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FBI Authorized Informants To Break The Law 22,800 Times In 4 Years (dailydot.com) 106

blottsie quotes a report from the Daily Dot: Over a four-year period, the FBI authorized informants to break the law more than 22,800 times, according to newly reviewed documents. Official records obtained by the Daily Dot under the Freedom of Information Act show the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave informants permission at least 5,649 times in 2013 to engage in activity that would otherwise be considered a crime. In 2014, authorization was given 5,577 times, the records show. USA Today previously revealed confidential informants engaged in "otherwise illegal activity," as the bureau calls it, 5,658 times in 2011. The figure was at 5,939 the year before, according to documents acquired by the Huffington Post. In total, records obtained by reporters confirm the FBI authorized at least 22,823 crimes between 2011 and 2014. Unfortunately, many of those crimes can have serious and unintended consequences. One of the examples mentioned in the Daily Dot's report was of an FBI informant who "was responsible for facilitating the 2011 breach of Stratfor in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the last decade. While a handful of informants ultimately brought down the principal hacker responsible, the sting also caused Stratfor, an American intelligence firm, millions of dollars in damages and left and estimated 700,000 credit card holders vulnerable to fraud."
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FBI Authorized Informants To Break The Law 22,800 Times In 4 Years

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  • How does that work? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fsckinhippies ( 2642759 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @05:43PM (#52758985)
    I authorize you to break the law. Are they above the law or refusing to enforce the law? Not much difference.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      None of the above. They are the law!
    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @05:57PM (#52759073)

      No it is an authority which is specifically given to various arms of law enforcement. The level of the crime to be authorised changes who must sign off on it. Authorization of violent crimes are not allowed by field agents and serious offenses must first be approved by federal prosecutors.

      The obvious example is allowing a street corner drug dealer to keep dealing in order to catch their supplier.

      • by SeattleLawGuy ( 4561077 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @12:55AM (#52760531)

        No it is an authority which is specifically given to various arms of law enforcement. The level of the crime to be authorised changes who must sign off on it. Authorization of violent crimes are not allowed by field agents and serious offenses must first be approved by federal prosecutors.

        The obvious example is allowing a street corner drug dealer to keep dealing in order to catch their supplier.

        For example, field agents signed off on 21,823 of the 22,823 crimes, which were for pizza delivery drivers to break traffic laws in DC in order to get pizza to the FBI building faster. Fortunately the traffic in DC is so messed up already that nobody noticed.

        The pizza drivers would call before delivery and give the code phrase "I inform you that this pizza is awesome," thereby becoming FBI informants who could be authorized to break the law.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @12:56AM (#52760541) Homepage

        I would bet, victims of those crimes, who forced a constitutional challenge to those criminals activities could force some really severe penalties on the government. You might say you can, and write crap laws that say you can but legally can you really purposefully create victims of citizens, criminally fuck people over, to what, advance your career. Somehow that doesn't quite ring true as being legal, regardless of the anti-constitutional lies their lawyers and corrupt politicians spread.

        • Something tells me that that particular legal question has been asked many many many times and the legal standing is known. Informants and allowing crimes to pass un-punished in exchange for catching bigger crimes is hardly a new concept.

        • by e r ( 2847683 )

          I would bet, victims of those crimes, who forced a constitutional challenge to those criminals activities could force some really severe penalties on the government.

          Force?! Force the world's most powerful government/military to do something? I don't think you understand how power works.

          You might say you can, and write crap laws that say you can but legally can you really purposefully create victims of citizens, criminally fuck people over, to what, advance your career.

          Since they are currently and routinely doing precisely that then the answer to your question is "yes". And you can't do squat about it.

          Somehow that doesn't quite ring true as being legal, regardless of the anti-constitutional lies their lawyers and corrupt politicians spread.

          1. What makes you think that your opinion of legality is important or should be listened to?
          2. They both make and enforce the law. They decide what is legal. Not because it's fair, nor because you think it's right or fair. They get to do such things bec

      • "No it is an authority which is specifically given to various arms of law enforcement."

        By who exactly? It still sounds like selective enforcement to me. A federal prosecutor signing off on the commission of a crime would be making themselves an accomplice subject to prosecution. Prosecutors can choose which crimes to prosecute based on the probability of successful prosecution but are not themselves immune to the law and have no authority which allows them to encourage or participate in crime. There is no s
        • Law enforcement members are covered by the doctrine of qualified immunity.

          The supreme court has previously made this ruling: [o]ur decisions have recognized immunity defenses of two kinds. For officials whose special functions or constitutional status requires complete protection from suit, we have recognized the defense of “absolute immunity.” The absolute immunity of legislators, in their legislative functions, and of judges, in their judicial functions, now is well settled. Our decisions also

          • That covers immunity required to execute the function of their office. This falls outside the scope of that immunity. Further this does not convey the ability to transfer that immunity to others except in the sense that some officials would have the authority to appoint people to positions which would carry immunity such as the President.

