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Transportation United States Crime Government Security

The DEA Has Been Secretly Paying Transport Employees To Search Travelers' Bags (economist.com) 165

There's a new reason you can be stopped by airport security: because the security officer who flagged you "was being secretly paid by the government...to uncover evidence of drug smuggling." schwit1 quotes The Economist: For years, officials from the Department of Justice testified, the DEA has paid millions of dollars to a variety of confidential sources to provide tips on travellers who may be transporting drugs or large sums of money. Those sources include staff at airlines, Amtrak, parcel services and even the Transportation Safety Administration...

According to [a DOJ] report, airline employees and other informers had an incentive to search more travellers' bags, since they received payment whenever their actions resulted in DEA seizures of cash or contraband. The best-compensated of these appears to have been a parcel company employee who received more than $1 million from the DEA over five years. One airline worker, meanwhile, received $617,676 from 2012 to 2015 for tips that led to confiscations. But the DEA itself profited much more from the program. That well-paid informant got only about 12% of the amount the agency seized as a result of the his tips.

The DEA had paid out $237 million to over 9,000 informants over five years towards the end of 2015, according to the report. The Economist writes that "travelers no doubt paid the price in increased searches," adding that the resulting searches were all probably illegal.
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The DEA Has Been Secretly Paying Transport Employees To Search Travelers' Bags

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  • New-age travellers or all of them?

    • will turn you in for reporting embezzled money.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Tear down this agency."

  • Into court, legal services and awards for individuals that were illegally searched.

    OR... will the airline employees and others be sued for carrying out an illegal search (for money)?

    When it's all said and done, it will be the lawyers who get rich.

    • by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @01:50PM (#53459887)

      This is almost certainly leading to 'civil forfeiture' - where you are not prosecuted for a crime. Your posessions are - and you have very limited opportunity to defend it.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] - last week tonight on civil forfeiture.

      It is especially problematic because the siezing agency gets to keep the funds, which provides them a clear incentive to overreach.
      In general, if you can't prove to beyond a reasonable doubt where your money came from - in detail, and even if you can - your chances of getting it back are small.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        and there is likely some non-civil forfeiture going on too. I mean, why not help yourself to some stuff while your doing a search, cause that never happens.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In general, if you can't prove to beyond a reasonable doubt where your money came from - in detail, and even if you can - your chances of getting it back are small.

        Except this is exactly what a W-2 or a 1099 is for. Things that are documented for tax purposes are documented for chain-of-custody and laundering-prevention purposes. Operate within the law, and most of your problems with law enforcement *gasp!* vanish. It's almost like law enforcement is doing their fucking jobs for once.

        Now, that's not to say

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ... illegally searched.

      ..illegal search

      Oh, you can bet this will be another one of many "no expectation of privacy" exemptions from 4th Amendment protections.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Money for drug finds, and no chain of custody requirements. I guarantee that a substantial portion of these "finds" were planted.

  • Here's an idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @01:43PM (#53459853)

    We should let these guys in government decide which news is "real" and which is "fake". Or, if you need a 1st Amendment workaround, hire Facebook and Google to decide.

  • This wasn't a line item in their budget (or it would have been hard to keep it secret), this raises a few questions.

    1. Where did the payments come from?
    2. Were the recipients "protected" from tax audits so as to keep the source of the money secret?

    If these weren't being paid under the table, the employer would know because of income tax withholding adjustments based on total income. "Gee, we now have to withhold 90% of this guys' pay and increase his contributions to social security because of his increased income from employment ... sounds suspicious to me."

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      1. Build up civil forfeiture slush fund using otherwise line-item budget methods, i.e. old-fashioned police state tactics

      2. Use non-budget line-item slush fund to bribe airport employees

      3. Collect more civil forfeiture funds

      4. Go to step 2

      You now have a perpetual motion machine of slush fund generation with zero budget oversight.

  • We said they were lying and they were lying. It's the nature of the beast.

    But maybe next time Lucy will hold the ball in place, right?

    Stop being afraid - it clouds your judgement.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Makes you wonder how much planting of evidence the guy who made over $1 million did?

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )
      Not really. They only got a portion of the haul. There's no reason to plant a million bucks if you're only going to get $150k back from the government.
      • Not really. They only got a portion of the haul. There's no reason to plant a million bucks if you're only going to get $150k back from the government.

        Yes really. Although they only get a portion of the haul, that's not how they pay informants. You see, real informants are risking their lives, their health, or at least their local "connection". The DEA has to really make it worth their while.

        If some guy manages to milk them like a sucker, well, I don't know. . . I don't know what the consequences for people with dope sneaked into their luggage would be...

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )

          Yes really. Although they only get a portion of the haul, that's not how they pay informants.

          If you read the article you'd see that's exactly how they paid informants.

          • Yes really. Although they only get a portion of the haul, that's not how they pay informants.

            If you read the article you'd see that's exactly how they paid informants.

            Seems like somebody would have a pretty solid RICO case against the United States Federal government. And wouldn't that be interesting to see litigated in open court?

          • Yes really. Although they only get a portion of the haul, that's not how they pay informants.

            If you read the article you'd see that's exactly how they paid informants.

            I missed that. Thanks.

            I wonder, however, if it could have been a lucrative way to fence stolen items? What %-of-value do pawn shops usually offer?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Economist writes that "travelers no doubt paid the price in increased searches," adding that the resulting searches were all probably illegal.

    OK, I'm not at all a fan of government's ever-expanding power to search whatever they want, whenever they want. But I don't see how searching checked luggage going onto an airplane, which is subject to X-Ray inspection and specifically subject to search, is "illegal."

