60 Minutes aired the program on Dec. 7, describing how law enforcement across the country coerces young people, just starting their adult lives, into becoming confidential informants in the drug war. This sickening practice, largely kept secret, turns good people into liars and puts them in deadly danger.
The report profiled two victims of different state governments, Florida and North Dakota. Both states still have draconian drug laws, even as marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation.
Rachel Hoffman, 23, was a Florida State graduate who got busted with marijuana and a few pills of Ecstasy. Cops at the Tallahassee Police Department told Rachel she faces four years in prison, or she could help them carry out their biggest drug bust in recent history. Rachel, the girl who just liked to get high, was given $13,000 to buy 1,500 Ecstasy pills, 1.5 ounces of cocaine and a gun.
The cops undoubtedly assured Rachel that she would be safe as they had staged a 20-man team at the site. But when the dealers changed the location and got in her car, likely knowing that cops use informants, the cops lost her. The dealers found the wire in her purse and shot Rachel five times, leaving her body in a ditch and stealing her car and credit card.
Undercover narcotics officer Brian Sallee seems to have no remorse for such collateral damage, as he gleefully instructs eager cops on how to take advantage of people like Rachel so they can fill prisons and steal assets. Sallee attempts to justify the fact that confidential informants are being put in danger by asserting that they are already in danger by dealing drugs. This, of course, is false in many cases, as evidenced by Rachel Hoffman, who the family’s attorney says was “just a pothead.”
Andrew Sadek, a top college student in North Dakota, was caught selling $80 worth of marijuana. The interrogation room video shows Chief Jason Weber telling the dejected Andrew, who lost his older brother in a train wreck, that he faces up to 40 years in jail. Weber, experienced in deception, tells Andrew that he can “help himself” by becoming a confidential informant.
Andrew had to buy drugs from three other people to preserve his freedom, and keep everything an absolute secret. After Andrew went missing, family and friends pleaded on camera for his return and held prayer vigils, but he never returned. Andrew was found dead in a river with a bullet through his head.
In order to get young people like Rachel and Andrew to carry out cops’ dirty work, law enforcement uses tricks to avoid any part of the law that could hamper their deceptive tactics.
When asked if he tells young informants that they have the right to talk to a lawyer, Sallee happily said, “No. I do not. I tell you you have a right to talk to a lawyer if I’m going to ask you incriminating questions. If we’re talking about your becoming an informant, I don’t have to tell you that you have a right to a lawyer.”
The important part is for these drug war order-followers to trap kids before charging them and without arresting them. Cops like Sallee will tell them that they face prison time even when this is not true. In most cases, the kids would be diverted to a drug court and undergo probation for up to a year, then have the cases dismissed.
Although being used as a confidential informant can leave young people traumatized, suicidal or dead, in most states there is no law against it.
“No age limits on who can become a C.I., no rules about how, or even whether, informants must be trained, no guidelines on their protection.”
The remorseless Sallee estimates that there are probably 100,000 confidential informants working with law enforcement in the U.S. He also believes that their actions are completely voluntary.
“They have agreed to do what they are doing in exchange for something. That’s the bottom line. When somebody comes to work for me as an informant, it’s their decision,” said Sallee.
Not true, says attorney Lance Block.
“It’s not something that college kids are standing up, saying, “I wanna be a CI.” It’s not voluntary. They’re being told they’re looking at prison time unless they agree to do deals for the police department.”
How anyone could consider it a voluntary act is bewildering and infuriating, but that is the cognitive dissonance that an order-following drug war soldier must possess.
One former confidential informant told 60 Minutes, “It felt like I had a gun to my head. They almost convince you that — that you’re guilty. I was just so scared, I was just putty in their hands.”
A student at Ole Miss was entrapped by two other confidential informants, one dropping off LSD at his house and another picking it up. That innocent part of a fabricated crime brought terror to the hapless victim, who, after being coerced into a snitch, was repeatedly threatened over the phone for not turning in other people fast enough.
Attorney Ken Coghlan describes how schools like Ole Miss, which has an entire office devoted to creating confidential informants, create a vicious cycle of kids entrapping other kids. At Ole Miss, the victimized students are supposed to turn in ten others.
Coghlan said, “They don’t know 10 drug dealers. And they’re so desperate, they will go to their friend or their roommate or their frat brother, and they know this person smokes marijuana. And they’ll say, “I’m out of weed. Can I get 10 dollars’ worth of weed from you?””
Keith Davis, the former head of the Ole Miss Metro Narcotics Unit resigned after he was caught on tape violently threatening another confidential informant.
It’s no wonder the cops are so greedy to catch more kids, as the factory farming of confidential informants is a lucrative endeavor for them. Just like civil asset forfeiture, this repugnant game brings more money into the coffers of police departments. The more arrests, the more grant money.
With all of these young people being preyed upon by the state, the more startling fact is that statistics are unavailable on how many are involved, or how many get killed doing it.
“Law enforcement is loaded with statistics. But you cannot find out any information about the number of confidential informants that are being used across this country, much less the number of people who are being killed or injured. It’s a shadowy underworld, is what it is,” said Block.
Most of the young lives swept up into this nightmare are there because of marijuana, which is legal in 4 states and medicinally legal in 23 states.
Andrew Kadek’s parents had no idea their son was a confidential informant until his death. They were astounded that cops would stoop to such depths of immorality.
“We’ve never heard of such a thing, you know—using college students as snitches,” said Andrew’s father, John Sadek, who lost his only other son to the depravities of the state.
Attorney Lance Block is now an advocate against using young people busted with small amounts of drugs as confidential informants.
“There’s no parent that I know of who would allow their child or want their child to serve as a confidential informant. Yeah. I mean, it’s too dangerous. No, I wouldn’t want my child to do it. These kids are being recruited to do the most dangerous type of police work. They’re going undercover, with no background, training, or experience. They haven’t been to the police academy.”
None of this matters to drug war soldiers like Chief Jason Weber, who said:
“They make our jobs easier.”
He believes that not coercing young people into their secret, deadly service would mean they are “losing the war on drugs.”
Lesley Stahl, the 60 Minutes reporter, deserves much respect for trying to point out to Weber the absurdity of using young, small-time weed dealers for this dangerous crusade. But he need only shut out the human capacity for questioning.