FBI Informants Still Committing Serious Crimes Thousands Of Times A Year

from the switching-out-the-top-man-changed-nothing dept

The best defense is a good offense. The FBI's decade-long streak of allowing informants to commit thousands of crimes a year continues, as Dell Cameron reports for Gizmodo.

Informants working for the FBI committed more than 9,600 crimes under the bureau’s supervision during President Trump’s first two years in office, according to unclassified government reports.

The so-called “Otherwise Illegal Activity” reports, obtained first by Gizmodo, detail the number of crimes committed by what the bureau calls “confidential human sources.” The name of the report alludes to activities that would have been “illegal” had they not “otherwise” been committed with the bureau’s full knowledge and in furtherance of a federal investigation.

Unsurprisingly, it sometimes takes a criminal to catch a criminal. The use of informants isn't limited to the FBI, nor is the FBI the only federal agency allowing criminals to remain criminals in order to catch other criminals. The FBI has yet to obtain the notoriety of the DEA, whose informants are the absolute worst, but the thousands of crimes committed every year in the name of law enforcement kind of makes a mockery of that term.

The first two years of the Trump DOJ were actually slightly better than the previous six years under Obama. In those years, the number of annual crimes committed ranged from 5,200 to nearly 6,000. But a slight dip in criminal activity doesn't really suggest a downward trend. There's a good chance the FBI has already regressed to the higher mean, but we won't have access to those numbers for another couple of years at least if this release is any indication of timing.

And while some may assume the criminal acts permitted by the FBI are low-ball things like controlled buys, nothing could be further from the truth. The FBI allows some informants to engage in "Tier I" criminal acts (which aren't broken down in the numbers released by the agency). Tier I crimes are those that "result in violence, significant financial loss, or corrupt acts by high-ranking public officials."

But Tier II crimes aren't exactly harmless either.

Tier II crimes, while lesser, may also include felonies, up to and including the trafficking of anything less than 450 kilos of cocaine or 90 kilos of heroin.

It's unclear how many criminal acts of either tier are being carried out with the FBI's blessing. The reports given to Gizmodo only show a cumulative total of both tiers. No matter what the split is between the two tiers, it's still a whole lot of government-approved felonies.

Like anything that should be closely-supervised and heavily-monitored to limit collateral damage, the FBI's informant program is subject to almost no internal oversight and has allowed useless informants to collect paychecks for years while allowing others to engage in plenty of unapproved criminal activity while still retaining their paid informant status. And when an informant goes completely off the rails, the FBI will bury this info to keep the informant's reliability from being called into question during prosecutions. And, as if all of that weren't damning enough, the FBI incentivizes bad behavior by informants by giving them a cut of asset forfeiture proceeds, encouraging them to go after whoever looks like they might have the most assets to lose, rather than those committing the most serious crimes.

In the end, it's another federal law enforcement program with the potential to cause serious amounts of collateral damage looking the other way thousands of times a year to ensure the largely-unsupervised business of law enforcement continues without inconvenience or interruption.

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Filed Under: crime, fbi, fbi informants, illegal activity reports

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2021 @ 1:34am

    Who wouldn't sing for the ability to traffick 89 kilos of heroin or 449 kilos of coke with the protection of the feds?

    A reasonable person might wonder if that creates a perverse motivation for informants to lie. But our criminal justice system does not consist of reasonable people.

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