Rookies, fresh from Farm! –the DEA training facility in Virgina
When I was a CI (confidential informant), during a weekly debriefing with my DEA handlers, a dozen rookie agents, fresh from completing their training at the Virgina academy, filed into the small room.
A new task force was being formed to combat the growing meth and Ecstasy problem. In south Florida these new agents were going to go after the small fish, which would eventually lead them to the bigger fish.
Over the next few months, these rookies practiced on me how to debrief a CI. They did a great job, but they were so young and so white. One reminded me of Justin Bieber and another of Ron Howard when he was Opie.
One of my handlers, Johnny, asked me what I thought about the new guys.
I said, “They’re very white for Miami! And they look like cops from a mile away. Like they just came from the farm.”
Johnny laughed and said, “I know, but we know where to place them!”
Given the DEA’s 99% conviction rate, I’m sure he was right.
Later, in front of the rookies group, I was asked what the most important things are that a CI should be told to do.
— Never waste the DEA’s manpower time.
— Never lie or make a false statement to try to get yourself out of trouble. Informants have to prove what they’re saying through audio and video.
— No entrapment!
My handlers, David and Johnny, smiled, but I had one more thing to add. I looked at each of the new agents, then said:
“My handlers do this to me all the time. Never ask a CI what time they can come in for debriefing. Don’t let them make their own schedule. Tell them, ‘I need you to come in after work or when ever.’ As the agents, you create a schedule for your CI.”
Both of my handlers started laughing out loud — as though I didn’t know how to read between the lines! But that’s why I was so successful with them. We had a mutual respect, great communication, and they knew I sincerely wanted to redeem myself. They asked for my opinion, and trusted and believed in my judgment.
I also taught them all how to speak Spanish Cuban-style. They all said “Dimelo?” which means, “What’s up?”
Imagine a bunch of white guys saying, “Dimelo?”
It was so cool to hear!
Excerpted from my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.