Drug Policy

More on Informant Abuse

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about a fairly startling congressional hearing in which a representative from the FBI could not assure two congressmen that the agency would not (a) allow its undercover informants to get away with murdering U.S. citizens, and, (b) keep secret exculpatory evidence that would prevent an innocent person from going to prison.

As it turns out, there are DOJ guidelines prohibiting such behavior. See page 25 (PDF):

b. A JLEA is never permitted to authorize a CI to:
(i) participate in an act of violence;
(ii) participate in an act that constitutes obstruction of justice (e.g.,
perjury, witness tampering, witness intimidation, entrapment, or the
fabrication, alteration, or destruction of evidence);
(iii) participate in an act designed to obtain information for the JLEA that
would be unlawful if conducted by a law enforcement agent (e.g.,
breaking and entering, illegal wiretapping, illegal opening or tampering
with the mail, or trespass amounting to an illegal search); or
(iv) initiate or instigate a plan or strategy to commit a federal, state, or
local offense.

If the man the FBI sent before Congress to represent the agency at hearings about the use of informants wasn't aware of the guidelines, one can't help but wonder how closely DOJ's cops and prosecutors follow them.

Worse, when federal law enforcement agents do break them, and look the other way while their paid informants commit violent crimes, the agents in violation aren't punished, and the victims aren't always compensated.

For the last several years, journalist Bill Conroy has been following the "House of Death" case (and been harassed by the government for doing so), in which a paid informant for federal ICE agents (he was paid more than $200,000) participated in several brutal murders, many with the knowledge of federal law enforcement officials. Most of those killed were Mexican nationals, but one was a legal U.S. resident, and U.S. officials also stood by while, in a case of mistaken identity, an American citizen was kidnapped, taken to Mexico, and allowed to languish for three years in a Mexican prison.

The federal government recently had to pay $385,000 to a DEA whistle blower who claimed he was punished for bringing the outrageous behavior of federal ICE officials and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton to light. But it looks as if the families of the actual murder victims won't get a dime.

This week, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims' families in that case before it ever got to trial, ruling that even if all of their accusations were true, federal authorities have no duty to protect people from third parties, even if those third parties are working for the federal government and the government knows they're about to commit violent crimes; and because the murders all took place in Mexico, not in the United States.

Sutton is still the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. And none of the ICE officials who participated in the House of Death case have been disciplined, save for those who tried to raise red flags about what was going on.

MORE: "joe" notes in the comments section that the guidelines only seem to pertain to federal officials authorizing an informant to commit violence or obstruction, not to looking the other way while he engages in it, or failing to report it after it happens.  So it looks like they aren't breaking their own guidelines.  Not sure if that makes all of this more outrageous, or just a different kind of outrageous.