Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
asset forfeiture, cash, dea, tsa



DEA So Forfeiture-Focused It Hired A TSA Screener To Check Travelers And Baggage For 'Guilty' Cash

from the if-drug-trafficking-dips,-so-do-the-opportunities-to-grab-cash,-so... dept

Here you are: written evidence that asset forfeiture leads to law enforcement activity, rather than the other way around. (h/t Brad Heath)

The DEA has already been blasted by the DOJ's Inspector General for its confidential informant program. The DEA's informants were paid when they weren't producing intel. They were paid and sheltered from prosecution when they committed criminal acts falling outside their purview as informants. And the entire program was adrift in a sea of corruption and chaos, subject to no real oversight. To top it all off, Inspector General Michael Horowitz had to battle the DEA for every document and piece of relevant information just to arrive at these conclusions.

It's not just common criminals being added to the DEA's payroll as confidential informants. It's also other government employees. The DEA isn't running a government employee-focused sting, however. It's just looking for money. More eyes mean more money. And the eyes that will see the most money in transit will be those located at commuter hubs.

First off, the one-page report (which follows up its comprehensive report on the DEA's informant program) notes that the DEA is throwing away tax dollars by paying a TSA agent to do something they should be doing anyway: reporting evidence of criminal activity to law enforcement.

The OIG determined that registering a TSA Security Screener as a CS violated DEA policy, which precludes registering as a CS “employees of U.S. law enforcement agencies who are working solely in their official capacity with DEA.” The OIG also found that TSA Security Screeners are obligated to report to law enforcement suspected criminal activity that they observe in the course of their duties. Therefore, by registering a TSA Security Screener as a CS, the DEA agreed to pay for information that the screener was already obligated to provide to law enforcement.
So, that's misuse of funds. Now we get to the reason the DEA felt compelled to throw tax dollars at a fellow government employee.
The OIG further determined 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.
Judging from the DEA's enthusiasm for confiscating cash from travelers, it's highly unlikely this is a unique arrangement. This one just happened to get exposed.

For those of you playing along at home by counting your remaining tax dollars, there is an upside: the DEA is apparently so inept at choosing confidential informants that no money ever exchanged hands (from the DEA to the TSA screener or, it would seem, from travelers to the DEA).
While the OIG concluded that the DEA violated its policies by registering the TSA Security Screener as a CS and by offering the screener a reward for money seized based on information he provided, the OIG found that the TSA Security Screener did not provide DEA any actionable information while a CS, and was not paid any money by the DEA. The CS was deactivated for inability to provide any useful information.
This short summary shows the DEA's real interest is in cash seizures, not eliminating drug trafficking. It's so obsessed with the immediacy of cash forfeitures that it's willing to cut other government employees in on the deal. The incentives are already severely perverted. Drafting a security screener as a Junior G-Man on a contingency basis shifts that person's focus from airline security to eyeballing carry-on baggage for non-threatening cash. This partnership makes each participant weaker and we, the taxpayers, are paying for both.


Reader Comments

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  1. icon
    rw (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 7:46am

    Just shows where the "Real" criminals work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 8:28am

    Re:

    A dumb criminal robs someone and/or violates their rights at gun-point.

    A smart criminal robs someone and/or violates their rights at badge-point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 8:53am

    'Drug enforcement' for fun and profit, mostly profit

    Anyone remember when travelers generally only had to worry about being robbed by those without a badge, rather than with?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:53am

    The money looks "dirty" - I'm taking it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:08am

    Re: 'Drug enforcement' for fun and profit, mostly profit

    Foreign travellers are warned about being robbed at badgepoint when visiting America.

    > One prosecutor used seized cash to defend herself against a lawsuit brought by people whose cash she seized.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:19am

    'Guilty' cash

    Of course that cash is guilty, they have serial numbers on them and those serial numbers are listed at the Treasury departments list of cash in circulation. See, proof positive!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:26am

    New Mission

    So if the TSA can't find weapons 95% of the time and they can't find cash 100% of the time, maybe we should change their mission to finding the world's missing socks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:30am

    Perhaps it is time to insist they follow the laws themselves before giving them power over others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:31am

    Re: New Mission

    Socks normally come in pairs which doubles the chances of finding them, don't you think?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 11:02am

    TSA con man

    I bet the TSA CS was running a con. Why would he call in DEA when it's so much better to keep the money in TSA and get a bonus?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 11:22am

    Re: New Mission

    Maybe HR needs to screen applicants with a Find Waldo puzzle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Johnny Cash, 19 Jan 2016 @ 12:03pm

    Would you like a receipt for your groceries?

    Politicos have legalized crime, while making everything else ill eagle (sic).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 12:46pm

    Nothing like getting mugged from your own govt. F'n criminals!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: New Mission

    yeah but then the only "terrorists" found will be wearing red strips

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 1:39pm

    Gives new meaning to the phrase Thick As Thieves. Good old syndicated, organized, American Crime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    TSA Manager, 19 Jan 2016 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Re: New Mission

    --HR needs to screen applicants with a Find Waldo puzzle.

    We tried that, every applicant failed so we had to lower the standards.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 4:43pm

    Re: Re: New Mission

    Or at least the ol' "Ass, your own" challenge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:33pm

    Re: TSA con man

    Because the TSA's mandate is to prevent terrorists from entering airports. And it looks very bad if you claim that you confiscated cash from a terrorist before letting him through security...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2016 @ 12:46am

    Re: 'Drug enforcement' for fun and profit, mostly profit

    Only if you have never traveled to a third world country before.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2016 @ 12:46am

    Sad to see America turning into a third world country through government mismanagement and corruption

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    klaus (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 2:19am

    Re:

    To be laundered?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    klaus (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 2:28am

    Re: Re: 'Drug enforcement' for fun and profit, mostly profit

    Here's my main reason for keeping clear of the USA... http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/apr/18/tsa-mission-creep-us-police-state

    My nads are off-limits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Jan 2016 @ 2:37am

    Re:

    Blame the people who vote for these clowns. And before you say the system is rigged, I know it is. But damn it if a Socialist can be elected as mayor in Seattle, you can choose other candidates than flippin' Kodos and Kang.

    Get more involved politically instead of daydreaming about a revolution you're never going to have because none of us wants to live in a 24/7 RL version of The Purge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2016 @ 7:46am

    yes Venezuela is the example to follow

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Paul Kersey, 21 Jan 2016 @ 10:46am

    The DEA is one of the largest drug dealers/cartels in the world. They're just a bunch of corrupt thugs that'll end up getting what's coming to em. People will realize government isn't their "friend" and make serious changes.
    Good guy always wins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    AC, 21 Jan 2016 @ 11:03am

    They are thieves. They belong in prison or at the end of a rope.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    hp, 21 Jan 2016 @ 8:16pm

    our heroes!

    #5,859 on the list of why they are so admired and respected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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