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From the Archive: Trevor Aaronson Exposes Concocted FBI Sting Operations

Buzzfeed News recently published a detailed investigation of the Wolverine Watchmen, a pro-Trump armed militia group in Michigan busted by the FBI in October 2020 for an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  The report reveals another concocted sting operation by the FBI.The detailed report from Buzzfeed is called Watching the Watchmen.  A later report about the domestic violence arrest of one of the FBI’s lead agents in the Wolverine sting, Richard Trask, is here.

Buzzfeed’s report, by Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison, offers credible evidence that the kidnap plot was managed by the FBI, using at least 12 confidential informants and an FBI agent for each suspect: “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 bee a conspiracy without them.”

Thanks to a suggestion from longtime listener Ian Berman, we are re-posting this interview with author and journalist Trevor Aaronson, who now reports for The Intercept.  It recaps hundreds of FBI investigations, mostly of Muslim Americans, tainted by similar tactics.  There are several other interviews with Aaronson in the archive, just enter his name in the search window at the top of the home page.

Here’s the text from the original 2017 podcast post:

In this new conversation with journalist Trevor Aaronson of The Intercept, we unpack key findings from his 4-part series of reports on almost 800 domestic terrorism cases since 9/11.  “You can count on two hands” the serious cases.  Aaronson wrote the book Terror Factory over 4 years ago, and continues to provide excellent coverage of the FBI and Justice Department’s use of paid informants, sting operations, and heavy-handed prosecutions to roll up an impressive record of domestic terrorist convictions; but when you scratch the surface, you find only a handful of serious cases.

We begin with a discussion of the overall weak coverage of the FBI and these cases in the corporate media, then look at the overview of 796 cases and how they were resolved.

We look at the Liberty City 7, a group of hustlers in Miami who were drawn into a plot because they were trying to grab the money dangled by an FBI handler. Aaronson notes that many of the convicts of the last 10 years are being released, with no evident concern about risks.

We also look at suspects who became informants and focus on Najibullah Zazi, a Denver man who Aaronson considers a real threat.  Zazi pled guilty 7 years ago, but has not been in prison; presumably, he’s out there setting up the next generation of suspects.  And we talk about Aaronson’s bizarre exchanges with Earnest Ujaama, who appeared to be an alQaeda courier, but was released after testifying in other cases.

And we talk about the prosecution of mentally challenged suspects, as well as a refutation of data used to claim that immigrants are a greater risk than people born in the US.