This Might Be the Dumbest DEA Spying Plan of All Time

This Might Be the Dumbest DEA Spying Plan of All Time

As the old saying goes, why get the milk for free when you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the cow?

The Drug Enforcement Administration was embarrassed after an Amtrak report released Monday confirmed that the agency had paid more than $850,000 to an Amtrak secretary to supply confidential passenger information, according to the Associated Press.

Here's the thing — Amtrak's own police agency already works with the DEA in a joint task force. If the agency had asked, the AP says, it could have had all that information for free.

The scheme: If you've traveled by train or plane, you know Amtrak, airlines and other companies take down plenty of information about you. There's your name and payment information, plus potential addresses, emergency contact info and traveling companions, not to mention the actual travel dates and times.

The DEA clearly thought that kind of data could be useful for snooping purposes. Over the past two decades, the agency paid a secretary $854,460 total in exchange for passing along that kind of info.

Getting tips from private employees is nothing new — as the AP notes, a chemical company employee assisted in the investigation of Pablo Escobar by notifying law enforcement of the large amounts of a cocaine manufacturing ingredient that were being shipped to Colombia.

The response: The employee in question was allowed to resign rather than face penalties, despite the report saying that the secretary had been selling passenger data since 1995 without getting approval from Amtrak.

Congress took notice — Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Chuck Grassley wrote a letter to DEA administrator Michele Leonhart "seek[ing] answers."

"In addition to the unnecessary expenditure of $850,000, DEA's actions reflect an unwillingness to cooperate jointly with the (Amtrak Police Department) on investigations of narcotics trafficking on Amtrak property," he wrote, adding that the situation "raises some serious questions about the DEA's practices and damages its credibility to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies."

According to the AP, the DEA decided it was best not to comment on the whole mess.

h/t The Wire

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

MORE FROM

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."