The Federal Bureau of Investigation violated internal guidelines in handling confidential informants in nine of every 10 cases reviewed, says a Justice Department inspector general’s study reported by the New York Times. The violations risked compromising investigations, said inspector general Glenn Fine. The guidelines permit informants like drug dealers or gang members to commit crimes to further an investigation. Agents sometimes allowed informants to engage in crime without getting needed approval, failed to report unauthorized illegal activity, or approved such activity retroactively, the review found.
The FBI considers the use of confidential informants, who often have criminal ties, to be critical to its ability to penetrate drug trafficking and terrorist organizations and gangs. The FBI said it is working to improve compliance with guidelines for the handling of informants and had already moved to make some changes recommended by Fine. Kevin Brock, an assistant FBI director, told the Times, “We had more and more regulations that we added on over the years, and we weren’t doing the follow-up quality control on our own.”