PATCON continued its surveillance without him.
The threats the FBI chronicled as emanating from the TLI were not insignificant. For instance, an FBI lab analysis said that remnants of an expertly crafted pipe bomb were found during a search at a TLI training camp. The search for more information was understandable, especially given the consequences if an act of violence were to take place and it was then revealed that the bureau could have prevented it.
But lead after lead failed to uncover evidence that would support an indictment or even indicate that the plots were making any serious progress. Although the targets of the operation talked continually about forming The New Order, no one ever provided specific plans or names of those involved, according to agents working on the case.
"You have talkers and doers out there, and 99 percent of the people are talkers," said one former Patriot informant. Most of the targets of PATCON -- even those engaged in frighteningly violent rhetoric -- never moved past the talking stage.
Eventually, greener pastures beckoned. In February 1992, not quite a year into the operation, the focus of PATCON shifted. The agent posing as Dave Rossi arranged an introduction to Thomas Posey, the leader of the Alabama group, Civilian Material Assistance (CMA).
CMA had its origins as an anti-Communist group helping the Contras in the Nicaraguan civil war. It had murky connections to government through the Iran-Contra program, and Posey had been called to testify during congressional hearings on the scandal.
When Iran-Contra wilted under public scrutiny, Posey repurposed CMA as a Patriot militia and began reaching out to like-minded organizations with an eye toward forging a Patriot alliance, according to former CMA members and FBI documents. Posey envisoned these ties as a way for disparate groups to work cooperatively when the time came to overthrow the government.
FBI records indicated that CMA and the TLI were already closely aligned by 1990, although former members of both groups disputed this in interviews.
Posey envisioned an alliance flexible enough to withstand both ideological differences revolving around race and religion and the movement's hardwired paranoia. But a November 1991 meeting, sponsored by CMA to promote the idea, collapsed in a paroxysm of suspicion over suspected infiltration and surveillance.
The FBI did, in fact, have multiple informants at the meeting. But they escaped detection in the ensuing free-for-all of accusations and investigation. A full-time paid informant was also in place with CMA, close to Posey. When Posey met Rossi for the first time, he brought the informant along to watch his back.
According to FBI records of the meeting, Posey offered to sell black market Stinger missiles to Rossi's fictional Veterans Aryan Movement.
The offer was judged credible, partly because of CMA's shadowy connection to the Contras and partly because Posey was a notorious black market arms dealer, suspected of having contraband sources on more than one U.S. military base.
PATCON's budget ballooned by tens of thousands of dollars to purchase the Stingers, but after repeatedly stalling, Posey eventually claimed they had been sold to someone else. Instead, he offered to sell Rossi several pairs of Army night-vision goggles.
The goggles were real. The FBI quickly determined they had likely been stolen from Fort Hood, and Rossi purchased several pairs using money set aside for the Stingers.
But it stopped there. After deliberations recorded in FBI memos and communications, it was determined that PATCON's intelligence-gathering mission was going so well that nobody wanted to do anything that might get in the way (like filing criminal charges).