Follow-Up Review of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Efforts
to Control the Diversion of Controlled Pharmaceuticals
Evaluations and Inspections Report I-2006-004
Office of the Inspector General
The DEA made diversion control one of its strategic goals.
In 2003, the DEA made reducing the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals one of the agency’s four strategic goals in its strategic plan for FY 2003 – 2008. Strategic Goal Four is to “reduce the diversion of licit drugs” to “prevent, detect, and eliminate the diversion of [controlled pharmaceuticals] into the illicit drug market.” Additionally, the DEA Administrator reinforced the importance of diversion control in a January 2004 cable sent to all field divisions, stating that “stopping the abuse and diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances must be a DEA and Department of Justice priority.”
The DEA increased resources for diversion control.
In FY 2004, the DEA increased the investigative resources devoted to the diversion control program by adding 75 diversion investigator positions. This addition increased the number of authorized diversion investigator positions in the DEA’s domestic field divisions by 15 percent in FY 2005. The 75 positions were allocated among the DEA headquarters and field divisions. In the FY 2006 budget, the DEA received 40 additional intelligence analyst positions, one intelligence support position located in the Special Operations Division, and 23 special agent positions that will be dedicated to diversion control.
The DEA reorganized its Operations Division.
In the fall of 2004, the DEA reorganized its Operations Division so that all criminal enforcement activities, including those for diversion control, were centralized into one unit.43 By doing so, law enforcement operations for diversion control were consolidated with those for illicit drugs. According to one DEA manager, this integration of law enforcement operations put more emphasis on criminal diversion investigations and allowed the DEA to devote additional enforcement resources to addressing the diversion of controlled substances. One DEA official in the Office of Diversion Control said that the reorganization “energized and revitalized diversion investigations.”
The DEA provided additional intelligence resources.
Since our 2002 report, the DEA has provided additional intelligence resources to assist investigators with pharmaceutical diversion investigations, including Internet investigations. For example, the DEA made the ARCOS database more timely and accessible to diversion investigators. Sixty-three percent of the diversion group supervisors who responded to our survey reported that they found ARCOS very useful, and 53 percent reported that they used it in all or most of their investigations.
In 2004, the DEA also provided investigators with a new search tool in the form of an analytical database used to develop investigations. Sixty percent of our survey respondents reported that they found the new analytical database very useful, and 61 percent reported that they used it in all or most of their investigations. The DEA’s Director of E‑Commerce told us that without the new analytical database, compiling prescription transaction histories would be manual and tedious and that histories now can be compiled much more quickly. The DEA plans to create pre-defined criteria to produce automatic reports and investigative leads from the new database that can be pursued by field investigators.
In June 2002, the DEA established a new intelligence unit at DEA headquarters to support investigations that involve Internet-based communications. According to DEA managers, most of this unit’s time is spent supporting Internet pharmacy investigations. This unit helps investigators analyze data obtained through pen registers and other electronic documents and transactions; and coordinates analytical support with Special Operations Division personnel.44
The DEA undertook more criminal diversion investigations and established formal performance measures.
One indication that the DEA is responding to the growing problem of diversion is the increase in the number of criminal diversion investigations it has initiated since 2002. In FY 2005, the DEA initiated 950 investigations, which is 23 percent more criminal diversion investigations than the 770 initiated in FY 2002. This increase in criminal diversion investigations coincided with a decrease in non-criminal diversion investigations. In FY 2002, the DEA initiated 1,440 non-criminal diversion investigations; in FY 2005, it initiated 1,353 of these investigations.45 In FY 2005, criminal diversion investigations represented approximately 6 percent of the DEA’s overall criminal investigations for illicit and licit drugs.
Furthermore, in the FY 2005 budget submission the DEA established its first formal performance measures to quantify the accomplishments of its diversion control program:
The DEA’s performance measures showed that from FY 2002 to FY 2005 the number of diversion drug organizations disrupted increased from 454 to 474 and the number of diversion drug organizations dismantled increased from 474 to 594 (see Table 2).
