Resources

  • 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)

Recent Blog Posts

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The pressure to become an ICE informant

The Intercept published this extensive story on the ICE informant program, how individual migrants can be coerced into becoming informants, and how the practice intersects with various aspects of the immigration apparatus: Play to Stay: Undocumented Immigrant Faces a Choice: Become an Informant for ICE or Be Deported.  The piece documents both the relatively robust regulatory structure that ICE uses to manage informants, and how it can go wrong.  From the article:

   "Working with confidential informants is a controlled process with oversight from [Homeland Security Investigations] HSI management, [Agent] Robinette said. Informants are registered and receive identification numbers. Background checks are conducted. Supervisors must approve the agreements. Indeed, ICE dedicates an entire handbook solely to informants, though its contents have not been made public. A separate HSI handbook on asset forfeiture, leaked to The Intercept and also published by the independent media organization Unicorn Riot, says that ICE should “identify, cultivate, and retain assistance” from so-called confidential informants “who are intimately involved with targeted criminal organizations.” According to the handbook, employing an informant should be a last resort, and the decision to do so should be made only after weighing the informant’s reliability against other factors. Every dollar paid to informants should be carefully considered and documented.

At the same time, ICE informant practices suffer from many of the ills that characterize informant use more generally and in less regulated environments. As the article notes, "several news stories have highlighted the pitfalls of ICE-informant relationships. Agents have fostered improper liaisons with informants. In one case, ICE knew an informant participated in killings yet continued working with him anyway (the agent was later fired). ICE, along with the FBI, uses informants and then works to deport them. ICE defenders like Robinette paint these as isolated incidents, and, of course, most ICE informants don’t make the news."

For similar stories and additional resources see these prior posts.