by Angelo Codevilla
The FBI-generated indictment of six men on charges of terrorism for planning to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has all the earmarks of what has become that corrupt agency’s standard operating procedure. Their lawyers are sure to claim they were victims of entrapment. If the case comes to trial, I doubt a jury will convict them.
During the eight years I spent supervising the intelligence agencies for the Senate Intelligence Committee, I watched as what had been a clerisy of strait-laced guardians of truth and justice was becoming a bunch of lazy bureaucrats eager to serve the ruling class’ prejudices.
No longer doing the hard and dangerous work of investigating deeply connected criminals and subversives such as the Mafia and well-financed, politically supported subversives, the FBI limited its vision to politically correct “profiles,” and started chasing small fry. Easy targets, defended by no one. What’s not to like?
After 9/11, the FBI spent few years going after very petty Islamists while covering its collective eyes to the work of major sources of trouble, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi Arabia—each beloved by parts of the ruling class. But before and after this period, these profiles more often than not pointed to the ruling class’ favorite enemy: fellow Americans “excessively concerned with their liberties.”
The FBI’s method? Place agents among the target group, stoke their sentiments, and lead them to say or do something that could be characterized as a crime, then arrest them and claim credit for foiling a plot. In intelligence lingo, that is provocation. In legal terms, it’s entrapment. By whatever name, this is the work of cheap, dirty cops.
In the 1950s, the joke was that any meeting of a Communist Party cell in the New York area was likely to consist of two-thirds infiltrators, half from the FBI and the other half from the New York Police Department. But these FBI infiltrators, like those of the Vietnam era in the 1960s and early ’70s, and like those who penetrated organized crime were merely watching. Doing an honest job. They were not provoking or entrapping, not creating something that would never have been there except for their presence.
Fast forward to our time. The contrast between how the FBI behaves with regard to persons connected to the ruling class and those who are not speaks for itself. The 918 Americans who died in mass suicide in Jonestown Guyana in November 1978 were victims of a cult that had been closely associated with the California Democratic Party. Relatives of the people who were being drawn in had complained to the FBI. But the FBI had refused to keep an eye on the movement, and later officially argued that doing so would have infringed on its political and religious liberties.
And yet when the Tea Party movement arose to protest collusion between the Republican and Democratic parties against popular sentiment on a host of political issues, the FBI rushed to infiltrate it.
Having addressed countless meetings of Tea Parties in Northern California from 2010 to 2012, I experienced this infiltration directly. The audiences were respectful, and asked informative questions. When, occasionally, I got a question that seemed to push me to say something inflammatory, I made it a point to find and speak to the individual who had asked it. Invariably, the person fit a profile with which I had become familiar from my years overseeing the FBI: a man in his late 30s, who had recently moved into the community and worked for a big company, often remotely, and whose echoing of the sentiments surrounding him sounded studied. I would then advise him on how to write his report to headquarters. Generally, the man would walk away.
In the Michigan case, it seems the FBI had started by monitoring the men’s social media traffic and, on the basis of “excess concern for liberty” (prithee, what is that?) had obtained warrants for wiretaps and had inserted one or more infiltrators. But up to this time, no crime could be alleged—only what the FBI and its local affiliate considered a bad attitude.
What exactly was the infiltrator’s role in moving the men from mere talk to incipient, allegedly criminal action? That is going to be the essence of the trial. The FBI will produce recordings made by the infiltrator. When was the device turned on, and when off? To what extent do those intermissions and/or additions made to the recording contribute to the impression that this was a real plot hatched autonomously?
The accused will have the government’s and media’s full weights used against them, as would you or I.
The jury will have to decide whether the FBI was protecting society from sociopaths or whether it is itself sociopathic.
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Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).