Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.47.02 PM

184 police departments suspended from Pentagon’s “1033 program” for missing weapons or failure to comply with guidelines

Jorge Rivas and JORGE RIVAS @thisisjorge Posted 08/25/2014, 02:01PM
Updated 08/26/2014, 10:23AM

Haunting images of local police officials using military-issued equipment to quell protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have raised new concerns about the Pentagon’s controversial program to equip local and state police departments with military surplus weaponry.

The program, now under White House review, has been plagued by messy bookkeeping, bureaucratic confusion and scores of missing weapons.

Fusion has learned that 184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon’s “1033 program” for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.

“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it’s another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly,” said Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “We don’t know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved.”

More troubling yet is the possibility that some of the missing weapons, which were given to local police departments as part of a decades’ old government program to equip cops for the wars on terrorism and drugs, are actually being sold on the black market, Lynch said.

“That uncertainty is very unsettling,” he told Fusion.

Since the program began in 1990, more than $4.3 billion in equipment and weapons has been transferred to more than 8,000 participating police departments, according to the Pentagon.

“Congress’ intent with the program is to enhance public safety and improve homeland security by leveraging taxpayer investments in defense technology and equipment,” a Pentagon spokeswoman told Fusion.

While local police departments say they have been suspended for losing track of weapons, the Pentagon says no police departments have been suspended for “use or operation of the allocated firearms.”

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.49.54 PM
Fusion found that many of the suspensions occur in February, after police departments conduct their year-end weapons inventory. In Mississippi, the Meridian Police Department was suspended last February after their inventory showed four missing M14s, according to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration. The same month in neighboring Arkansas, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department was suspended from the Pentagon program after it discovered a missing M14 assault rifle and a night vision scope that was “damaged and destroyed” without prior approval, according to the state’s Department of Career Education, which oversees the program.

The decentralized structure of the program makes it difficult — even for the Pentagon — to keep tabs on the standing of participating police departments, or the weapons they’ve been issued. Officials at the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which runs the equipment-transfer program, were unable to provide specifics about why various police departments were suspended. And many state coordinators refused to speak to Fusion, or claimed they didn’t have the information requested.

All military issued equipment transferred to local or state police departments is administered by a designated state agency that varies from state to state; in most states, the program is overseen by the department of public safety, but in some cases those responsibilities are designated to other departments, such as the department of career education in Arkansas. A governor-appointed state coordinator is charged with ensuring local police departments follow federal guidelines. The state coordinator oversees the annual inventory of weapons and reports to the federal government.

The state coordinator for California said he was “not authorized” to speak on behalf of the agency he runs, and instead deferred all questions to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which declined repeated requests for details on the 10 suspended programs in the state.

Some of California’s local police departments were more forthcoming when reached directly. Huntington Beach Police Department said it was suspended from the program last year after losing an M16 assault rifle.

“It was discovered during an internal audit,” Huntington Beach Police Lieutenant Mitchell O’Brien told Fusion. “An investigation was inconclusive as to how that occurred.”

The Stockton Police Department, in northern California, said it was suspended from the Pentagon program in October after losing two M16s. And the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office, also in northern California, acknowledged it was suspended from the program after reporting a missing M14 and two M15s.

In neighboring Arizona, state coordinator Matthew Van Camp spoke more openly about the program, while the local police departments remained tight-lipped. Van Camp told Fusion that there were numerous missing weapons from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, mostly .45-caliber pistols and one rifle. It “would take some time to get actual numbers but I think it was 11 or 12,” he said. The department was suspended in September 2012, according to Pentagon records. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to Fusion’s requests for comment on the state coordinator’s allegations.

In many cases when local police departments get suspended from the Pentagon program, they are cut off from receiving more equipment but still get to keep the weapons that they were already given. Fusion identified one instance where a suspended police department in Georgia was twice reprimanded by the state coordinator for separate cases of missing .45- caliber pistols, leading to their full termination from the Pentagon program. The Sparta Police Department was ordered to return all weapons due to “accountability of weapons” issues, according to the termination letter written by Georgia state coordinator Don Sherrod, and provided to Fusion by the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
The federal government is already investigating non-compliant police departments in some cases. The Office of the Inspector General is currently investigating the Ripley County Sheriff’s Department of Missouri, which was suspended from the Pentagon program last February. Authorities would not release information about the nature of the investigation. “The investigation is ongoing and therefore no records are open to the public at this time,” Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, wrote to Fusion in an email.

Similarly, the Office of the Inspector General investigated seven Florida police departments for missing equipment earlier this year, but the all the equipment was located and the previously suspended departments are now in good standing, according to Ben Wolf, director of communications at the Florida Department of Management Services.

In addition to annual inventory, each state is visited bi-annually for a program compliance review to go over the “records, property, and usage” of its military-issued equipment, according to a Pentagon official.

For critics like Lynch, that’s not enough.

“The case for giving military weaponry to these small police departments was already thin in the beginning,” he said. “Now that we’re finding that there is insufficient accountability for tracking this equipment, then the case is beginning to fall apart.”

