A new report by the New York Times has found that at least 40 different agencies of the US government have active undercover operations involving officers pretending to be students, protesters, doctors, ministers, and welfare recipients.
The Times conducted a review of internal records and interviewed officials for the report. They found that the Supreme Court used small teams of undercover officers acting as student protesters outside the court to look for suspicious activity. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) went undercover as accountants, drug dealers and yacht buyers in an effort to find tax evaders. The Agriculture Department used more than 100 agents pretending to be food stamp recipients to look for suspicious vendors and fraud at convenient stores.
The use of undercover agents was once largely the domain of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) but since 9/11 nearly every federal agency now employs them. According to an analysis of publicly available resumes:
“since 2001 more than 1,100 current or former federal employees across 40 agencies listed undercover work inside the United States as part of their duties.”
Officials say the use of undercover officers allows them to build a case without having to do difficult detective work, chasing around leads. By employing undercover operations the officers are able to catch suspects in their act or in their own words.
The NY Times writes that the growing use of undercover operations “raises concerns about civil liberties abuses and entrapment of unwitting targets.” They also note accountability issues with reports of missing money, compromised investigations and agents left in the field alone for months. The idea that federal agencies such as the FBI are actually creating or entrapping criminals and “terrorists” has been explored before but the reality that the FBI is not the only agency making use of undercover operations should highlight the struggles of unaccountable bureaucracies.
The report comes after a recent disclosure that the FBI had an agent pose as a reporter with Associated Press in 2007 in pursuit of a source. FBI Director James B. Comey defended the bureau’s actions. A review of undercover records found that the operations are being used for crimes such as identity theft, online solicitation and human trafficking.
Other revelations include undercover agents posing as convenience store clerks looking for illegal alcohol and cigarette sales. Sometimes actual minors were used as decoys. The Department of Education used agents to infiltrate the Office of Inspector General to hunt down fraud. The Smithsonian, NASA and the Small Business Administration also use undercover officers.
Undercover IRS employees are allowed to “pose as an attorney, physician, clergyman or member of the news media.” The undercover operations are not exclusive to the physical world. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and Pentagon all offer training programs for online covert operations. These type of operations have also come under scrutiny recently when it was revealed that an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) created a fake facebook account using a woman’s private photographs and information. It was apparently an effort to catch more criminals.
When agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have the authority to keep the money they “seize” from undercover operations, and little oversight exists, there is plenty of room for corruption to flourish. Both Democrats and Republicans seem content with the growing federal police and surveillance state. The longer Americans wait to stand up to the criminal and immoral actions of the ruling class the more our world resembles an Orwellian monolith.