The case seemed like a lock — until an informant and one FBI agent were charged with crimes, another was accused of perjury, and a third was found promoting a private security firm. And that wasn’t all.
When federal officials announced, on Oct. 8, 2020, that they had foiled a plot by militant extremists to kidnap Michigan’s governor, it was quickly hailed as one of the most important domestic terrorism prosecutions in a generation. They didn’t mention FBI agent Jayson Chambers by name, but those who had worked the case knew that his role helping to run a central informant had been crucial.
There was, however, something about Chambers that some colleagues might not have known: 18 months earlier, he’d incorporated a private security firm and had spent much of 2019 trying to drum up business — in part by touting his FBI casework. The bureau won’t say if Chambers had gotten permission to set up his new venture, as agents would be required to do, but just five days after BuzzFeed News revealed its existence this August, federal prosecutors announced that he would not be on the list of witnesses testifying in the upcoming trial.
A continuing BuzzFeed News investigation reveals new information about how Chambers’ business, along with an array of issues involving other FBI agents and informants, has bedeviled the prosecution. Those issues may well affect the course of the trial. But beyond the integrity of the case, the problems are serious and widespread enough to call into question tactics the FBI has relied on for decades — and to test the public’s trust in the bureau overall.
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