DEA

DEA Promised TSA Agent a Cut of Passengers' Seizable Cash

The DOJ's inspector general deemed the arrangement inappropriate.

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Wikipedia

An "investigative summary" posted this month by the Justice Department's inspector general criticizes the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for hiring a federal airport security screener to help find seizable cash in passengers' luggage. Under the arrangement, the DEA designated the screener a "confidential source" and promised him a cut of any money he found while rummaging through people's bags.

Was that wrong? Yes, according to the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG concluded that paying employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to report evidence of criminal activity was inappropriate, since they are supposed to do that anyway. The OIG noted that DEA policy "precludes registering as a CS [confidential source] 'employees of U.S. law enforcement agencies who are working solely in their official capacity with DEA.'" It also worried that "asking the TSA Security Screener to notify the DEA of passengers carrying large sums of money in exchange for a reward based on money seized by the DEA violated the DEA's interdiction manual" and "could have violated individuals' protection against unreasonable searches and seizures if it led to a subsequent DEA enforcement action."

As Institute for Justice attorney Robert Everett Johnson observes, that last concern applies to civil forfeiture generally, since the DEA and other law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of the property they seize. That encourages cops to target people based on the stuff they have rather than the threat they pose. 

"This really is what we see every day around the country," Johnson told The Huffington Post. "When law enforcement takes property using civil forfeiture, law enforcement is able to keep that property and use it to fund their budgets and in many cases even to pay the salaries of people who are overseeing the forfeitures. That creates an obvious financial incentive to take property from people who haven't done anything or haven't been proven to have done anything wrong. It creates an incentive for all kinds of abuse."

People traveling with large amounts of cash—people like Charles Clarke and Luis Felipe Ospina Garrido—are easy targets because the money itself is deemed suspicious enough to justify the initial seizure. After that they must hire a lawyer to challenge the forfeiture, a process that may take months or years and ultimately cost more than they are trying to recover. It can be tempting even for completely innocent owners whose money is seized by the government to give up or agree to a settlement that lets them get back at least some of what they lost.

It is bad enough when confiscated cash helps fund the agency that took it. It would be even more outrageous if the money directly lined the pockets of the government employee whose information led to the seizure. Fortunately, TSA agents seem to be about as good at finding cash as they are at finding guns and bombs. According to the OIG, the TSA screener hired by the DEA "did not provide DEA any actionable information while a CS," "was not paid any money by the DEA," and "was deactivated for inability to provide any useful information."

[Thanks to CharlesWT for the tip.]

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  1. Criminal.

  2. I’m assuming they both still have jobs and promised they wouldn’t do it again.

    Wouldn’t want to react too harshly.

    1. If the DOJ called foul they must have really been doing something wrong. That or they just forgot to cut the IG in on the deal…

      1. Yes, they *did* so something wrong:

        The TSA guy was “deactivated for inability to provide any useful information.”

        So the DoJ is like, “wow, this guy was too incompetent to steal anything for us. Time to cut him loose.”

        1. Seriously, a government employee who *wants* to steal from the public, but is unable to do so.

          How pathetic is that?

          It’s like a mosquito on a nudist beach who isn’t able to suck anyone’s blood.

          Or a guy who’s shipwrecked on the Island of Lonely, Desperate Women with Low Standards but who is unable to score.

  3. Fucken scumbuckets.

  4. According to the OIG, the TSA screener hired by the DEA “did not provide DEA any actionable information while a CS,” “was not paid any money by the DEA,” and “was deactivated for inability to provide any useful information.”

    Well, ok then. At least the guy was incompetent.

    1. “Deactivated”, eh? One can only hope.

  5. “…”could have violated individuals’ protection against unreasonable searches and seizures ”

    Could.

    *Glances at 4th amendment*

    Yeah, it could.

  6. The OIG concluded that paying employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to report evidence of criminal activity was inappropriate, since they are supposed to do that anyway.

    They should only be looking for something that impacts the safety of air travel. No wonder they can’t even do that, if they’re too busy with warrantless criminal searches.

    1. TSA’s original mandate was to search for weapons, explosives, and incindiaries. They mission crept past that almost immediately. Now they trumpet the news when they catch someone wearing a military uniform fraudulently.

      1. Thanks Dan, I was beginning to think that I was the only one who remembers that the TSA was only supposed to be looking for bombs of various sorts. In fact, wasn’t there a promise (ha ha) that that would be the limit of what they would be authorized to do? That worked out well, didn’t it?

        Lock ’em all up and throw away the key, and every congresscritter that didn’t vote against their creation too.

  7. The OIG concluded that paying employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to report evidence of criminal activity was inappropriate, since they are supposed to do that anyway.

    …but they are so lazy and stupid, they won’t do that without a cut of the vig.

  8. Fortunately, TSA agents seem to be about as good at finding cash as they are at finding guns and bombs.

    Due to miscommunication between my wife and I, I flew across the US, and across the Pacific with a dive knife in my carry-on. TSA missed it.

    1. And nothing else happened.

      It’s well past time to go back to 9/10 era airport screening.

      The threat of aircraft hijacking ended 9:30am on 9/11 when United 93 passengers realized that sitting down was no longer an option.

      Every time there’s been a mid air problem, other than the insane Germanwings copilot who was able to lock the now hardened cockpit from his pilot and everyone else, the potential miscreant has been subdued in part or entirely by fellow passengers.

      I can’t recall any incidents where a Federal Air Marshall has intervened. Must be deep deep cover. The only thing FAMs seem to ever do is bump paying passengers out of their purchased First Class aisle seats. No middle economy back by the aft lav for the airborne heroes in blue [sports coats].

  9. If only there were an armed enforcement group who could detain these thieves.

  10. I want every article about the DOJ to describe it as the ‘Ironically Named Dept. of Justice.’

  11. How about calling it what it might well be, THEFT.

  12. Taking a second look at the article, I noticed reference to Civil Asset Forfeiture,otherwise known as Theft Under Color of Law,a reasonably police description for such practices..

  13. This message brought to you by the War-on-Drugs, a subsidiary of the Religious and Personal Morals mode of governance (We think certain things and behaviors are immoral therefore they should be illegal even if no innocent person’s rights have been violated.) in which otherwise peaceful, honest citizen’s rights are grossly violated by police state thugs.

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