DoJ IG investigates DEA payments to Amtrak employee

Tuesday - 8/26/2014, 7:50pm EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged payments by Drug Enforcement Administration personnel to an Amtrak employee are being investigated by the Justice Department inspector general's office.

The announcement by Jay Lerner, a spokesman for the IG's office, follows the disclosure by Amtrak's inspector general that DEA paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over nearly 20 years to obtain confidential information about train passengers that the drug-fighting agency could have lawfully obtained for free through a law enforcement network.

The Amtrak IG's report says that under a joint drug enforcement task force that includes the DEA and Amtrak's own police agency, the task force can obtain Amtrak confidential passenger reservation information at no cost.

Under an agreement, Amtrak police would receive a share of any money seized as a result of such drug task force investigations. Amtrak's inspector general concluded that the DEA's purchase of the passenger information deprived the Amtrak Police Department of money it would have received from resulting drug arrests.

Amtrak, formally called the National Railroad Passenger Corp., is not a government agency, although it has received tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies and is subject to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

Amtrak's inspector general said the secretary provided the passenger information without seeking approval from Amtrak management or police, but Amtrak's own corporate privacy policy expressly allows it to sell or share personal information about its customers and passengers with contractors or a category of others it describes as "certain trustworthy business partners."

"If it's accurate that DEA was paying a secretary for information it could have received for free, that's a waste of public money," said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.


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