DEA collected data on purchases of money-counting machines in US: report

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) secretly tracked data on purchases by Americans of money-counting machines before ending the program in 2013, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing findings from an inspector general report.

Beginning in 2008, the DEA began issuing subpoenas to vendors in an effort to learn who was purchasing money counters, according to the Times. The newspaper found an unredacted portion of the IG report referencing the specific devices.

The agency, which was attempting to find leads on people who could be drug traffickers, reportedly compiled tens of thousands of records with the names and addresses of individuals who bought the counters.

The Office of the Inspector General found the program "troubling" for its use of "statutory subpoena power in this expansive, non-targeted manner."

ADVERTISEMENT

According to the Times, no courts oversaw the subpoenas and the subpoenas were not part of any specific probe. 

The inspector general report notes that the DEA did not mention in official cases that the agency first learned of suspects' names from its practice of tracking the money-counter purchases, per the Times. That was done in an effort “to protect the program’s sources and methods; criminals would obtain money counters by other means if they knew that the D.E.A. collected this data," the report reads, according to the newspaper.

The report also notes complaints that the program was wasteful because there were a significant number of low-quality leads that resulted in the DEA questioning people who did not have "any connection to illicit activity.”

The DEA in 2013 submitted the data it collected to law enforcement agencies, but the FBI reportedly banned officials from accessing it after questioning whether the information was gathered lawfully.

According to the Times, the report says that FBI agents “explained that running all of these names, which had been collected without foundation, through a massive government database and producing comprehensive intelligence products on any ‘hits,’ which included detailed information on family members and pictures, ‘didn’t sit right.'"

The program was then reportedly shut down in September of that year.