            There is certainly nothing in the Constitution that would allow such, with the possible exception of a treaty. Without a grant of power and chain of authority from the Cons
            • Did you read the link that I gave you? It specifically covers the sanctioning of otherwise illegal activity and given that is part of their legislative function the qualified immunity would extend to those orders.

              Also the constitution hardly outlines all the powers that are available to the government. You may not like it but there is a huge load of case law which supports the practice and it is written into the acts outlining the FBI powers.

              Part 1.
              Otherwise illegal activity by an FBI agent or employee in

              • "Also the constitution hardly outlines all the powers that are available to the government."

                That is EXACTLY what the Constitution does. If the people via the Constitution does not grant the power, the government does not have it. It even spells that out in the bill of rights, all powers not granted to the government by the Constitution are reserved to the states and the people. The Constitution provides that the Supreme Court will interpret the powers granted and it is rulings in that capacity which can all
                • I think you are getting into the semantics of what is legal and what isn't there. I get it that you feel that the constitution should be the basis of all laws and powers of the government but it isn't and hasn't been for a long time. Laws and legislation are passed by the government because they have the power to pass them and enforce them, and while there is always the risk of civil uprising that is no different then if the rule causing an issue was written into the constitution.

                  Most other countries don'

                  • "Most other countries don't have a constitution that has as many explicit clauses as the US one, and some, such as England, don't even have one. So a constitution per se is not inherently more legally binding than anything else simply because its a constitution."

                    Other countries have little bearing on the legal system of the United States. In the United States the people fought a rebellion to take power, that power is reserved to the people, a small grant of power was given by the people to establish a centr
    • Parent has a good point. For one, the FBI technically doesn't have the right to authorize breaking the law. Isn't that the right of a federal prosecutor or the DoJ? The FBI, for all their fancy suits and cool sunglasses are just basically cops. A cop could ignore someone breaking the law, but they aren't really supposed to. The DA looks at the evidence collected by the police and decides if there are grounds for charges. (Actually it is probably more along the lines of if they are likely to succeed in getti
    • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @10:34PM (#52760169)

      That is how it works in a police-state: Even if the police rapes, pillages and murders wholesale, they get at most an inquiry that finds they did nothing wrong. Actual "rule of law" says the law applies to everybody and the police are held to an even higher standard. These days, many of them are thugs with no accountability at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reap what you sow.

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @05:55PM (#52759055)
    Did the FBI allow crimes to be committed simply to make their jobs easier, or because it was the lesser of two evils. I suspect that it's a bit of both. More FBI sanctioned crimes will occur. The trend isn't ending because of a report about it. In upcoming years, we may not be able to find out how much sanctioned crime occurred, as they are likely to redact just about everything to hide their combination of laziness and criminal complicity. It's really a sad state of affairs in the USA these days.
    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @06:00PM (#52759095)

      You are right that it will be a combination of both. But if your aim is, for example, to bust a drug cartel then sticking every street dealer you find in prison will make that extremely difficult if not impossible.

      The real issues come about when law enforcement ends up working too closely with a particular person turning a blind eye to their activities to target others. James Bulger is a prime example of this.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        Would it? I wounder. I mean people deal drugs to make money, they do it because they think its a better opportunity than they have else where. If it was widely know that you will be caught, tried, and convicted for dealing and quickly maybe people would not do it.

        How long will the cartel last if they can't move product. In dependent of whether its a good thing or not we have eyes basically everywhere now. Combined with a little social media and telephone metadata analysis we could probably collar all b

        • Look at how many people are serving time in the US for minor drug drug charges. I don't think those people went into it thinking they would get caught but evidence mounts up pretty quickly that people are caught and in large numbers.

          No a bigger issue is that for a lot of people the risk of prison isn't enough of a disincentive because their current situation is so utterly shit.

          Also you need to keep in mind that the FBI / DEA etc are finite in resources. They simply cannot have an officer on every corner.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Do as i say, not as i do.

    • I could be wrong but I have a feeling that the number is this large because they have dozens of informants in ongoing investigations engaging in illegal activities so it could be at any given time the FBI has 15 informants on a daily basis allowed to engage in illegal activity.

      Doesn't seem so outlandish in that context. They do investigate a lot of crimes that take a lot of investigative work do to the sophistication of the persons and or groups involved in the crimes.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Its parallel construction to induce a crime that would have happened. To have the ability to be ready when an informant has set up a crime that gets "discovered" and can be seen as court ready from the origin of the very public, formal case.
      No issues around evidence that is tainted or flowed from gov/mil illegal action, all search warrants are ready, all interviews and comments got witness by two or more federal law enforcement officials.
      Methods, effortless and constant decryption, years of beacon tra
    • The people meant to protect us should be held to a higher standard (the FBI not the informants). The argument of a lesser of two evils should never be used. This is corruption pure and simple.
  • Where is the "SLASHDOT IS FBI" guy? I figured he'd be all over this story.

