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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The (monetary) costs of informant use

On Wednesday, FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller testified that the US government paid informant Shahed Hussain about $100 per day and $52,000 total for his work in helping to plan a fake plot to bomb a New York City synagogue. The four individuals that he worked with are currently on trial for their roles in the plot. In Florida, Tampa police and the FBI paid an informant approximately $2,400 per month to set up twelve alleged gang members. On its own, neither rate is extraordinary. But now in the Florida case, some of the twelve accused gang members have filed suit against the FBI, the city of Tampa, and individual officers, claiming malicious prosecution and civil rights violations. The criminal cases against alleged gang members were thrown out after a state court judge found egregious misconduct by the informant in the case. Even if the civil case is unsuccessful, the cost to the taxpayers of defending it will be significant and will certainly dwarf the money originally paid to the informant. These legal costs are an inevitable part of a system that thrives on minimal oversight and self-enforced guidelines.