The Duties of an Undercover Agent


Undercover agents perform investigative work on behalf of law enforcement agencies at the local, state or federal level. They are often able to obtain valuable information for their investigations. They must be discreet and have specialized skills like self-defense, lock-picking and several languages to complete their jobs successfully.


The SAC or a designated Supervisory Special Agent may orally approve an undercover operation when the situation is urgent and a written authorization would jeopardize the investigation. Such oral approvals must be documented and promptly forwarded to FBIHQ.

Infiltrating criminal groups

Undercover investigations are a valuable tool for law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal level. They are used to gather evidence and prevent criminal activity. Some examples of this type of work include infiltrating a drug trafficking group or investigating a white-collar crime ring.

The use of undercover agents poses several ethical concerns. For example, officers may succumb to excessive pressure from supervisors and exaggerate their reports. Moreover, they can develop sympathies for and be co-opted by targets, leading them to protect rather than vigorously investigate them (Marx, 1988). Additionally, the exploitation of personal relationships may compromise the privacy rights of third parties. For example, police officers infiltrating protest groups have cultivated romantic relationships with targeted individuals and encouraged them to commit crimes as part of sting operations.

Similarly, undercover investigators who pose as members of the media, religious or community groups, public health officials, lawyers, and others infringe on their privacy rights by monitoring their activities. This can also lead to feelings of being targeted, which can chill speech and association. Consequently, police policies should be designed to minimize the imposition of privacy on investigation targets and third parties. These policies should also consider the impact of undercover work on officers and the agencies involved. Management should be involved throughout the undercover process to ensure that it is effective and protects the safety of officers.

Electronic surveillance

Undercover agents conduct electronic surveillance to track criminal activities. They may use wire tapping, bugging and videotaping to collect data. They may also use GPS technology and other tracking devices to monitor the location of targets. This information can be used by governments and private companies to generate revenue. However, some people believe this form of surveillance violates the privacy of innocent citizens.

It is not uncommon for law enforcement agencies to infiltrate gangs and other criminal organizations to gather evidence and disrupt their operations. However, the work 서울흥신소 can be dangerous and the officers are often exposed to danger and violence. In addition, it is difficult to find reliable informants and many criminal groups have a high level of secrecy.

Although undercover investigators are not always able to get the data they need, they have been successful in arresting a number of criminals. For example, Joe Pistone, who was known as Donnie Brasco, infiltrated the Bonanno crime family in New York and led to the conviction of over 100 mobsters (Albanese, 1996:181).

Undercover investigators are typically less experienced police officers and their supervision in the field might be inadequate. Furthermore, undercover investigations can adversely affect third parties if officers facilitate and even encourage their investigation targets to commit crimes as part of a sting operation (Marx, 1988). It is therefore crucial that the effectiveness and consequences of undercover investigations are evaluated.

Identifying saboteurs

One of the main duties of undercover agents is to maintain their false identity, a practice that can require great dedication. Depending on the length and complexity of their missions, they may have to learn a new language, rent a different house, adopt a new name or spend time away from their families. In addition to maintaining their fake identities, undercover investigators must also be able to keep secrets and avoid detection.

Undercover agents can help identify dishonest or malicious employees stealing company merchandise or sharing trade secrets with competitors. They can even infiltrate companies to find out if their executives are trying to destroy the business. They use body-worn audiovisual equipment, including miniature microphones and video cameras, to capture evidence without arousing suspicion.

In the United States, law enforcement agencies employ undercover officers to conduct sting operations against property crimes. Some of these operations involve a high-profile individual, such as Joe Pistone who worked undercover for six years in the Bonanno crime family as “Donnie Brasco.” These operations often result in numerous convictions but have not received enough attention in comparison to other investigative methods or to their cost and impact on affected third parties.

In the 1910s, Horst von der Goltz devised a cover company to conduct sabotage and subversion operations against the American munitions industry. He recruited several men to work as saboteurs, including a Bowery bum who posed as Bridgeman H. Taylor. The group planned to dynamite the Welland Canal, which linked Lakes Ontario and Erie in Canada with the port of Buffalo in America.

Gathering evidence

Undercover agents have a variety of tools to gather evidence. They can interview witnesses and collect physical and forensic evidence from crime scenes. They also use computer technology to find information and analyze data. They can also locate missing persons. They need specialized skills, such as self-defense, technological expertise and lock-breaking to carry out their missions. They also need discretion and the ability to maintain confidentiality.

Undercover investigations are often used to investigate white collar crimes, public corruption, terrorism and offenses involving controlled substances. In order to conduct an undercover investigation, a Special Agent or employee of a Federal, state or local law enforcement agency must obtain approval from FBI Headquarters. The approval process is detailed in the Undercover Guidelines.

A successful undercover operation requires careful planning and monitoring. A failure to obtain significant results may necessitate the termination of the operation. The FBI must also ensure that the undercover operation does not compromise third parties. For example, an undercover agent who establishes a romantic relationship with a target could expose third parties to legal risk.

The FBI is currently conducting a number of undercover operations targeting public corruption. One of the best-known examples is Joe Pistone, whose work as Donnie Brasco shattered morale in the Bonanno family in New York and led to more than 100 convictions (Albanese, 1996:181). The FBI has also been effective in exposing corruption in the Chicago Circuit Court system through an undercover operation that was code named Greylord.