Posted on July 24, 2021

The Whitmer Kidnapping Case Reveals the FBI’s New Counterterrorism Target Is You

Matthew Braun, The Federalist, July 23, 2021

This week included interesting revelations about the FBI’s case against the handful of people charged with plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Of 14 people indicted, five (or more) were working as informants for the FBI.

As Revolver has noted, the five people who seem to be the FBI informants were also the people who seemed to have all the kidnapping ideas and access to all the equipment needed for a paramilitary assault on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s vacation home. At one point, the leadership of the conspiracy met, and three of the five people in that discussion were FBI.

I worked in counterterrorism for more than 10 years, so I understand all the reasons a federal agent would argue this isn’t technically entrapment. The people didn’t know they were surrounded by feds and continued to take overt actions that advanced the fantasy conspiracy, and that’s illegal. Okay, fine.

But this got me thinking about some of the old ISIS and al-Qaeda cases I reviewed when I was helping prosecute terrorists who actually killed people. I remember giving my buddies in the FBI a hard time when they would “win” a domestic terror case and all they had was a kook who had been running his mouth on the internet.


Terrorism, as it turns out, is hard. Recruiting isn’t easy, and finding the right people is difficult. A person who is willing to train, travel, keep secrets, and face a very high chance of dying is not statically all that common.


So the FBI does the heavy lifting in these cases. The suspects start out by talking about jihad or revolution or overthrowing the government, and someone in their chat group decides he should tell the FBI.

The people the FBI sends in to look at the chats or communicate with the suspects aren’t just a fly on the wall. They offer to help. They offer bombs. They offer direction. They suggest targets.

They tell the suspects they need money for the cause. They ask them when they can fly to Syria or Iraq or wherever.

The Intercept did some marvelous reporting on this in 2017. They noted, quite correctly, that in hundreds and hundreds of cases the FBI and Department of Justice had brought to trial there were no victims of violence, and the FBI informants were the primary driving characters in the fictional worlds the suspects had been caught up in.

In case after case, it’s the FBI that creates the illusion of the ability to do harm. There are no bombs, no ability to launch an attack. There is no group ready to meet and support them, no weapons smugglers, or expert marksmen. There is only the anger of a lonely person screaming into the void of the internet, and the only one who answers that screaming is the FBI.


The problem is not that we’re going to find out that the January 6 case is going to be full of FBI agents and informants, just like the Whitmer kidnapping case. The problem is we are starting to understand this is standard procedure for counterterrorism. {snip}


Now, 20 years later, with Osama bin Laden dead and the United States leaving Afghanistan, do we think those GS-15 positions, or those Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, are going to go away? No. They need work to justify those budgets, and America needs a new enemy.

The difference is that the government has begun to use the tools that were developed to fight a credible foreign threat now to fight against the political opponents of Democrats.