Table 2: Number of Diversion Drug Organizations
As diversion using the Internet has become a greater concern, the DEA has increased the number of pharmaceutical-related Internet investigations from 10 in FY 2002 to 74 in FY 2005, and increased the percentage of diversion investigators’ time applied to Internet diversion during the same period from 3 percent to 11 percent. In addition, the DEA developed an operational Internet strategy that guides investigators in conducting investigations of online trafficking of controlled pharmaceuticals. As part of our review, we examined several of the intelligence, technological, and investigative tools that are part of this strategy
The DEA developed an operational Internet strategy.
We found that since our previous review, the DEA developed in 2004 an operational Internet strategy. During our original field work, no DEA personnel mentioned this strategy. However, after the exit conference DEA management provided us with a copy of a PowerPoint presentation entitled “On-line Pharmacy Trafficking Strategy.” DEA managers told us they disseminated the strategy to field division special agents in charge, diversion program managers, and diversion group supervisors at conferences during 2005.
In interviews we conducted after our exit conference, one of the three diversion program managers and all four field division special agents in charge said they were aware of the DEA’s Internet strategy and described specific ways in which they had applied elements of it to their investigations. The two other diversion program managers mentioned elements of the strategy, but were not aware of the strategy itself. DEA headquarters managers said that field personnel may not have been aware of the strategy, even though many of these personnel had used tools such as the OIP that are a part of the strategy. Further, they explained that the strategy is not finalized but rather is considered a “work in progress” so that it can be frequently revised to reflect changes in diversion using the Internet. According to these DEA managers, the strategy was used in several recent Internet operations that disrupted major Internet pharmaceutical traffickers.
The DEA’s Internet strategy contains five elements:
In her April 6, 2006, testimony to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Science, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies, the DEA Administrator said that “ The strategy calls for DEA to coordinate its Internet investigations with federal, state, and local agencies, and provide training for investigators, prosecutors, the pharmaceutical industry, and DEA registrants.”
The DEA has implemented intelligence, technological, and investigative tools for Internet diversion investigations.
We examined several of the DEA’s intelligence, technological, and investigative tools that are part of its Internet strategy: the Online Investigations Project, hotlines for reporting suspicious Internet activity, undercover equipment, and training for diversion investigators on conducting Internet investigations. Below is a discussion of what we found.
The Online Investigations Project (OIP). In our 2002 review, we recommended, and the DEA concurred, that the DEA fully implement the OIP, which it had begun to develop in 2001. Originally, the DEA told us that the OIP would allow diversion investigators to “focus their efforts on potential diverters rather than spending valuable time surfing the Web for leads.”47 The DEA planned the OIP to function proactively by searching the Internet using criteria commonly found in web sites that illegally distribute controlled substances to identify those web sites that had the highest volume of controlled pharmaceutical orders and that were accessed the greatest number of times so that the DEA could identify and prioritize them for investigation.
In December 2005, the DEA notified the OIG that it considered the OIP to be operational, but stated that the OIP has limited practical application as a proactive targeting tool and can only access for retrieval that which is publicly available on the Internet. Therefore, the OIP is ineffective identifying sites with the highest volume of controlled pharmaceutical orders and those sites most frequently accessed. In January 2006, DEA managers reported that the OIP was functioning as “a viable investigative tool that is assisting field personnel in Internet investigations.”48 While the OIP is not able to proactively identify the Internet pharmacies receiving the most orders so that investigations can be prioritized, DEA officials told us that analysts are using it to efficiently synthesize large amounts of information about web sites that are already under investigation. According to DEA managers, the OIP scans information that is publicly available on the Internet to find connections between web sites under investigation and pertinent information such as addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other web sites. DEA analysts then transfer the OIP’s search results to charts that display these connections and provide the charts to field investigators to assist in their investigations.
According to the DEA, the OIP is capable of efficiently scanning large amounts of data. For example, between July 2005 and May 2006, the DEA stated that it used the OIP to scan 4 million web pages from 42,694 sites in 7,300 hours. The DEA estimated that this task would have taken 60,000 analytical staff hours without the OIP.49
Hotlines. In June 2004, the DEA established the Unlawful Medical Internet Reporting Effort (UMPIRE), which is linked to the DEA’s web site and allows the public to report suspicious Internet pharmacies. In January 2005, the DEA created the 1-877-RxAbuse telephone hotline for the public to anonymously report the illegal sale and abuse of prescription drugs. Reports received through the web site and telephone hotline are forwarded to the DEA field divisions where the complaints originated, and then either addressed by the DEA or disseminated to local law enforcement agencies.
