In September, NJ Jewish News reported on a claim by racist New Jersey blogger and talk-radio host Hal Turner that he was actually a government mole, “paid by the FBI to make violent anti-Jewish and anti-black statements.”
As Turner went on trial Dec. 1 for allegedly threatening three federal appeals court judges in Chicago, independent reports are emerging that federal lawyers did indeed pay the North Bergen resident to assist them in their surveillance of white supremacists and other extremist groups.
After examining government documents and court records and interviewing Turner in jail, The Record of Hackensack reported Nov. 29 that “federal authorities made frequent use of Turner in its battle against domestic terrorism.”
Their investigation revealed that Turner received thousands of dollars from the FBI to report on white supremacist groups and was even sent on an undercover mission to Brazil to disrupt an alleged plot to ship non-military supplies to anti-American Iraqi resistance fighters.
In an interview this week with NJJN, Turner’s Newark attorney, Michael Orozco, insisted that much of his client’s racist and anti-Semitic ranting on his radio talk show and Internet blog was done at the direction of federal investigators eager to tap into Turner’s connections with the white supremacist Right and to plug FBI leaks to anti-hate groups, including the Anti-Defamation League.
Orozco also insists that the FBI assured Turner in writing that he would never be charged with any crimes.
“No. Mr. Turner is not a bigot, an anti-Semite, or a racist,” Orozco told NJJN a day before the trial was to begin at the United States District Court in Brooklyn. “He was getting paid for it. I’m not going to say everything he ever said was because the FBI directed him, but it was part of an image he created with their instruction. What it goes to show is just how outrageous the government’s conduct is.”
If Turner is not a bigot, the subterfuge would seem to have been extremely elaborate and persistent: The Anti-Defamation League and other groups have logged hours of virulently racist and anti-Semitic comments by Turner, going back to at least 2002, when he spoke at an Aryan Nations rally in Pennsylvania.
According to his lawyer, Turner’s relationship with the FBI began in 2003 and continued intermittently until earlier this year. FBI memos indicate that Turner received in the area of $100,000 for his services as a “confidential informant,” or CI.
Among FBI documents Orozco obtained in pre-trial discovery and shared with NJJN is one dated Oct. 24, 2004. The document, an unsigned “Suitability Report and Recommendation,” said Turner “has always had an excellent record of service while serving in the capacity of a CI with the FBI.”
In a March 7, 2006, document, special agent Stephen Haug, Turner’s FBI handler, vouched for Turner’s usefulness. “Many members of the white supremacy movement seek him out for insight,” wrote Haug.
But Haug’s memo also said his informant, nicknamed “Valhalla,” “has been counseled in the strongest terms possible” against inciting violence.
Another memo, written by Haug in July 2007, said Turner’s “value outweighs the discomfort associated with the source’s [Turner’s] rhetoric,” and that the information he provides is “irreplaceable.”
‘Jury will be outraged’
In a lengthy jailhouse interview with The Record published Nov. 29, Turner said the FBI “coached him on the limits of what he could say.”
Orozco, meanwhile, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey “on numerous occasions declined to prosecute and issued memorandums as well as blanket letters of declination, basically saying, ‘We will never go after Mr. Turner.’”
But despite those claims, Turner is now being charged with threatening the lives of three federal judges in Chicago after they ruled in support of a local gun control law.
Turner also faces a charge of using his website to advocate “direct action” against two Connecticut state legislators whose votes on a matter affecting the Catholic Church displeased him.
Orozco said neither he nor his client has copies of the documents that promise Turner would never be prosecuted, “but we know they exist. I have made the proper inquiries but I am not being given those documents. But I expect the jury will be as outraged as I am and Mr. Turner is at the government’s bad faith” in failing to produce those documents.
Orozco said former U.S. Attorney — now Gov.-elect — Chris Christie, “had to be aware of this,” referring to what he claimed is an agreement to exempt Turner from criminal prosecution. The attorney intends to subpoena Christie to testify.
In response, Christie told the Associated Press Nov. 24, “Any advice I gave as U.S. Attorney regarding prosecutions is something I am not going to talk about publicly.”
In his Record interview, Turner said he was asked to help stop Justice Department officials from leaking information to anti-racist groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
“We are completely mystified by that comment. We have no idea what that means,” said Etzion Neuer, director of the ADL’s New Jersey region.
But Neuer was highly skeptical of Turner’s claims that the FBI was choreographing his racist and anti-Semitic outbursts.
“These are allegations by Turner,” said Neuer. “The documentation shows a connection between the FBI and Turner but they don’t specifically indicate the FBI was directing Turner to say specific things. Turner is someone who has a history of saying things that aren’t true, and anything he says needs to be taken with an enormous grain of salt.”
The FBI’s public affairs office declined to comment on its relationship with Turner, saying only that “this is a matter before the courts.”
If convicted, Turner could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.