"Are federal agents and their informants catching bad guys, or creating them?" That's the question at the heart of Alphabet Boys, a new Western Sound/iHeartMedia podcast hosted by investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism.
Its first season, "Trojan Hearse," centered on FBI efforts to infiltrate racial justice protests and track so-called black identity extremism in 2020. Its story is told through the prism of informants and their marks in Colorado. Its main character is Mickey Windecker, a Punisher-obsessed self-styled tough guy who drove around in a hearse and claimed to have fought with the Kurdish Peshmerga against the Islamic State.
Windecker became a central figure in summer 2020 activism around Denver while also serving as a paid informant for the FBI. He egged on activists to escalate violence and plot extreme acts, but the biggest crime Windecker helped create/catch was convincing someone to purchase a gun for a felon—him.
The show's second season, "Up In Arms," started airing in June. It tells the story of Flaviu Georgescu, a Romanian-American man sent to federal prison for brokering a $17 million arms deal with members of a Colombian insurgent group on the U.S. terror list. One of the men Georgescu dealt with was a Drug Enforcement Administration informant, and the "deal" was actually an entrapment scheme. But Georgescu himself had told the CIA about the deal and believed himself to be working for the intelligence agency.
While telling those specific stories well, the podcast highlights longstanding ugly practices in federal law enforcement, including investigations concerned largely with political activity (of the sort allegedly confined to history books) and how tactics honed in the war on terror are being applied more broadly.