    Maybe he's thinking about going back to being the "cows say moo" guy.

    • I don't know where "he" is but i would recommend according to sources on the net to be on the look out for shape shifting aliens disguised as humans, who, like the hybrid humans+aliens, must consume human flesh to maintain their human appearance.

      human flesh is being found more and more in common food today,

      there exists a certain barrier in normal, everyday thought which hides the reality of these creatures and their hybrids along with the smell and taste of human flesh in common food as well as the scent of

    • Where is the "SLASHDOT IS FBI" guy? I figured he'd be all over this story.

      He was killed by our Robotic Overlords.

  • The comparison of this number to assorted lude and crude innuendo and various "your mom" jokes is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • As long as the FBI has the power to authorize people to break the law, why not just get them to murder every suspect? No investigation needs to last longer than a day.
    • by BringsApples ( 3418089 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @07:06PM (#52759403)
      Your logic is sound. The reason that it's not really happening that way is because the FBI isn't interested in making the world a better place. They're interested in getting as much money as possible. And they're not doing it for any reason, other than the same reasons that the drug cartels do it. I'm talking to you, guy who invented Civil Forfeiture.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        wait - you think murdering "suspects" would make the world a better place ? This from a community so up in arms over privacy violations because it's wrong, but apparently you don't give two fucks about any due process ?

        • WOOOSH! I do care about due process, but due process doesn't exist in Civil Foreiture, or anywhere else that the feds feel that it shouldn't.
      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        The US has so many "other" agencies operating domestically that nobody can keep up with all the mil, mil/gov, gov, private sector informants.
        Everyone is flooding the internet with bait and the FBI has to respond to it all only to discover its all from the US gov, mil as part of domestic missions to keep budgets and make great over time.
        Great for the growth and funding of each agency but the FBI then has to work out what is a crime or just another US agency creating a legend around some other mil/gov bac
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because the cops have already discovered that once they start shooting suspects, in America, the people start shooting back. This is the purpose of the second amendment.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    https://thinkprogress.org/supreme-court-says-ignorance-of-the-law-is-an-excuse-if-youre-a-cop-d8bdb99987f1#.e57rxa83d

    "... the state argued that the cops had made a “reasonable” mistake when they pulled over Heien for having one tail light, and thus were not precluded from using the evidence that came out of that stop. This assertion is controversial in and of itself. After all, police already have such vast leeway to make traffic stops that Fourth Amendment scholar Orin Kerr recently quipped,

  • by Chalnoth ( 1334923 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @07:08PM (#52759409)

    It's perfectly reasonable for law enforcement to allow some informants to commit certain crimes while attempting to shut down a larger organization. Simply reporting the number of times that this happens says nothing one way or the other about whether the FBI is doing a good job at making use of this power.

    Personally, I'm much more worried about the times that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies engage in sting operations where they use such informants to urge people to commit legal activity and then arrest them for it. Some fraction of these informants may well be doing just this sort of thing, but the report of merely the number of informants doesn't say anything about that. Here [wikipedia.org] is one example of such entrapment. Quoted from the above page:

    The judge criticized not only the defendants, but also what she viewed as the government's overzealous handling of the investigation. Referring to Cromitie, she said, "The essence of what occurred here is that a government, understandably zealous to protect its citizens from terrorism, came upon a man both bigoted and suggestible, one who was incapable of committing an act of terrorism on his own. It created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true." She added, "The government did not have to infiltrate and foil some nefarious plot – there was no nefarious plot to foil." She said the defendants were "not political or religious martyrs," but "thugs for hire, pure and simple."

    • I see what you did there. You conveniently forgot to point out that while the judge did indeed say what you quoted, that same judge also sentenced all 4 men to 25 years in prison anyway. The sentences were upheld on appeal 2-1 with all 3 judges rejecting the entrapment and government misconduct issues raised by defendants.
  • Hey, I wouldn't snitch to the feds unless they let me kill a few people. That's just how the world works.
  • By authorizing and inducing the hack of Stratfor we came to know about many things [freejeremy.net] private companies and the government are doing (of course they are not going to answer for their crimes). They should encourage more people to commit crimes like invading and damaging companies like this.
    Of course the rest of the FBI's entrapment activities [theintercept.com] is just for the worst of your country (and of the world with the "war on terror").

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      That may be true but it's a bit disgusting how they opportunisticly stirred up so much hype and fear of crackers afterwards despite being involved themselves.
      If nothing else it's making the tinfoil types think that the only thing powerful enough to mess about with "the establishment" is the government itself.
  • What is the word "otherwise" there for? It simply is illegal activity.

  • According to Thomas Hobbes, whose philosophy holds sway over political circles the FBI is the law and can injure no one.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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