I hate to be a killjoy, but D’Souza’s 2000 Mules is just another targeted disinformation operation. Allowing for the remote possibility that D’Souza was just conned into producing this sci-fi B film and that he is not an active participant, I’ll cut him some slack; the same doesn’t apply to his two collaborators, Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips.
If you are interested in a detailed explanation of why 2000 Mule is disinformation, read-on, otherwise, here is an executive summary:
|2000 Mules is the columniation of multiple lines of effort, the likes of Mike Lindell’s bogus Ultimate Series, Amistad Project Phill Kline’s fake Bethpage ballot trafficking scam, or Lin Wood’s/Sidney Powell’s Kraken. Just like with these other fake election fraud investigations, the goal of 2000 Mules is to create stupefying shiny object claims in order to divert attention and funding away from real and urgently needed election integrity investigations and legislation with the ultimate result (intended or not) of hurting President Trump by discrediting his election fraud claims.|
A Portrait of a Grifter
Gregg Phillips (61), is the technical mastermind behind the 2000 Mules. Phillips has spent the last 35 years in the lucrative business of high-end republican grift and cronyism. In a November 2016 tweet, he described his main achievements as. “I’ve torn down govt in two states, eliminated 20k jobs, and saved $5 billion,” such acts, he wrote; “Requires enormous stones.”
By way of a short bio, Phillips got his BS majoring in transportation from the University of Alabama (c. 1982), after graduation he had a number of gigs including one as a stockbroker. He managed to wiggle his way into state government after he served as chief fundraiser on the 1991 election campaign of Kirk Fordice. In 1993, a year after his election, Governor Fordice nominated him at the age of 33 to head the Mississippi Department of Human Services. The Mississippi State Senate approved his nomination despite discrepancies in his resume. The investigation into his background identified several red flags, one was that Phillips said on his job application that he majored in “finance”, but his major from the University of Alabama was in transportation. Not a big deal, unless, the job description called for heavy finance experience—which it did. Another, was that he failed to prove he was not delinquent in child support payments for a previous marriage.
In 1994, Philips moved to Mississippi, where he got a similar job with the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) where he privatized the collection of child support in two Mississippi counties by signing a contract with a private company based in Virginia. Phillips left MDHS a year later in 1995, “under fire from the Legislature for his management of the state welfare programs.” A week after leaving MDHS, Phillips was hired by Synesis Corporation, a division of Centec Learning, which had an $878,000 contract to lease mobile learning labs to the University of Mississippi at Oxford as part of LEAP, a literacy program that Phillips favored when he headed the Department of Human Services.
From March 2003 to August 2004, Phillips had an 18-month gig as an executive deputy commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services (THHS), which oversees Medicaid and SNAP food benefits. He played a key role in crafting a 2003 legislation to privatize parts of the Texas safety net and was involved in multiple conflicts of interest/cronyism allegations there and in a similar position he held in Mississippi. By 2005, Phillips was again beset with allegations of cronyism stemming from contracts signed at both HHSC and the Texas Workforce Commission. A 2005, Houston Chronicle investigation found he helped craft the privatization legislation in a way in which he personally profited along with his private consultant Chris Britton.
Specifically, the investigation of their joint venture disclosed that:
- Britton’s company joined with one founded by Phillips to get a $670,000 state contract in January 2004 from the Workforce Commission, a state agency run by Temple, one of Phillips’ longtime friends.
- When Phillips headed the human services system in Mississippi, the legislators criticized him for giving a major state contract to a company, then going to work for the firm. In Texas, Phillips played a role in a major state contract going to another former employer in 2003.
- Phillips apparently helped a business partner, Paige Harkins, get work advising companies on how to win Texas human services privatization contracts that he could influence. On at least one occasion, records indicate Harkins set up a meeting between Phillips and potential state vendors.
- Britton’s consulting company explored bidding on state contracts that were mandated by legislation primarily drafted by himself and Phillips during the 2003 Legislature.
By the end of 2004, after developing a toxic reputation, Phillips finally got out of the government Health and Human Services business and founded AutoGov, an Austin-based company, which claimed to have developed analytic software to help hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care organizations decide whether to admit Medicaid patients. Catherine Engelbrecht was his Chief Revenue Officer. In 2015, AutoGov was mentioned in reports questioning the state’s $20 million Medicaid fraud tracking software deal with Austin-based 21CT, which was not competitively bid. Jack Stick, the former top HHSC lawyer at the center of the scandal that led to a string of resignations and prompted multiple investigations, worked for AutoGov.