See more of our investigation’s findings below. This is still a developing story. Specific information about the individual causes of suspension are still trickling in from various local sources across the country. We will continue reporting on this as we get more details.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.52.29 PM

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.52.51 PM


Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 12.22.14 PM

Feds claim it’s a “state-sponsored attack”


WASHINGTON (AP) — The internal records of as many as 25,000 Homeland Security Department employees were exposed during a recent computer break-in at a federal contractor that handles security clearances, an agency official said Friday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of an incident that is under active federal criminal investigation, said the number of victims could be greater. The department was informing employees whose files were exposed in the hacking against contractor USIS and warning them to monitor their financial accounts.
Earlier this month, USIS acknowledged the break-in, saying its internal cybersecurity team had detected what appeared to be an intrusion with “all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.” Neither USIS nor government officials have speculated on the identity of the foreign government. A USIS spokeswoman reached Friday declined to comment on the DHS notifications.
USIS, once known as U.S. Investigations Services, has been under fire in Congress in recent months for its performance in conducting background checks on National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden and on Aaron Alexis, a military contractor employee who killed 12 people during shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington in September 2013.
Private contractors perform background checks on more than two-thirds of the 4.9 million government workers with security clearances, and USIS handles nearly half of that number. Many of those investigations are performed under contracts with the Office of Personnel Management, and the Homeland Security and Defense departments.
The Justice Department filed a civil complaint in January against USIS alleging that the firm defrauded the government by submitting at least 665,000 security clearance investigations that had not been properly completed and then tried to cover up its actions. USIS replied in a statement at the time that the allegations dealt with a small group of employees and that the company had appointed a new leadership team and enhanced oversight and was cooperating with the Justice probe.
It’s not immediately clear when the hacking took place, but DHS notified all its employees internally on Aug. 6.
At that point, DHS issued “stop-work orders” preventing further information flows to USIS until the agency was confident the company could safeguard its records. At the same time, OPM temporarily halted all USIS background check fieldwork “out of an abundance of caution,” spokeswoman Jackie Koszczuk said.
Officials would not say whether workers from other government agencies were at risk. DHS will provide workers affected by the intrusion with credit monitoring. The risk to as many as 25,000 DHS workers was first reported Friday by Reuters.
A cybersecurity expert, Rick Dakin, said the possibility that other federal departments could be affected depends on whether the DHS records were “segmented,” or walled off, from other federal agencies’ files inside USIS.
“The big question is what degree of segmentation was already in place so that other agencies weren’t equally compromised,” said Dakin, chief executive of Coalfire, a major Colorado-based IT audit and compliance firm.
In an announcement Friday, DHS warned that more than 1,000 U.S. retailers that their cash register computers could be infected with malicious software allowing hackers to steal customer financial data. Officials urged businesses of all sizes to scan their point-of-sale systems for software known as “Backoff.”

INHOFE: Group ‘Rapidly Developing Method of Blowing Up Major City’…

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Oklahoma City FOX affiliate KOKH 25 that because of the threat of groups like ISIS “we’re in the most dangerous position we’ve ever been in as a nation.”
“[ISIS], they’re crazy out there, and they’re rapidly developing a method of blowing up a major US city” he said.
Inhofe also criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the ISIS threat, saying “he’s going to have to come up with something that we’re going to do, because they’re holding another hostage in place, and the problem is, the president, quite frankly, he says all these things and he never does them.” And expressed support for the NSA’s surveillance programs, arguing “you have to have an intelligence process going on to stop attacks on America.”
(h/t The Hill)


Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 4.44.04 PM

Uh, say again?

No, it’s not the start of a riddle.

But ever since events in Ferguson thrust the apparent over-militarisation of police in the US into the global limelight, a little-publicised law allowing law enforcement agencies to buy surplus military grade weaponry and equipment has been scrutinised.

The New York Times collated information from the ominously-named Programme 1033 and posted it online.

New Orleans’s the Lens subsequently found that police in two counties in the city – known for its mild winters and hot, humid summers – had spent almost $3million on equipment, including:

Night-vision sniper scopes
A mine-resistant vehicle
30 survival axes
20 snow camouflage parkas
Uh, say again?

As the Financial Times’s Martin Stabe pointed out on Twitter, between 1853 and 2008 it snowed in New Orleans on 55 days, and it only settled on 17 of them.

Money well spent? Or did officers just fancy some new paintballing outfits?


Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 3.18.27 PM

James Risen: “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin.”

Jamie Weinstein
Senior Editor

President Barack Obama is no friend of press freedom, says a New York Times reporter who may be sent to jail for refusing to reveal a source.

“A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin,” reporter James Risen told his own paper in a profile about his plight published Saturday. “They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.” (RELATED: NYT reporter: Obama administration ‘the greatest enemy of press freedom’ in a generation)

Risen’s troubles stem from the 2006 publication of his book “State of War,” which included classified information about a failed CIA plot against Iran’s nuclear program. In 2008, George W. Bush’s Department of Justice subpoenaed Risen to reveal the source of the classified information. Citing his role as a journalist, Risen refused to comply, fighting the subpoena until it expired in 2009.

But the Obama administration renewed the subpoena in 2010. After many more years of legal fisticuffs, the Supreme Court announced in June that it would not take Risen’s appeal, leaving Risen out of legal options. Now Risen faces the specter of jail time if the Justice Department continues to insist that he reveal his source for the classified information.

“Though the court’s decision looked like a major victory for the government, it has forced the Obama administration to confront a hard choice,” the New York Times reported in June in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling. “Should it demand Mr. Risen’s testimony and be responsible for a reporter’s being sent to jail? Or reverse course and stand down, losing credibility with an intelligence community that has pushed for the aggressive prosecution of leaks?”

Read more: