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It should be common knowledge now that law enforcement has no hesitation in abandoning morality to achieve its goals. During interrogation of suspects, they can lie, offer false rewards, harass and threaten in the pursuit of a confession, deceiving the suspect into waiving his constitutional rights. This is used on children too, resulting in a high rate of false confessions.

The FBI scrapes the bottom of the barrel in carrying out its bizarre business of turning hopeless, angry teenagers into terrorists. In 2009-2010 two undercover agents, along with dozens of support operatives and a massive surveillance undertaking, spent a year to convince 19-year-old Somali-American Mohamed Osman Mohamud to try and detonate a bomb in downtown Portland. They befriended him, built up his confidence, did a test bombing on a tree out in the countryside, built the bomb and finally coaxed him into pressing that fateful button.

They did virtually the same to 25-year-old Sami Osmakac in 2012, a mentally ill man described by the FBI squad supervisor as a “retarded fool” who doesn’t have a “pot to piss in.” Earlier this year, the FBI convinced two Brooklyn men to travel to Syria and join ISIS, helping them overcome hurdles such as travel applications, and then arrested the men for wanting to travel to Syria and join ISIS.

These sting operations represent law enforcement playing the part of the “bad guys,” but they also have no problem with employing really bad guys to catch other criminals. Liars and psychopaths are part of the collection of informants that help close cases in many states. There are dozens of examples where convicted persons have been exonerated due to perjury or false accusation by lying informants.

Ken Armstrong, writing at The Marshall Project, lists some of the more notorious scoundrels in the employ of law enforcement.

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George Taylor was hired by the Portland Police Bureau to build dozens of criminal cases, and was simultaneously employed by a Detroit syndicate to boost cell phones. A criminal since age 13, Taylor once helped set a man on fire and has an encoded “Heil Hitler” tattoo, and is described by a state psychiatrist as having “psychopathic traits.” The bureau now says, “In hindsight, it is arguable that Taylor should never have been used based on his history.”

Jailhouse informants are routinely used in capital cases, as in Illinois where a violent, pathological liar named Tommy Dye was used to put someone on death row. Police in central Washington concealed the name of a clearly delusional James Anderson to use him as a confidential drug informant.

And then there is Joshua Jackson, who was a paid informant for the Seattle office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Jackson had been jailed in 43 states and had come out of prison the year before with a reputation as a violent, mentally unstable inmate. He used his status as an employee of the ATF to commit several criminal impersonations. It ended when he was caught “sexually abusing an 18-year-old woman and holding her against her will for days inside a cheap South Seattle motel,” making her audition for porn and almost choking her to death. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The use of psychopathic liars by law enforcement to build cases against suspects has been covered by media and academic research, and portrayed in cinema and television. Dozens of people have been wrongly convicted on the basis of these nefarious informants. Yet the practice continues.

Some of these cases are part of the government’s misguided war on drugs, criminalizing people for victimless crimes. Other times, such as high-profile murder cases, law enforcement is desperate to catch anyone for the crime, regardless of whether or not it is the right person.

Using bad guys or playing the part of bad guys, authorities will go to any length to achieve their goals. At what point do their actions in catching criminals become criminal themselves?