Malheur SITREP: 2100L 25 JAN 2016 – Forward Observer Shop

Malheur SITREP: 2100L 25 JAN 2016

Situation Report (SITREP) for 2200L 25 JAN 2016

– Yesterday’s report of a decrease of federal and state law enforcement personnel in the vicinity of (IVO) Burns, OR has been confirmed. Sources IVO Burns report a noticeable decrease of Oregon State Police, as well as federal vehicles and personnel based out of the Burns Municipal Airport.

– There are probably in the range of 20-30 occupiers still at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, including children.

– Pacific Patriots Network leadership continues to speak with FBI contacts to ensure open lines of communication with Ammon Bundy.  FBI contacts have continued to express a desire to speak with Ammon to find a peaceful resolution, although Ammon’s last two trips to speak with the FBI have been unproductive.

– Local authorities and media continue to not only be very critical of the Refuge occupation, but play up unjustified fears.  Harney County Judge Steve Grasty yesterday cancelled today’s scheduled “public” meeting over “security concerns,” implying that the meeting might cause conditions to be unsafe for community members.  Today, Oregon Public Broadcasting quoted the Harney County Schools Superintendent as saying:

“I had a conversation with a high school student and she wanted to know if someone entered the school with a gun, what was she to do. And I had a 5-year-old come up to me and say she couldn’t sleep at night, because someone was watching her in the trees.”

– Over the weekend, Grant County Oregon Sheriff Glen Palmer told media that releasing the Hammonds would “be a start” to ending the Malheur Refuge occupation.  Sheriff Palmer also offered Ammon Bundy a sanctuary in Grant County, if he would leave the Refuge.  Grant County, OR is an adjacent county to the north of Harney County.

– Eight ranchers in Utah have pledged support for Ammon Bundy and the occupiers, saying that they will also stand up for land rights against the BLM in their state. Those sentiments are widely held throughout the West, partially stemming from the Sagebrush Rebellion during the 1970s and 1980s over the same issue: land rights and federal overreach.  The BLM’s tactics of bullying ranchers off their land also contribute to this sentiment.

– Oregon Governor Kate Brown continues to pressure federal, state and local law enforcement to bring an end to the Malheur occupation.  So far, the top executive in Oregon has been unsuccessful in creating momentum for law enforcement action.

– Last week, former Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho mayor posted the following message to Facebook:

I served on Idaho’s Boundary County Executive Emergency Board during the Ruby Ridge catastrophe. I had a front row seat to watch a total and complete tragedy unfold. What did I learn? I learned that time is your ally and use of force is the enemy. I do not know any of the parties involved in this latest standoff but I do know absolutely nothing is being harmed by leaving the occupiers alone. The location being occupied wasn’t even being used. Patience and time will win the day. Use of force is the most likely way to end with no one winning. Avoiding another complete and utter tragedy should be the goal not some ill conceived “face saving” action designed to teach a lesson. Lets hope those in authority are more concerned about life than [saving] “face”.

ANALYST COMMENT:  As if being locked in a quasi-standoff with the FBI wasn’t already enough, Ammon Bundy and the occupiers are squared up in a battle over ‘hearts and minds’ with Sheriff David Ward and Judge Steven Grasty.  There’s a continued effort on behalf of Sheriff Ward, Judge Grasty, and Oregon state media to influence the people of Burns and Harney County.

The leftist Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), an affiliate of the tremendously left-leaning National Public Radio (NPR), has consistently gone beyond reporting of the news to editorialize and imply a significant danger posed to the community of Burns by a dozen armed men and women currently residing at the Refuge over 30 miles away.

Two weeks ago, OPB was bending over backwards to score quotes from concerned locals about how scared and afraid they were of Ammon Bundy and the occupiers.  Granted, several occupiers haven’t helped matters concerning their image, especially with regards to hot-headed YouTube videos, at least three cases of Stolen Valor, and felonies belonging to at least two occupiers.  And that’s given Ammon Bundy and LaVoy Finnicum a significant public relations deficit from the very beginning.

Were Ammon and LaVoy not so well-spoken, were they not salt-of-the-earth Westerners, were they not even-tempered men who can clearly articulate their position, then the media and the town of Burns would really have something to fear.  And Ammon and LaVoy’s ability to humanize themselves and their movement, and deliver their message to the people of Harney County and the Mountain West, has thus far probably helped to save their lives and keep them out of prison.

The FBI’s diminished presence in Burns, OR could indicate another staging area, away from the public eye of the Burns Municipal Airport.  While it’s likely that many involved in the reported shift change have gone back to their respective field offices in Boise or Salt Lake (among others), it’s still possible that vehicles and personnel were moved to another location in order to avoid escalating the security situation and raising public alarm.

In order to allay the fears of the Burns community, we could possibly see local law enforcement establish travel restrictions for the occupiers.  Sheriff Dave Ward could very calmly announce that Ammon Bundy and the occupiers will be arrested if they attempt to enter the town, but would otherwise be left alone at the Refuge.  This would allow law enforcement to act in a very public and deliberate manner, alleviating some pressure over their inaction, and give the appearance of taking positive steps to regain control and protect the town of Burns without escalating the situation.

MLCOA: As long as FBI capabilities remain at current levels and we don’t see any indicators of armored vehicles, then the Most Likely Course of Action is a continuation of what we’ve observed over the past two weeks as the FBI continues to build slam-dunk criminal cases against each of the occupiers.

MDCOA: The arrival of armored vehicles in the area or the introduction of temporary flight restrictions would signal the Most Dangerous Course of Action, which is putting a cordon in place, escalating the situation, and increasing the likelihood of violence.

Photo credit: Harney County Mall Cops

Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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