Of survey respondents who had received leads from the telephone hotline, 20 percent had initiated investigations based on those leads. No respondents who had received leads through the web-based system had initiated investigations based on those leads. The DEA personnel we interviewed stated that the leads typically involved lower-level diversion, such as “doctor shoppers,” rather than the higher-level diversion conspiracies that diversion group members said they preferred to investigate.
Undercover equipment. Our review also found that most diversion investigators did not have undercover equipment – such as undercover credit cards and computers – needed for certain types of Internet investigations. Based on survey responses, 84 percent of the diversion groups had undercover computers that allowed investigators to conduct business on the Internet without being traced to the DEA. However, survey respondents and interviewees reported that it was not very useful to have an undercover computer without an undercover credit card that they could use to establish Internet service provider accounts, obtain Post Office boxes, and place orders for pharmaceuticals. Of the survey respondents who suggested that additional resources were needed for conducting Internet investigations, 51 percent mentioned the need for an undercover credit card. Moreover, in some of the 2004 Pharmaceutical Threat Assessments, DEA personnel stated that problems with establishing undercover identities were impeding diversion investigations:
DEA headquarters’ managers stated that they were aware that the scarcity of undercover credit cards was a hindrance in the field. In response, during the fall of 2005 the DEA administered a pilot undercover credit card program in three field divisions. The DEA also provided documentation that on March 10, 2006, it had begun implementing a program to issue undercover credit cards to three to five diversion investigators or special agents selected by the Diversion Program Manager in each field division. These credit cards were intended exclusively for purchasing pharmaceuticals over the Internet. The DEA managers expected all diversion investigators to have access to undercover credit cards and to receive training in their appropriate use by June 2006.50
In addition, DEA managers informed us that the DEA had begun establishing a virtual private network to link the undercover computers in each DEA field division to DEA headquarters so that investigative information and analysis can be passed between headquarters and the field securely. DEA managers stated that thus far the virtual private network had been implemented in the Atlanta, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Miami field divisions.
Internet diversion training for diversion investigators. The DEA has established several training courses pertinent to investigations of diversion using the Internet. We found that over half of the 482 diversion investigators had attended the DEA’s Internet Telecommunications Exploitation Program training. However, few diversion investigators have attended additional specialized courses that would be useful for conducting Internet investigations, as shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Training for Diversion Investigators in
In addition, we found that 5 percent of diversion investigators had attended the Internet Pharmacy and Controlled Substance Pharmaceutical Diversion Prosecution Seminar sponsored by the National Advocacy Center.51
According to survey respondents and interviewees, knowledge and training in financial analysis and conspiracy investigations are particularly important for conducting Internet investigations because Internet operations are often geographically dispersed. The pharmacy, drug supplier, web site server, web site programmer, and physicians involved could be in different states or even in different countries. In addition, the anonymity of the Internet, in which businesses can easily hide their identity and financial transactions, makes diversion investigations more complicated. In interviews with the OIG, diversion investigators stated that their lack of training impeded their ability to conduct these difficult and technically challenging investigations.
One diversion program manager that we interviewed stated that additional and ongoing training in Internet investigations was needed for diversion investigators. In survey responses, diversion investigators echoed this statement:
We asked DEA officials about the low numbers of diversion investigators who attended Internet-related training courses other than the Internet Telecommunications Exploitation Program training. They stated that the DEA’s training resources are limited and that providing Internet Telecommunications Exploitation training to diversion investigators is a DEA priority.
Special agent assistance for pharmaceutical diversion control investigations still represents a small share of their total investigative time even though the need for their support has increased.
Similar to our 2002 review, we found that special agent assistance for pharmaceutical and diversion investigations was still a small share of their total investigative time. The assistance of special agents is crucial because diversion investigators do not have the law enforcement authority to conduct surveillance, work with confidential informants, serve search warrants, or make arrests.
