For those who like their history raw and wriggling:
Starting in April 1991, three FBI agents posed as members of an invented racist militia group called the Veterans Aryan Movement. According to their cover story, VAM members robbed armored cars, using the proceeds to buy weapons and support racist extremism. The lead agent was a Vietnam veteran with a background in narcotics, using the alias Dave Rossi.
Code-named PATCON, for “Patriot-conspiracy,” the investigation would last more than two years, crossing state and organizational lines in search of intelligence on the so-called Patriot movement, the label applied to a wildly diverse collection of racist, ultra-libertarian, right-wing and/or pro-gun activists and extremists who, over the years, have found common cause in their suspicion and fear of the federal government.
The undercover agents met some of the most infamous names in the movement, but their work never led to a single arrest. When McVeigh walked through the middle of the investigation in 1993, he went unnoticed. – Foreign Policy
Government agents support operations like these because they are career-builders. If an agent gets convictions, he or she gets bumped upstairs rapidly until reaching the magic six-figure zone where people barely even need to show up to the office and basically attend meetings for a living.
Every agent wants this because the pension they will receive after twenty years reflects their final salary. If you make it up into the cushy zone, you no longer risk your life in the field, and after a couple decades can retire and “double-dip,” or take on another federal job.
If you work forty years double-dipping, you can end up with a pension of multiple hundreds of dollars by your early sixties, at which point you can then reinvest that income into a variety of businesses and securities, easily making yourself a millionaire. This is the New American Dream.
Consequently, government agencies frequently use Confidential Informants (CIs) as a means of trying to get enough evidence on various ne’r-do-wells to convict a few of them, guaranteeing those fat promotions for young agents so they can make out like bandits on the taxpayer dime.
The scam works this way:
There are two kinds of FBI undercover operations, known as Group I and Group II UCOs. Group II UCOs are used in relatively informal ways and require less oversight, but they also receive less funding and administrative support.
To justify the PATCON operation, the strongest provocation was selected. An informant, likely Reed, had reported that TLI associates had discussed the possibility of killing two Austin-based FBI agents.
“You have talkers and doers out there, and 99 percent of the people are talkers,” said one former Patriot informant. Most of the targets of PATCON — even those engaged in frighteningly violent rhetoric — never moved past the talking stage.
The impetus behind PATCON came from a much earlier operation targeting the Ku Klux Klan, which produced similar backfires:
The first mention of a counter-intelligence program run by an American federal agency to monitor American citizens was made by J. Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the FBI. In a memo written in 1956, Hoover called for an initiative to track Americans who were perceived as enemies. In the decades to come, the scope and targets of the surveillance program would widen to encompass various tactics and many different types of American citizens, all of whom were viewed as a threat to the stability of the American government. Using the ancient military tactic of divide and conquer, the surveillance strategy preferred by Hoover was “not by harassment from the outside, which might only serve to bring the various factions together, but by feeding and fostering from within the internal fight currently raging (Churchill and Vander Wall 2002: 40).”
For example, in the 1960s, the U.S. Justice Department grew increasingly concerned about the spread of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) activity and violence in the South (Churchill and Vander Wall 2002). In an internal security memo written in 1964, a program called COINTELPRO–White Hate stemming was outlined, with the express purpose to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various Klans and hate organizations, their leadership and adherents (FBI 2014).”
While PATCON was abandoned without any fanfare in 1993, because the operation failed to produce any tangible results — save one trial “based almost exclusively on evidence gathered by the Army’s investigation and by FBI informants not associated with PATCON” (Berger 2014) — the legacy of PATCON remains. The tactics of FBI agents infiltrating militias, as well as paid informants being coerced into spying on these groups, and, in some instances, even providing the means and encouragement to carry out violent plots before being arrested, have been criticized as constituting entrapment by using agent provocateurs—agents posing as criminals to justify the financial and social expenses of counter-terrorism. – “Informants, Provocateurs, and Entrapment: Examining the Histories of the FBI’s PATCON and the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program,” by Sarah Kamali (University of Oxford)
We know these tactics continue, not just from observation but from the very public fact of the FBI stonewalling about PATCON and its legacy:
PATCON has been in the public record for years, described in detail by historian Wendy Painting’s 2016 doctoral thesis-turned-book “Aberration in the Heartland of the Real.” But PATCON has received little media attention outside of the late journalist Will Grigg. Other journalists have attempted to cover PATCON, only to run into censorship issues.
The reasons for the alleged attempts to suppress PATCON are clear, according to Trentadue.
“The FBI’s real objective in PATCON had been to infiltrate and to incite these fringe groups to violence,” he said. – Epoch Times
Most likely, PATCON was recognized as a typical initial operation, sort of like COINTELPRO, meaning that it promised too much and focused too broadly. Why initiate a sweeping operation, when many smaller groups of agents managing local CIs would work just as well?
In any case, what Right-wingers today need to know is that there are traps out there and the people who are being the biggest loudmouths often have legal protection to do so. Those who advocate, as you find on this site, mostly sober and incremental change, are ignored by the broader Right-wing audience.
That audience favors — like most voters — not just one-size-fits-all solutions, but one-stop solutions, meaning that someone makes a rule, it gets applied, and the problem is presumed to be solved. Nothing works that way but it remains eternally popular.