FBI to Congress: Murder, Wrongful Imprisonment May Be Necessary to Preserve Drug Investigations

Last week, a federal judge excoriated the FBI for not only hiding exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated four innocent men who served more than thirty years in prison, but for rewarding those who did the hiding and covering up with bonuses and promotions. For this crime against American citizens, American taxpayers will now shell out more than $100 million. Thus far, none of the government agents actually responsible for this crime have been held accountable. Only rewarded.

Well, we're just getting started. On July 19th, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the use and abuse of confidential drug informants. The testimony Assistant Director of the FBI Directorate of Intelligence Wayne M. Murphy gave at that hearing is truly astonishing.

The transcript below was provided by the ACLU. It comes from the Q &A session after the witnesses provided their initial testimony. Murphy's being questioned by Rep. Dan Lundgren (R-Calif.) and Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.). The context: Lundgren and Delahunt have cited incidents in the past in which the FBI has covered up evidence that its confidential drug informants have committed violent crimes (including murder) in order to protect their identities, so that they could continue providing the bureau with information. They've cited other incidents, including the case above, in which the FBI has hidden exculpatory evidence, and allowed innocent people to go to prison. Lundgren and Delahunt want Murphy to assure them that the FBI has instituted policies to ensure that these sorts of incidents won't happen again--that murderers won't be protected and innocent people sent to prison in order to preserve drug investigations.

Remarkably, Murphy refuses to make such assurances. We pick up the transcript just after Lundgren has asked his initial question, and Murphy has obfuscated. Lundgren follows up:

Representative Lungren: If I could just ask my question once again very simply. That is: Is there a policy in the FBI to share information with local and state law enforcement officials when you, the FBI, have become aware that your confidential informants have engaged in serious violent felony activity, not all criminal activity, serious violent felony activity, in the jurisdiction of the local or the state authorities?”

Murphy: It is my understanding Congressman that there is not a specific documented policy, directly to answer your question sir.

Representative Lungren: Well I thank you for that because you may have given me the basis for enacting our legislation to require that. Do you think it should be?

Murphy: I think it's difficult to make a generalization that will fly in every circumstance. And in fact in some cases there are activities which are closely coordinated with a local law enforcement activity but have equities that affect other local law enforcement activities. We're being asked to respect and support the acts of one local law enforcement agency against another. And I want to say again, I don't mean in terms of confrontational but in terms of balancing the equities and the interests of a long term investigation. So I don't think it would be fair or accurate for me to try and characterize a general solution ....

Representative Lungren: All I can say is that if I were still a law enforcement officer in the state of California and you were to tell me that the FBI was reserving judgment about whether to tell me that you have CIs in my jurisdiction that are committing serious violent felonies, I would be more than offended.

I'll say. And let's keep something in mind, here. This would be a morally dubious policy even if were were talking about matters of, say, national security. But we aren't. We're talking about the FBI concealing evidence of murder and other violent crimes, and of knowingly allowing innocent people to go to prison in order to not disrupt drug investigations. In other words, all of this is necessary, the FBI is saying, to keep people from getting high. And when confronted by the United States Congress, the FBI can't even say outright that this is categorically a bad idea, nor can it promise that it will institute a policy preventing these things from happening in the future.

We get more of the same when Rep. Delahunt questions Murphy:

Representative Delahunt: The scandal occurred in the Boston office in the late '90s, about a decade ago. These issues have existed for decades now.... Is there a legal responsibility on the part of the FBI, in the case of murder, to report information to local or state law enforcement agencies?

Murphy: Congressman the Attorney General guidelines in their infinite...

Representative Delahunt: I'm not talking about the Attorney General guidelines. Do they have a legal responsibility, currently, to report evidence, both exculpatory, or evidence of a crime, when a homicide is being investigated?"

Murphy: If you will indulge me Congressman, I'd like the opportunity to answer that question offline because there are various circumstances under which that question might be answered differently that would include some of the aspects about how we manage sources, how we make decisions about the management of sources. And I would appreciate the opportunity to answer that question for the record offline.

