Monday, December 2, 2013

Use and abuse of undercover informants at Colorado Springs?


I would come down on the affirmative. Several cadets tell a disturbing tale of threats, broken promises, and an OIS taking advantage of noble instincts. Violations of Kantian precepts galore.

You really must read the whole article from Stars and Stripes to get the extent to which this secret system of investigation used the cadets in question as ‘mere means’ to the laudable end of nipping bad behavior in the bud, at USAFA.  
This is also, a very interesting case study in the risks taken on by institutions which condone or engage in behaviors that are in direct conflict with their stated values.  In particular, the article emphasizes honesty, and the pledge cadets take, to never lie, nor withhold information. The story shows us an institution that apparently lied to at least one cadet, stringing him along (in order to use him for investigations) telling him, all along, not to worry, that they would look out for him, take care of him when the chips were down, only to abandon him when he was perceived as having no further use.  

(Yes sexual predation and drug use are problems, and undercover ops are defensible, but this is not the way to do it.)

Sanka freeze dried version of one cadet’s story:

Second year Cadet Thomas was at an off campus party that included drugs, but did not partake.

He was called in as witness by OIS. After three hour interrogation in which he was reticent to name names, he eventually did.  After that, he was recruited as a secret informant to be used on and off academy grounds in pursuing similar cases. Signed non-disclosure agreement, threatened with brig if he broke it.

Spent balance of second, third and fourth years in undercover operations for OIS. Had two contacts he would meet, often off the yard after hours (against regs).

He did not have moral qualms with the work. Thought he was helping get rid of bad actors, horrible candidates for officer corps.

This work required that he break many rules to not only ‘fit in’ but accompany subjects of investigations. He accumulated demerits more than sufficient to warrant expulsion, grades suffered (due to time taken up in tailing bad actors). Reputation suffered.

Was required to break rules (leave campus) even when on restriction and other forms of punishment for having broken regs in service to the investigations. Did comply when ordered to do this sort of thing. All along, he was promised he would be taken care of.

His chain of command was not aware of his role in investigations, considered him a “dirtbag” due to the company he kept, and the multiple infractions. The chain saw a cadet who had no respect for rules, nor the institution.

After one incident in which he was tailing a sexual predator (in which he prevented a rape) the academy initiated process for separation.

He kept his word, and did not divulge his status. Was promised by OIS that his contact would testify for him at a disciplinary hearing.

Contact did not show. Communications was cut off.

He was severely dressed down at the hearing and separated shortly before graduation. He was not required to pay back his tuition, as would normally occur. This indicates some level of awareness of his undercover role, probably after the fact.

Asked OIS repeatedly to come forward in his defense. They never did. He filed FOI requests three times. The third request (routed through his Congressman) produced 86 pages of details.

He remains in the Air Force, and cannot apply to any other schools.

Only after all of this, did he decide to go to the press.  He seeks restitution in some form.

* What Would Kant Do?  He would not recruit these young people into this emotionally trying work knowing full well that he would take advantage of their ideals and trust, in order to prevent some other evils. He would require fully informed consent, and would not countenance the bullying tactics used to recruit informants.  Second formulation of the Cat. Imp. folks. Come on.