In 2005, Ashley Elkins from the Daily Journal summarized Gregg Phillips’ character with the following observation: “A bad penny like Gregg Phillips always seems to turn up in some kind of state government job somewhere doing his usual mischief. “
Phillips’ involvement in southern Republican politics goes back to the 1980s. In 1989, he served as finance director of the Alabama Republican Party, as finance director of Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice’s successful 1991 election campaign, and in the mid-1990s as executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party. Phillips went on to become the managing director of “Winning Our Future”, a super PAC founded to support the failed 2012 presidential run of former Republican US House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
In 2013, Phillips told a conservative talk radio show that while he once identified as a “Reagan Republican”, he came to feel “less like a Republican and more like a conservative”. Since then, much of his political work has focused on building a grifting business dedicated to a never-ending variation of fake voter fraud cases.
Phillips honed his evolving pitch of an election integrity patriot to an art form. He told the same radio show, “I’m an aficionado of the way these Democrats commit voter fraud”. Regardless of the flavor of the day of his fraud claims, over the past 10 years, Phillips hasn’t provided a single shred of court admissible evidence to back up his claims, quite an achievement for someone who has collected millions on failed investigations where fraud could have been easily detected in plain sight.
Ironically, on the subject of election fraud, besides being registered to vote in Texas, Phillips was also registered to vote in Alabama under the name Gregg Allen Phillips, with the identical Social Security number and in Mississippi. The Mississippi records list him under the name Gregg A. Phillips and the record includes the last four digits of his Social Security number, his correct date of birth, and a prior address matching one attached to Gregg Allen Phillips. In the past, he has lived in all three states.
As far as bad pennies are concerned, according to a lien filed by the IRS in Manatee County, Florida, in 2014, Phillips and his wife owed the federal government $100,961 in unpaid income taxes.
The Murky Swamp that is True the Vote
Since 2010, True The Vote (TTV) promotes itself as charitable nonprofit under IRS regulations. But, they have likely violated the nonpartisan rule in 2012 by contributing thousands of dollars to the Republican State Leadership Committee which supports RINO GOP legislative candidates. It’s charitable status was questioned again when they got involved in the 2012 “Verify the Recall” effort in Wisconsin during which the group conned tea party volunteers nationwide to enter petition signatures into an online database which called for the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) to analyze them for fraud. TTV’s analytical black magic which attempted to provide smoking gun evidence turned out to be just another flop.
Using their proprietary and top-secret signature evaluation methodology, TTV concluded that more than 63,000 signatures were ineligible. It also identified 2,590 names that were “potentially false”. When challenged by the state examiners to make the list public, TTV declined. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), a non-partisan state regulatory agency consisting of six former state judge appointees, also discounted TTV’s findings and methodology, concluding that they were “significantly less accurate, complete, and reliable than the review and analysis completed by the GAB” and that they “would not have survived legal challenge”. This pattern of making bombastic claims about finding voter fraud and having a smoking gun to prove it and then failing/refusing to back it up with hard evidence characterizes all of TTV’s investigations so far, 2000 Mules is no exception!
As ecclesiastics tells us, there is nothing new under the sun, and so are most of TTV’s claims about their innovative election fraud technology. Four months after joining the TTV board in June 2014, TTV announced that it was releasing a product called VoteStand, a free smartphone app that allowed voters to report cases of election irregularities and fraud. However, Phillips’ @WinOurFuture Twitter feed shows that he was VoteStand’s founder and that the app was initially released in 2012 by the Gingrich super PAC.
In 2016, Phillips was back with another earth shattering revelation that 3 million votes were cast by non-citizens. When asked for proof, he responded, “That’s our opinion based on our research and analysis that we conducted and are prepared to stand by…” To back up the claim, Phillips resorted to his typical ‘millions of records analyzed’ routine. In a November 11, 2016 tweet (now deleted), he claimed that: “We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens. We are joining @truethevote to initiate legal action.” and “Completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations. Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million. Consulting legal team.” But, nothing ever came of it. Just like with his other election fraud claims and the promises to litigate, this claim too, was eventually quietly abandoned.
