Government Report: Terrorists Can Buy Stolen US Military Equipment on eBay

Posted in Terrorism | 15-Apr-08 | Author: Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, Vice-President of the US National Association of Chiefs of Police.

Unauthorized individuals, companies, terrorist organizations, and other countries continue their attempts to obtain sensitive items related to the defense of the United States. The latest investigation into the sale of stolen military equipment points to the Internet as one place that defense-related items can be purchased, raising the possibility that some sensitive items are available to those who can afford them.

In addition to the risk that sensitive defense-related items could be used to directly harm US.service members or allies on the battlefield, these items could be disassembled and analyzed (i.e., reverse engineered) to develop countermeasures or equivalent technology.

Given the risks posed by the sale of sensitive defense-related items to the public, and the Internet's international reach and high volume of commerce, several members of the US House of Representatives asked analysts at the Government Accounting Office to launch an undercover investigation to determine whether the general public can easily purchase these items on the Internet, including on the Web sites eBay and Craigslist.

To perform this work, GAO investigators used undercover identities to pose as members of the general public, meaning that they conducted their work with names, credit cards, and contact information that could not be traced back to the GAO or other government agency. Investigators interviewed sellers where possible and referred cases to the appropriate law enforcement if further action was deemed necessary.

GAO undercover investigators found numerous defense-related items for sale to the highest bidder on both eBay and Craigslist. A review of policies and procedures for these Web sites determined that there are few safeguards to prevent the sale of sensitive and stolen defense-related items using these sites.

During the period of investigation, GAO undercover investigators were able to purchase a dozen sensitive items on eBay and Craigslist to demonstrate how easy it was to obtain them.

Many of these items were stolen from the US military. According to the Department of Defense, it considers the sensitive items GAO purchased to be on the US Munitions List, meaning that there are restrictions on their overseas sales.

However, if investigators had been members of the general public, there is a risk that they could have illegally resold these items to an international broker or transferred them overseas. GAO investigators also identified examples of US government property that was stolen and sold for a profit rather than being utilized by DOD.

For example, GAO found two civilian store owners who acted as conduits for defense-related property that was likely stolen from the military. The store owners told GAO they purchased gear from service members -- including Kevlar vests, flak jackets, and gas masks -- and sold it through eBay to the general public.

GAO investigators were also able to purchase stolen military meals, ready-to-eat (MRE) and found a robust market for stolen military MREs on eBay and Craigslist.

Advertisements for the sensitive defense-related items GAO purchased were not removed by Web site administrators, allowing investigators to buy the items. Both Web sites maintain lists of items that are prohibited from sale, including stolen items, but only eBay contains warnings related to overseas sales and the improper sale of sensitive defense-related items.

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance ( In addition, he's the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund's weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.

He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and He's also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri's own website is located at