this court.” See United States v. Peltier, 585 F. 2d 314, 335 fn. 18 (8th Cir. 1978).

Myrtle Poor Bear passed away on September 15, 2005 in Rapid City, South Dakota. On November 14, 2006, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to FBI Headquarters for all records pertaining to Myrtle Poor Bear. By letter dated December 14, 2006, Mr. David M. Hardy, Section Chief, Record/Information Dissemination Section, Records Management Division, FBI, advised me that no records responsive to my FOIA request had been located by a search of the automated and manual indices of the central records system at FBI Headquarters. I treated this response, on the part of the FBI, as a denial of my FOIA request and filed an administrative appeal with the Office of Information and Privacy (OIP), U. S. Department of Justice. By letter dated April 5, 2007, Ms. Janice Galli McLeod, Co-Director, OIP, advised me that there were no responsive FBI Headquarters Office records. Ms. Galli McLeod, however, did inform me that a member of her staff found that the Minneapolis Field Office of the FBI might have records responsive to my FOIA request and that I should submit a new FOIA request to that office if I hadn’t already done so. A FOIA request was submitted to that office on April 20, 2007.

In a letter dated November 21, 2008, Mr. Hardy from the FBI claimed that, “A search of the indices to our central records system at FBI Headquarters reflected there were documents potentially responsive to your request. This office has attempted to obtain this material so that it could be reviewed for responsiveness. We were advised the records were not in their expected location and could not be located. Following a reasonable waiting period, another attempt was made to obtain this material. This also was met with unsuccessful results. Therefore, we are closing your request administratively.” The question now is, where are these FBI files? Who has them? If they are no longer in the possession of the FBI, when and under what authority were they transferred to another agency or individual? Perhaps the records have been destroyed? If so, by whom and under what authority?

The public has a right to know what is in the FBI files relating to Myrtle Poor Bear. It should be noted that this is not the first time that the FBI allegedly has not been able to find records that could prove to be helpful to Leonard Peltier. For example, in November of 2002, I requested all records relating to Leonard Peltier and RESMURS (RESMURS is the name the FBI gave to its investigation of the deaths of agents Coler and Williams) from the New York Field Office of the FBI. The FBI claimed that the material was “unavailable” and it had been placed on “special locate”. To date, these documents have not been found.

The FBI has and continues to vigorously resist efforts to make public all of its files relating to Leonard Peltier and RESMURS. The FBI cites national security concerns and other dubious reasons for refusing to release these documents. Documents, I might add, that should been released to Peltier defense attorneys over three decades ago. Why is there all of this secrecy when it comes to FBI documents pertaining to Leonard Peltier and RESMURS? What is the FBI afraid of? Why does the FBI continue to fight to prevent the full release of documents that are over one third of a century old? Could it be that these documents would reveal how FBI personnel as well as its informants and provocateurs set into motion the events that culminated in the deaths of Joe Stuntz Killsright, Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams on that tragic day in June of 1975.

Michael Kuzma, Esq.
Buffalo, New York
January 3rd, 2009



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