Congress must reform FBI use of informants

AUG 6, 2013, 3:14 PM


Congress must hold hearings to reform federal law enforcements’ clandestine use of informants.

A recent Freedom of Information Act request, filed by USA Today, revealed what civil liberties advocates and many criminal defense attorneys have long known – that the FBI and other federal entities have misused informants in investigating potential criminal activities. In 2011, the FBI gave informants permission to break the law over 5,600 times. That comes to 15 times per day. That does not even include informants breaking the law without informing their handlers.

Other federal agencies, including the ATF and DEA, claim that they do not know how many times permission was given for their informants to break that law. This astounding admission should worry us all.

Most informants are not patriotic citizens working with law enforcement to make our society more secure. Many are criminals who engage in further criminal activities to get their own criminal charges lowered or dismissed (usually earning money in the process). Some immigrants feel pressured to act as informants out of fear of deportation. Driven by the desire to get charges dropped, to make money, or anxiety over being deported, informants can easily drift into acting as agent-provocateurs.

One such example is career criminal Craig Monteilh, who acted as an informant in the Muslim community in Southern California. His behavior among Muslim youth provoked so much suspicion that the Muslim community contacted CAIR, which then reported him to law enforcement. The FBI, however, did nothing because Monteilh was on their payroll. He eventually blew his own cover in claiming that the FBI did not pay him all of his provocateur wages.

The ACLU and CAIR sued the FBI regarding the unconstitutionality of using informants in this manner, but a judge threw out the case after the government found that revealing how the FBI uses these criminals could cause “significant harm to national security.”

Federal law enforcement is not only concealing from Congress its protocols for informants but is also invoking national security as a means to circumvent the law. Law and order cannot be truly served in our nation by the government encouraging and hiding the deliberate breaking of the law.

These latest revelations should be a wake-up call to Congress to not only hold hearings but to also pass legislation checking federal law enforcement’s use of informants. Without breaks on such practices, we risk the FBI operating against American values – and like secret police in other nations.


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