Tags: infiltration | undercover | Fast and Furious | Holder

Report: US Agencies Broadening Use of Undercover Operations

By    |   Saturday, 15 Nov 2014 08:33 PM

More than 40 U.S. government agencies now use undercover operations in a wide range of settings, with officers posing as welfare recipients, business executives — even ministers and doctors — to catch criminals, according to an analysis of federal data by The New York Times.

"Done right, undercover work can be a very effective law enforcement method, but it carries serious risks and should only be undertaken with proper training, supervision and oversight," Michael German, a former FBI undercover agent, told The Times.

German now teaches at New York University’s law school.

Though many of the operations are not linked to terrorism, many have arisen from concerns generated by the 9/11 attacks, the Times reports.

Agency officials told The Times that the undercover tactics provide a powerful new law-enforcement tool, but the increased surveillance also raises issues of civil liberties — even efforts that have gone awry, and in once instance, caused the death of two federal agents.

The report cites such examples as undercover officers posing as students at large demonstrations outside the Supreme Court to "look for suspicious activity" — and covert Internal Revenue Service agents working as tax preparers, even drug dealers, to hunt down possible evaders around the world.

"We’re getting the information directly from the bad guys — what more could you want?" Thomas Hunker, a former police chief in Bal Harbour, Fla., told The Times.

Hunker's department worked with federal agents on a bevy of undercover money-laundering investigations in recent years, according to the report.

Using such agents, he said, "is a more direct approach than getting a tip and going out and doing all the legwork and going into a court mode.

"We don’t have to go back and interview witnesses and do search warrants and surveillance and all that," Hunker added.

Such work comes with great risks, The Times reports.

In Hunker's case, his department came under attack by federal auditors for financial lapses and poor record-keeping — and he was fired in March 2013 in the wake of allegations over the operations, The Miami Herald reports.

The Justice Department's botched Fast and Furious gun-running program led to the deaths of two federal law-enforcement officers.

The operation — run out of the department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — has dogged outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, leading Republicans to seek his removal.

"There are all sorts of stories about undercover operations gone bad," Jeff Silk, an undercover agent who works as a supervisor at the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the Times.

Other agencies cited as using covert operations include the Education Department in ferreting out graft in student-loan programs, the Agriculture Department in targeting food-stamp fraud by recipients and vendors, and the Department of Health and Human Services in gathering evidence against unscrupulous healthcare providers in the Medicare program.

While a Supreme Court spokesman declined to discuss its undercover operations with The Times, German expressed concerns about agents being used to monitor protests.

"There is a danger to democracy in having police infiltrate protests when there isn’t a reasonable basis to suspect criminality," he said.

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More than 40 U.S. government agencies now use undercover operations in a wide range of settings, with officers posing as welfare recipients, business executives - even ministers and doctors - to catch criminals, according to an analysis of federal data by The New York...
infiltration, undercover, Fast and Furious, Holder
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2014-33-15
Saturday, 15 Nov 2014 08:33 PM
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