The FBI is under public scrutiny after a bombshell report indicated that the alleged kidnapping plot against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer might not have come to fruition without FBI informants and undercover agents guiding the suspect’s actions.
A Buzzfeed report published last week alleged that confidential informants did much more than passively observe and report on activities of the Wolverine Watchmen, the Michigan based group charged with the kidnapping attempt, outlining how informants were entangled in almost every aspect of the attempted crime, to the “extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.”
The FBI’s case was heavily reliant on the participation of an informant identified as “Dan,” an Iraq War veteran who joined the group through social media, then became alarmed by the anti-police rhetoric they were sharing and told a friend in law enforcement.
The FBI contacted Dan and convinced him to wear a wire for six months to collect evidence against the group, but he was reportedly heavily compensated for his involvement. Dan received a new car, computer, and cash that totaled to $54,793.95 in reimbursements, which is “considerably more than most families in Dan’s part of Michigan bring home in a year.”
Dan was told by the agency that he couldn’t engage in committing crimes, but he could lie to the group as long as he was honest with agents. Unlike government officials, who are prohibited from using tactics that would be considered entrapment, informants have the leeway to coerce suspects into committing crimes, and have historically even threatened to hurt suspects for trying to back out and paid them “large sums of money” to do so.
Dan was far from a passive player, in his time infiltrating the Watchmen, he rose to become their second in command by training them in military tactics to breach buildings, organizing collaboration with other suspects, transporting members to those meetings, and “baiting the trap that led to the arrest.”
He brought in the group’s most antagonistic conspirator, Adam Fox, whose violent tendencies other members were so uncomfortable with, they backed out of events. Dan reportedly spent hours on the phone and meeting up with Fox, who he encouraged to “write a manifesto” about his belief system.
Through his influence, Dan was able to hook the group up with another informant from Wisconsin, who had been recruiting like-minded individuals on a national scale. Dan drove five Watchman and thousands of rounds of ammunition to the Wisconsin informant’s national training exercise, and subsidized the food, gas, and lodging for the group on the FBI’s dime.
When one of the new national members proposed kidnapping Whitmer, several Watchmen left the group, but the FBI pressed Dan to escalate the plan. The agent in charge of the investigation told Dan to get members of the group to surveil Whitmer’s home, he took them, and they discussed the logistics of blowing up the bridge on the route to her house.
Dan managed to insert two undercover FBI agents into the Watchmen’s ranks, and the day after the surveillance took place, one of the undercovers convinced the group he could blow up the bridge with C-4 if they could raise $4,000.
In early October, Dan lured some members of the group to a meeting with the undercover agent under the guise that he had training gear to supply them with, and tried to get them to pony up “good-faith” money for the kits.
Dan drove them to the location with a total of $298 in “good faith” cash, which the FBI claims was for the C-4, where they were met by the FBI and arrested for the kidnapping plot. Arrests of the other Watchmen were carried out simultaneously throughout the country.
Two of the men pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department, but many of the group member’s defense lawyers are claiming the FBI entrapped their clients, citing that Dan was a paid informant who played an “extremely active and coercive role” in the plot.
The attorney’s pointed out that as a combat veteran, he taught the Watchmen the military tactics that made the group attractive to Fox, who masterminded the kidnapping plan, despite members’ objections to his involvement. They also noted that Dan ensured they had an opportunity to conspire by playing their “personal chauffeur” to meetings, “He even provided snacks.”
One of the men’s lawyers filed an entrapment motion in May, which is still pending. In the court filing he wrote, “The Confidential Informant took the Wolverine Watchmen from YouTube copycats to a combat group with military-style training.”