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Criminal Resource Manual

1902. Guidelines For INS Undercover Operations -- Introductory Sections (Parts 1-4)

  1. Introduction

    The Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS's) use of undercover operations is a lawful and essential technique for the detection and investigation of alien-smuggling conspiracies, fraudulent document offenses, and other violations of federal law within the jurisdiction of the INS. Since this technique inherently involves an element of deception and occasionally requires a degree of cooperation with persons whose motivation and conduct are open to question, it should be carefully considered and monitored.

  2. Definitions

    A "cooperating private individual" is a person who is not employed by the INS but whose activities are directed by an INS employee.

    "Otherwise illegal activity" is activity that would constitute a crime under federal, state, or local law if engaged in by a person acting without approval or authorization of an appropriate Government official.

    An "undercover employee" is any employee of the INS -- or employee of a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency working under the direction and control of the INS in a particular investigation -- whose relationship with the INS is concealed from third parties in the course of an investigative operation by the maintenance of a cover or alias identity.

    An "undercover operation" is any investigative operation in which an undercover employee or cooperating private individual is used.

    A "proprietary" is a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or other business entity owned or controlled by the INS which is used in connection with an undercover operation when the entity's relationship with the INS is not generally acknowledged.


    The INS may conduct undercover operations pursuant to these guidelines when such operations advance the enforcement of criminal statutes assigned to the investigatory jurisdiction of the INS or when otherwise appropriate to carrying out the Service's investigative function.

    Under this authority, the INS may participate in joint undercover operations with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; may seek operational assistance for an undercover operation from any suitable informant, confidential source, or other cooperating private individual; and may operate a proprietary on a commercial basis to the extent necessary to maintain an operation's cover or effectiveness.


    All undercover operations under these guidelines fall into one of three categories: (1) those undercover operations which must be authorized by the INS Commissioner with the concurrence of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division; (2) those which must be authorized by the appropriate Regional Commissioner; and (3) those which must be approved by the appropriate District Director or Chief Patrol Agent. In general, the graver the risk of harm or intrusiveness, the higher the approval level required. Of course, in planning an undercover operation, these risks of harm and intrusion will be avoided whenever possible unless such avoidance would unduly interfere with obtaining evidence in a timely and effective manner.