Torres isn’t an all-American guy. He’s an FBI informant, one of more than 15,000 domestic spies who make up the largest surveillance network ever created in the United States. During J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO operations, the bureau had just 1,500 informants. The drug war brought that number up to about 6,000. After 9/11, the bureau recruited so many new informants — many of them crooks and convicts, desperate for money or leniency on previous crimes — that the government had to develop software to help agents track their spies.
Informants represent the manpower behind the FBI’s controversial stings, which are intended to find would-be terrorists before they attack. In the decade after 9/11, 158 defendants were prosecuted following these undercover operations, which are usually led by an informant and provide the means and opportunity for someone to attempt to commit an act of terrorism. A Human Rights Watch report in 2014 criticized the FBI for targeting “particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent.” Late last week, for example, the FBI arrested a mentally troubled 20-year-old in Topeka, Kansas, after he allegedly attempted to bomb Fort Riley with the help of two undercover FBI informants.
There’s no shortage of embarrassing moments for the FBI in its dozens of counterterrorism stings since 9/11. In Boston, an FBI informant who was working a counterterrorism case was caught on an FBI camera purchasing heroin, which wasn’t part of his assignment. In case after case, the FBI experiences so-called “recorder malfunctions” — usually at the most unfortunate time for the defendant, such as at the very beginning of the sting or, as in an operation involving a Baltimore teenager, when the target was attempting to back out of the plot. More recently, FBI agents accidentally recorded themselves calling the subject of their undercover investigation a “retarded fool” whose terrorist ambitions were “wishy-washy.”
Full Story @ [The Intercept]