The New York Times features a story this week on the expanding recruitment and use of Mexican drug informants: U.S. Agencies Infiltrating Drug Cartels Across Mexico. The story describes American law enforcement as having “significantly built up networks of Mexican informants” and focuses on the substantial benefits that such criminal informants can provide. For example:
Informants have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle.
The U.S. also learned of a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador through one of those DEA-developed informants. See Huffington Post: Iran Plot to Assassinate Saudi Ambassador Foiled by DOJ Sting.
The Times story notes that informants can also give rise to “complicated ethical issues,” including the fact that informants are typically working off their own crimes. Last year, NPR and Primetime ran stories illustrating the serious criminality that such informants may engage in, even while working for the government: NPR series on House of Death informant and Primetime: U.S. Customs authorizes informant to import cocaine.