By Amy Silverman
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Why didn't the FBI seek a search warrant for Ready's home or have a local or state agency do the same? Browning thinks this would have been easy enough to achieve with information from confidential FBI sources. In his 20 years of law enforcement, Browning says, he never has had a judge turn down a request for a search warrant.
And if the FBI had raided Ready's domicile, they may have discovered the same or similar illegal explosives as they did after the multiple murders, and Ready would be in prison, unable to spill innocent blood.
I know that the FBI had at least one confidential source close to Ready. The reason I know this is that I indirectly sent the source the FBI's way in 2009.
In late summer/early fall of that year, a Minuteman and border activist I knew contacted me with information on Ready's activities. His name is David Heppler, and though we were on opposite sides of the immigration debate, we were always friendly.
Perhaps that's why he decided to call me one night, nervously describing an encounter he'd had with Ready and others at the home of an associate.
Ready took Heppler into his confidence that evening, describing the group's intention to drive into South Phoenix on a Friday night disguised as officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and look for a house or yard party to raid, during which several Hispanics would be killed.
"The purpose of DHS uniforms was, no one's going to question them," Heppler recalled recently. "After it happened, if the police pulled them over and saw them in uniform, they would keep going, because they were already responding to the shootings."
Heppler said Ready and the others had written up their plans, had drawn up a list of the equipment they planned to obtain, and had estimated how long it would take them to get to South Phoenix and back. They wanted Heppler to join them and go on "dry runs" to clock the scenario Ready was envisioning.
As this was information that would take me time to verify, and since people's lives might be in danger, I decided, with Heppler's permission, to contact a cop within the Phoenix Police Department and have him call Heppler.
Heppler later spoke with Phoenix police officers, who in turn handed over the case to the FBI. Heppler agreed to become an informant (he says he was not paid) and agreed to wear a recording device and allow his phone to be tapped.
I stayed in contact with Heppler on and off over the next several weeks, and he related that he, Ready, and others had begun to go on these dry runs into South Phoenix. At one point, he told me, he was scared that the FBI was not keeping Ready under surveillance as these practice trips were occurring.
There seemed to be a lack of communication between Heppler and his FBI handler, so after much maneuvering, I was able to get a message to Heppler's contact, asking that he call me.
I won't reveal the agent's name, but suffice it to say he would be familiar to many in law enforcement in the Valley.
The agent tersely confirmed that he was taking Heppler's information seriously, and I left it at that.
Problem is, Heppler had made a big mistake. He had confided to a business partner who knew Ready that he was working undercover. The business partner thought Heppler was lying and went to both the FBI and to Ready with Heppler's story. The FBI told the partner the agency was not working with Heppler.
Some of these details are recounted in documents on file with the Maricopa County Superior Court, where Heppler sought and obtained an order of protection against the business partner.
The business partner's response involves his going to the FBI and the FBI's denying involvement with Heppler.
As a result of the business partner's actions, Ready went to Heppler's home and confronted him, according to Heppler — who said he denied all and that Ready seemed to buy the explanation.
The FBI, of course, wasn't happy that Heppler had discussed his volunteer undercover work, and, Heppler says, the FBI agent eventually yelled at him over the phone.
"They were pissed because [others] found out," Heppler told me recently. "They said I jeopardized the case and they [couldn't] protect me. They just made some serious threats on the phone: 'If you say anything about this to anybody else we're going to come after you.'"
Heppler never heard from the FBI again.
When I asked an FBI spokesman about my conversations with Heppler and with one of the FBI's agents, he declined to comment.
I cannot verify all of Heppler's tale. Some in law enforcement tell me they didn't believe Heppler's account of the dry runs. However, Heppler had certain advance information on Ready's activities that I was able to confirm.
For instance, Heppler told me Ready was planning to attend a demonstration in Riverside, California, before Ready had even set out on the trip with his fellow NSM members. Heppler had told me what Ready would wear and that Mike Harris, a former Republican candidate for governor, whose neo-Nazi activities I later discussed in a column, would be along for the ride ("SS Ignorant," November 19, 2009).