To recap, law enforcement is not your friend if you are a person of color. This goes doubly so if you are in immigrant, exponentially more so if you are a Muslim, and infinitely more so if you are an immigrant Muslim.
Pressuring people to become informants by dangling the promise of citizenship — or, if they do not comply, deportation — is expressly against the rules that govern FBI agents’ activities.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales forbade the practice nine years ago: “No promises or commitments can be made, except by the United States Department of Homeland Security, regarding the alien status of any person or the right of any person to enter or remain in the United States,” according to the Attorney General’s Guidelines Regarding the Use of FBI Confidential Human Sources.
In fact, Gonzales’s guidelines, which are still in force today, require agents to go further: They must explicitly warn potential informants that the FBI cannot help with their immigration status in any way.
But a BuzzFeed News investigation — based on government and court documents, official complaints, and interviews with immigrants, immigration and civil rights lawyers, and former special agents — shows that the FBI violates these rules. Mandated to enforce the law, the bureau has assumed a powerful but unacknowledged role in a very different realm: decisions about the legal status of immigrants — in particular, Muslim immigrants. First the immigration agency ties up their green card applications for years, even a decade, without explanation, then FBI agents approach the applicants with a loaded offer: Want to get your papers? Start reporting to us about people you know.
Alexandra Natapoff, an associate dean at Loyola Law School who studies the use of informants, said people who are pressured into informing for the government face considerable danger, from ostracism or retribution within their own community to betrayal from law enforcement officers, whose promises the informants are powerless to enforce. BuzzFeed News spoke with six people who had been approached by the FBI, as well as immigration attorneys who said they had represented far more. Some allowed their stories to be published, even with details that could make them identifiable to federal authorities. But they all drew the line at publishing their names, lest they or their families suffer repercussions from their communities.
Beyond the danger that coercive recruitment poses for its targets, it may also mean danger on a broad scale, by hampering America’s ability to detect, derail, and prosecute real threats to national security.
Like 9/11 before it, the mass shooting in San Bernardino cast into stark relief the urgency of guarding against terrorism at home. Over the years, law enforcement authorities have used informants’ tips to foil numerous plots on American soil and to help other countries foil plots of their own. But many critics of America’s counterterrorism operations say the FBI’s heavy-handed recruitment methods actually make it harder to thwart dangerous attacks, by alienating the very communities on whom the government is most reliant for information.
Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a national security expert at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, says wide-scale coercive recruitment produces a surfeit of false leads. “All of this investigative effort is against people who are not suspected,” he said, of “terrorism or any other criminal activity.” The result is so much useless information that agents cannot focus on the most important leads. “This becomes an obstacle to real security.”
It's like the worst seasons of Homeland come to life, and yeah, if Eric Holder looked the other way on this (and Loretta Lynch and President Obama are still looking the other way on this) then it needs to be stopped.
I think it's much more likely that FBI Director James Comey has some very ugly questions to answer, however.