What Is An FBI Informant?
FBI informants provide information to the FBI about criminal activity in exchange for financial gain, the FBI reducing their sentence, or the FBI overlooking their own criminal activity. Who better to spill the beans on criminals than the people who operate alongside them? They work to bring down a criminal organization from the inside, and although many people disagree with the FBI’s use of informants, their cooperation is essential for the completion of a lot of the agency’s investigations. So let’s talk a bit about FBI informants and the work they do.
FBI informants come in all shades from corporate employees to mobsters the list goes on. Once coerced by the FBI, FBI informants will be paired with a handler who is the point of contact between the FBI and the informant. Any information the informant has for the FBI will be passed on to their handler before being shared with the FBI. This relationship sometimes means a handler will be disturbed by calls in the middle of the night while the rest of the population sleeps peacefully. It’s a necessary part of the job.
What Do FBI Informants Do?
FBI informants infiltrate a criminal organization, get close to key individuals, gather information, and then relay that information back to their handler. They may even sometimes wear a wire to record the conversations they are having. Sometimes, though, an informant may need to commit a crime to preserve his cover. In this case, he must first receive authorization from his handler before engaging in such activity. In 2011 only, the FBI gave their informants permission to break the law more than 5,600 times. This policy has been a contentious topic of debate with many people disagreeing with it and the FBI stating that it is a necessary trade-off when investigating criminal organizations.
If the investigation an informant works on leads to prosecution, an FBI informant may be expected to testify in court against the very people he once associated with. Some FBI informants will work with the agency for years. In exchange for their cooperation, they are paid by the FBI, either receiving an annual salary or payment when a case closes. Their compensation can be as much as $100, 000 payments per case.
From the moment an individual becomes an informant, their life forever changes. For those informants who cross dangerous individuals, there will always be the risk of retaliation. They not only endanger their life but the lives of their friends and family. The FBI does everything it can to minimize the risk to their informants. The FBI goes as far as allowing and informant to accept his payment under an alias. The FBI will also place into witness protection those informants who may be targeted for assassination. Agents, however, are not allowed to continue contact with an informant once a case has finished.
So there you have it, the life of an informant told in very simple terms. How much of this did you know about and are you surprised by any of it?