Virtual PX for Terrorists
In a pretty distressing finding, a GAO investigation has found myriad military equipment for sale on eBay and CraigsList. The undercover investigation showed dozens of prohibited military items being sold over the Internet on these sites. During the period of January 2007 to March 2008, the GAO was able to purchase numerous defense-related items that were noted as possibly being able to be used against our troops and allies. These items included:
- Two F-14 fighter jet components; the United States has retired its fleet of F-14s; only Iran is currently using them
- Night vision goggles specially made to military specifications that allow the user to identify U.S. troops at night
- Army combat uniforms; the military has prohibited the sale of uniforms to non-military personnel since January 2007, when Iraqi Insurgents used U.S. military uniforms to sneak into a base in Karbala and kill five U.S. service members- Special "enhanced" body armor vests used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not available to the general public.
Both eBay and Craigslist executives claimed that they had safeguards in place to prevent such items from being listed on their web sites for sale. EBay says that it has more than 113 million items listed for sale at any given time and that military goods account for well under one-tenth of 1 percent of those. While some of the items were stolen (understandable), the GAO also found that a number of the items may have been originally sold off of the USG’s own liquidation website.
Previous GAO investigations have found that potentially sensitive items have been inappropriately offered for sale through the US Government's own liquidation web site, and that the Department of Defense has sold new and unused items through that site at a fraction of their value at the same time as purchasing additional units of the same items from their suppliers.
In response, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster suggested that a law be passed banning any military equipment less than 50 years old. The extent of the problem is illustrated by the following interplay between Congressman Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut) and Charles Beardall, a deputy Inspector General of the Defense Department,
Shays: "Do we have a serious theft problem, or do we not even know if we have the ability to know we have a serious theft problem?"
Beardall: "I might say the latter might be more accurate."
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem here. It seems that the Internet has become a virtual PX for possible terrorists.