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The Michigan Kidnapping Conspiracy: How a US army veteran-turned-FBI informant instigated a plot to abduct a Governor

Dan began training with the members of the 'Wolverine Watchmen'. He taught them tactical skills that he learnt during his tenure in the army. He helped the group members build a mock-up of the house of Michigan Michigan State Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The Michigan kidnapping plot was one of the sensational news stories of 2020. About 13 people were arrested for allegedly conspiring to abduct Michigan State Governor Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the State government over strict Covid-19 rules. The said arrests were made by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and it was alleged that the conspiracy was a prelude to the Capitol Hill riots that took place on January 6 this year. However, an exclusive news report by Buzzfeed shows how FBI entrapped and instigated the kidnapping plot through its informants.

In March last year, a US Army veteran identified as ‘Dan’ logged onto Facebook to connect with individuals who liked guns. While navigating through gun rights pages, he stumbled upon a private group named ‘Wolverine watchmen’. The group members identified themselves as ‘US patriots’ who were looking for like-minded individuals. Following a brief screening, Dan was inducted into the group and was given the opportunity to train with them.

He was asked to download an encrypted messaging app called Wire. Dan was asked about his political views. He responded by saying that he was a libertarian, believed in small governments, and took an oath to defend the US Constitution. After being convinced by his answers, the group members inducted him into the main chat of ‘Wolverine watchmen’. Dan, who had served in Iraq as a fire support specialist, wanted to preserve his tactical expertise. His main objective behind joining the group was to hone his skills by training with other gun enthusiasts and shooting at targets in the woods.

FBI asked Dan to work as an ‘undercover’ agent

There was a plethora of jokes and memes about the Second Amendment (Right to own firearms) in the group chat. It came as a shocker to the US army veteran when a fellow group member named Peter Musico asked everyone to download a hunting app. The app was meant to track down the addresses of police officers so that they could be murdered at their homes. A mortified Dan then showed the chat messages to a friend, who happened to be a police officer. He then received a message from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Jayson Chambers, who asked him to come to their office.

Instead of taking the matter into their own hands, the FBI asked Dan to work for them as an undercover agent and provide information about the activities of ‘Wolverine Watchmen’. Although he was initially hesitant about the new assignment, Dan eventually agreed to be a part of the undercover mission. Unlike other informants, the FBI did not promise him any benefits and only appealed to his goodwill. On March 17 last year, he was officially recruited as an informant and was codenamed ‘Thor’. His job was to deceive the group members, pass on crucial information to the FBI, participate in group activities with the condition that he must stop short of doing anything illegal.

Dan taught tactical skills to the Watchmen, FBI watched as they stormed Michigan Capitol

Dan began training with the members of the ‘Wolverine Watchmen’. He taught them tactical skills that he learnt during his tenure in the army. He helped the group members build a mock-up of the house of Michigan Michigan State Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Dan taught them how to break into the house and clear each room. Two weeks later on April 30, 2020, he went to the Michigan State Capitol with the Watchmen and joined a protest against Whitmer’s strict Covid-19 rules. The group members were planning to put their training to the test, in the presence of hundreds of police personnel.

The army veteran was accompanied to the protest by the founding members of ‘Wolverine Watchmen’, namely, Pete Musico, Joe Morrison, and Paul Bellar. All of them were equipped with AR-15 assault rifles, pistols, and ballistic body armour. Morrison and Musico talked about recruiting new members to the group but Dan overheard plans of storming the Michigan Capitol. Meanwhile, Bellar seemed excited to execute the plans while Musico waited patiently to catch the Michigan Governor as she came out of the emergency exit.

Dan was equipped with a wire and spoke to the FBI handlers, who were constantly monitoring his movements. While the Watchmen was planning to storm the Capitol, he was hoping that the FBI agents alert the police that was deployed at the site. But soon, the Watchmen were inside the State Capitol with their guns and the police did not resist the security breach. They were followed by a frenzied mob, which intimidated the State troopers inside the Capitol. Other than the group members and other ‘patriots’ was a 37-year-old man named Adam Fox. Unemployed and a gym freak, he was aghast at Whitmer for closing down gyms in the State.

Dan makes Fox a part of the Wolverine Watchmen

Fox was always looking for opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals. And Morrison too had decided that the Watchmen meet him. On one Sunday, they called Fox during a field training session but couldn’t hear anything due to poor connecting and the sound of raging bulets. By then, Dan was elevated to the post of second-in-command (Executive officer). He volunteered to call Adam Fox later in the day. After the training was over, he rushed to the FBI’s office in Flint and called Fox on a recorded line.

