Justice Dept. IG finds ‘significant weaknesses’ in FBI’s confidential informant program

The Justice Department’s inspector general issued a scathing report Tuesday criticizing the FBI’s confidential source program, noting “significant weaknesses” that could lead to compromises in intelligence and law enforcement operations.

“Ineffective management and oversight of confidential sources can result in jeopardizing FBI operations, and placing FBI agents, sources, subjects of investigation, and the public in harm’s way,” Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in a statement announcing the report.

In addition, the report criticized the bureau for failing to properly supervise confidential human sources (CHS) and ignoring  its own internal and Justice Department guidelines.

A CHS acts as an informant for the FBI, engaging suspects and defendants for the purposes of collecting evidence and information for a criminal probe or counterintelligence operation.

The bureau spends about $42 million a year to pay confidential sources, the IG’s report said.

But, Horowitz noted, the FBI often failed to validate the credibility of sources or adequately assess the truthfulness of information they provided.

When those reviews were done, investigators failed to “review the full scope” of the CHS’ long-term work for the bureau, the IG said.

“FBI employees conducting CHS validation reviews told us they were discouraged from documenting conclusions and recommendations arising from the validation process,” he wrote in the report.

The IG also found a backlog of vetting reviews for sources who have served more than five years. Under bureau policy, the FBI must routinely vet long-term sources.

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