Secretive Program Reportedly Recruits Air Force Cadets to Inform on Peers

The U.S. Air Force has created a secretive program to recruit cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy to serve as informants and report on misconduct by their peers, according to The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper. The Gazette identified four informants, three of whom spoke to the paper about their experience with the Office of Special Investigations, a law-enforcement arm of the Air Force that they said had recruited them as informants.

The Air Force’s top commander and members of the academy’s civilian oversight board said they did not know about the program. Academy commanders and the special-investigations office declined requests for interviews, with the office saying in a statement that it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the program.

The Gazette confirmed the program, which has not been reported in the media through interviews with multiple informants, phone and text records, former OSI agents, court filings and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The records show OSI uses FBI-style tactics to create informants. Agents interrogate cadets for hours without offering access to a lawyer, threaten them with prosecution, then coerce them into helping OSI in exchange for promises of leniency they don’t always keep. OSI then uses informants to infiltrate insular cadet groups, sometimes encouraging them to break rules to do so. When finished with informants, OSI takes steps to hide their existence, directing cadets to delete emails and messages, misleading Air Force commanders and Congress, and withholding documents they are required to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

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