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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  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 18 May 2021 @ 11:28am

    They say crime doesn't pay...

    ...but crime DOES pay if you're a snitch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2021 @ 11:50am

    And these are the crimes they choose to "document". Never mind all the stuff for which the handlers look the other way. Like murder.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2021 @ 12:06pm

    Always wondered what Donnie Brasco might have been allowed to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    n00bdragon (profile), 18 May 2021 @ 12:44pm

    How many murderers does it take to catch a murderer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2021 @ 1:17pm

    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.

    This is actually pretty weird. It suggests the FBI and DEA don't get along too well. If they did, the DEA could give the person a license to deal in cocaine or heroin; then it wouldn't be illegal, and the FBI would not have to report it as "allowing crime".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2021 @ 2:18pm

    I, uh, had to do it, to maintain my cover. See, here's a list of what I've uploaded to The Pirate Bay in the last 30 days...

    You're still running interference for me with the RIAA, right? Right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 18 May 2021 @ 3:55pm

    Criminals being supervised by even worse criminals? Sounds like the RICO.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 May 2021 @ 6:51pm

    No wonder the FBI is how they are...

    Its perfectly okay to allow the law to be violated to catch other law breakers that give better headlines.
    The law is only a tool we can wield to forgive drug dealers as long as they catch us bigger headlines.

    Something something mentally challenged people being talked into being jihadis by CI's who know they have a free pass to 450 kilos of cocaine when Lenny finally pets the mouse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 19 May 2021 @ 3:03am

    "Oh Kent, I'd be lying

    if I said my men weren't committing crimes", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56zNyjII8Fg

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2021 @ 6:06am

    What if the FBI just "claims" a crime was committed by an informed, when the FBI agent themselves did the crime.

    Making such a claim would derail any FBI investigation into the crime.

    So basically FBI agents, murdering, raping and stealing from banks would all be filed away carefully in a basement database somewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2021 @ 7:42am

    "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"

    I wonder how many they successfully prosecuted, hopefully more than 4800 per year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Geronimo0063 (profile), 19 May 2021 @ 1:41pm

    Crimes.

    Has anyone ever heard of scratch my katookiss I’ll scratch yorn.? It’s that in a nut case, shell. If you allow nobody to stretch or all the way break laws to catch other lawbreakers you tend to not look like an informant. Say. Smoking or slamming. “If that somebitch across from me passes that shat again without hitting it I’m coming over the table. I’m just sayin “.
    Is what I find strange and borderline untrue is that the FBI along with others report said crimes. With anonymous snitches. Hum. If 40,000 crimes are solved by committing 9,000 , run em up against the wall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 May 2021 @ 2:55am

      Re: Crimes.

      "If you allow nobody to stretch or all the way break laws to catch other lawbreakers you tend to not look like an informant."

      The obvious answer is to not use informants who break laws then. You know, like the rest of the world manages to do. Is this yet one more area where the US is so inferior to everyone else they really, really need to use methods condemned everywhere else?

      And to think that once upon a time the rest of the world held up the US as an example of success...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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