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Star news producer vanishes after FBI raids his Arlington home

‘He contacted me in the spring, and was really distraught, and told me that he had some serious personal issues going on,’ co-author says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 19 October 2022 16:33 BST
Trailer for 3212 Un-Redacted, an ABC documentary produced by James Gordon Meek
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Documentary producer and investigative journalist James Gordon Meek hasn’t been seen since the FBI raided his apartment in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington DC, on 27 April of this year.

The 52-year-old’s neighbour John Antonelli told Rolling Stone magazine that he witnessed the raid from the street as he was heading out on a walk. He said he spotted 10 heavily armed people among the group of law enforcement officers, a green armoured tactical vehicle, a black utility vehicle with tinted windows and several Arlington police cars, among other vehicles.

Only the police cruisers were marked, Mr Antonelli noted. The heavily armed individuals had no markings revealing what agency they were working for. The raid took around 10 minutes.

“They didn’t stick around. They took off pretty quickly and headed west on Columbia Pike towards Fairfax County,” Mr Antonelli told Rolling Stone. “Most people seeing that green vehicle would think it’s some kind of tank. But I knew it was the Lenco BearCat. That vehicle is designed to be jumped out of so they can do a raid in that kind of time. It can return fire if they’re being fired upon.”

The magazine reported that Mr Meek was targeted by the FBI at his home at the Siena Park apartments, where he had lived for more than 10 years.

The FBI told Rolling Stone that agents went to the home on 27 April “at the 2300 block of Columbia Pike, Arlington, Virginia, conducting court-authorized law-enforcement activity. The FBI cannot comment further due to an ongoing investigation”.

While Mr Meek hasn’t been charged, observers think that this could be among the initial raids, if not the first, to be conducted on a reporter by the Biden administration.

On 26 April, a Virginia Eastern District Court federal magistrate judge authorised the search warrant.

The magazine reported that his neighbours haven’t seen him since the raid and that his home appears to be empty.

Siena Park management told Rolling Stone that they would decline to say if Mr Meek had left because of its “privacy policies”.

Co-workers at ABC News told the magazine they don’t know where he is or what happened to him.

“He fell off the face of the Earth,” one person told the outlet. “And people asked, but no one knew the answer.”

“He resigned very abruptly and hasn’t worked for us for months,” a representative for ABC told The Independent.

Rolling Stone reported that sources say that agents located classified information on Mr Meek’s laptop, with one reporter who has worked with him saying that it would be very unusual for a journalist or producer to have any kind of classified information on their laptop.

When reached by The Independent, Mr Meek’s lawyer Eugene Gorokhov shared a statement saying that that the journalist is “unaware of what allegations anonymous sources are making about his possession of classified documents”.

“If such documents exist, as claimed, this would be within the scope of his long career as an investigative journalist covering government wrongdoing,” Mr Gorokhov added. “The allegations in your inquiry are troubling for a different reason: they appear to come from a source inside the government. It is highly inappropriate, and illegal, for individuals in the government to leak information about an ongoing investigation. We hope that the [Department of Justice] promptly investigates the source of this leak.”

The logline of the documentary 3212 Un-Redacted, for which Mr Meek was a producer, states that it includes “evidence of a cover-up at the highest levels of the Army”.

The film covered a 2017 ISIS ambush in Niger in West Africa that led to the deaths of four US Green Berets.

Another investigative journalist at ABC, Brian Epstein, left the outlet just months before Mr Meek.

Mr Epstein told Rolling Stone that he would not be “commenting on this story”.

The magazine also noted that after the raid on 27 April, all evidence of Mr Meek’s upcoming book Operation Pineapple Express: The Incredible Story of a Group of Americans Who Undertook One Last Mission and Honored a Promise in Afghanistan has been removed from his social media and the website of publisher Simon & Schuster.

While both Presidents Obama and Trump were criticised for going after reporters and their sources, President Joe Biden said it was “wrong” to gather the phone records and emails of reporters in July of last year.

Attorney General Merrick Garland put in place a new policy banning federal prosecutors from collecting reporter’s records in investigations into leaks, but with some exceptions.

The FBI declined to comment when reached by The Independent.

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