What happened to the ‘outside agitators'?: Former FBI Agent details intelligence failures
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - For the last month, law enforcement has stitched together a rogues’ gallery of suspects from the riots and arsons in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
But one thing has been missing.
The so-called ‘outside agitators’ that politicians and law enforcement suspected of fomenting the violence and destruction.
Among nearly a dozen people facing federal charges, all but one, appear to live in Minnesota.
Governor Tim Walz amplified such concerns, before later walking the statement back.
“I think our best estimate right now is 20 percent are Minnesotans and 80 percent our outside,” said Governor Walz on May 30. Walz later said “he got over his skis” with his comments, but added it was hard for him to fathom the rioters and arsonists were from Minnesota.
Michael German, a former undercover FBI agent who is now a national security expert with the Brennan Center for Justice, describes it as an intelligence failure.
“We have created a counter-terrorism analysis ecosystem with people with agendas to bring attention to whatever group they are opposed too,” said German, who once infiltrated a neo-Nazi group.
He believes the intelligence failure begins at the top with President Donald Trump’s obsession with Antifa, the left-wing anti-fascist group.
German said beginning with the protests in Minneapolis, which spread across the country, law enforcement failed to accurately identify organizers or their motives.
Through what’s known as link analysis, law enforcement attempts to look for connections among the suspects to other events, and groups like Antifa and anarchists on the left; and on the right, white supremacists, Boogaloo Boys, and Proud Boys.
While it is likely there may be individual participants who share these ideologies, the evidence of any organized activity from these groups is likely more intelligence ‘noise’ than ‘signal.’
“They’re people of all spectrums, and people who don’t have any political agenda, who just want to engage in antisocial conduct,” said German.
Many times, German said, the suspects will simply tell investigators what they want to hear.
“People who are arrested want to get out of jail,” said German. “And it’s not hard to find someone to tell the government what they want to hear.”
“Any kind of social unrest will attract people who just want to participate,” said German.
Matthew Rupert appears to be someone looking for such an adventure. Prosecutors say he travelled from Illinois to Minneapolis, where he posted two hours of his looting and rioting exploits on Facebook Live.
The outsider narrative serves another purpose. It dismisses the righteous anger of the crowd and undermines their legitimacy.
“It justifies a more aggressive and more violent response,” said German.
“It hard for police to violently respond to protests by the community they’re sworn to protect. So, saying its outside agitators, helps them justify more violence,” he said.
Among those facing federal arson charges who live in Minnesota:
• Montez Lee, 25, a hip-hop musician from Rochester, is charged with the arson of a Minneapolis pawn shop. Prosecutors said video shows Lee, wearing a mask, shows him pouring liquid throughout the pawn shop, and later standing outside the burning building yelling, “We’re gonna burn this (expletive) down.”
• Bryce Williams, 26, of Staples, calls himself a Tik Tok influencer and semi-pro basketball player. Prosecutors said when asked if burning down building is part of rioting, he said, “That’s what rioting is, it’s mass destruction.”
• Dylan Robinson, 22, of Brainerd, was reportedly on probation and in drug treatment, when he participated in the rioting. Prosecutors say he posted video of himself throwing Molotov cocktails on Snapchat, including one where he is setting fire in a stairwell of the Third Precinct.
• Branden Wolfe, 23, from St. Paul, is also charged in the arson of the Third Precinct. A photo allegedly shows him shirtless in front of the burning Third Precinct, his arms raised in triumph. A former security guard at Menards, Wolfe was fired after bragging on social media about participating in the riots. He was arrested while wearing body armor, a duty belt, handcuffs, a baton, and knife stolen from the Third Precinct.
A check of their social media accounts reveals little in the way of politics or activism.