Tech billionaire Peter Thiel was reportedly an FBI informant

In a startling revelation that’s bound to send shockwaves through the tech world, there are reports suggesting that Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and a prominent venture capitalist, may have had a role as an FBI informant, that’s at least according to an exclusive news story first reported by Insider.

According to Insider’s investigation, multiple sources have indicated that Thiel may have functioned as a “confidential human source” for an FBI agent named Johnathan Buma, based in Los Angeles. This term implies a long-standing relationship with the FBI, purportedly beginning as early as 2021.

While Thiel was known for his public support of former President Donald Trump, who was a subject of multiple FBI investigations, this deal supposedly excluded any involvement with Thiel’s domestic political contacts. Instead, it focused on areas like “foreign contacts and Silicon Valley intrigue,” which could include investigations into foreign influence operations within the tech industry. Interestingly, it appears that Thiel’s identity as an informant was revealed as an act of revenge by a right-wing blogger. It seems that Thiel didn’t invest in the blogger’s startup ventures as expected, leading to this exposure.

This recent report from Insider might not be a shock to many in the TechStartups’ audience. It harkens back to our coverage from February 2020 when we reported on Thiel’s alleged covert funding of NSO Group, an Israeli tech startup known for its ‘Cyber Warfare’ capabilities. The NSO Group’s highly sophisticated Pegasus spyware, capable of infiltrating phones without any user interaction, has been employed by the FBI and is licensed to various governments worldwide.

The report also appears to be the missing piece of the puzzle that shed light on Thiel’s 2019 call to investigate Google. Back in 2019, we covered Thiel’s request for the FBI and CIA to look into Google, where he notably referred to the tech giant as “Treasonous.” Now, with this new information, Thiel’s actions from that time are starting to come into focus.

Thiel wanted the FBI and CIA to ask questions of Google, starting with, “How many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI?” Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, Thiel listed three questions the CIA and FBI should ask Google.

Meanwhile, Neither Thiel nor the FBI has provided any official comment to Insider regarding these allegations. It’s worth noting that one of Insider’s sources in this report is Charles Johnson, a controversial right-wing political figure and blogger. Insider acknowledges that Johnson has disseminated a mixture of accurate and false information in the past.

However, his association with Thiel has been previously documented, including in Kashmir Hill’s recent book about the facial recognition startup Clearview AI. In fact, Johnson has claimed to be an FBI informant in a lawsuit related to Clearview AI. He told Insider that he introduced Thiel to Buma and revealed Thiel’s role because he felt betrayed when Thiel didn’t invest in his startups, which he had anticipated as part of the arrangement.

If indeed Thiel had a long-standing informant status with the FBI, it would put him at odds with certain segments of the Republican party that have grown skeptical of the FBI due to its investigations into Trump. It’s worth noting that Thiel had distanced himself from politics during the 2024 US presidential election, reportedly due to his belief that Republicans were focusing too much on domestic culture wars instead of American economic competitiveness.

As Insider points out, Thiel has publicly urged the FBI to investigate Google for potential Chinese government infiltration. Providing the agency with information on foreign contacts would align with his concerns about foreign influence in the tech industry. Given Thiel’s extensive connections in Silicon Valley, it’s likely that the FBI would find value in maintaining this relationship, at least until he can establish a permanent residence in New Zealand.

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