The movie “Donnie Brasco” is about the life of FBI agents who work undercover. The story revolves around the experiences which undercover agents go through in their line of duty to uncover crime. In this movie, Joe Pistone is the undercover agent with the name Donnie Brasco. Joe poses as a jewel thief in order to join a gang. His aim is to uncover the criminals. However, the job is not easy. In this paper, I shall discuss on the research methods Joe Pistone uses in his undertaking. To attain this aim, I shall reveal the styles he employed in order to gain trust and access to the mafia. The paper shall also look into the ways Joe used to report his finding to his superiors in the FBI offices. The final part of this essay will be on the challenges faced by undercover agents. That is the challenges of leaving alternate persona behind, and the potential dangers of conducting full participant investigations.
How did he gain access/trust?
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Beginning the work of an undercover agent was an assignment which Joe has to think about before getting into it. Joe does not take time to consult his wife over this issue as it is a serious matter that concerns his life. For Joe to win the trust of the members of the mafia, he has to do all that pertains their habits and culture. In this case, Joe takes a complete new character and changes his persona to hide his true identity. The mafias often associate with criminal activities.
The mafias have trends of doing criminal activities as a habit. The people, who are mafia, believe that doing criminal activities is a virtue. That is what they identify each other with. All mafia must have one or multiple ill-social habits. According to the mafia, crime is only a result of nature, and it is not wrong at all (Pistone & Brasco 1997). In this regard, Joe took in some habits that would identify his dark side. Joe posed as a jewel thief. In this case, he had a fake diamond ring which he used to show off to Lefty. Joe had loaded guns, which were used in the operation they would go together with the mafia. He also injected himself with drugs, through which he would pretend to be a drug addict. This way he would prove to the mafia that he was one of them.
How did he gather intelligence?
Joe made sure that he went to all the activities planned by the mafia. On most occasions, he followed Lefty who would take him on a dangerous assignment to meet with his rivals. For instance, he did not refuse to accompany lefty when he was going to meet Sonny at the incident of the lion cub. It is during such times that he got to learn of the connection between different groups of mafia. During such occurrences, Donnie had the chance to prove himself a complete member of the mafia. He would also prove himself to Lefty so that he is loyal and could be trusted. While he is together with the mafia, Joe is careful to ensure that his recorder is picking all the conversations which are to be used at the court as evidence.
How did he report his findings?
The undercover agent has to ensure that he reports to his authorities as often as possible. He or she must ensure that he reports all his findings to the prosecutor who is filing the case. In this case, Joe reports his findings to Berada and Hogue. Joe takes time to report his findings to his superiors by documenting and through call records. His recorder would then be handed over to the prosecutor for filing and documentation. In addition, he also took photos of some of the events (Pistone 1997).
Describe the challenges of leaving his alternate persona behind and the potential dangers of conducting full participant research/investigations.
As an FBI undercover agent, there are many challenges that one will go through. In this case, Joe had already made up his mind on the assignment that was ahead of him. As a secret agent, it is a must and a safety measure to withhold the true identity. One who is acting as an undercover agent changes his or her real name to another name which is used until the mission given is completed. In this case, it is also safe for the person to change his or her appearance altogether. In this regard, most of the undercover agents live on their alternate persona, while their true persona is only known to the immediate family members and confidants.
Leaving a person’s alternate persona behind brings a heavier challenge compared to living with the false identity. Most undercover agents handle gangs and mafia who operate on oaths. These oaths are taken extremely seriously, and a member cannot quit the group easily. In case one member opts to leave the group, he or she has to bear with the consequences as sworn while joining the group. For this reason, a secret agent can not reveal his true identity or resume his normal routine life because once the members have found out that they have been betrayed, they seek out to eliminate that individual as a way to keep off the threat, and to maintain their values.
In as much as it is an honor to have such a risky job, it is equal to taking a risk for a lifetime because once a person has joined the undercover there is no turning back. Hence, it is true that it is a potential risk. This is because the undercover agent has to ensure that he or she maintains complete trust to both sides. The undercover agent has to operate secretly also communicate effectively to the gang and the FBI without leaving any trace of suspicion. As mentioned above, once the undercover agent has been discovered before the mission is over, he or she is at the mercy of the gang members or mafia. On the other hand, if the undercover agent changes to join the criminal gang, he or she will face the consequences of the law. In the end, being an undercover agent is as good as forgetting the past life and adopting a new name, family, and lifestyle whereby there is no turning back (Pistone 1997).
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