To examine the issue of special agent support for diversion control, we considered five sources: analysis of work hour data based on special agent assistance to diversion investigations (“2000 series” data); analysis of work hour data based on special agent investigative time spent on pharmaceutical investigations (G-DEP data); interviews of DEA personnel; DEA Pharmaceutical Threat Assessments; and survey responses of diversion group supervisors.
Work hour data analyses. Both work hour data analyses indicated that while the time special agents spent on diversion control increased since our 2002 review, it still represented a small amount of special agents’ total investigative time. Between FY 2002 and FY 2005, the amount of time special agents spent on diversion investigations, measured by the hours they charged to investigations initiated by diversion investigators, increased from 14.8 work years to 27.4 work years. Even with this 85 percent increase, the actual percentage of special agent time spent on diversion investigations increased from only 0.6 percent to 1.0 percent of their total investigative time between FY 2002 and FY 2005 (Table 4).
Table 4: Special Agent Work Years Spent
Using data from the DEA’s G-DEP system as a measure of time spent on pharmaceutical investigations, we found that between FY 2003 and FY 2005 special agents increased the time they spent on pharmaceutical investigations from 26.8 work years to 57.4 work years, an increase of 114 percent. However, this still accounted for only 1.2 percent of special agent investigative time in FY 2003 and 2.2 percent in FY 2005 (see Table 5).
Table 5: Special Agent Work Years Spent
Diversion investigators’ need for special agent support. While special agents can initiate pharmaceutical investigations, most pharmaceutical investigations are still initiated by diversion investigators who do not have law enforcement authority. Therefore, special agent assistance in these cases is crucial. The DEA has recognized the importance of adequate special agent support for several years. For example, on August 3, 2001, the DEA’s Chief of Operations issued a directive stating: “To ensure that the diversion investigators have consistent access to special agent personnel, each diversion group in every division office will have two (2) special agents assigned full time to support their activities.” The DEA’s plans were delayed when, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many federal law enforcement agents, including DEA agents, were assigned to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation on counter-terrorism task forces. However, almost 5 years later, we found that of the DEA’s 27 diversion groups located in field offices, only 1 reported having 2 full-time special agent positions authorized to assist with diversion investigations, 5 reported having 1 agent, and 20 reported having no agents assigned.52
The DEA reiterated the need for special agent assistance in a September 6, 2005, memorandum to the Department, which stated that:
Because the [diversion] workforce lacks the enforcement status required to engage in all requisite investigative activities, DIs must obtain the support of DEA Special Agents or state /local police officers to perform the enforcement functions needed to develop evidence of criminal violations identified during compliance investigations. Such a requirement often results in delays and/or errors in the investigation due to the unavailability (or limited availability) of law enforcement personnel and/or the latter’s insufficient knowledge of the registrant community’s processes and practices.53
During our field work, one SAC explained that the criminal aspects of a diversion investigation may not be fully developed because of the lack of special agent assistance. Diversion investigators we spoke with reinforced this point. They stated that developing criminal diversion investigations often requires undercover surveillance or use of a confidential informant and that they might not pursue the criminal aspects of the investigation because they could not rely on receiving special agent assistance.
In addition, 58 percent of survey respondents stated that the lack of available law enforcement support from special agents sometimes or often caused delays in diversion investigations. Diversion group supervisors and investigators also explained that they had to work around the schedules of the special agents, causing the diversion investigation to be delayed.
Seventy-six percent of the respondents to our survey stated that they most often relied on state, local, or other federal agencies, rather than DEA special agents, to provide law enforcement assistance in their pharmaceutical diversion cases. Several interviewees and survey respondents also said that while they appreciated the assistance they received from DEA special agents, such assistance often did not fully support their investigations. For example, survey respondents stated:
According to diversion investigators we interviewed, when the diversion groups received assistance from DEA special agents it was typically for specific law enforcement tasks such as executing arrest warrants or making undercover buys, rather than as ongoing partners in the diversion investigation. Fifty-three percent of the survey respondents said that they were “somewhat satisfied” and seven percent were “not at all satisfied” with law enforcement assistance from DEA special agents.
