James Bond aside, and he’s fictional, most spies are of questionable character, and most people who issue them their marching orders are too. From Andrew C. McCarthy at nationalreview.com:
The Obama administration blatantly politicized the government’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus.
‘Isn’t it a fact that you’re a scumbag?”
Our contretemps over the nomenclature of government informants has me unable to shake this arresting moment from my memory. In Manhattan, about 30 years ago, I was among the spectators basking in the majesty of Foley Square’s federal courthouse when we were suddenly jarred by this, shall we say, rhetorical question. The sniper was a mob lawyer in a big RICO case; the target was the prosecution’s main witness, the informant.
Until this week, I’d always thought the most noteworthy thing about this obnoxious bit of theater was the reaction of the judge, a very fine, very wry trial lawyer in his own right.
The prosecutors, of course, screamed, “Objection!”
The judge calmly shrugged his shoulders and ruled: “He can answer if he knows.”
Did he know? I don’t remember. I was laughing too hard to hear any response.
The court’s deadpan was not just hilarious. In its way, it was trenchant.
The judge was not insouciant. He was a realist. The witness had done what covert informants do: He pretended to be someone he wasn’t, he wheedled his way into the trust — in some instances, into the affections — of people suspected of wrongdoing. And then he betrayed them. But that’s the job: to pry away secrets — get the bad actors to admit what they did, how they did it, and with whom they did it, until the agents and prosecutors decide there is enough evidence to convict the lot of them.
The judge understood that. For all the melodrama, whether the informant was a hero or a villain hinged on how one felt not about him but about the worthiness of the investigation.
To continue reading: Spy Name Games