Congressman Stephen F. Lynch introduced H.R. 3228, the Confidential Informant Accountability Act of 2011 on Friday, October 14th. The bill would increase Congressional oversight of law enforcement agencies’ use of confidential informants as well as strengthen provisions to allow victims to recover by extending the statute of limitations for tort claims arising out of criminal misconduct by a confidential informant.
“While the use of confidential informants can be an effective crime-fighting tool, unfortunately, we have also seen the practice abused, innocent people killed, falsely imprisoned and families torn apart as a result,” Congressman Stephen F. Lynch said. “By enhancing Congressional oversight, hopefully, the past will not be repeated.”
The bill would require federal law enforcement agencies to report to Congress, on a semiannual basis, all serious crimes committed by confidential informants while under the supervision of law enforcement agencies. Specific information about the crimes committed must be included in the report but the inclusion of individual informant names, control numbers, and other identifying information would be prohibited.
The reports would be submitted to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, the House Judiciary Committee, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, all committees that are tasked with the oversight of federal law enforcement agencies. Importantly, H.R. 3228 would build upon existing federal guidelines governing the use of confidential informants by ensuring that Congress will be able to conduct meaningful oversight of federal confidential informant programs and further limit the potential for system abuse.
In addition, the bill would extend the statute of limitations for tort claims arising out of criminal misconduct by a confidential informant from two years to three years. Notably, this provision would also be retroactive to May 1, 1982, thereby allowing existing claims against the government to proceed. Recently, a federal appeals court issued a controversial ruling that barred wrongful death suits filed after the statute of limitations had expired, holding that the victims' families should have known that the FBI was part of a criminal enterprise.
“These families have been the victims of government-assisted and government-enabled crime. They deserve justice. We cannot let this decision stand. We need to do everything we can to ensure that the government is held accountable, otherwise this will continue to happen,” added Congressman Lynch.
In August of 2011, Congress Lynch requested that the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform hold a hearing to examine the use of confidential informants by the Department of Justice and specifically, the FBI. The hearing request, which is pending, stemmed from recent questions that have arisen regarding the FBI's use of confidential informants in New England.