Situations in which diversion personnel were satisfied with special agent support. In contrast, we found instances where diversion personnel were satisfied with their working relationships with special agents and enthusiastic about the accomplishments of these partnerships. This was primarily the case in DEA field divisions where special agents and diversion investigators were assigned to the same group or where the field division had been involved in a major diversion operation. Diversion investigators assigned to these groups described the working relationship with the special agents as “tremendous,” “excellent,” “a breath of fresh air,” “outstanding,” and “instrumental.” The diversion investigators assigned to the groups also said they gained criminal investigative knowledge from the special agents. Table 6 describes the groups of diversion investigators and special agents.
Table 6: Partnerships between Special Agents and Diversion Investigators
During our review, the DEA provided four examples of complex diversion operations to which SACs dedicated significant personnel over a long period of time.54 For example, the SAC of the Dallas Field Division informed us that he dedicated the entire staff of the Fort Worth field office to an investigation of an Internet pharmacy that took over seven months to complete. In fact, we found that these four large operations accounted for 22 percent of time that special agents spent on pharmaceutical investigations in FY 2005. (See Chart 2).
Chart 2: Share of Special Agent Criminal Investigative Hours
Few special agents have received training in diversion control.
Similar to what we found in our 2002 review, few special agents have received specific diversion control training, although the growing number of criminal diversion investigations has since increased the need for special agent involvement in diversion cases.55 Diversion investigators that we interviewed during our current review stated that the inexperience and unfamiliarity of DEA special agents sometimes impeded or delayed investigations. This problem was also highlighted in the DEA’s Pharmaceutical Threat Assessments. Among the comments in the assessments were:
In our 2002 review, we recommended that the DEA train special agents in diversion investigation procedures. The DEA concurred with this recommendation and noted that each special agent received a 2-hour module on diversion control during basic agent training. Yet, this module, which represented only 0.2 percent of the basic training hours for special agents, included a 30-minute video produced in 1996 that did not cover current diversion control issues, including using the Internet to divert pharmaceuticals. DEA officials informed us that they currently are updating the video.
In responding to our 2002 recommendation, the DEA also stated that it planned to initiate additional training for special agents assigned to diversion investigations. The first week-long Special Agent Diversion School took place in FY 2004. However, as of April 2006, the DEA had convened five classes and reported that 98 of its 5,013 special agents had attended the training. DEA officials stated that the DEA eventually intends to send all special agents who assist with diversion investigations to this school, but due to limited training funds and training facility space, no additional classes were planned for FY 2006.
Separately, the DEA has provided training on Internet investigations for special agents conducting investigations involving diversion using the Internet. As of April 2006, 34 percent (1,699) of special agents had attended the DEA’s 3-day Internet Telecommunications Exploitation Program, which includes a 1-day module that highlighted Operation Cyber Chase. Also, during 2004 and 2005, 11 special agents attended the Internet Pharmacy and Controlled Substance Pharmaceutical Diversion Prosecution Seminar, a seminar sponsored by the National Advocacy Center.
Diversion investigators still lack law enforcement authority.
We recommended in our 2002 review that the DEA clarify diversion investigator’s roles, responsibilities, and law enforcement authority. The DEA concurred with this recommendation and in response has taken steps to reclassify the diversion investigator position to one with law enforcement authority. Table 7 summarizes the DEA’s reports to the OIG about its efforts since September 2002.