Offline? If the FBI is "managing its sources" in a way that allows for innocent people to be murdered by its informants, or sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit, I'd humbly suggest that we the people—the ones who may be murdered or wrongfully imprisoned—ought to know about it.

To his credit, Rep. Delahunt doesn't back down.

Representative Delahunt: I'm not asking about qualities or guidelines or considerations. Does there exist today, in your opinion, a legal responsibility for the FBI to communicate, in a homicide investigation, either exculpatory information to the state and local authorities, or evidence that would indicate that an individual is responsible for murder? That's a 'yes' or 'no' question.

Murphy: I would prefer to answer that question offline if you wouldn't mind, thank you Congressman.

Delahunt: Well I do mind. And I don't see the reason why that answer has to be provided offline. That's a legal question.

Now, go back and read about the "House of Death" case.

Delahunt and Lundgren say they plan to introduce legislation that will force the FBI to both divulge exculpatory evidence and turn over evidence that its informants have committed violent crimes.

Good for them. Rather horrifying, though, that we'd need a law like that in the first place.

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  • thoreau||

    So, murder and wrongful imprisonment are necessary to fight drug dealers.

    And torture, warrantless spying, and detention without trial are needed to fight terrorists.

    We're fucked.

  • ||

    Talk about the pervasive corrupting influence of drugs.

  • BTS||

    Is it sad that I knew Balko wrote this without looking at who the author was?

  • ||

    thoreau,

    That's pretty much a given; I think we are really just arguing over the possibility of lube at this point.

    Cue the thug apologists and haters of minority rights...

  • Jane||

    Yes but how many more people were saved by the FBI protecting them from drugs? Sometimes the end justifies the means, especially when we are dealing with drugs.

  • ktc2||

    Yeah, this will get some kind of nonexistant "oversight" and that's about it.

    They have no incentive to do what's right.

  • Anonymous Bastert||

    It's nice to see that the FBI is thinking of the children.

  • ||

    This makes me wonder just how far out of bounds James Connolly was. I'd always understood his protection of Jimmy Bulger to be the actions of a rogue agent.

  • ||

    Jane,

    Yes but how many more people were saved by the FBI protecting them from drugs? Sometimes the end justifies the means, especially when we are dealing with drugs.

    Yes, exactly. I would definitely be dead of a speedball overdose right now if it hadn't been for FBI informants murdering innocent people and getting away with it. Thanks for that brilliant insight.

  • ||

    Just a minor criticism, Radley: when you write In other words, all of this is necessary, the FBI is saying, to keep people from getting high, it's a bit disingenuous. The organized crime organizations the FBI is after do more than get people high. You know that.

    And, yes, I understand how prohibition itself creates the violent crime, yadda yadda. It's still a bit disingenuous to describe the purpose of FBI drug investigations as being keep people from getting high.

    That said, it's still not even a remotely close call to allow murders to take place to keep a drug investigation going. You don't have the bullshit on the weightiness of the drug investigations to make this point.

  • ||

    Unless, Jane, you were being sarcastic. In which case I withdraw my endorsement of your post.

  • Gahan||

    "Yes but how many more people were saved by the FBI protecting them from drugs?"

    Uh, let's see. Take the total number of drug users in 2006, subtract the incarceration rate, carry the one, adjust for inflation and according to my calculations. . . ZERO!

  • SIV||

    And, yes, I understand how prohibition itself creates the violent crime, yadda yadda. It's still a bit disingenuous to describe the purpose of FBI drug investigations as being keep people from getting high

    Why do we have drug laws?
    The language of law enforcement is "getting drugs off the street" and "a street value of....".

    If it was about criminal enterprises, tax evasion, and associated violence would the DEA bother with prescription drug diversion and Docs too lose with the 'script pad?

  • highnumber||

    I know that Jane and Juanita are the same person as far as the essence of the posts, but I wonder if they are truly the same commenter. I don't think they are. Why would (s)he switch names? I think I note a slightly different style of writing. Juanita is a little gruffer.

    I'll track you down, Jane & Juanita!
    I will figure this out. One day I will know all.

