Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jul 2015
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2015 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: Lisa Rein, The Washington Post


DEA Hit for Poorly Vetting Traffickers on Its Payroll

WASHINGTON - Drug traffickers who cooperate with federal 
investigators are poorly vetted, and the Drug Enforcement 
Administration did not properly monitor at least 240 informants some 
of whom crossed the line into illegal activity and were under 
criminal investigation by other authorities.

That's the conclusion of a new report from the Justice Department 
watchdog, who found another weakness in the DEA's oversight of its 
informants: Some of them get workers' compensation benefits from the 
government despite questionable qualifications.

Investigators from Inspector General Michael Horowitz's office found 
that the DEA paid more than $1 million in these benefits in 2014 to 
17 informants or their dependents without proper government controls, 
according to a report made public last week.

The DEA used "over 240 confidential sources without rigorous review," 
investigators found in the report. "This created a significant risk 
that improper relationships between government handlers and sources 
could be allowed to continue over many years, potentially resulting 
in the divulging of sensitive information or other adverse 
consequences for the government."

The criticism comes as the DEA has been under fire in recent months 
from Congress and Justice officials. Administrator Michele Leonhart 
was forced to step down in May following revelations about "sex 
parties" involving prostitutes overseas and other misconduct among agents.

The DEA, created by the Nixon administration in 1973 during the war 
on drugs, enforces the country's drug laws and bring violators to 
justice. A basic way agents do their jobs is by recruiting 
informants. The agency is supposed to monitor when informants cross 
the line into illegal activity and keep tight tabs on them, according 
to guidelines set by the attorney general.

But investigators found that the agency hasn't always followed those 
guidelines, instead setting up its own standards. So drug kingpins, 
as well as lawyers, doctors or journalists haven't been vetted as 
they should be, even though they're considered highrisk informants.

The DEA's review of potential informants' files has long been a 
rubber stamp, investigators found. In a video released with the 
report, Horowitz said investigators uncovered evidence that he said 
"raises significant concerns for one of the DEA's more significant 
and sensitive programs."

A committee charged with reviewing informants weighed each source for 
an average of a minute each from 2003 to 2012, Horowitz said. "And 
that's when there was any review at all."

Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said officials ordered 
a comprehensive review of the DEA's confidential source policies late last year.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom