This is not a particularly new subject, but: When exactly does an informant cross the line into entrapment?
As readers of my obsessive "eco-terror" blogging know, the big indictment brought recently against 11 people crucially turned on participants that were "persuaded" to act as informants.
A closer look at an ongoing case in California that started with some arrests on Jan. 13 is instructive:
The complaint goes on to say that "the investigation … utilizes a confidential source (CS) who is deeply imbedded within the subjects’ cell. The CS has worked for the FBI since early 2004. S/he has agreed to testify in court."
But there’s more to this than meets the eye. Apparently the CS was paid $75,000 for his/her trouble. And in the course of "informing," the defense attorneys allege that s/he actively recruited people, helped plan actions, and provided the conspirators with a safe house.
The female informant has reportedly worked for the FBI for the past two years and has received roughly $75,000 for her work. The source, along with McDavid, Jenson and Weiner reportedly planned their attacks at a cabin – reportedly in the Auburn area – that the FBI had wired with microphones and cameras.
I’d bet you dimes to dollars that Eugene, Ore. is crawling with would-be FBI informants right now, hoping to make a few bucks and willing to move things along a little (if you know what I mean) to make it happen.
Update [2006-1-24 16:20:8 by David Roberts]: Ah, this Fresno Bee story has more, below the fold:
FBI Special Agent Nasson Walker, who signed the affidavit, testified at Weiner’s bail hearing Friday that the confidential source wore a hidden recorder during many of the conversations the source had with the defendants.
Walker testified that the FBI financed the source’s renting of a house in Auburn where the four stayed for a short time this month.
The agent said the house was rigged with hidden sound and video equipment.
The source is a woman, approximately 20, who has been paid about $75,000 plus expenses over the past two years to infiltrate the ELF and gather information for the FBI, the agent testified.
Walker testified that Weiner once told the source she would like to participate in a revolution to “topple the government and collapse the capitalistic society.”
At a meeting at McDavid’s parents’ home in Foresthill in November, the group discussed building an explosive device with dry ammonia and bleach mixed with plumber’s putty, and Weiner offered to supply the putty, Walker testified.
Jeff Weiner tried to show on cross examination of Walker that the FBI’s source was a subtle but moving force behind a lot of what the foursome were doing in the days leading up to the arrests.
Walker acknowledged that some of the money used to buy bomb-making materials came through the source from the FBI. He also acknowledged the source authored part of a book on the group’s plans.