Surely, when the Department of Defense hands out military grade weapons, they do thorough checks to verify just who they are giving these things to, right? As it turns out, not so much. The Government Accountability Office, which oversees other government agencies to check for fraud and abuse, decided to see just how careful the DoD was when it came to handing out spare military gear to law enforcement agencies. The result of their sting operation was shocking.
The GOA created a fake law enforcement agency with a nifty website and an address that was nothing but an empty parking lot. Then, they applied for the military grade weapons through the 1033 program, which allows law enforcement agencies to obtain military gear that isn’t being used.
The DoD fell for the ruse hook, line, and sinker. Within a week, the fake cops were given $1.2 million worth of military-grade gear, including night vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb equipment.
“They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, which ran the operation. “It was like getting stuff off of eBay.”
Following the shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014, protests broke out in the city of Ferguson. Americans were shocked to see police respond with gear that is normally only seen in the hands of the armed forces. Obama responded to the public outcry by rolling back the Clinton-era 1033 program through an executive order, putting strict oversight in place through a Defense Department and Justice Department working group. However, the group has not met since Trump took office, which is why the GAO decided to launch its sting operation.
The DoD didn’t have a comment and this colossal screw-up, but they did promise to beef up their verification process. They promised to at least try to visit the agencies who apply for these weapons to make sure they actually exist before shipping them a load of M-16s. The DoD also agreed to complete an internal fraud investigation by April 2018.
Featured image via video screen capture