The FBI was thrown into controversy on Tuesday afternoon following an explosive report that was published by BuzzFeed News that suggested that the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer may have never even happened if not for the actions that FBI informants and undercover agents had in spurring suspects into action in what many critics called “entrapment.”
The FBI reportedly relied on an Iraq War vet to provide information to the bureau about the actions of a group called Wolverine Watchmen. The informant, named “Dan,” allegedly became alarmed by messages that he saw being shared between members in the group and, after talking to a police buddy of his, was put in touch with the FBI.
“Dan” allegedly wore a wire for half a year, collecting hundreds of hours of evidence against members of the group. “Dan” reportedly was paid $54,793.95, which included reimbursements, for his work over the span of over six months, which was “considerably more than most families in Dan’s part of Michigan bring home in a year.”
The FBI also reportedly used at least a dozen informants, including some from other states, and also deployed undercover agents to assist in the process of setting the trap for the suspects.
The report states:
An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.
The report documents how a longtime government informant from Wisconsin set up meetings across the U.S. where many of the suspects met for the first time and where initial plans were developed. The informant even provided incentives for people to come, like food and hotel rooms.
The report noted that “Dan” was told by the FBI that he could lie to the members of the group and that he just had to be honest with the FBI and couldn’t engage in committing any crimes.
The report further noted that entrapment is a big no-no for law enforcement officials but that “confidential informants enjoy tremendous leeway to get the goods”:
Informants in cases over recent decades have badgered suspects into committing crimes, paid them large sums of money to do so, and even threatened to hurt them if they backed out, according to an analysis by Jesse Norris, a professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Fredonia. In not one of those instances was the prosecution forced to drop the case.
Dan reportedly taught the accused men military tactics on how to clear buildings and allegedly prodded members of the group into moving forward with their plan, including while they scouted out a cabin belonging to the governor where they had planned to kidnap her.
The report said that at the Michigan Capitol, the men met 37-year-old Adam Fox, who was portrayed by the report as being the most aggressive member of the group, up to the point where he made other members uncomfortable with his alleged calls for violence and they ask that he not be included in events. But Dan, the FBI informant, kept Fox around, despite objects from the accused men. The report suggested that Fox essentially over night upon the news that Whitmer was closing down gyms in the state in response to the pandemic, an outlet that Fox used to deal with life’s stresses.
The report stated:
Fox, some of the Watchmen began privately remarking to one another, appeared to operate on a different level. On June 18, the Watchmen met Fox as a group for the first time outside the Capitol in Lansing at a Second Amendment Rally. He made a show of patting everyone down to check for recording devices — he failed to notice Dan’s — and seemed prepared to storm the building that very day. Fox’s plan A was to rush in and execute all the legislators on live television, according to court documents and testimony. If that didn’t work, there was always plan B, which was to lock the doors and burn the building to the ground with everyone in it. …
[One member of the group] became convinced that Fox was out of his mind and repeatedly shared those concerns with Dan, court testimony shows. Morrison, the group’s commanding officer, also expressed reservations about Fox. But Dan used his growing influence to include Fox in group meetings and to develop his own personal relationship with him. Fox, in turn, began referring to Dan as his “brother,” according to Fox’s former fiancé. …
Dan was now the Watchmen’s highest-ranking officer. He and Fox began planning in earnest, meeting up and spending hours on the phone. At one point, Dan encouraged Fox to “write a manifesto” of his belief system and his plans, but Keller, his fiancé, said she told him that was a terrible idea.
The report noted that several other members of the group expressed reservations about kidnapping Whitmer, saying that they had joined the group for training. Meanwhile, Dan, who was getting paid by the FBI, was trying to recruit other people into the plot as the FBI kept pushing him “to use his influence to bring more people into the developing kidnapping plot.”
The report noted that in the days following the takedown of those involved in the alleged plot, the U.S. government “were knocking on doors across a wide swath of the country, seizing computers and cellphones, asking about guns and, in particular, political ideologies, according to several individuals who were questioned.”
The report noted how even a progressive black public defender, who was representing one of the suspects who flew a Confederate flag outside his home, said that he believes that his client was being charged not for his actions but his speech, and he did not believe that his client was a terrorist.
Read the full 9,500-word report here.
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