“I believe the FBI contributed to this breakdown of public trust in government institutions, not just by who it chose to target for disruption but, just as important, who it didn’t.”
By Ryan Devereaux
The Intercept (9/14/19)
MIKE GERMAN, A former FBI special agent, had four years on the job when he took an assignment that would change his life forever. It was 1992. A jury in Simi Valley, California, had just acquitted a group of mostly white Los Angeles police officers for the videotaped beating of a black construction worker named Rodney King. Decades of pent-up anger directed at one of the nation’s most notoriously racist police departments spilled out on city streets in a six-day convulsion that left more than 60 people dead. Amid the unrest, white supremacists in southern California saw an opportunity, believing that the riots could be used as cover to launch a race war.
“The failure to prioritize the economic crimes of the politically powerful left the nation vulnerable to a hostile foreign nation’s effort to delegitimize U.S. elections. This is exactly the sort of threat a domestic intelligence agency is supposed to protect against.”
The FBI’s Los Angeles office got wind of the plans, and when his supervisor floated the idea of infiltrating the groups, German, who was in his late 20s at the time, enthusiastically volunteered. For more than a year, German lived undercover, embedded in a network of neo-Nazi skinheads plotting the bombing of a popular African-American church and the assassination of prominent Jewish and black figures, including King himself.
German’s investigation led to multiple prosecutions on federal weapons and bomb-making charges and marked the beginning of a series of undercover operations inside the world of far-right American extremists that spanned more than 12 years. It was a critical time for the FBI, with the trifecta of Ruby Ridge in 1992, Waco in 1993, and Oklahoma City in 1995 having called into serious question the bureau’s domestic counterterrorism tactics and the blowback they had incurred. By the time the new century rolled around, it seemed that the FBI was on track for critical reforms.
A bright, clear morning in September 2001 changed that.
A critical voice
German was assigned to the FBI’s Atlanta office when the planes hit the Twin Towers. Three years later, he was a civilian, having resigned from the FBI after he blew the whistle on a terror investigation gone wrong and became the target of an internal retaliation campaign. In the decade and half since, he has emerged as a critical voice in the post-9/11 era, challenging the war on terror at home and abroad. …