OpSec, the Brother from Another Mother
By December of 2020, election fraud became the leading topic of conversation in the conservative movement opening the doors to unlimited grifting opportunities. To help support the disinformation generated by the RINO establishment, TTV hired a company called OpSec, LLC to conduct its high-octane voter fraud investigation. OpSec claimed to provide crack data miners, intelligence analysts, field investigators, a wide range of subject matter experts, and cutting-edge video and data analytics software capabilities. OpSec even claimed to have provided bodyguard security services to their fictious whistleblowers (whose lives were in mortal danger).
Some of the other fictitious functions that OpSec billed for was acquiring evidence sufficient to open criminal investigations, secure indictments, and support on-going litigation. To that end, OpSec claimed to have assembled teams in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, which provided an “Election Integrity Hotline,” and claimed to have “the arduous task of vetting the information received”. It goes without saying that despite the millions that they siphoned from donors, none of these projects amounted to even one successful lawsuit or prosecution.
How is all of this possible, you ask? Well, it turns out that OpSec is owned and operated by Gregg Phillips and that it was likely the commercial alter ego of the nonprofit TTV. Thus, using a one degree of separation trick (IRS take notice!), they managed to run a number of dead-end election investigations with the 2000 mules being the culmination of the effort.
Document 1 and 2: Con 101 – How to scam $2.5 million from one donor and get away with it
Pulling the Rip Cord
TTV and 2000 Mules make the following claims:
- That between 400,000-810,000 ballots were harvested and delivered to drop boxes
- That they identified the staging sites for the ballot collection and distribution
- That TTV knows the identity, phone number, license plate number, and home address of the ballot traffickers
- That the ballots delivered by the traffickers were forged/illegally obtained and resulted in hundreds of thousands of illegal votes
- That TTV shared the evidence with law enforcement but that LEA refused to investigate or take action
- That TTV has worked with various election fraud investigations and assisted them using TTV’s proprietary technology
- That TTV was took active part in solving murder cold cases using their proprietary tracking technology
- That TTV has the ability and performed video analytics (including face recognition, license plate recognition, and object classification and searches) on 2 Petabytes of video
A Note About the Anonymity of Commercial Mobile Tracking Technology
Before we jump in into the technical discussion of why most of the claims above are bogus, it’s important to understand the corner stone of the TTV cell geotagging/tracking narrative. TTV bases its cell phone tracking claim on commercially available Mobile Advertising Identifiers (MAID) On iOS it’s called the Identifier For Advertisers or (IDFA). These ids are a an alphanumeric string like the following hyphen-separated string:
MAIDs and IDFAs were designed to be privacy-safe identifiers that would allow for data collection, but wouldn’t allow the collector to tie it back to an identifiable device or person. The identifiers are pseudo-anonymous because they lack any personally identifiable information about the device. So, yes, you can use the MAID to show the location of a device on a map, but you can’t reverse the identity of that user from the device or the phone number from the MAID.
Also, in order to comply with privacy requirements, by design, these identifiers are resettable. Both Apple and Android device offer mechanisms to opt-out of data collection. So, if professor Moriarty was indeed running this criminal ballot trafficking enterprise (which allegedly was also using their cell phones to document the ballot harvesting), it’s likely that the evil mastermind’s first edict would have been to disable/regularly reset the MAID in order to prevent tracking.
Image 2: Digital snake oil salesmanship in action Part I–Imagery and footage from the 2000 Mules alleging that TTV successfully tracked and identified the names, cell phone numbers, vehicles, and addresses of the individuals delivering multiple ballots to drop boxes
Video 1: Digital snake oil salesmanship in action Part II – Staged footage of a ballot trafficker from the movie 2000 Mules
A Scoundrel, Lives by Crooked Speech and Winking his Eyes (Proverbs 6:12-19)
The following is an abridged list of issues with the 2000 Mules claims mentioned above. These observations are based on the statements made in the 2000 Mule movie and in-person debriefings with Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips:
- Phillips’s claims of obtaining, storing, and processing 2 Petabytes of video are logistically and operationally implausible. This conclusion is based on actual hands-on experience with working on nation-wide surveillance/video analytics projects involving data sets in the 2 Petabyte ranges. The datacenter and processing for such project are cost prohibitive and could run into the tens of millions of dollars
- Based on the Q&A with Phillips/Engelbrecht, we determining with high degree of confidence that TTV neither has the technology and infrastructure nor know-how to be able to deliver the SIGINT and IMINT products described in the 2000 Mules.
