By Lee Williams
The allegations in the press release were damning: “The Department of Justice today announced that six men have been arrested and charged federally with conspiring to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.”
“These alleged extremists undertook a plot to kidnap a sitting governor,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Josh P. Hauxhurst said in the October 8, 2020 press release. “Whenever extremists move into the realm of actually planning violent acts, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force stands ready to identify, disrupt and dismantle their operations, preventing them from following through on those plans.”
Five Michiganders and one Delawarean were charged with conspiring to kidnap the governor from her vacation home in western Michigan. Each faces up to life in prison if convicted.
The massive investigation involved FBI special agents from the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, special agents from the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of Michigan and Delaware, and the Michigan State Police.
According to the criminal complaint, the suspects used Facebook to discuss the plot, and the FBI brought the social media giant into their circle of trust early on in the investigation. Facebook was all too happy to play along with the feds.
“We proactively reached out and cooperated with the FBI early in this ongoing investigation,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN. “We remove content, disable accounts and immediately report to law enforcement when there is a credible threat of imminent harm to people or public safety.”
The day after the arrests, Facebook shut down Michigan’s Second Amendment Sanctuary page without any warning. The group had nearly 100,000 members.
“They just shut it down,” Tom Norton, an administrator for the group told Michigan Public Radio. “We woke up this morning, everybody was kicked off, blocked and 95,000 people disappeared.”
The page was used by Michiganders as a way to organize and share information on how local municipalities and counties could pass resolutions to declare themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries.
Facebook shuttered personal pages belonging to the group’s founders and administrators too.
A Facebook spokesperson later claimed the Second Amendment Sanctuary page was shut down because it violated Facebook’s policy on “militarized social movements.”
Facebook’s press office did not return inquiries seeking comment for this story.
According to the criminal complaint, the FBI relied heavily on information provided by “Confidential Human Sources (CHS) and Undercover Employees (UCE).”
“Not all CHSs and UCEs were present at all times, however, at least one CHS or UCE was usually present during the group meetings. Those CHSs and UCEs consensually recorded the meetings and conversations with the subjects,” the complaint alleges. “Some meetings or conversations were recorded by more than one CHS or UCE. Certain CHSs also had access to group or individual texts, online chats, and phone calls. Each CHS was vetted for reliability by the FBI agent handling the source. None of the CHSs were aware of the other CHSs involved with the groups in order to preserve the independence of their reporting. Although multiple CHSs were used over the course of the investigation, this complaint only relies on audio recordings and information provided by CHS-1, CHS-2, UCE-1 and UCE-2.”
Based solely upon the complaint, the case looked solid, at least until someone took a closer look.
The most significant story is the revelation by BuzzFeed of how central FBI was to the Oct. 2020 kidnapping plot of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. I’ll have an article today on its implications: they are impossible to overstate. The actual plotters were the FBI.https://t.co/VItPpTYET3
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 21, 2021
A scathing report from Buzzfeed News revealed that the “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.”
In short, there wouldn’t have even been a kidnapping plot without the FBI’s informants.
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) July 20, 2021
This is clearly an example of confidential informants running the FBI agents, not the agents running the CIs. The FBI’s informants created the conspiracy and the defendants tagged along. Prosecutors will be lucky to get a conviction on even the most minor of federal charges.
Noah Davis, who operates sanctuarycounties.com and its companion site constitutionalsanctuaries.com, has tracked the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement since its inception in his home state of Virginia. Davis has the most up-to-date maps and data available on the topic.
Currently, he said, more than 60% of all Michigan counties have declared themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries, but the number would be much higher if Facebook hadn’t scuttled the movement.
“Michigan was on a roll. They were killing it in terms of creating Second Amendment Sanctuaries. Michigan was going to be the next Kentucky, and then Facebook shut them down. Not only did they shut down their main page, they shut down their sub groups and personal pages too – killing family photos and decades of personal posts,” Davis said Friday. “They completely gutted their command and control, and 100,000 Michiganders who were working in concert to spread the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement were shut off overnight.”
Not only did Facebook shut down the Michigan Sanctuary groups, similar pages in Georgia and Kentucky were also shuttered, which affected more than 500,000 people, Davis said.
“I think Facebook realized we were being too effective at coordinating our political activities, so they had to slow us down, and they gutted our ability to communicate,” Davis said. “I can’t see any other reason why they would do it other than to stop us. They predicated their decision on trumped up charges, and 100,000 Michiganders had to pay the price.”
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.