In the post-9/11 America, 15,000 informants work with the FBI, nearly three times as many as 25 years ago, NPR reports. The targets in the FBI’s sights have changed: first organized crime, then drug smuggling, and now counterterrorism. “The informants play larger roles where they acted almost as agent provocateurs, where they provided not only the opportunity for the person to commit this act of terror, but also the means,” says Mother Jones contributor Trevor Aaronson.
Mother Jones partnered with the University of California-Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program. How are the FBI agents finding so many informants willing to infiltrate mosques and Muslim communities? Sometimes, the money is alluring. “A big reason, especially within the Muslim community and in counterterrorism investigations is that the FBI is able to use immigration against people,” Aaronson says. “If you are going to recruit an informant and you realize that he has an immigration violation, often times the FBI will be able to use that as a form of leverage to say ‘well if you work with us, we’ll work with the immigration authorities to make sure you’re not deported’.”