- During the debriefings, Phillips made multiple erroneous technical claims about the AI-based video analytics they allegedly developed and used to generate the detections. His claims regarding their ML models and training capability, processing speed, accuracy rates, object classification capability, face recognition, and license plate recognition bordered on infantile.
- Phillips lacked even a basic understanding of terminology, CONOPS, and tradecraft involved in framing a target, wireless and mobile device tracking and dissembled when challenged about his non-reconcilable technical claims. For example, he claims that a cell phones that is turned-off could still be geotracked via an apps and its MAID/IDFA (Min 21:30 in the movie).
- It is impossible to convert a Mobile Ad ID (MAID/IDFA) to a cell phone number or to an International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) unless you are a Telco, LEA, have a tracker like Pegasus, or have access to intercept technology like a stingray. In the movie (Min 23:00), Phillips confirms this as well by state that only the government can unmask the ownership of the phone (i.e., the phone number and subscriber details).
- Phillips’ claim of processing over 10 trillion cell signals totaling over 1 Petabyte of data and 2 Petabytes of video and accurately fusing and geotagging them would be virtually impossible without NSA/NGA/NRO grade storage and processing. But, even if TTV could, cell phone GPS accuracy without RTK correction, only has a 5-10-meter precision or worse (depending the number of visible satellites), which is insufficient in order to obtain a verified fix on a specific individual or a car.
- Phillips and Engelbrecht refused to provide written answers or submit any of their evidence during the official PA Senate investigation. It’s noteworthy that Jay Costa, the democratic Minority Leader of the Pennsylvania Senate democratic caucus, immediately seized the TTV narrative to try and stop the real ballot trafficking investigation in PA on the basis that TTV cell geo-tagging claim was a conspiracy (which it is).
- Phillips and Engelbrecht initially claimed that they identified instances of traffickers in PA (1,155 mules). But, when asked to disclose the redacted identity of some of the traffickers (who we identified independently of TTV), they dissembled and claimed that they were still working on their data and were only about 40% done. They also falsely claimed that some of the video footage from Michigan was corrupt.
- After the identification of multiple ballot traffickers in PA, the evidence was given to the PA Senate and the Lehigh County DA. The DA, a republican by the name of Jim Martin, investigated, confirmed the findings, and identified some the individuals involved, but refused to prosecute them on the grounds that he didn’t have all of the identities of the traffickers. Phillips and Engelbrecht never provided any of their 1,155 mule evidence to any PA DA.
- Both, in the movie as well as during the debriefs, Philips and Engelbrecht exhibited fluid biographies that didn’t survive a cursory evaluation. In one example of resume padding (min 15:30 in the movie), Engelbrecht claims that Phillips has 30 years of deep background in the “Election Intelligence” space. Phillips, on the other hand (min 16:00 in the movie) claims that he has 40 years of experience. If we go with Phillips’ version(who is 61), than he must have been doing “election intelligence” while still in college.
- Phillips told the PA Senate leadership that he was currently working on several murder case investigations in GA and FL using his proprietary cell geo-tracking technology. When pressed on the details, he refused to give the FBI point of contact to corroborate their involvement. One of the cases discussed in the movie was the July 4, 2020 shooting death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, which TTV claims to have helped solve. This case however was solved independently by the GA PD within two weeks of the murder. Phillips and Engelbrecht also claimed that in November 2020, they met FBI Agents from the Washington field office in Houston, TX, and passed on the trafficker’s cell phone numbers, names, and home addresses. When asked to provide the names of FBI agents for vetting purpose, they again refused.
- Some of the TTV video clips of the ballot drop boxes shown in the movie are staged (see Video 1). Other videos have been stripped of their forensic watermark and overlays that were produced when exported from the VMS. Because of this, the videos have no evidentiary value because they’ve been edited.
- Thirty-one (31) states permit people other than the voter to return a completed ballot on behalf of another voter. For example, the ballot collection laws in Michigan state that: “An immediate family member or household member may deliver a ballot…” TTV didn’t filter out their footage detections by legal/illegal locations.
