• 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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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Jack Abramoff: classic repeat offender informant

Remember Jack Abramoff, the corrupt lobbyist who defrauded Indian tribes of millions and used the money to bribe members of Congress and White House officials?  In 2008 he was sentenced to four years of incarceration for multiple offenses, decades less than he might have received, in exchange for his cooperation.  Now Abramoff is headed back to prison for . . .  corrupt lobbying.  Abramoff joins a long line of repeat offender informants who commit serious crimes, cooperate in exchange for leniency, and then continue committing those very same offenses.  It is one of the costs of running the criminal system as a marketplace in which guilt and information can be so easily and routinely traded: we send the message that informants can earn impunity, and that they can work off even the most serious crimes if they are useful enough to the government.  I worried about the Abramoff case back in 2009 here.  As I wrote back then, "this is the perennial dilemma with snitches: it is very hard to know whether we are actually getting more security and justice by letting them off the hook, or whether we too easily forgive serious wrongdoing in the name of cooperation."