A congressional subcommittee recently heard testimony that sensitive aircraft technology and a vast array of stolen military gear is for sale on eBAY, Craigslist and other Internet sites. A Government Accountability Office report details the investigation. VOA's Paul Sisco reports.
U.S combat troops identify their own with special night goggles and blinking infrared tabs on their uniforms. The system is supposed to be available only to U.S. troops, but government investigators recently bought them and other sensitive items on the Internet.
Special Investigator Gregory Kutz says, "We posed as a bogus private citizen with only a credit card, mailbox and a telephone necessary for this operation. Most of the purchases were made on eBAY."
eBAY's fraud team is aiding in the ongoing investigation that has resulted in several arrests.
"In May of 2007 an individual was sentenced for illegally exporting F-14 parts to Iran. A search of his home led to the seizure of over 13,000 aircraft parts, and in September 2007, an Air Force staff sergeant pled guilty to charges of stealing military night vision goggles to sell overseas,” Kutz said. “These are just a few of the hundreds of cases related to the sales of sensitive military property."
The government report identifies other sensitive items easily available on the Internet including complete combat uniforms, body armor, helicopter parts and sensitive night goggles.
"These goggles are a critical part of the U.S. night fighting system, because of an image intensive tube. This tube allows U.S soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to distinguish friendly fighters wearing infrared tabs from the enemy at night," Kutz added.
Democratic Party Congressman John Tierney chairs the congressional National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee that called for the investigation. "The taxpayers don't want to be losing materials this way and we certainly don't want very sensitive items getting into the hands of people that are going to do us harm," Tenney said.
Internet sales companies say they are committed to minimizing the sale of sensitive items. But they explain many of those items are commercial products, available worldwide to the highest bidder.