Emily Stabile

Recruiting Terrorism Informants: The Problems with Immigration Incentives and the S-6 Visa

Since the FBI’s post-9/11 establishment of a preventative stance toward terrorism has increased the need for intelligence, the agency has turned to the increased use of immigration law to recruit additional confidential informants. Using the threat of immigration consequences-particularly deportation-to produce terrorism intelligence presents novel problems for both the intelligence gathering process and the informants. Informants recruited in this manner who also lack established ties to foreign terrorist organizations have an enormous incentive to fabricate information to fulfill their end of the agreement and avoid deportation. Recruiting informants via immigration law also affords less protection than recruiting them by offering monetary rewards or reductions in sentencing. Furthermore, the FBI’s recruitment tactics encourage ethnic and religious profiling, alienating Muslim and Middle Eastern communities. Although Congress created the S-6 visa classification specifically to induce cooperation from informants in terrorism investigations, the visa is rarely used due to its stringent eligibility requirements for informants. In order for law enforcement to successfully use the S-6 visa program and to encourage the trust of and cooperation from informants, legislative overhaul is needed. An S-6 visa program that emphasizes pre-existing ties to terrorist organizations, increases the availability of S-6 visas, and lowers the barriers to the visas’ use will produce counterterrorism intelligence that is more reliable and actionable and provide greater protection for civil liberties and to informants themselves.