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Report highlights DEA’s misuse of confidential informants

State and federal law enforcement agencies use a wide variety of strategies and tools to investigate drug crimes. Among these is the use of confidential informants to obtain information and leads that would otherwise be unavailable. Law enforcement sometimes make use of informants as anonymous tipsters, and sometimes they strike deals with individuals who have been charged with or convicted of a crime in order to gain access to information the offender has to offer about an investigation.

As useful as confidential informants may be in criminal investigations, it is important that the integrity of the criminal process is kept intact. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. For example, according to a recent report issued by the Office of the Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement Administration—the federal agency responsible for prosecution drug trafficking in the United States—does not always act properly in overseeing payments distributed to confidential informants. 

The report found widespread problems in the way the agency paid informants between 2011 and 2015, with about $27 million being paid to “limited use” sources, which independently provide information to the DEA without direction or supervision. In some cases, informants who were no longer being used were paid money, totaling to about $9.4 million. The report noted that the DEA was not able to determine the reliability of its informants in many cases, that it improperly maintained informants in some cases, and had no means of controlling when informants recruit other individual to serve as “sub-sources.”

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic, and some of the issues that can arise with the use of informants and tipsters in criminal defense

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