September 3, 2008

NPR series on confidential informants

Confidential informants are the lifeblood of law enforcement's effort to fight crime. But the best informants are generally very bad people - ruthless criminals - and while their information helps the FBI crack cases, the practice of using these informants is fraught with risk.

So begins an interesting 3-part NPR series by Dina Temple-Raston on the pitfalls of law enforcement reliance on informants.

Part One, "Bulger Case Changed FBI's Role With Informants," features the infamous case of Whitey Bulger, the Irish godfather who corrupted two FBI agents back in the 1970s.

Part Two is entitled, "Some FBI Agents Pay High Price For Using Snitches."

And in Part Three, "Legislator Aims To Regulate FBI Behavior," we hear about the controversial proposal by Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) to subject FBI agents to criminal prosecution if they don't alert local law enforcement when one of their informants commits a crime.

Illustration: Popular Science August 1958; credit to Radio River (Creative Commons license).

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