The federal government has been approving a high number of operations in which agents pose as activists and business people, a new report says. It has led to absurd situations, with undercover agents from different departments investigating each other.
At least 40 government agencies use undercover operatives in the US, with agents pretending to be business people, protesters, doctors, accountants, and welfare recipients, among other things, in order to monitor illegal activity. The information was printed in The New York Times, which cited records and interviews.
In certain cases it is not just one undercover agent investigating a situation, but a whole team of officers. In one example, undercover officers mixed with protesting students in front of the Supreme Court to identify any suspicious activity in the crowd, according to officials close to the case.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses dozens of such agents, who pretend to be accountants, tax preparers, or even drug dealers to investigate fraud, according to court documents.
The Agriculture Department has more than 100 undercover agents who pose as food stamp recipients, researching any illegal activity, officials revealed.
This trend has been raising red flags from those concerned about the abuses of civil liberties.
“Done right, undercover work can be a very effective law enforcement method, but it carries serious risks and should only be undertaken with proper training, supervision and oversight,” former FBI undercover agent Michael German told the Times.
“Ultimately it is government deceitfulness and participation in criminal activity, which is only justifiable when it is used to resolve the most serious crimes.
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