Author Topic: Does the F.B.I. Have an Informant Problem?  (Read 1571 times)

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Offline Riney

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Does the F.B.I. Have an Informant Problem?
« on: September 09, 2012, 01:00:33 AM »
Does the F.B.I. Have an Informant Problem?
How the bureau is playing fast and loose in its fight against domestic terrorism

There's an American trope we all know and love -- the loose-cannon cop who doesn't play by the rules. Whether it's Dirty Harry, Raylan Givens, or Jack Bauer, the story is as reassuring as it is trite. There's someone out there who can get the job done and doesn't worry about coloring inside the lines.

In counterterrorism circles, that figure is known as the professional informant. And the truth is far more complicated and troubling than the comforting fiction. Professional informants are paid by law enforcement to infiltrate criminal or extremist circles, sometimes on a full-time basis. Yet they're not considered employees of the government and are not subject to the same rules. From warrantless searches to sex with targets to constructing terrorist plots out of thin air, the informant problem is not new, but this powerful investigative tool is under pressure like never before after being exposed to the harsh light of day in a series of recent terrorism trials. Growing media scrutiny and a pending civil lawsuit in California are aggressively challenging whether the benefits of aggressive informant tactics outweigh the risk to civil liberties and are raising troubling questions about the legitimacy of terrorism investigations.

The risks to recruiting informants from within criminal organizations have been amply documented over the years -- but usually with mobsters, not terrorists. Law enforcement can get too cozy with informants inside criminal organizations, leading to corruption and other complications, as in the cases of Whitey Bulger and Gregory Scarpa.

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"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" Anais Nin .. and yet we must arm ourselves with fear