Angry, and armed, the militiamen in Michigan were gearing up, getting ready to unleash their fury over an unjust government and zeroing in on a target who they believed upended their lives with pandemic restrictions: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
They trained with live assault weapons; skulked around Whitmer’s summer mansion in the dark as they allegedly plotted a wild scheme to kidnap her, even relying on an Iraq war veteran among them for his tactical experience.
The June 2020 plot by the Wolverine Watchmen — which authorities claim included the possible use of a stun gun on Whitmer and talk of blowing up a bridge to prevent cops from giving chase — never came to pass, broken up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a celebrated bust in which 14 people have been arrested so far.
But as it was revealed that the FBI had at least a dozen informants heavily involved in the Watchmen — including that Iraq veteran — critics say the G-Men did as much to prod the plot as they did to prevent it from happening in the first place.
The agents took an active part in the scheme from its inception, according to court filings, evidence and dozens of interviews examined by BuzzFeed. Some members of the Wolverine Watchmen are accusing the feds of entrapment.
One FBI informant from Wisconsin allegedly helped organize meetings where the first inklings of the Whitmer plot surfaced, even paying for hotel rooms and food to entice people to attend, BuzzFeed reported. The Iraq veteran, identified as “Dan” by BuzzFeed, allegedly shelled out for transportation costs to militia meetings and apparently goaded members to advance the plot.
Kareem Johnson, a black, left-wing attorney representing Pete Musico, one of the 14 arrested, told The Post the FBI played an outsize — and, at the very least, inappropriate — part in the incident. Before the bureau was involved, Johnson and other attorneys said, the Watchmen weren’t even considered a violent threat.
“The FBI knew these people had some beliefs and were egging them on and providing help and ammunition,” Johnson said. “They encouraged, helped instigate and escalated the criminal conduct of those individuals. At the end of the day, there were almost as many FBI agents leading the group as the other people in the group.”
It’s not the first time the FBI’s use of informants has come under fire.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI has reportedly recruited thousands of informants. Some, according to a recent investigation in The New York Times that centered on the dubious arrest and conviction of the so-called “Herald Square Bomber” by the use of an informant, said they were retaliated against if they refused.
Shahawar Matin Siraj, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for trying to blow up Herald Square during a 2004 plot. The lonely 21-year-old, who had just moved to New York from Pakistan, ultimately decided he couldn’t go forward with the plan, and apparently backed out of the scheme despite pressure from a pal, Osama Eldawoody, who turned out to be an FBI informant. Siraj was arrested anyway.
Notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger always denied it, but the FBI admitted he’d been an informant for several years, beginning in 1975. While dishing out intel about various Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, crime families, Bulger was moved with impunity and without fear of prosecution when running his Winter Hill Gang out of Southie.
And questions still linger about the FBI’s relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, who carried out the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The Tsarnaevs, however, didn’t make the bombs, and cops in Boston told Newsweek in 2018 they believe the FBI is protecting whoever did.
“It appears to me that there are allegations, with evidentiary support, that the FBI may have or currently is infiltrating, inciting or spawning alleged fringe group operations in this country,” attorney Darren Richie told The Post. “The citizens of this country deserve to know if any of the stories permeating this subject are valid.”
Richie represents ex-DEA special agent Mark Sami Ibrahim, who was arrested Tuesday for allegedly trespassing at the Capitol with a gun during the Jan. 6 riot. Ibrahim allegedly claimed to investigators he was at the Capitol to help a friend who was documenting the event for the FBI.
At least one veteran FBI agent dismissed allegations of “entrapment” against the agency in the Michigan case.
Danny Coulson, a former deputy assistant director of the FBI who led the 1995 search for and arrest of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, told The Post cries of entrapment have long been used by perps and he doesn’t believe the FBI acted improperly in Michigan.
But he said that he and other FBI agents, both past and present, have “very grave concerns” about today’s bureau.
Coulson said he was shocked at the FBI’s tweet last week urging citizens to monitor “family members and peers” for signs of extremism. “The bureau’s job is to collect evidence, not to develop informants,” Coulson said. “That was inappropriate.”
Coulson said he and others are “very upset” the FBI hasn’t arrested anti-government and anti-fascist protesters who have been leading violent demonstrations in Portland and Seattle for more than a year — yet are bearing down so hard on those arrested for the insurrection at the Capitol.
Coulson used to run the Portland, Ore. FBI office and said the FBI has the jurisdiction under racketeering statutes to go after the activists who set fire and vandalized federal office buildings and threatened police.
“I am not demeaning what happened that day,” Coulson said of Jan. 6. “But I’m asking why [those] people are being punished at this level and others aren’t. In Portland and Seattle you clearly have federal laws being violated in plain sight and nothing done.”
Asked for comment, the FBI’s Portland office referred The Post to the bureau’s Washington, DC office, who pointed to FBI Director Chris Wray’s overall statement on FBI Oversight at the House Judiciary Committee last month.
“We do not investigate groups or individuals based on the exercise of First Amendment protected activity alone. But, when we encounter violence and threats to public safety, the FBI will not hesitate to take appropriate action,” Wray said at the time.
Renewed criticism of the FBI’s use of informants comes amid a set of embarrassing episodes for the G-men, starting last week with the arrest of Richard Trask, the lead agent in the attempted kidnapping case involving Whitmer.
Trask, 39, allegedly slammed his wife’s head into a nightstand and choked her with both hands after the pair had attended a swinger’s party, according to a report. The wife, who was covered in blood and had “severe” bruises around her neck, according to court documents, managed to stop the attack by grabbing his crotch, authorities said in court documents.
Last week, Special Agent Karen Veltri in Las Vegas claimed she was sexually harassed by a supervisor, who texted her a photo of a rainbow-colored dildo near his crotch, and spoke to her about his “ground balls,” the woman claimed in a lawsuit.
And in the latest black eye for the agency, a top FBI official was accused of having a fling with an underling, then participating in a personnel decision involving her lover. The Thursday report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general accused Jill Tyson, the assistant director of the bureau’s Office of Congressional Affairs, of misconduct and failing to disclose the relationship.
The missteps and criticisms come as the Biden administration announced that white supremacists and militias inside the US are the biggest threat to national security.
Wayne Manis, a former FBI agent took on the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Weather Underground before retiring in 1994, said the bureau today bears little resemblance to the place he worked for years. Manis, author of the 2017 book “Street Agent: He took on the mob, the Klan and the terrorists-The true story,” said the new FBI has an agenda he doesn’t understand.
“I and many of my friends from the old FBI are completely astounded about seeing things that we would have moved on, being totally ignored over the past year,” he said. “Burning a police station? Where are the arrests? There’ve been multiple incidents of violence by Antifa and BLM activists that fall under FBI statutes. The majority of domestic terrorism is on the left but we’re being told it’s coming from the right.”
Kurt Siuzdak left his job as an FBI agent — after almost 25 years — in March because, he told The Post, bureau management does not hold bosses accountable. He blames that on politicization at the top.
Siuzdak, who is also a lawyer and wrote an upcoming book on whistleblowers, helped Veltri file her sexual harassment lawsuit last week.
“She got threatened with being investigated for misconduct and they gave the guy who sent her the dick pic an award for professionalism,” Siuzdak said. “That’s today’s real FBI.”