Fox lamented how patriots were misjudged as ‘white nationalists’, ‘racists’ and ‘domestic terrorists’. While vowing to take revenge, he added, “We just want our fucking Constitution upheld and we want all these lawless fucking tyrants out of fucking power. It’s that simple.” When Dan pestered him about his specific plans, he informed that his plan was to hogtie Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on a table for public display. Fox revealed his nefarious plans to take hostages but lamented that nothing could be done without 200 other men. In the presence of two FBI agents, Dan promised to help Fox execute his plans and assemble a large team of ‘patriots.’

Dan asked Fox to come and train with the ‘Wolverine Watchmen.’ Dan was unaware of the informants or the completes plans of the FBI. The operation, codenamed ‘Cold Snap’ by the FBI, was meant to nab the ‘domestic terrorists’. On June 18 last year, the Watchmen met Fox, who seemed ready to storm the Michigan Capitol yet again. His plan was to rush in and kill all legislators on live TV. And if the plan did not work out, he vowed to lock the doors and burnt the building down with all legislators in it.

Adam Fox encourages arson, kidnapping, and murder while Dan agrees to help him

Bellar, who was pictured in the Michigan Capitol breach, was skeptical about Fox’s plans to storm the building yet again. On June 28, Fox met the Watchmen, and his plan of breaking into the State Capitol was turned down. Musico had suggested the idea of kidnapping politicians or killing them after knocking on their doors late at night. After a few weeks, Dan drove the group members to Wisconsin for a national training exercise. He had paid for the food, lodging, and gas for the group members. When they again met on July 11, Dan discussed plans about manufacturing weapons.

Buzzfeed noted, “Dan was spending increasing amounts of time chatting with other Watchmen, talking to Fox and some of his friends on the phone, and attempting to recruit others who might be willing to participate in the evolving plot. By late August, Watchmen began reaching out to Morrison to tell him they no longer wanted to be members, but instead would continue to train with Dan and Fox, the informant later recounted in testimony.” Meanwhile, the FBI kept pushing Dan to recruit more members to execute the kidnapping plot. To lure new recruits, he promised to provide tactical gear, medical kits and plater carries. And Fox was increasingly focussed on Whitmer.

Informant Dan entraps group members, leading to their arrest

As per FBI’s plans, Dan drove Adam Fox, Wolverine Watchmen Daniel Harris, Kaleb Franks, and Dy Garbin to a warehouse under the pretext of buying explosives. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was waiting for them in full tactical gear, arrest warrants, and handcuffs. They were arrested and the FBI team also pretended to arrest Dan. With the exception of the army veteran, everyone was booked for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Dan was rewarded with $54,793.95, mortgage cover, a new phone, a computer, and vehicle.

Dan was not just a spectator to the conspiracy but a crucial part of it

Buzzfeed wrote, “Many of the defense attorneys have argued that the Watchmen would never have been involved in any kind of plot at all if it weren’t for Dan. It was Dan, the combat veteran, who taught the Watchmen the military tactics that made them attractive to someone like Fox, the attorneys claimed. It was Dan, too, they said, who had brought Fox into the group despite objections from multiple Watchmen that he seemed “crazy.” It was Dan, along with Robeson — another informant — who had supported Fox’s kidnapping plan, and Dan who acted as the personal chauffeur to the Watchmen, Fox, and others to ensure they had every opportunity to conspire.”

It further added, “An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. 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”

Other FBI informants also instigated the Michigan kidnapping plot

A biker from Wisconsin was also an undercover FBI agent. He helped organise meetings across the country and laid the initial foundation of the kidnapping plot. He even paid for food and lodging to encourage more people to join the Michigan conspiracy. It is reported that at least 12 confidential informants assisted the investigation into the matter. There was another FBI informant who guided the group members about possible locations to place explosives while a man who went by the alias of ‘Mark’ also worked under FBI’s directions. All the 14 men, with the exception of one, have pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy and claim that “no actual conspiracy to kidnap the governor ever existed.”

According to them, texts and recordings cited as evidence of criminal conspiracy by the Government is actually constitutionally protected speech in the USA. The report further states that “one defendant has formally accused the government of entrapment, arguing that the FBI assembled the key plotters, encouraged the group’s anti-government feelings, and even gave its members military-style training. Additional defendants have said they plan to make similar claims when the cases, divided between federal and state court, go to trial starting as soon as October.”

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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