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A network of websites and a popular YouTube channel that propagate bogus conspiracies about Senator Kamala Harris, Mark Zuckerberg and other public figures belong to a couple who operate two Montessori schools in Michigan, a BuzzFeed News investigation has revealed.
That same operation also released a controversial image of US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson with a reticle next to her head; two weeks later, former Trump adviser Roger Stone shared it on Instagram. Jackson, who chairs the Stone case, later banned him from speaking publicly about the case or Special Advocate Robert Mueller after his use of the image.
The ability of this small network of self-proclaimed sites and researchers to influence public figures such as Stone and help elicit false claims about a presidential candidate shows how fringe operators continue to break into the news cycle. ahead of the 2020 presidential election. It also offers an example of how political and social conspiracy theories often intersect new age spirituality and alternative medicine.
Tyla Wells and her husband, Douglas Gabriel, are the Michigan couple behind the operation. They operate at least three websites and a YouTube channel that has garnered over 15 million views under the American Intelligence Media brand. The couple use pseudonyms, including “Betsy Ross” and “Thomas Pain,” in videos and radio interviews. However, Wells, who also goes by Tyla Gabriel, is listed in the domain ownership information for aim4truth.org, Truthbits.blog, and patriots4truth.org. She and her husband have occasionally used their real names in videos on AIM content.
The couple are also using their conspiracy operation to promote their network of websites dedicated to “spiritual writings to help you navigate your own spiritual journey.” They advise people to use “silver water,” a concoction that involves “charging” the water with batteries and shining a laser on it. One of their spiritual lessons calls silver water “a natural antibiotic” which can fight disease. There is a health warning at the bottom of the recipe instructions. In 1999, the The FDA has decided that “Products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts for internal or external use are generally not recognized as safe and effective and are mislabelled. “
Wells Day Job is the leader of Schoolhouse Learning Communities, a company that operates two Montessori schools for children up to sixth grade in the Detroit area. She was Featured in a “top 40 under 40” list by Crain’s Detroit Business in 1996 for starting a charter school and vocational training centers. Vocational centers appear to be closed and the charter schools she ran in the past are also bankrupt.
Gabriel’s biography says he has a doctorate and is “a retired school superintendent and teacher of education.” He also claims to be a priest and lecturer at several colleges, and to have worked for the National Security Agency as a “cryptologist and systems analyst in the area of signal intelligence.”
An NSA spokesperson told BuzzFeed News it could only confirm whether someone worked for the agency if they gave the agency consent to release the details.
“We will not verify if an individual has worked for the NSA without their consent and we do not confirm an individual’s affiliation without their consent,” Greg Julian said in an email.
Neither Gabriel nor Wells responded to BuzzFeed News emails and phone messages.
Their sites are home to plots and false allegations such as: Sen. Kamala harris is not eligible serve as president; there was no plane crash on September 11; queen elizabeth secretly controls the world; and that “Hillary paid Facebook to rig the election while colluding with Russian Uranium One.”
As previously reported by BuzzFeed News, the AIM article on Harris includes an unverified image believed to be his birth certificate. The site’s bogus claims about Harris’s eligibility and background resonated in the online attacks that emerged after the latest Democratic candidate debate. The claims were propagated by neo-Nazis and people who doubt the US citizenship of former President Barack Obama, also known as “birthers”.
Although the couple appear to be at the heart of the operation, they claim to work with “Anonymous Patriots, a group of citizen journalists aligned with US intelligence media.” Gabriel has said in the videos that they are working with a “conclave” of other people who contribute research and articles to the sites, and have claimed that some of these people previously worked for the US government.
One of AIM’s most cited sources and “researchers” is Michael McKibben, a tech entrepreneur who sued Facebook to no avail.
Two McKibben-related websites, fbcoverup.com and americans4innovation.blogspot.com, appear to be the original sources for Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s infamous “crosshair” image. The Americans for Innovation website published a uncropped version of image on February 4, two weeks before Stone shared it. Aim4truth.org then released it on February 8. in an article that credited McKibben with researching and promoting a YouTube video of him and Gibson. (The Americans for Innovation blog identifies itself as a “member” of AIM.)
McKibben is best known for his lawsuit that Mark Zuckerberg hacked his son’s Harvard email address and stole a white paper from him outlining his social media plan. The case was covered by the press at the time, but since then McKibben’s claims have grown even more outrageous, culminating in claims that Zuckerberg is a government pawn and that Facebook was in fact built for intelligence agencies to spy on the public. AIM produced a six-part YouTube series featuring interviews with McKibben.
McKibben did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
In June, AIM took this plot to the next level by publishing an article claiming “Mark Zuckerberg is a fraud used by the CIA. “ The author used the pseudonym “John” and claimed to be the Facebook founder ‘s former roommate at Harvard. The first-person article presents a series of false allegations, including that Zuckerberg is gay and that he created Facebook at the behest of government agents.
While there is no way to verify who wrote the article, it regurgitates the same conspiratorial talking points McKibben made during a conversation with “Betsy” during the YouTube videos hosted by AIM.
The anonymous Zuckerberg article was picked up by a handful of fringe websites, including Collective evolution, which has more than 5.3 million Facebook fans. (Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.)
AIM wrote in a preamble to ‘John’ letter that “we do not claim that this anonymous ‘confession’ and ‘indictment’ is true in all its parts. But he also claims to have “been able to quickly verify that many of the claims implied in this ‘Zuckerberg dossier’ are true and this leads us to conclude that the document is genuine and exactly what it appears to be.” (It’s not.)
AIM now doubles. Today it published an interview with another anonymous insider (“Jane Doe”), who claims to have worked at “Google / Facebook / DARPA”. This article contains a series of false accusations against former Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt and attempts to link it to previous Facebook allegations.
While much of AIM’s content aligns with conspiracy theories like QAnon and others rooted in claims of secret cabals controlling the world, Gabriel has annoyed others in the universe of alternative media and the QAnon crowd in particular.
Jason Goodman, who runs the YouTube channel “Crowdsource the Truth”, last year labeled Gabriel “the latest double talk quack trying to infiltrate the world of alternative media.”