On June 20th, Adam Fox invited some friends he had met on Facebook to hang out. They met in a vacuum shop, where Fox pulled a rug up to reveal a secret trap door to a basement. Then Fox collected everyone’s phone before they went down to make sure they were not recorded. Fox and the other men vented their anger at the recent policies set in place by the state to (successfully) curb the pandemic. The conversation then took a sharp turn to an another subject: kidnapping Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
These would-be Michigan kidnappers also used an encrypted group chat to communicate, where the rhetoric began to get more misogynist and violent. Fox clarified his intentions by saying that the group should just “Grab the f**kin Governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude – it’s over.” These men discussed various strategies to target the Governor, and at one point Daniel Harris messaged “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her…at this point. F**k it.”
How do we know this conversation happened? There was an undercover FBI agent who managed to record the conversation with a secret wire as well as log the encrypted group chat. As the plan progressed, more undercover law enforcement began to participate. Their involvement and testimony was integral to the arrest of these men on October 7th and stopping what could have been a deadly act.
As you might expect, the defense lawyers see it differently. The defense team for the Michigan men say that it remains to see what exactly the FBI agents contributed towards the “cause,” and whether or not these agents pushed the men into going forward with this plan. Unfortunately, the FBI has sketchy history when it comes to their undercover officers. And they can sometimes act less like informants and more like driving forces in creating a potentially deadly crime.
In 2012, Sami Osmakac filmed what the FBI would later call a “martyrdom video.” To the camera, Osmakac stated his intentions to avenge the deaths of Muslims being killed around the world while wearing something that looks remarkably close to a suicide vest, while an AK-47 sits propped up in the background. Osmakac was 25 years old, and had schizoaffective disorder according to the psychiatrists who examined him before trial. In this case, the FBI provided Osmakac with all of the weapons seen in the video, the car bomb that he planned to use, and even money for a taxi to he could get to his target. In files leaked to the Intercept, it is clear that Osmakac needed repeated prodding and persuasion by FBI agents in order to go through with the plan. The FBI agent who helped Osmakac make the video said that Osmakac “acted like he was nervous” and “kept backing away.” The FBI squad supervisor described Osmakac as a “retarded fool.”
The FBI radicalizing young Muslim Americans into terrorism and then arresting them for it was a staple of the post-9/11 era. It will have to be seen in the trial whether or not the FBI was a driving force with the would-be Michigan kidnappers the same way they were with Sami Osmakac. The Michigan men were obviously wrong for plotting what they did, they are the product of a society where the President has continued to call for Governor Whitmer to be “arrested” even after this story broke, despite the fact that it was this rhetoric that placed her in
danger in the first place. However, the core question is whether or not these Michigan men would have gone through with a kidnapping even without undercover law enforcement. Due to the FBI’s track record, Michiganders deserve proper transparency on how the Bureau operated in this case.