By now, you've probably heard of Carlos Lam, the Republican prosecutor and activist who wrote Wisconsin's Governor Walker an email suggesting the use of a "false flag" operation to discredit the pro-union protestors. The wording deserves our attention:
As an aside, I've been involved in GOP politics here in Indiana for 18 years, and I think that the situation in WI presents a good opportunity for what's called a "false flag" operation. If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the public unions.
The phrasing suggests that Lam has seen the play in use on previous occasions.
Try to envision the details. How is the false attacker chosen? How do you get this person into place? What promises do you make to cajole him into carrying out his part of the plan?
Most importantly -- and this is the part no-one
considers -- how do you manipulate the legal system to make sure that your secret helper does little or no jail time for attacking (or threatening to attack) a public official? You can't pull off a "false flag" of this sort unless you have a friendly judge or prosecutor on your side.
If Lam's suggestion had given rise to an actual operation, Walker's next step would have been to "cast" someone to play the part of the attacker. In all likelihood, he would have chosen someone busted for drugs who wanted to make a deal to reduce jail time.
Keep that scenario in mind as you mull over a larger issue: On what previous occasions has the false flag ploy been used? (Lam's wording carries a we-do-this-all-the-time
One possibility concerns the bizarre foiled plot to kill Obama during the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver. Supposedly, a far-right nutjob named Tharin Gartrell was pulled over while driving a truck filled with assassination gear (rifles, scopes, disguises). Gartrell immediately confessed to an assassination scheme. He then ratted out his two accomplices, Shawn Adolf and Nathan Johnson, both of whom had appropriately scummified backgrounds. There were also reports of links to biker gangs.
The story possessed many ultra-strange characteristics, as detailed here
. One of the things that always seemed odd about this tale was the suspects' helpful penchant for self-incrimination.
...one of the suspects "was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative."
A third man -- an associate of Gartrell and Adolph, Nathan Johnson, 32, was also arrested. He told authorities that the two men "planned to kill Barack Obama at his acceptance speech."
These guys might as well have had "OBAMA ASSASSINATION SQUAD" t-shirts printed up. At the time, my questions were:
Do the cops stop every pick-up truck in Denver as a matter of routine? (Another story mentions erratic driving.) If the conspirators made such elaborate efforts to get away -- the fake licenses, the disguises -- why would Tharin volunteer the information that he hoped to kill Obama? And why would he give up his comrades?
Also, why did Tharin show his real Driver's license, which was expired? Why not use one of the fakes? If he didn't consider the fakes convincing, then why have them at all?
After a short while, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver decided that there was no evidence to charge these guys with conspiracy or with making threatening statements. The plot was called "more aspirational than operational." This, despite the fact that Tharin rolled through town in a vehicle laden with rifles and scopes and disguise kits, and had announced his intent to kill Obama.
These lowlifes had booked into a rather nice hotel -- not great, but not a fleabag. They must have made the booking quite early on, since vacancies disappear fast during a political convention.
At the same time, a young Canadian Muslim (originally from Somalia) named Saleman Dirie was found dead in a Denver hotel room, which also contained enough cyanide to kill hundreds of people. Investigative reporters in Denver suspected that the local cops were covering up Dirie's death
At the time, I wrote these words:
Is there a pattern here? Young men who make perfect "central casting" patsies -- swastika-adorned racist meth heads on one hand, and a "scary" Muslim on the other -- make their way to Denver and show definite signs of being up to no good. Yet the authorities downplay any suggestion of impending violence or an organized plot.
I have an uneasy feeling.
One of the "aspirational" Denver plotters, Shawn Adolf, had a reasonably impressive criminal record, while the other two had drug charges in their backgrounds. One need not stretch one's imagination too
far to posit that they made a deal to avoid prison stretches.
They certainly seemed to have found a protective spirit in U.S. Attorney Troy Eid, who saw no evidence of actual planning on the part of the trio. Apparently, the booking of the room, the amassing of weaponry, the acquisition of disguises and false I.D. and the announced intent to commit an assassination do not constitute "planning."
Tharin Gartrell and "aspirational" co-conspirator Nathan Johnson are free today. Adolf is in prison on an unrelated robbery charge.
Can you think of any other possible "false flag" ops? Let's not go for the obvious choices, such as Lee Harvey You-Know-Who.