- The FBI supplies the Justice Department with a list of authorized ‘otherwise illegal’ activities committed by informants every year
- The mandate was put in place after it was revealed that mobster Whitey Bulger was a bureau snitch
- According to the FBI’s report for 2012, informants broke the law at least 5,939 that year
PUBLISHED: 15:50 EST, 27 December 2013
In business you have to spend money to make money and apparently in law enforcement, you have to allow crimes to catch criminals.
According to documents obtained by the Huffington Post in a Freedom of Information Act request, FBI agents authorized informants to break the law at least 5,939 times in 2012.
The bureau was mandated to supply the Justice Department with these statistics annually more than 10 years ago after it was revealed that mobster Whitey Bugler was a snitch – but the numbers were never made public until earlier this year, when USA Today made the first FOIA request for the documents.
Track records: When it was revealed more than 10 years ago that mobster Whitey Bulger was a snitch, the FBI was mandated to keep track of illegal activities they authorized informants to commit. Above, Bulger in court on November 13, 2013
The national newspaper requested every report since 2006, but FBI officials were only able to locate 2011’s report – which showed that agents authorized 5,658 ‘otherwise illegal’ activities that year.
The crimes range from bullying and selling drugs to planning robberies and agents authorize an average of 15 authorizations a day.
‘It sounds like a lot, but you have to keep it in context,’ Shawn Henry, a retired FBI employee who used to supervise criminal investigations, told USA Today. ‘This is not done in a vacuum. It’s not done randomly. It’s not taken lightly.’
The FBI numbers are likely just a small part of the picture. The bureau accounted for just 10 per cent of the criminal crimes prosecuted in federal court in 2011 and most cases are filed by state and local authorities who have their own separate sources.
Denise Ballew, a spokeswoman for the FBI, refused to answer questions from USA Today, but said that the circumstances around illegal activity authorizations are ‘situational’ and ‘tightly controlled’.
Allowing it: The FBI authorized informants to break the law at least 5,939 times in 2012
For the most serious crimes, agents are first supposed to get permission from federal prosecutors before authorizing. But an Inspector General report in 2005 found that the FBI regularly failed to follow its own rules.
Still, the FBI is one of the only government agencies to keep track of this information.
When asked by the newspaper, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacoo, Firearms and Explosives said they could not determine how often their informants were allowed to break the law.
The FBI could face new protocols soon as Congressman Stephen Lynch, a Democrat representing Massachusetts, is currently sponsoring a bill which would require federal agencies to notify legislators about the most serious crimes their snitches commit.
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