It is widely known that the FBI allows its informants to commit crimes as the agency uses the individuals for investigative purposes. But it might happen more often than most people think.
According to a report, the FBI allowed at least 5,939 instances of law violations during 2012 and informants were allowed to break the law at least 5,658 times in 2011.
The statistics were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Huffington Post. The news outlet was unable to categorize the types of crimes committed or how many were allowed by individual field offices.
Earlier this year, a similar USA Today report noted:
The U.S. Justice Department ordered the FBI to begin tracking crimes by its informants more than a decade ago, after the agency admitted that its agents had allowed Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger to operate a brutal crime ring in exchange for information about the Mafia. The FBI submits that tally to top Justice Department officials each year, but has never before made it public.
Agents authorized 15 crimes a day, on average, including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies. FBI officials have said in the past that permitting their informants — who are often criminals themselves — to break the law is an indispensable, if sometimes distasteful, part of investigating criminal organizations.
FBI officials say that the informant’s infractions are not taken lightly.
“It sounds like a lot, but you have to keep it in context,” Shawn Henry, who supervised criminal investigations for the FBI until he retired last year, told USA Today in August. “This is not done in a vacuum. It’s not done randomly. It’s not taken lightly.”