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THE FBI, THE MICHIGAN KIDNAP PLOT, AND JANUARY 6. You should read this new story in Buzzfeed News on the plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. It concerns the arrests last October of more than a dozen men, connected with Michigan militia groups, who are charged with planning to grab Whitmer and put her on some sort of “trial,” in part out of anger at her lockdown orders during the COVID pandemic.
But the news in the Buzzfeed story is not really about the suspects. It’s about the FBI. As it turned out, the bureau had deeply infiltrated the group, with perhaps more FBI informants and undercover agents working the case than there were alleged conspirators. But the FBI did not limit themselves to just watching and listening as the suspects allegedly plotted.
“Some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported,” Buzzfeed’s Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison write. “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.”
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A “longtime government informant from Wisconsin,” the article continues, not only helped organize meetings in various states where militia members discussed possible actions, he “even paid for some hotel rooms and food as an incentive to get people to come.” (It was all ultimately paid for by the FBI.) Meanwhile, the bureau pushed for its informants to “bring more people into the developing kidnapping plot.” The FBI kept a close eye on a militia group known as the Three Percenters, as well as the Oath Keepers.
Those names should be familiar to anyone following the investigation into the January 6 Capitol riot. And anyone reading the Buzzfeed article comes away with the question: If the FBI had so deeply infiltrated the Michigan militia plot, did it not also infiltrate the groups that planned to go to the Capitol on January 6?
In a larger sense, the FBI has long been proud of the work it did infiltrating and bringing down the Ku Klux Klan. And in recent years, bureau officials have warned repeatedly that right-wing militias, or white supremacists, or whatever you want to call them, present the single greatest threat to the domestic security of the United States. So wouldn’t it be surprising if the FBI had not infiltrated the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and others? If so, what did the bureau know about whatever planning was involved in those groups’ actions on January 6?
The Buzzfeed article discounts that possibility by saying that while law enforcement knew all the ins and outs of the Michigan plot, it was caught completely unaware by January 6. Perhaps. But the article shines new light on existing questions about the bureau’s actions.
A caution: None of this is to say that the Capitol riot was an FBI operation or that the federal government caused the riot. That is simply not the case, and the people who ransacked the Capitol that day are responsible for their own actions. But just as in the Michigan matter, where the defendants will argue in court that they were entrapped by law enforcement, the public should know what U.S. law enforcement knew and did in the lead-up to January 6.
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