  • ||

    I hope more Republicans will eventually recognize that it isn't worth the cost in freedom to continue supporting the enforcement institutions that would play these games to get their busts.

  • ||

    I hope more Republicans will eventually recognize that it isn't worth the cost in freedom to continue supporting the enforcement institutions that would play these games to get their busts.


    More than the current zero?

  • ||

    SIV,

    You're not going to get a defense of the drug laws from me. I'm right there with you.

    But look at the link about the "House of Death." If the DEA were involved in a case that involved a professional murderer for Mexican drug gangs as a confidential informant, chances are, they weren't investigation Dr. Scriptenberg and his Bic.

  • ||

    Hey, Gimme Back My Dog. That's "one," and don't you forget it.

  • ||

    Thanks Joe. And don't forget GOP defector Bob Barr. Radley is going to get more, or die trying.

  • thoreau||

    Radley is going to get more, or die trying.

    How many Republicans would have to defect on the drug war to make legalization a "respectable" stance? Any guesses?

  • up to my ears||

    wod is the only issue I vote on anymore.

    fucking scumbag pigs. every fucking one of them.

  • with the wod||

    Ron Paul for president.

  • ||

    Thoreau, I don't know how many wil ever support legalization. but it would be nice to think they aren't all so evil to condone murders to further the cause.

  • ||

    Yah volt, mein Fuhrer! I mean Mr. President.

    Reels the mind.

    Former Attorney General Lungren should have made a citizen's arrest on behalf of all of his former colleagues right there. Obstruction of justice, due process, cruel and unusual . . . unfreaking believable.

  • ||

    The organized crime organizations the FBI is after do more than get people high. You know that.

    Maybe so, but apparently the FBI does more than investigate crime, it commits it too. The more we learn about the FBI, and law enforcement generally, the harder it is to know which side to root for in any battle with the mob.

  • SIV||

    wod is the only issue I vote on anymore

    Straight Libertarian ticket?

    I'm curious as some commenters here are under a delusion that the Dems are better than Republicans on the drug issue.

  • ||

    thoreau,

    How many Republicans would have to defect on the drug war to make legalization a "respectable" stance? Any guesses?

    Only one, if it's the right one, and they'll all snap to with near-military discipline. One if there's a Bush in March 03-level figurehead, but really, it would only take the very top of the party, and BAM! Overnight.

    That's how it's going to happen; like a volcanoe. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. What was that? Nothing. Nothing. No-BLAM!!!

  • ||

    Radley Balko is like some sort of bizarro Superman. By night an ordinary man of steal flying around in tights and a cape. But by day he becomes 'The Agitator' - World's mightiest reporter, savior of western civilization and foe to government thugs.

  • ed||

    Yeah, Rad is rad. Too bad he's pissing in the wind. But those who fight the good fight can look themselves in the mirror and be content.

  • ||

    I don't say this often (because it's not warranted often), but bravo to Congress on this one.

  • ||

    How many murders did Sammy 'the bull' walk on?

  • ||

    Sammy got away with 20, that Sammy admitted to.
    According to a reporter at the NY Daily News he killed a guy after an experiment in gay sex.

    Well people, this is a case for the Libertarian militia. Any takers;?
    If not now, when?

  • ||

    Delahunt: Well I do mind. And I don't see the reason why that answer has to be provided offline. That's a legal question.



    So what happened after this bit? Did he get an answer? And if not, was there really anything he could do to compel one?

  • thoreau||

    Well people, this is a case for the Libertarian militia. Any takers;?
    If not now, when?


    We're waiting until your sting operation ends.

  • Garth||

    If we really want to reduce the crime rate we should reduce the number of things that are considered crimes.

    Just Saying

  • ||

    Too bad the FBI "witness" isn't sitting in jail right now on contempt of Congress until he answers.

  • ||

    It's not like the FBI is covering up for the crimes of its informants, or destroying evidence that people are innocent.

    No private citizen is required to inform the authorities if they know that a person committed murder, and no private citizen is required to hand over exculpatory evidence.

    I know local prosecutors ARE required to hand over such information, but in the context of a state or local crime, the FBI doesn't have any special role; it's just another entity outside the state/local justice system.

