Although certainly better than going to jail, being a confidential informant was no cake walk. I was thrown into the fire.
First, when CIs go undercover, they don’t have a bullet-proof vest or a handgun. We just have our bare skin and our wits.
2. We get the debriefed once and if don’t do or say what the DEA agents want to hear, there’s no do-over! Bye-bye, you go to jail. After my second case, the DEA saw that I could handle myself well and I was given the green light to bring in cases, which I did. I wanted to make amends and help get dangerous drugs off the street.
3. Sometimes when I was meeting with suspects, things could change quickly. I was wired, so the DEA was listening to what was happening. If the suspect wasn’t saying what the DEA wanted to hear, I’d get a call during the meeting, and the agent would tell me what to say to the suspect. I had to do this without the suspect getting suspicious!
4. You always have to be aware of your surroundings! And notice if the suspect is carry a gun. If he is, you have relay the message to the agents for their safety. They’re not in the room with you, usually they’re outside listening from a van or cars.
The bottom line is I could have been killed or kicked out of the program at any point. I’m not complaining! I’m grateful for the opportunity, but it’s also the truth that CIs risk their lives to right their wrongs.
Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.