    Let's see what TFA says:

    "According to the Justice Department report, paying TSA employees to spy

  • Methodology (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Saturday December 10, 2016 @02:33PM (#53460045)

    I wonder why the DEA isn't just going and buy the stuff directly from the dealers, instead of doing it this complicated way.

    • I wonder if they're not selling to the dealers in the first place.
      • I wonder if they're not selling to the dealers in the first place.

        There have been cases where lack of coordination has led a bust by an an undercover drug 'buyer' who purchased from an undercover drug 'dealer' (who was climbing the ladder towards the head of the snake, or something). That is, local investigation versus DEA-level.

    • Heck, it's be easier just to pay the dealers not to deal. But stopping all the dealing would end the game, wouldn't it?
  • Nice government work if you can get it. Let's hope the stink this revelation will create gives the new administration the incentive to eliminate one of our most hated three-letter agencies.

    • Let's hope the stink this revelation will create gives the new administration the incentive to eliminate one of our most hated three-letter agencies.

      Say what? I'm sure the new administration will cut the DEA even more slack and give them more power. Then the DEA may come after you, 'cause it's obvious that you're smoking something you didn't buy at the local convenience store.

  • Yesterday we saw a story posted here about the DHS trying to hack into a State governments' information systems [slashdot.org], and now today we see corruption and gross overreach in the DEA. We're all familiar with the overreaches of the TSA as well, aren't we? These and many more things are all examples of politicians taking advantage of the 'war on terror' and the 'war on drugs' has bought us. Too many people in these United States have been trading their Constitutional rights, civil rights, and even human rights, for
  • Fortunately, only the luggage of evil drug smuggling criminals were searched, no rights of innocent honest Americans were violated.
  • HGere's a crazy idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @02:42PM (#53460073)

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The keyword is "unreasonable" and in a world where any number of things can cause serious harm aboard an airplane, people lose that argument. Hard. Travel by air? Your luggage is going to get searched. You are going to get searched. Even if you managed to get some idea for a plane that flew without all that security past the objections that you'd face, the people on land who you could hit would leave you as dead as Baldur.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        Even if you managed to get some idea for a plane that flew without all that security past the objections that you'd face

        It's called general aviation. Get your own pilot's license and buy your own plane. Don't carry paying passengers and you can carry anything you are allowed to legally possess.

      • Here is the thing, piles of cash and bricks of coke may be illegal but they are not threats to a plane.

        Guy with a gun, maybe. Plenty of cops carry guns and nobody thinks twice so I don't think merely having a gun is dangerous. Intent makes the difference.

        Guy with a bomb, well yes, we probably can say he is a threat to the plane. But somebody with a bag full of cash is not. What the hell are they going to do, buy a lot of food from the fight attendants or spend something on Skymall? Oh shit. The ho

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Oh jeez, this kind of self-righteous prattle always comes up whenever the issue of border searches and customs comes on Slashdot. The laws which empower the government to secure its borders stretch all the way back to the beginning of the republic and has been upheld in case law just as long. It's pointless to argue the constitutionality of the searches by authorized law enforcement an customs officials because they've been found to be constitutional countless times over. The issues surround whether airline

  • The IRS pays 30%.

  • The DEA had paid out $237 million to over 9,000 informants over five years towards the end of 2015, according to the report. The Economist writes that "travelers no doubt paid the price in increased searches," adding that the resulting searches were all probably illegal.

    Like anything FedGov does is 'illegal' anymore. Funnie stuff. My aching sides.

  • At least this is not the border patrol; it just feels that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I used to put broken rusted razor blades and needles dipped in shit in my baggage. Sometimes I would notice traces of blood on them while opening it. I feel a warm fuzzy feeling inside thinking of anyone rummaging through my shit dying of gangrene, rotten flesh sloughing off their decaying bodies.

  • by TigerPlish ( 174064 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @05:37PM (#53460719)

    ...when they scrape it off my cold, dead lungs.

    Orwell was too narrow in how omnipresent and omniscient Big Brother is.

  • One time I was waiting at a gate for a plane (after having gone through the security checkpoint) and there were TSA agents lurking at the gate. They told me they wanted to do a "secondary security check". I let them go through my stuff (Did I have a choice?).
    In retrospect, they were probably not really interested in security. I'm just an average white guy so no racial profiling going on.

  • by RubberDogBone ( 851604 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @09:34PM (#53461407)

    There are two things going on there, both really bad.

    One, we apparently have non-sworn, non-law enforcement employees doing searches and making inspections where they have an incentive to "find stuff" for direct payout.

    Two, all of this bullshit is taking place within the DEA/FBI/US Government's already well-known policies and practices of presumptive guilt on cash or people which results in seizures of private property, like currency, under the purely speculative claims that it may be drug-related.

    It's not even just piles of cash. They now routinely run your credit and debit cards and can and do seize your entire bank account balances merely because you had an ATM card with access to money. Never mind how you got it. Maybe you have a six-figure job. Maybe you won a lottery or maybe you are just wealthy. Doesn't matter. They can and will take it all.

    Presumptive seizures were already a travesty. But now we have low wage flunkies sniffing around too. Are these people even able to testify in court? I've never heard of a drug case where the primary witness was an Amtrak porter or something. But hell, many of these cases never even GET to court because they do the presumptive guilt thing and it's all over.

    This isn't Trump's fault. It's been going on for decades and nobody has stopped it because the damn agencies get to keep the money and fuck all if you get between them and money they want, even if it is your legally earned money. Their job is to send people to prison.

  • by BenBoy ( 615230 ) on Sunday December 11, 2016 @02:27AM (#53462107)
    Report 12323a: "Instead of personal effects, luggage contained bobcat [xkcd.com]. Would not inform again ...

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