  • Ron Paul\'s golden retriever||

    Hey, when you make an omelet, you break a few eggs. In order to get drugs off the streets and out of the veins of our children there will be collateral damage. LIBERALS like you who don't know that defending freedom takes muscle and death are ruining our nation. The muslims know they have to kill people to win the war. We need to win the wars on Islamofascism, drugs and pornography, and we need to do it by any means necessary in order to have a peaceful world. You are endangering us -- ALL OF US -- by suggesting otherwise. This magazine is advocating treason.

  • ||

    For a site called tReason...

  • ||

    One more reason to end the WOD. But you won't convince Republicans that ending prohibition is the right thing to do just because innocents are murdered or sent to prison. Thebest argument to win Republican support is to point to the $7.4 billion cost of prohibition and the billions in sin taxes to be made by taxing legalized drug transactions.

    End the WOD.

  • LibertyPlease||

    "We need to win the wars on Islamofascism, drugs and pornography, and we need to do it by any means necessary in order to have a peaceful world."

    Translation: "Hey Sheeple! Look at the bunny! Look at the bunny!"

  • Paul||

    but for rewarding those who did the hiding and covering up with bonuses and promotions.

    I dunno, sounds like a teacher's convention after a good session of inappropriate touching...

  • bluser||

    Either you want the FBI to fight your drug war, or you don't. Congress has chosen to make them fight a war against American citizens, so tactics like these are necessary. Don't like it? End the drug war.

    There is a reason it's called the "war on drugs" - it is a real war, with real battles and casualties. If you aren't willing to murder people in order to achieve your objective, you shouldn't start a war.

    Be careful what you wish for, and don't complain when get exactly what you've wished for. Americans voted for a war on drugs. Now they're whining about it? Give me a break.

  • Wazmo Nariz||

    I didn't vote for WOD, bluser, and I doubt many here did...so what's your *real* point? And any nation which wages an unjust war upon its own citizenry ala WOD is hardly worthy of the label "nation"...it would rightfully be labeled "just another sewer."

  • publius||

    "Hey, when you make an omelet, you break a few eggs. In order to get drugs off the streets and out of the veins of our children there will be collateral damage. LIBERALS like you who don't know that defending freedom takes muscle and death are ruining our nation. "

    JUst to be clear, freedom would be the situation where people are allowed to use whatever substances on their own bodies they want to. Oddly, that describes the way it was when this country was created. So, the war on drugs limits freedom, again, just to be clear. Now, since it is clear you don't love freedom, can you prove your war is keeping "drugs off the streets and out of the veins of our children?" What, not blind, just a fascist - gotcha.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Well, there's plenty of grounds to charge the G-men concerned. Besides the obvious civil lawsuit, they've committed conspiracy to deprive a citizen of a constitutional right under color of authority, which is good for a ten-year stretch in Leavenworth, last I heard.

    -jcr

  • Ayn_Randian||

    you won't convince Republicans that ending prohibition is the right thing to do just because innocents are murdered or sent to prison.

    Cute. As if Democrats are leading the charge on ending the WoD.

    Face it; both parties are trés repugnant.

  • ||

    @Mo

    I don't say this often (because it's not warranted often), but bravo to Congress on this one.

    Meh. Hold your bravo until we see what they actually do about it. Two congress-critters on the warpath does not necessarily get a bill on the president's desk.

  • edna||

    the level of troll-feeding is astonishing.

    can i play? can i play? "when are we going to get as serious and start using whatever means necessary to protect our kids from smut? we see huge drug busts every day on tv and we have liberals like this randy blacko guy letting us know how serious and dedicated our law enforcement heroes are. but where is the equivalent effort on smut? when was the last time that randy blacko was able to tell us about perverts with pornography collections getting that bullet they so richly deserve?"

    there. i feel much better.

  • Kip W||

    Drugs are illegal because a bellboy smoked a joint and killed six people. Harry Anslinger said so. And drugs are stronger than ever, so a bellboy can now lay waste to an entire small town.

    The fact that there are very few bellboys now can be directly attributed to the success of the war on bellboys, and the willingness of our crime fighters to overlook a few murders in order to solve a few, well, murders.

