Friday, August 29, 2008

Snitches in the News: Informant use at root of many scandals

The reminder this morning about UT-Austin police spying on student groups led me to think about a topic I've strayed from recently on Grits - confidential informants. Several recent stories (most of them outside of Texas, to be sure) demonstrate that it would be easy to devote an entire blog to the subject of informants and the risks their use poses to police integrity and public safety. Here are some recent examples:
The In These Times reporter quoted one of Grits' favorite thinkers on the topic, Loyola (CA) law professor Alexandra Natapoff, who offered up this gem:

"The government's use of criminal informants is largely secretive, unregulated and unaccountable," she says. "This lack of oversight and quality control leads to wrongful convictions, more crime, disrespect for the law and sometimes even official corruption."

She continues: "If the criminal system can't get homicide cases right, then it's very unlikely that we're getting other things right."

RELATED: See also this report (pdf) published last year by The Justice Project on the topic of wrongful convictions based on jailhouse snitches, including recommendations for reform.


Don Dickson said...

Link correction:

Antifascist said...

Interesting piece, Scott.

The use of "confidential informants" to gin up criminal convictions is a permanent feature of the so-called justice system.

I don't have the stat readily available but if I'm not mistaken, greater than half of the Gitmo detainees are there on the word of a snitch...a pissed-off neighbor, political enemy or just someone out to make a buck.

Here, in the U.S., COINTELPRO (the FBI's antileftist disruption program) literally destroyed the Black Panther Party and American Indian Movement through the uses of snitches and paid provocateurs.

The Angola 3 in Louisiana were kept in solitary confinement for decades based on false testimony by a prison snitch. Geronimo Prat in Calif., 27 years in San Quentin prison, same thing -- a snitch put him there -- and the FBI knew he was hundreds of miles away at the time of the murder/robbery.

How's that for justice?!