The FBI allowed its criminal informants to commit 5,658 crimes in 2011.
The U.S. Justice Department ordered the FBI to begin tracking its informants' crimes ten years ago, but that secret report has never before been made public until now.
A copy of the FBI's 2011 report was recently obtained by USA TODAY, under the Freedom of Information Act.
FBI Agents reportedly authorized buying and selling illegal drugs, bribing government officials and planning robberies.
However, the FBI claims that allowing its criminal informants to commit crimes is necessary to investigate criminal organizations that commit crimes.
Shawn Henry, who supervised criminal investigations for the FBI, tried to defend the FBI-approved lawbreaking to USA TODAY: "It sounds like a lot, but you have to keep it in context. This is not done in a vacuum. It's not done randomly. It's not taken lightly."
Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, responded: "The million-dollar question is: How much crime is the government tolerating from its informants? I'm sure that if we really knew that number, we would all be shocked."
A spokeswoman for the FBI, Denise Ballew, said criminal informants who are allowed to break the law are "situational, tightly controlled" and subject to Justice Department policy.
However, the Justice Department's Inspector General concluded in 2005 that the FBI failed to follow many of those policies.
USA TODAY asked the FBI for all of the reports it had prepared since 2006, but FBI officials said they only could locate one report.
The ATF and the DEA cannot say how often their criminal informants are allowed to break the law. Also, local police allow their informants to break the law as well.
"This is all being operated clandestinely. Congress doesn't even have the information," said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass). "I think there's a problem here, and we should have full disclosure to Congress."
Source: USA TODAY