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WASHINGTON — The nation's top drug and gun enforcement agencies do not track how often they give their informants permission to break the law on the government's behalf.
U.S. Justice Department rules put strict limits on when and how agents at the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can authorize their informants — often drawn from the ranks of the criminals they are investigating — to commit a crime. But both the ATF and DEA acknowledged, in response to open-records requests and in written statements, that they do not track how often such permission is given.
That routine, if controversial, tactic has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the bungled "Fast and Furious" gun-trafficking investigation, which allowed 2,000 weapons to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels and other criminals. A report by the Justice Department's Inspector General found that ATF agents failed to get authorization from their superiors before they allowed gun dealers to sell weapons to suspected cartel operatives. Read More