  • Episiarch||

    So I guess the ideal thing to be is an FBI snitch, because then you can get away with any fucking crime imaginable.

    I think I'll call the G-Men right now, and then go waste some Congressmen. As long as I give them the goods on my local pot smokers, I'm clear!

    Just one more fucking reason that I hate, hate, hate the pigs.

  • ||

    Randy Blacko... HAHAHAHahahaaa!

    *wipes tears*

    Golly, I miss you guys when I'm away.

  • ||

    John C. Randolph | August 1, 2007, 2:12am | #

    Well, there's plenty of grounds to charge the G-men concerned. Besides the obvious civil lawsuit, they've committed conspiracy to deprive a citizen of a constitutional right under color of authority, which is good for a ten-year stretch in Leavenworth, last I heard.


    And if enough people in the higher reaches knew about it, a smart prosecutor could probably get a grand jury to bite on a RICO charge too.

  • Dave W.||

    We're talking about the US military concealing evidence of murder of Pat Tillman in order to not disrupt the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004.

    Mr. Nick Gillespie was covering this important news story as recently as March of this year:

    http://www.reason.com/blog/show/119340.html

    Presumably he is preparing an update right at this very moment. At least I hope he is.

  • ||

    And drugs are stronger than ever, so a bellboy can now lay waste to an entire small town.

    Damn, that's sharp. I could shave with that snark.

  • ||

    I have this friend where whenever he smokes a joint he turns into a werewolf, and this other one who turns into a vampire. They loosely based the film Underworld on them. True story. Can I get an ONDCP grant?

  • Urkobold&trade||

    RANDOLPH'S STORY IS TRUE. I SAW HIM ENGAGED IN AN ORGY WITH THEM, A RABID SQUIRREL, KOKO (THE FAMOUS APE), AND PAUL REUBENS DURING THE LAST FULL MOON. IT WAS A TOTALLY HORRIFYING SIGHT, EVEN FOR MYSELF.

  • dhex||

    I'm curious as some commenters here are under a delusion that the Dems are better than Republicans on the drug issue.

    a few of them are marginally better. for the most part they can all suh-suh-suh-suck a dick.

    i mean, republicans have pretty much proven themselves to be utterly worthless at just about everything, but i understand a lot of people come to libertarianism from that camp so it's like you know old colors don't fade or run or whatever that shirt about hunting osama said.

  • ||

    I have this friend where whenever he smokes a joint he listens to Smashing Pumpkins and eats Sun Chips.

  • dhex||

    jesus, smashing pumpkins?

    to think i've been wrong bout the drug war all these years...

  • BTS||

    "the FBI does more than investigate crime, it commits it too."

    God, I love that line. Deserves to be right up there with "the police are there to MAINTAIN disorder"

  • ||

    I think we need an ecstasy bomb . . . with an attendant massive explosion and atmospherically thorough pool of happy-smart-love vibrations filling the nation. One by one, the G-men drop their guns, the dealers drop their bags, and the feds drop their drawers. Ahhhh! Let the orgiastic peace festival begin! Ecstasy bomb!

  • Minion of URKOBOLD||

    BUNGALOW BILL NEEDS THE +3 GAUNTLETS OF ORGY POWER!!!!!

  • ||

    If I get the point of this article, these representatives are threatening to enact a law that would require a law enforcement agency (the FBI) to disclose the occurrence of violent crime to another law enforcement agency to ensure prosecution of the violent crime. Isn't that what law enforcement agencies are for? I know the feds prosecute murder - the FBI just uses its discretion to even report certain murders to federal prosecutors to prevent their prosecution. No law will fix that. Nice thought, though.

  • ||

    I remember Dan Lundgren as California AG. If Lundgren thinks this is the FBI going a bit too far, I'm fxxxing terrified.

  • ||

    ""I have this friend where whenever he smokes a joint he turns into a werewolf, and this other one who turns into a vampire. They loosely based the film Underworld on them. True story."""

    Yeah, That guys scared the women away. That was the last time I'll party with him.

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