Parallax Views w/ J.G. Michael

Proud Boys Leader Was ‘Prolific’ FBI Confidential Source w/ Coleen Rowley

February 11, 2021


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On this edition of Parallax Views, in late January 2021 it was reported by such legacy media outlets as Reuters, The New York Times, and The Washington Post that Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the far-right Proud Boys, had acted as an informant for both local and federal law enforcement from 2012-2014. Tarrio was arrested in Washington, D.C. on January 4th, just two days prior to the now infamous January 6th storming of the Capitol carried about by pro-Trump elements like QAnon and "Stop the Steal", on a destruction of property charge. This, however, was not the Cuban-American Proud Boy leader's first arrest and, indeed, Tarrio has prior arrest and convictions to his name dating back to 2004. Based on transcripts from a 2015 federal court hearing obtained by the new agency Reuters, journalist Aram Roston reported:

"In the Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling."

Tarrio has denied acting as an informant for law enforcement. But, given the evidence, it would appear that Tarrio's denials contradict the reality. Although his cooperation with federal law enforcement predates the January 6th Capitol siege, does Tarrio's work as an informant raise questions about how the FBI operates its confidential sources? Ret. FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley, most known for her whistleblowing in relation to 9/11 intelligence failures culminating in her testifying before the Senate and 9/11 Commission and appearing on the cover of TIME magazine, joins us to discuss what she refers to as "problematic issues of operating confidential sources" in light of these revelations about Enrique Tarrio as outlined in her recent op-ed "Curiouser and Curiouser: The Proud Boys’ Leader as a ‘Prolific’ Law Enforcement Confidential Source".


In this conversation we discuss a number of issues related to the broader problem of how confidential sources are used in the FBI including:

- J. Edgard Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the FBI targeting of feminist and civil rights groups; the fall-out the FBI faced over the Church Committee investigation into these matters; Rowley's insight into these matters as someone who began working for the FBI around the time of the Church Committee fallout
- The infamous case of Whitey Bulger, the Irish-American Boston organized crime boss who also acted as an informant for federal law enforcement
- The motivations of confidential sources; the "Good Citizen" category; the problem of confidential sources that don't fit the "Good Citizen" category (which Coleen argues is most cases)
- The story of Lindley DeVecchio, Coleen's former boss, who acted as the handler for mob informants; DeVecchio was responsible for Colombo crime family capo Gregory Scarpa
- The Department of Justice Inspector General 2005 study and 2019 audit that reveal the problems of how informants are operated by federal law enforcement; the incentives for informants and problems that arise from that 
- Investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson's "The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Maufactured War on Terrorism" and how federal agencies benefit from these post-911/War on Terror operations involving confidential sources
- Is there adequate control or oversight with regards to the use of these confidential sources and informants by the FBI?
- The possibility for reform
- And much, much more!

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