- In March 2022, TTV had a stolen valor incident involving a case of ballot harvesting prosecution and conviction in Yuma, Az. TTV claimed that they were involved in the investigation and that the “FBI nailed them [the persp]” using fingerprint detection. TTV had absolutely nothing to do with that case. Further-more, on a related note, the movie claims that voters in Georgia started wearing gloves to prevent their fingerprints from touching ballot envelopes after the two women in Yuma, AZ, were indicted on Dec. 23, 2020. This is also false for the following reasons:
- Ballot fraud, fall under the AZ AG’s (Mark Brnovich) jurisdiction. It was the AG who investigated and persecuted the case. The FBI didn’t “nail anyone” nor had anything to do with the investigation.
- The Arizona indictment didn’t mention anything about fingerprints.
- The charges against the women in Yuma, Az, came about after two Yuma men—Gary Snyder and David Lara—set up a hidden camera in hopes of uncovering ballot abuse long suspected to be occurring in their county. The video evidence was turned over to the Yuma County Sheriff, who forwarded it to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, who used it to identify the women and prosecute them.
- TTV’s portrayal of the ballot trafficking practice as leading to fraud on the scale of 400,000-810,000 illegal votes (min 52:00 in movie) is not supported by any concrete evidence. In this context, in the movie (min 54:10) Dennis Prager asks the million-dollar question, “What do you suspect, if you actually caught that person… [who is stuffing the drop box] at that moment, what would you see… whose name is on it [the ballot]?” Instead of providing a simple answer along the lines of ‘the ballot would have no name on it’ or ‘the name would have been foraged’, or ‘the person was dead’, the group proceeds to provide an ambiguous response about not having signature verification standards in place. Yes, there may have been illegal ballots printed on-demand at various locations, but neither the Amistad Project nor TTV has provided any real evidence to support this claim. In fact, when it comes to “illegal ballots”, TTV speaks from both side of their mouth as they’ve told the PA and the Wisconsin lawmakers that they didn’t believe that the trafficked ballots were illegal.
- All of the screen shots in the movie are post production CSI style bullshots. None show a real production system or live data. Everything we see in the movie by way of graphics is rip-off of POI and other Hollywood fictitious portrayals of intelligence operations.
Image 4: Ranges of cost for the storage of 1 Petabyte. In order to run analytics on 2 petabytes of video, the software would require $2-$6 million in a cluster of hardware like DGX A100, which TTV admitted to not having. The cost to stand up a data center to house this operation, IT services, and the software development team could add an additional $4-$8 million, bringing the total cost of this little project to $20-$40 millions.
Video 2: Jay Costa, the democratic Minority Leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, using the false TTV cell geo-tagging ping narrative to try and stop the real ongoing ballot trafficking investigation in PA
At this point, every neuron in your brain should be screaming that the 2000 Mules is just another grift/active measure fresh from the election disinformation assembly line of the Republican establishment. This cheap glass trinket has been embellished and polished through a massive marketing disinformation campaign and is now being packaged and sold as a certified high-grade diamond.
On a final, non-technical note, Mr. D’Souza, you may want to get yourself someone to vet the statements your subject matter experts make before you put them into your next blockbuster production. When you asked Hans von Spakovsky (min 1:09: 42 in the movie) where the organizations get all of those ballots, his response was “To quote Shakespeare, let me count the ways…”. The line is actually from the Sonnets from the Portuguese, a collection of 44 love sonnets written by Elizabeth Browning. If Shakespeare reviewed your movie, he would have likely said: “Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.”
PA Senate Public Hearing on Ballot Drop Boxes Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee hearing, March 31, 2022
Jim Martin, the Lehigh County republican DA confirms the PA Senate investigation results into ballot trafficking but refuses to persecute
Eshelman v. True the Vote, Inc. (4:20-cv-04034) District Court, S.D. Texas
Virginia senator’s law firm promotes GOP voter fraud lies
Jay Costa and PA AG Josh Shapiro had directed paid communications staffers to edit their Wikipedia pages with positive material
BILL MINOR: Ex-Mississippian lands in Texas hot water, 2005, Mississippi Daily Journal
Sonnets from the Portuguese – Sonnet 43 – By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Copyright 2022 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.