Stolen US military gear sold on eBay, Craigslist

Few safeguards found to prevent the sale of defense equipment, agency says

Stolen and sensitive US military equipment, including body armor, night vision goggles and gear to protect against nuclear or biochemical warfare, are being sold on Craigslist and eBay, a report says.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found many defense-related items for sale on Craigslist and eBay, the report, released last week, says.

After reviewing the policies and procedures for these Web sites, the GAO determined that there were few safeguards to prevent the sale of military items. Although it is not illegal to buy and sell some defense-related items in the US, many items are made solely for military use and are not meant for everyday use, the GAO said.

From January 2007 to March 2008, GAO undercover investigators were able to buy a dozen sensitive items on eBay and Craigslist to demonstrate how easy it was to obtain them, the agency said. Many of these items were stolen from the US military, it said.

The items GAO investigators were able to purchase online include:

Two F-14 aircraft components, including an antenna, from separate buyers on eBay. The GAO said F-14 components are in demand by Iran and could be used by the Iranian military. By making these components available to the general public, the eBay sellers provided an opportunity for these components to be purchased by an individual who could then transfer them to Iran," according to the report. "The continued ability of Iran to use its F-14s could put US troops and allies at risk."

Night vision goggles on eBay containing a sensitive component that allows US service members on the battlefield to identify friendly fighters wearing infrared tabs.

An Army combat uniform and accessories on eBay that could be used by a terrorist to pose as a US service member.

Body armor vests and small arms protective inserts (SAPIs) on eBay and Craigslist, including advanced Enhanced SAPI plates used by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Unauthorized individuals, companies, terrorist organizations, and other countries continue their attempts to obtain sensitive items related to the defense of the United States," the GAO said. "The Internet is 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."

Executives from eBay and Craigslist appeared before the US National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee investigating this issue last Thursday.

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Linda Rosencrance

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