Wadie E. Said’s article, “The Terrorist Informant“, on the use of confidential informants in the fight against terrorism concludes that “the use of informants in federal terrorist prosecutions has been an overall failure” and that “the government should cease its current practice of using informants to generate terrorism prosecutions”.
Whilst Said does put forward a coherent argument for his case, I can’t help but feel that his conclusion is too simplistic. The use of confidential informants is complicated and involves risks, but the rewards for protecting citizens from terrorist activity can be great. Indeed, the benefits of utilising informants can save lives.
It is not satisfactory to say that informants should not be used. By improving the way that informants are managed, including proper risk assessment and monitoring, many of the legally contentious issues of informants can be averted. Informants are a crucial component in today’s law enforcement toolbox and a critical part of intelligence-led policing.