FBI informants may have actually steered kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: report

FBI informants may have actually steered kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: report
AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File
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The FBI found itself in hot water following an explosive report published Tuesday by BuzzFeed News that suggested the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer may have never happened if not for the FBI’s informants and undercover agents encouraging suspects into what many are calling “entrapment.” 

The FBI reportedly relied on an Iraq War vet to provide intel on the actions of a group called Wolverine Watchmen. The informant, Dan, allegedly was alarmed by messages shared between members of the group. (BuzzFeed News said it was withholding the last name of the informant due to safety concerns.) Dan contacted the police and was then put in touch with the bureau.

Dan allegedly wore a wire for half a year, gathering evidence against the group, and was paid $54,793.95, including reimbursements for the work he carried out over the six months. 

The FBI reportedly also used at least a dozen informants, some from other states, and undercover agents to aid 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 details how a government informant from Wisconsin held meetings across the U.S. where many of the suspects in the alleged kidnapping plot met for the first time, and developed plans to carry out the kidnapping. The informant also provided incentives for members to come such as food, drink and hotel rooms. 

The report noted that Dan was told by the FBI he was allowed to lie to the group, but only had to be honest with the FBI and not engage in committing any crimes. 

In the report, it was also noted that entrapment was not allowed 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 group military tactics such as how to clear buildings and encouraged members of the group to go through with the plan, including scouting out a cabin belonging to Governor Whitmer, where they planned to kidnap her. 

The report said that at the Michigan Capitol, the men met 37-year-old Adam Fox, who was said to be the most aggressive member of the group, who made alleged calls for violence, which made other members of the group uncomfortable. Despite members of the group requesting Fox not be part of the events, Dan kept Fox around.

The report states that members of the group believed Fox to be not of sane mind. Dan reportedly encouraged Fox to “write a manifesto” on his belief system and plans, but Fox’s former fiance told Fox it was a bad idea. 

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 also noted that in the days following the thwarting of the plot, the U.S. government were “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.”

Read the full 9,500-word report here.

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