A classified policy guide creates opportunities for agents to disguise payments as reimbursements or offer informants a cut of seized assets.
For the first time, we can now point to an internal government document that provides the framework for how informants are paid.
The FBI’s Confidential Human Source Policy Guide, a nearly 200-page manual classified secret and obtained by The Intercept, describes how payments to FBI informants are accounted for and authorized and how these payments can quickly become serious money.
The picture that emerges is of an approach that borrows some of the sophistication of modern banking. The bureau has devised a variety of ways to pay informants, including directly, before or after trial; via reimbursements; and through a cut of asset forfeitures.
A special agent-in-charge has the authority to pay each of his office’s informants up to $100,000 per fiscal year. However, informants may earn substantially more as long as each additional $100,000 is approved by successively higher levels within the bureau. With deputy director approval, according to the policy guide, an informant may earn more than $500,000 per year.
In addition to compensation, an informant may be eligible for 25 percent of the net value of any property forfeited as a result of the investigation, up to $500,000 per asset, according to the guide. This can be a particularly lucrative benefit for drug informants, whose cases sometimes result in the forfeiture of planes, boats, cars, and real estate.