Privacy SOS

DEA inspector general report shows officials didn’t want to look too closely at its thousands of confidential informants

MuckRock’s Shawn Musgrave reports:

A scathing audit released yesterday by the Justice Department’s inspector general lists a slew of issues with the DEA’s management of confidential sources. Auditors found that DEA brass reauthorized long-term informants after mere seconds of review, and that the agency has weak oversight for illegal activity conducted by undercover sources.

The inspector general further alleges that the DEA blocked a deeper review by withholding files from auditors or delaying access for months without cause. While the agency denies stonewalling the audit, the DEA put a moratorium on federal disability filings on behalf of informants and ordered of full review of policies.

The audit shows that senior level management at DEA sometimes instructed lower level employees not to file formal risk evaluations about their informants, many of whom are actively engaged in illegal activity while working for the federal government.

That could be because the DEA has some uncomfortable alliances better left undocumented, such as its reported protection of the Sinaloa drug cartel run by infamous gangster El Chapo. Chicago federal court documents disclosed by a Mexican newspaper last year revealed that the DEA had been protecting the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for information about other drug gangs for at least twelve years, between 2000 and 2012. During that time, the Sinaloa cartel expanded its operations in the United States. According to the DEA itself, 80% of heroin that moves through Chicago is controlled by the Sinaloa gang.

The just-released DEA inspector general report reveals that during the very years the DEA was protecting high-level Sinaloa members, the agency’s long-term informant committee, tasked with evaluating performance and risk, often did the bare minimum—reviewing individual informants for as little as 13 seconds a piece—and in some years didn’t meet at all. Perhaps they didn’t want to know.

Read the full IG report, linked from MuckRock.

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