A Historical Overview of Informants

13 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2005


[This abstract describes the entire work, Ratting: The Use and Abuse of Informants in the American Justice System, by Robert M. Bloom. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2002. Chapter 1 A Historical Overview of Informants is available here for downloading.]

In our society today in order to investigate a great many bad acts, informants have become a necessary evil. With many crimes involving willing participants, it is often necessary for the government to utilize individuals with nefarious motives to investigate these crimes. This book will explore the use and for that matter the abuse of informants in a variety of settings and with diverse motivations. Each of the informants has one salient feature. They provide information to the government, which in some way helps the government to investigate people who they wish to prosecute.

Actual informants are introduced in a narrative form. In Chapter 1, the history of the use of informants, the focus is on probably the most infamous informant Judas Iscariot. In Chapter 2, political informants, Linda Tripp, whose informing resulted in the impeachment proceedings of the President of the United States, is the focus. In Chapter 3, the non-existant informant, the book explores an imaginary informant who is fabricated by a police officer to justify their affidavit for a search warrant. In Chapter 4, jailhouse informants, the spotlight is on the activity of Leslie White and Anthony Saviola who were used to gather evidence within the prison or jailhouse context. In Chapter 5, high-level informant, the conduct of Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi, who were used to infiltrate and destroy organized crime operation, is explored. In Chapter 6, the end of the story, the book concludes with suggestions as to how to use informants without incurring high societal costs. In looking at these informants we will explore their motivation. We will see that informants are motivated by a variety of reasons, including: financial gain, political power, attention, elimination of their competition, and the avoidance of criminal punishment. We will also explore how the law intersects with the activities of these informants.

Keywords: informants, Judas Iscariot, informer, incidental informer, recruited informer, confidential informer, delicts, menutai, Athens, Andocides, Francois Vidocq

Suggested Citation

Bloom, Robert M., A Historical Overview of Informants. Robert M. Bloom, RATTING: THE USE AND ABUSE OF INFORMANTS IN THE AMERICAN JUSTICE SYSTEM, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=688042

Robert M. Bloom (Contact Author)

Boston College Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

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