DEA Confidential Source Program Slammed by OIG Report
An audit of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) confidential source program by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found the agency’s policies did not fall in line with standards set forth by the Department of Justice.
The audit, released in July 2015, took a considerable amount of time due to lack of cooperation by the DEA in participating with the audit. The review took over one year and the OIG plans on continuing their investigation into the DEA’s program in order to “fully access” the DEA’s management and oversight.
According to the OIG, the DEA prohibited observation of confidential source file reviews which delayed other necessary documentation and analysis for “months at a time.”
Confidential sources are the DEA’s “bread and butter,” according to the report. The agency uses these sources, often for years at a time, to gather information to aid in fighting drug traffickers across the country.
These sources can range from small time criminals, local drug dealers and junkies, to drug kingpins and even professionals such as journalists, doctors and lawyers.
Often times the sources were what the OIG considered “high risk” sources who were engaged in highly illegal activities. These sources, according to the report, believed they could continue preforming various illegal activities with impunity due to their relationship with the DEA.
Confidential sources can be allowed to conduct illegal activities if the proper authorization is followed and it is deemed that the activity could not possibly harm the general population, according to the OIG. However, the report found that not only did the DEA often not gain proper authorization, there was no standard system in place to make sure sources did not engage in these activities.
The report also concluded that sources often did not know they were not allowed to engage in illegal activities. The DEA was also found to have used, upward of six years, sources that were under investigation by other federal authorities for unauthorized illegal activities.
When confidential sources are used for more than six years the DOJ requires law enforcement entities to conduct reviews of the sources usefulness and make sure the relationship between the source and the DEA does not become “inappropriate.”
The OIG found that in the DEA conducting only one meeting each year or every other year regarding long-term sources until 2014 when the OIG began their audit of the program. During the meetings, the DEA spent on average less than one minute examining and discussing each source until the OIG began their audit.
The audit also stated “it also appears taxpayer dollars are at risk” when referring to the DEA’s policies in regards to benefits given to confidential sources and their families. One DEA source received $2.1 million in combined benefits.
Many of the confidential sources were given disability benefits as part of the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act. Sources are allowed FECA benefits, as long as they are deactivated, but the OIG often found that the sources received benefits while still active and at times found the amount of compensation to be “inappropriate.”
In their audit the OIG also discovered that almost no one at the DEA knew that confidential sources were receiving benefits and found only two people who were aware of it but did not participate in processing claims.
The DEA also did not keep any files or records pertaining to compensation claims, according to the OIG. Furthermore, the DEA did not keep any records on the amount of money dispersed to confidential sources.
The report recommends several actions the DOJ and DEA can take in order to fix the problems the OIG discovered in the program. A representative with the DEA stated over the phone that the agency is pursuing all the recommendations put forth by the OIG but stated the report displayed an issue that was “department wide.”
All seven of the recommendations suggested by the OIG have been “resolved” according to the report and the DEA official stated the agency is pursuing all recommendations.