Wayne Simmons, who falsely claimed to have had a 27 year career in the CIA, was presented on Fox News as a "former CIA operative" and expert on terrorism from 2002 until his arrest in 2015, over his fraudulent claims of government service.
Simmons was indicted by a federal grand jury "on charges of major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government" and was arrested on October 15, 2015. On April 29, 2016, Simmons pleaded guilty to "major fraud against the United States, wire fraud and being a felon in possession of a firearm," as described by The Washington Post, and was subsequently sentenced to 33 months in prison.
As a "former CIA operative," Simmons appeared regularly on Fox News; was a contributor to the conservative publication Human Events; served on an Accuracy in Media "investigative" panel about the attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya; participated in a Pentagon PR effort (the Pentagon military analyst program); and sought security clearance for jobs with defense contractors such as BAE Systems.
- 1 Fox Commentator Simmons Pleads Guilty to Fraud
- 2 Simmons Conned His Way into a Career as a Fox News Terrorism Expert
- 3 Claims of Military and Intelligence Agency Service
- 4 Accuracy in Media Erases Simmons' Name from Benghazi Committee after Indictment
- 5 SourceWatch Resources
- 6 External Links
Fox Commentator Simmons Pleads Guilty to Fraud
Simmons was indicted by a federal grand jury "on charges of major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government" and was arrested on October 15, 2015. He pleaded guilty on April 29, 2016. In the plea, Simmons "admitted to making false statements about his financial and criminal history. He also acknowledged that there were no records or evidence that he was ever employed by the CIA." He also admitted to defrauding a former girlfriend out of $125,000 through a real estate scam.
In a press release, the U.S. Department of Justice described the charges:
- According to the indictment, Simmons falsely claimed he worked as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1973 to 2000, and used that false claim in an attempt to obtain government security clearances and work as a defense contractor, including at one point successfully getting deployed overseas as an intelligence advisor to senior military personnel. According to the indictment, Simmons also falsely claimed on national security forms that his prior arrests and criminal convictions were directly related to his supposed intelligence work for the CIA, and that he had previously held a top secret security clearance. The indictment also alleges that Simmons defrauded an individual victim out of approximately $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.
As reported by The Washington Post,
- "Wayne Simmons is a fraud," Dana J. Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. "Simmons has no military or intelligence background, or any skills relevant to the positions he attained through his frauds."
Simmons Conned His Way into a Career as a Fox News Terrorism Expert
Beginning in 2002 until his indictment in 2015, Simmons appeared regularly on Fox News as a "former CIA operative" and expert on terrorism. Simmons recounted meeting a Republican National Committee PR executive on a train in 2001. After hearing Simmons' invented CIA career history, the RNC staffer reportedly connected him to paid media training and put him in touch with Fox.
As The New York Times described,
- By the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Simmons was a regular on the network, talking primarily about terrorism... His opinions were cartoonishly belligerent. He defended the enhanced-interrogation techniques employed by the Bush-era C.I.A. In 2005, after Al Jazeera broadcast footage of Ayman al-Zawahri calling for jihad on the West, Simmons suggested one way to contain the terrorist’s message was to "locate Al Jazeera and blow them off the map." He urged lawmakers to consider a moratorium on the construction of mosques in the United States. After The Times exposed the Bush administration’s covert terrorist-finance-tracking program in 2006, he suggested the paper’s sources ought to be imprisoned and maybe even face a firing squad.
Fox News Claims Simmons "Never a Contributor"
After Simmons was arrested on fraud charges in October 2015, a Fox News spokesperson disclaimed ties to him, telling CNN that Simmons "'was never a contributor for Fox News,' and that he appeared on the network only as a non-paid guest. She therefore declined to comment further."
Claims of Military and Intelligence Agency Service
Simmons did enlist in the U.S. Navy in 1973, according to prosecutors. But he was discharged for medical reasons after a few weeks.
