- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

Guidelines governing the FBI’s handling of confidential informants, which were established in the 1970s and revised in the wake of September 11, are violated frequently by supervisors and agents, according to a report released yesterday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, in a 301-page report, said it found “significant non-compliance” by the FBI in its handling of confidential informants.

“The attorney general’s investigative guidelines govern some of the FBI’s most important investigative powers, including its authority to operate confidential informants,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. “Our review found several significant shortcomings in the FBI’s adherence to the guidelines which need correction, particularly the guidelines governing its use of confidential informants.”

The report says the guidelines were violated in 87 percent of the confidential-informant cases examined and that errors occurred in several of the most important aspects of the FBI’s management of its criminal-informant program, including reviews aimed at assessing the suitability of people who serve as informants.

It says instructions FBI agents are required to give confidential informants were not followed in 49 percent of the reviewed cases, and the agency’s use of its power to authorize confidential informants to participate in “otherwise illegal activity” showed a noncompliance rate of 60 percent.

“Guidelines violations can jeopardize Justice Department prosecutions of criminals and can also lead to civil liability claims against the government,” Mr. Fine said. “We are concerned the FBI has not taken the necessary steps to ensure that FBI agents and their supervisors adhere to these important requirements.”

The FBI yesterday said that although the report listed several instances of administrative noncompliance, it found that the bureau was “generally compliant with the guidelines.”

Noting that confidential informants are critical to the bureau’s ability to carry out its “counterterrorism, national security and criminal law-enforcement missions,” the FBI said it began a project several months ago to review and revise its confidential-informant program.

FBI spokesman Edwin C. Cogswell said the review seeks to develop policies and processes to simplify and standardize administrative procedures and to clarify and improve compliance requirements.

The Justice Department set the guidelines in the 1970s in response to FBI’s surveillance and infiltration of civil rights groups. The guidelines address the bureau’s investigations of people and groups, its use of confidential informants, undercover operations and warrantless monitoring of verbal communications. After the September 11 attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered a review of the guidelines to identify revisions necessary to enhance the department’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks.

The revised guidelines gave FBI field managers greater authority to conduct preliminary inquiries, criminal intelligence investigations and undercover operations.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide