Article first appeared at http://thewashingtonstandard.com/fbi-hides-payments-informants-gives-cut-asset-forfeiture-proceeds/.
One of the biggest arguments against the confirmation of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch was her unconstitutional actions regarding asset forfeiture. Now, The Intercept has obtained a document which deals with the FBI’s confidential informant program. In it, we discover the agency routinely hides payments to informants and gives them a cut of the proceeds from taking other people’s stuff.
President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.
After the famous Church Committee hearings in the 1970s exposed the FBI’s wild overreach, reforms were enacted to protect civil liberties. But in recent years, the bureau has substantially revised those rules with very little public scrutiny. That’s why The Intercept is publishing this special package of articles based on three internal FBI manuals that we exclusively obtained.
These stories illuminate how the FBI views its authority to assess terrorism suspects, recruit informants, spy on university organizations, infiltrate online chat rooms, peer through the walls of private homes, and more.
In addition to the articles collected here — which include nine new pieces and two that we previously published based on the same source material — we have annotated the manuals to highlight what we found most newsworthy in them. We redacted the sections that could be used to identify individuals or systems for the purpose of causing harm. We’re presenting the stories alongside the manuals because we believe the public has a right to know how the U.S. government’s leading domestic law enforcement agency understands and wields its enormous power.
Multiple posts show photos of source pages rather than actually having text in the articles.
Tim Cushing of TechDirt comments:
In addition to things already known about the FBI’s aggressive pursuit of informants — includingusing the CBP to push incoming foreigners to act as informants by threatening to withhold travel privileges or approval of visa applications — there’s much, much more contained in the FBI’s guidelines.
One of the interesting aspects is the government’s payment of informants. Considering the FBI hasmore than 15,000 informants in its network, there’s always the possibility evidence produced by CHSs could be challenged if it appears the FBI is using private individuals to bypass warrant requirements (with “private” searches) or otherwise routing around legal restrictions pertaining to its investigations.
From the information obtained, it appears the FBI’s inelegant workaround is to obscure the money flow in order to head off questions of propriety.
The picture that emerges is of an approach that borrows some of the sophistication of modern banking. The bureau has devised a variety of ways to pay informants, including directly, before or after trial; via reimbursements; and through a cut of asset forfeitures. The guide provides some options that are clearly preferable when trying to sway a jury at trial, even as it explicitly disclaims selecting them for such reasons.
That doesn’t stop informants from making big money. There are some additional levels of approval needed when hitting $100k/$500k per year in payments, but for the most part, money flowing to informants isn’t watched that closely by the agency.
As is stated above, the FBI apparently uses bogus expense reimbursements to pay informants, giving it the outward appearance of someone working for the agency out of the goodness of their heart, rather than for the thousands of dollars they eventually receive.
That’s not all that was revealed. According to report, the FBI’s asset forfeiture program allows the agency to provide a cut of the take to informants. Talk about corruption!
In addition to compensation, an informant may be eligible for 25 percent of the net value of any property forfeited as a result of the investigation, up to $500,000 per asset, according to the guide. This can be a particularly lucrative benefit for drug informants, whose cases sometimes result in the forfeiture of planes, boats, cars, and real estate.
Though the FBI is to not hide the true nature of the payments to informants from either the courts, the juries or the defendants, they apparently disregard that and carried on in a criminal fashion.
Craig Monteilh, a bodybuilder who worked undercover as an informant for the FBI by spying on mosques in Southern California, said he received $177,000 from the FBI over a one-year period. Monteilh said that his compensation was disguised as expense reimbursements. He said he provided receipts for everything — rent, car payments, gasoline, medical bills, food, even for the steroids he was taking — to justify an $8,200 monthly expense bill.
“Most informants are criminals. So the FBI gets that,” Monteilh said. “They know that I’m going to get the bill for lunch, even if someone else pays for it, and I’m going to say I paid for it. That includes the movies, the theater, going to an Angels game — everything. I’m paying for everything, even though I’m really not.”
Many of these things took place under the direction of FBI Director James Comey, whom President Donald Trump has decided to keep in that position. I would hope that President Trump is unaware of this and if and when he does become aware, will seek to deal justly and Constitutionally with these people and end the corruption.