A biographical note asserted that Simmons "was recruited by the CIA in 1973 while in the U.S. Navy. He became part of an Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Group where he spent 8 of his 27 year career working against Narco Terrorists. Simmons spearheaded Deep Cover Intel Ops against some of the world's most dangerous Drug Cartels from Central and South America and the Middle East. In addition to working against Narco terrorists he ran Special Operations against Arms Smugglers, Counterfeiters, Cyber-terrorists and Industrial and Economic Espionage. His Deep Cover Intelligence Operations helped lead to the seizures of marijuana, cocaine and heroin with a combined value of over $1 Billion Dollars."
But as The Washington Post reported,
- Four former senior CIA officials interviewed by prosecutors said the dramatic undercover operations Simmons described were imaginary.
Simmons' bio further claimed, "In 2004, under Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, he became a part of the Pentagon Outreach Program for Military and Intelligence Analysts. Simmons was one of the first outside Intelligence officers to visit GITMO (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) in July, 2005 and again in July, 2006. Also in July, 2006 Simmons was given the distinguished honor and pleasure to serve as a consultant to the White House as they constructed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which was signed into law by President Bush in October 2006," it states.
Simmons was not an intelligence officer. It appears to be true that he traveled to the Guantanamo Bay base with Rumsfeld as a result of his Fox News spot. However, the trip was a PR effort requiring no security clearance.
- After starting at Fox, Simmons became part of a group of military veterans cultivated by the Defense Department under Donald H. Rumsfeld. He traveled to Guantanamo Bay with the group. Former Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld, told prosecutors that there was no vetting done to be in the program, because it required no security clearance.
Pentagon Military Analyst Program
In April 2008 documents obtained by The New York Times revealed that Simmons had been recruited as one of over 75 retired military officers involved in the Pentagon military analyst program. Participants appeared on television and radio news shows as military analysts, and/or penned newspaper op/ed columns. The program was launched in early 2002 by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. The idea was to recruit "key influentials" to help sell a wary public on "a possible Iraq invasion."
In fact, Simmons' role was the result of "a chance meeting with a public-relations professional" that "helped Simmons parlay his supposed CIA career into the commentator’s spot on Fox News, according to court filings." Simmons caught the attention of the Pentagon program due to his Fox News performances.
Accuracy in Media Erases Simmons' Name from Benghazi Committee after Indictment
Simmons was a member of the "Citizens Committee On Benghazi" organized by the right-wing Accuracy in Media that promoted conspiracy theories about the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. On Fox News and elsewhere, Simmons promoted false theories about the attack, such as claiming that the Obama administration ordered military personnel to "stand down" during the attack. (A U.S. House committee led by Republicans confirmed that there was no such order.)
- Alex French, "The Plot to Take Down a Fox News Analyst," The New York Times Magazine, March 6, 2016.</ref>
- Rachel Weiner, "Fox News commentator who feds say faked a CIA career sentenced to 33 months in prison," The Washington Post, July 14, 2016.
- David Barstow, "Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand," New York Times, April 20, 2008.
- "Wayne Simmons", The Intelligence Summit 2007, accessed April 2008.
- U.S. Department of Justice, "Former Cable News Commentator Arrested and Charged with Fraud," press release, October 15, 2015.
- U.S. Department of Justice, "Former Fox News Commentator Pleads Guilty to Fraud," press release, April 29, 2016.
- Dylan Byers, "Wayne Simmons, recurring Fox News guest, pleads guilty to defrauding the government," CNN, April 29, 2016.
- Alex French, "The Plot to Take Down a Fox News Analyst," The New York Times, March 6, 2016.
- Dylan Byers, "Wayne Simmons, recurring Fox News guest, charged with lying about CIA ties," CNN, October 15, 2015.
- Oliver Willis, "At Fringe Press Conference, Fox News Figures Call For New Benghazi Investigation," Media Matters for America, July 30, 2013.
- "No stand down order or military missteps in Benghazi attack, GOP-controlled intel panel finds," Associated Press/Fox News, November 21, 2014.
- Accuracy in Media, "Members of the CCB," organization website, June 18, 2015. Archived by Internet Wayback Machine, accessed August 2016.
- Accuracy in Media, "Members of the CCB," organization website, October 18, 2015. Archived by Internet Wayback Machine, accessed August 2016.