WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is asking the Drug Enforcement Administration why it paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over 19 years for train passenger information it could have received for free, according to an inspector general report. Grassley is concerned that the DEA might have paid for the information instead of working cooperatively with a drug enforcement task force to get the material at no cost.
“In addition to the unnecessary expenditure of $850,000, DEA’s actions reflect an unwillingness to cooperate jointly with the (Amtrak Police Department) on investigations of narcotics trafficking on Amtrak property,” Grassley wrote to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. “This undercuts the purpose of the joint drug enforcement task force and prevented the (Amtrak Police Department) from coordinating and sharing information with the DEA.”
Grassley, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee and co-chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, asked for an explanation of the incident and any resulting disciplinary action against responsible employees, details of any other instances of improper payments for information, and a description of any efforts to prevent such unnecessary payments going forward. He said the incident “raises some serious questions about the DEA's practices and damages its credibility to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies.”
The incident came to light through one paragraph in an Amtrak inspector general report. The report said the Amtrak secretary provided passenger information to the DEA “without seeking approval from Amtrak management or the Amtrak Police Department.” The secretary was “removed from service, and company charges were filed. The secretary chose to retire,” according to the inspector general report. It’s unclear how Amtrak noticed the payments.
Grassley’s letter to the DEA administrator is available here. The inspector general report describing the incident is available here.