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An informant (known in law enforcement as a criminal informant or C.I.) is someone who provides privileged information about a person or organization to an agency, usually law enforcement, without the consent of that person or organization.


Informer types

Labor organization informers

Corporations and the detective agencies that sometimes represent them have historically hired labor spies to monitor or control labor organizations and their activities. Such individuals may be professionals or recruits from the workforce. They may be willing accomplices, or may be tricked into informing on their co-workers' unionization efforts.

Criminal informants

Informants are most commonly found in the world of organized crimeTemplate:Fact. By its very nature, organized crime involves many people who are aware of each others guilt in a variety of illegal activities. Quite frequently, informants will provide information in order to obtain lenient treatment for themselves and provide information over an extended period of time in return for money or for police to overlook their own criminal activities. Quite often someone will become an informant following their arrest.

Informants are also extremely common in every-day police work, including homicide and narcotics investigations. Any citizen who aids an investigation by offering helpful information to the police is by definition a criminal informant. This includes victims, witnesses, members of communities who know the "word on the street," and anonymous callers. Informants are often unable to offer concrete evidence but are nevertheless helpful in providing leads that may help bring authorities closer to an eventual conviction.

The CIA has been criticized for letting major drug lords out of prison as informantsTemplate:Fact. Informants may be allowed to engage in some crimes, so that the potential informant can blend into the criminal environment without suspicion.

Informants are regarded as traitors by their former criminal associates. Whatever the nature of a group, it is bound to feel strong hostility towards any known informers, regard them as threats and inflict punishments ranging from social ostracism through physical abuse and/or deathTemplate:Fact. Informers are therefore generally protected, either by being segregated in prison or, if they are not incarcerated, relocated under a new identity.

There has also been much criticism about the witness protection programTemplate:Fact. Many informers are allowed to enter state and federal witness protection programs after they have given testimony. Once within the shelter of witness protection, these informers often continue with their lives of crime, a lifestyle that casts a large shadow of doubt on the veracity of their testimonyTemplate:Fact. One such notable protected witness was David Clay Lind, a known gang member and reported drug addict who was said to have died of a drug overdose while in witness protectionTemplate:Fact.

The slang term used when defense lawyers make deals with courts and authorities to get a criminal out of jail as an informant is called "pulling a Jeremy," coined after the infamous American informant codenamed "Jeremy" who disclosed information about the whereabouts of President Noriega during Operation Just Cause, leading to Noriega's captureTemplate:Fact.

Terms for informants

Several slang terms for informants have arisen over the years, most of them pejorative. They include:

Non-pejorative terms include:

See also




Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Informant



Wikipedia has an article on:





informant (plural informants)

  1. One who relays confidential information to someone, especially to the police; an informer.






  1. Present participle of informer.

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