• SNITCHING: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice
  • U.S. Attorney General's Guidelines on the FBI's Use of Confidential Human Sources
  • Sarah Stillman, The Throwaways, The New Yorker (2012) (article on the use of juvenile informants)

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Jersey Record: Right-wing radio host was an FBI informant

The New Jersey Record reports that ultra-right-wing radio host/blogger Hal Turner worked for over five years for the FBI. Turner was tried last month for threatening three federal appellate judges in Chicago: Judges Posner, Easterbrook, and Bauer. Turner's case ended in a mistrial and he is scheduled to be retried in March. According to the Record, Turner was paid and coached by the FBI while he broadcast neo-Nazi and white supremacy views over the radio and internet:
As Turner took to his radio show and blog to say that those who opposed his extremist views deserve to die, he received thousands of dollars from the FBI to report on such groups as the Aryan Nations and the white supremacist National Alliance, and even a member of the Blue Eyed Devils skinhead punk band. Later, he was sent undercover to Brazil where he reported a plot to send non-military supplies to anti-American Iraqi resistance fighters. Sometimes he signed "Valhalla" on his FBI payment receipts instead of his own name.
His dual life of shock jock and informant offers a window into the murky realm of domestic intelligence in the years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks — in particular, the difficult choices for the FBI in penetrating controversial fringe groups with equally controversial informants. In interviews, he said the FBI coached him to make racist, anti-Semitic and other threatening statements and now he feels double-crossed by the bureau after his arrest. The documents reviewed by The Record, however, show repeated instances of federal agents admonishing Turner for his extremism.
Government support for active informants often creates this kind of chicken-and-egg problem. It is hard to know whether the informants would have committed their new offenses if they hadn't felt protected or authorized by the government. Cooperating drug dealers, for example, often assert that their government handlers condone their ongoing illegal activities. Similarly, the Record reports that Turner's threatening rhetoric towards the federal bench was affected, at least in his mind, by his relationship with the FBI:
Turner blames the FBI, saying that while agents never said he could threaten judges, they coached him on the limits of what he could say. As a result, Turner said he felt he had wide latitude. "I was given specific instructions," he said.