The Caraballo federal murder trial has exposed a dirty little law enforcement secret: that the State Police Drug Task Force not only pays cash to informants who buy drugs from suspected dealers, but also that the informants themselves use that cash to buy drugs for their own use.

This became public when on cross examination by Caraballo’s defense counsel, one of several paid informants -- who admitted that he was "in a very bad way" and owed money -- testified that he was paid as much as $200 by the State Police each time he bought drugs from Mr. Caraballo, but then used those funds to buy marijuana for his own use. Also, several witnesses for the Government admitted that they had previously lied to police, prosecutors, and even under oath to the Grand Jury.

This perverse arrangement raises some troubling questions.

Specifically, where did the money come from to pay the informants for their "work"? Were taxpayers funds used? What was the total amount paid to informants by the Vermont Drug Task Force in the Caraballo case? Did the State Police handlers for those informants know that those fees they were paying informants were, for at least one informant, being used to purchase marijuana for his own use? If not, why not? (the informant in question was using crack cocaine at the time he was cultivated by the Drug Task Force to become an informant).

This vile system pollutes the waters of justice in the name of drug enforcement and cries out for legislative and/or judicial oversight.

The abuse of money in drug task force investigations and prosecutions, as exposed in the Caraballo trial, calls into question how far (and how low) a civilized society based upon the Rule of Law will compromise its morality in fighting the so-called "War on Drugs." When our government encourages this sort of outrageous behavior -- regardless of the ultimate goal -- we are all poorer for it. This isn’t what Vermont should be about.

BRADLEY D. MYERSON

Manchester Center