A recent report has concluded that federal agencies have paid at least $548 million to informants working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Of the informants used, the FBI authorized informants to commit around 22,800 crimes in just four years.
High-earning informants included an airline employee who received more than $600,000 in less than four-years, and a parcel employee who received $1 million in five years. There are many reports that claim that there is little to no oversight in the crime and money allocated to these informants. A hearing for a Congressional Oversight Committee included the following summary of an informant’s testimony, “a court released the testimony of one confidential informant in Atlanta who received $212,000 from the DEA from 2011 to 2013. She testified she wasn’t sure why she was paid. She also testified to a sexual relationship with the DEA group superisor, who allegedly convinced the subordinates to falsify the reports to justify the payments.”
Breaking Point reported that although in some circumstances, FBI informants are allowed to commit crimes, this process is not regulated enough. Furthermore, it can be argued that the overuse of informants by federal agencies creates a system where these informants create and compel other individuals to commit crimes. As a result, the FBI is able to claim that they are disrupting crime, showing their purported efficiency, when in reality, the FBI itself is creating crimes it is claiming to solve.
There is further little to no investigation into the ethics of FBI informants, let alone committing crimes. Middle East Eye reports on Operation Flex, an FBI campaign that tore apart the “fabric of the Muslim community” in California’s Orange County.
Three Muslim Americans from this ordeal are suing the FBI for spying on them, which the Supreme Court is hearing. It is clear that many FBI informants target American Muslim communities, many even pressuring lone individuals to commit attacks.
Furthermore, there are instances when an individual who refuses to become an informant is blacklisted by the US government, and branded a terrorist. Such is the case of Aswad Khan, a man who was put on a US watchlist for terrorism, after he refused to become an informant for the FBI. Khan’s friends and family were subject to harsh treatment at borders in the US, extensive investigations, and so on.
Khan said to The Intercept, “I’ve lived a clean life and never got into any kind of trouble at all anywhere in the world. This really affected me. I love America, and I loved every part of my life there. Even today I wish I could go watch the Celtics at TD Garden, see my old college, and go visit my friends and family. No one has ever even accused me of doing anything, so I can’t see where the justice is in any of this. It feels like one guy in the FBI just decided that he was going to ruin my life for no reason.”