Monday, September 29, 2008

Snitching stories from all over

Having discussed over the weekend one of the most egregious horror stories I've seen regarding mendacious informants and prosecutorial misconduct, I thought I'd point readers to several recent non-Texas cases involving snitches that demonstrate more problems associated with their unregulated use:
  • Encouraging Illegal Break-Ins. In Virginia, reports Reason's Radley Balko, two police informants "broke into Ryan Frederick's home and stole the alleged marijuana plants the police then used as probable cause to obtain the search warrant." One of the burglars had earlier told a reporter that "police were actually encouraging these illegal break-ins." When police raided the house the homeowner shot and killed one of the officers as they were attempting to break down the door; they found less than a third of an ounce of pot. The informant told the Virginia-Pilot, "he and an accomplice didn't worry about breaking into Frederick's garage because police assured them they would be protected. 'The dude said he was going to look out for us, so let's go do it,' he said."
  • Protecting Criminals. Donna Weaver at Women in Crime Ink reports on the trial of an FBI agent who allowed informants associated with Boston mobster Whitey Bulger to literally get away with murder of an accountant/rat within their organization who was giving information to the feds. Weaver poses a series of poignant questions for the former agent; my favorite: "If John Callahan’s murder was a result of information you provided to your CIs in order to protect them, why are you then not guilty of murder? Did you think your CIs would send Mr. Callahan on an all-expense paid vacation to the South Pacific?"
  • Setting Up Innocent People. A DEA Agent whose lying informant set up an innocent man in Florida 15 years ago, we learn at TalkLeft, moved to Ohio and enlisted another snitch who did the same thing to nearly two dozen people. Wrote a federal judge in Florida in a 2002 civil judgment against the state: "Today's criminal justice system is at risk of being exploited by confidential informants ... The only people who can protect the system against the 'rogue actions' of confidential informants are those who use them: the government."
  • Lack of Oversight. A 23-year old informant in Tallahassee, Florida was murdered when "an 18-member team of local, state and federal law enforcement lost contact with [her] midway through the [undercover] operation" Police broke many of their own rules regarding informant use, including coercing her "to become a confidential informant without arresting her, cutting out the state attorney's office from being involved in crafting the cooperation agreement."
  • Unethical Coercion. Finally, I was fascinated to read this account of methods used by the Israeli secret police in the Gaza strip to develop informants, including not only torture but denial of critical medical care if families of sick people do not agree to become government collaborators.

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