DEA continues to operate “off the tracks” ?


Inspector General report criticizes DEA informant policies and practices

The Drug Enforcement Administration does not adequately screen, monitor or control its confidential sources, allows them to deal narcotics without tight reviews, and improperly paid informants more than $1 million in federal workers’ compensation benefits over a recent year, according to a report issued today by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General.

The DEA’s policies for using informants are different from those recommended by its parent agency, the Department of Justice, which has “resulted in DEA personnel being able to use high-risk individuals as confidential sources without the level of review as would otherwise be required,” the inspectors wrote. “In fact, over a 9-year period, DEA documentation indicates that the DEA spent minimal time meeting to determine the appropriateness of the continued use of long term sources. … [I]n total we found that the DEA utilized over 240 confidential sources without rigorous review and, in most instances, without the same Departmental concurrence required for other” federal investigative agencies.

The Post-Gazette, following a year-long look at the use of informants by federal law enforcement, found that the DEA paid informants at least $146 million over five years, and that such payments were generally increasing. The newspaper also found instances in which informants served the agency for decades, despite concerns that such lengthy service could result in inadequate agency control.

A Sensitive Activity Review Committee, which is composed of high-ranking DEA officials and is supposed to review the use of informants who work for more than six years, does not even meet yearly, inspectors found.

The SARC isn’t required to approve the use of “high-level” sources, the inspectors wrote, indicating that it should have to weigh in on such decisions. “The lack of DEA oversight over such confidential sources is troubling given … that these categories of confidential sources pose the greatest risk to the U.S. government and the public,” the inspectors wrote.

While federal agents are supposed to involve supervisors before they allow informants to commit what would normally be illegal acts, the DEA’s internal rulebook “explicitly excludes drug buys and other routine confidential source activities, and the DEA Special Agents Manual section on confidential sources does not provide detail on the process for using confidential sources to perform illegal acts such as drug buys,” inspectors wrote.

The lack of supervision of informants’ otherwise illegal activities “greatly increase[s] the risk to the DEA, the U.S. government, and the public from the involvement of DEA confidential sources in” such activities, the inspectors wrote.

Seventeen DEA informants who were injured in the course of their work for the agency got $1.034 million in federal workers’ compensation benefits during the year ending June 30, 2014, according to the investigators. Some had been on workers’ compensation for decades.

The DEA “had not established a process or any controls regarding the awarding” of workers’ compensation to informants, who are independent contractors, not employees of the government.

The inspectors wrote that they found no basis under which the DEA can get workers’ compensation for informants, some of whom were not even U.S. citizens. In several cases, inspectors found that informants receiving federal workers’ compensation were injured while they were not serving the DEA, or continued to work while getting injury benefits.

The investigators wrote that their “audit work thus far has been seriously delayed by numerous instances of uncooperativeness from the DEA, including attempts to prohibit the OIG’s observation of confidential source file reviews and delays, for months at a time, in providing the OIG with requested confidential source information and documentation.

“Nevertheless, we have uncovered several significant issues related to the DEA’s management of its Confidential Source Program that we believe require the prompt attention of DOJ and DEA leadership, as identified in this report,” the investigators continued.

The report makes seven recommenations, and in its response the Department of Justice agreed with all of them. The department also assured its inspecting arm that the DEA will improve its cooperation with the auditing process going forward.

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