Biting His Handlers

An FBI informant's secret tapes raise a troubling issue in the tower-bombing case: Did the bureau screw up?

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In the other case, which has not yet come to trial, defense attorneys hope that the tapes will prove entrapment by law-enforcement authorities. Says Columbia University law professor Gerard Lynch, a former federal prosecutor: - "There's very little published in this case to suggest entrapment. But if jurors hear about government conduct that offends them, they could decide to acquit." Salem's testimony is essential to buttress tapes of his dealings with defendants. These newly revealed tapes with the FBI, however, may make both him and his handlers look sleazy. A former Egyptian army officer, Salem has a reputation as a tale spinner. It cannot help that the FBI trusted him so little that it once dropped him or that he trusted the FBI so little that he taped his conversations. Moreover, a good deal of the talk is about payment, with Salem seeking $1 million and officials advising him how to get it. The more they hear Salem talk about money, the more jurors may wonder how far he was prepared to go to get it.

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