Justice Department officials are scrambling to track down 61 fugitive foreign nationals in the wake of a recently published report from the agency’s Inspector General.
The missing migrants were all “sponsored for entry into the United States to assist with investigations,” CNN reports.
Most Americans are unaware of the special “S” visa, or as it’s commonly referred to, the “snitch visa.” It’s only one of the tools available to the Justice Department that allow “the entry of cooperating witnesses and confidential informants.”
Without the special card, these informants would never have been let into the country, simply because of their “connections to criminal enterprises.”
The Department of Homeland Security is supposed to take charge of their undercover tipsters and “assume full responsibility” for knowing where they are and what they are doing.
As stated by the OIG, “The FBI was unable to account for at least 61 foreign nationals it sponsored.”
To cover their tracks and try to hide the discrepancy, “rather than proactively reporting the total number of those who disappeared, the bureau only notified DHS of 32 individuals no longer under the agency’s control.”
Losing these people isn’t a very good thing, former assistant FBI director Greg Brower explains.
“Since these individuals are often associated with crime, DOJ component agencies cannot simply lose track of them.”
When someone in the special program turns up missing, their name gets added to a watchlist and entered into the same national criminal database accessed by all law enforcement.
The only problem is that they can’t be flagged if DHS doesn’t know they are missing.
The Inspector General’s report softened the blow a little by stating that the missing individuals are probably not serious safety risks. We may not know where to find them now, but before they got approved they were properly vetted.
According to legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers,
“Losing track of informants and witnesses is obviously a serious problem that needs to be fixed, but the report also makes clear that recipients were thoroughly vetted by investigators before being permitted into the country. Truly dangerous people would have never been allowed in using these tools.”
Even so, the Inspector General emphasized that this isn’t a situation to be taken lightly.
“Significant risks accompany the sponsoring of foreign nationals for use in law enforcement investigations, because these individuals may be associated with criminal activity and motivated only by the ability to temporarily reside in the United States.”
Sub-agencies working within the Justice Department must be careful with these underworld informants, “to protect the public, and to achieve their objectives of furthering investigations and prosecutions.”
A spokesman for the FBI acknowledged that the bureau agrees with the IG’s findings and is working to track down the fugitives and correct the problem.