Table 7: Timeline of the DEA’s Actions to Reclassify the Diversion
The DEA’s current proposal, submitted to the Department’s Justice Management Division in September 2005, is to create a new job series for diversion investigators who would focus on criminal diversion investigations. The new diversion investigator position would be a “hybrid position” with full law enforcement investigative authority while also requiring the full knowledge and skills of the diversion investigator. The position would have both regulatory duties and investigative responsibilities. All diversion investigators hired once the plan was implemented would be hired under this new job series. Current diversion investigators would be reclassified to the new position if they meet certain requirements, including standards concerning age and physical capabilities. A recent DEA survey found that 88 of the 340 current diversion investigators (26 percent) who responded met the eligibility requirements. According to the DEA, the “roles and responsibilities of current diversion investigators who do not reclassify [to the new law enforcement position] will be minimally affected” because they will devote their time to regulatory work.56
As of May 2006, the DEA’s proposal was awaiting approval from the Department, after which it must be approved by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget. If approved, the DEA will need to take a series of steps to implement it. First, the conversion will require an increase in the registration fees used to fund the Diversion Control Fee Account.57 Second, the DEA will need to reclassify, train, and assign current eligible diversion investigators, a process the DEA estimates will take 9 months. Third, given that only about one fourth of the current diversion investigators may be eligible for conversion, the DEA will need to recruit, hire, and train a substantial number of people for the new position, a process the DEA estimates will take 18 months.
Therefore, despite the DEA’s efforts, diversion investigators are not likely to receive law enforcement authority anytime soon. We believe that until the DEA receives approval and fully implements this initiative, it needs to ensure that its diversion investigators receive sufficient special agent support.
Intelligence analyst assistance in the field is limited.
Similar to what we found in our previous review, intelligence analyst assistance in the field was limited. Work hour data analyses based on “2000 series” cases and G-DEP identifiers indicated that the time that intelligence analysts spent on diversion control had increased since our 2002 review. However, it still represented a small proportion of intelligence analysts’ total investigative time.
In our 2002 review, we recommended that the DEA provide effective intelligence support to the Office of Diversion Control, and that the DEA continue to explore additional intelligence capabilities to support the diversion investigators. The DEA concurred with the recommendation.
Since our 2002 report, the number of work years that intelligence analysts spend on diversion investigations, measured by the hours they charged to investigations diversion investigators initiated, has increased 143 percent, from 2.5 work years in FY 2002 to 6.0 work years in FY 2005. Nevertheless, the 6.0 work years still represent less than 3 percent of all intelligence analyst investigative work years (Table 8).
Table 8: Intelligence Analyst Work Years Spent
Using data from the DEA’s G-DEP system as a measure of all time spent on pharmaceutical cases, we found that between FY 2003 and FY 2005 intelligence analysts increased the number of work years spent on pharmaceutical investigations from 3.4 work years to 11.4 work years, an increase of 235 percent. This accounted for 1.7 percent of intelligence analyst investigative time in FY 2003 and 5.3 percent in FY 2005 (see Table 9).
Table 9: Intelligence Analyst Work Years Spent
Three-quarters of the respondents to our survey stated that the need for intelligence support had increased since 2002. According to interviewees, the diversion control program’s increased need for intelligence assistance was largely because of the growth of diversion using the Internet. Forty-five percent of the respondents said they were “somewhat satisfied” with intelligence support and 27 percent said they were “not at all satisfied” with intelligence support. Approximately one-third said that intelligence analysts in the field never provided sufficient support.
According to our survey results, 71 percent of group supervisors received intelligence support regarding specific cases; however, only 32 percent received intelligence regarding general trends in diversion and 23 percent received intelligence regarding specific targets to consider for investigation. Receiving intelligence on trends in pharmaceutical diversion and specific potential investigative targets would allow diversion investigators to focus their efforts on the most significant threats.
Eleven survey respondents as well as interviewees in each field division that we visited stated that the most effective way to provide intelligence support was to assign an intelligence analyst to their diversion groups, as they commonly have been assigned to enforcement groups working on illicit drug investigations. Assignment to a specific diversion group would allow intelligence analysts to remain up-to-date and knowledgeable about current investigations and would create a more effective, long-term working partnership between investigator and analyst. Otherwise, diversion investigators who request assistance have to familiarize the intelligence analyst with the entire investigation.
Fifty-five percent of survey respondents said that the lack of permanent support from field intelligence analysts “sometimes” or “often” delayed investigations. Of the 62 diversion group supervisors who responded to our survey, none had an intelligence analyst permanently assigned to their group. Instead, 81 percent stated that they had to request intelligence analyst assistance on a case-specific basis, 3 percent said they received intelligence support through a diversion task force (such as a Tactical Diversion Squad), and 16 percent said they received no intelligence support at all from the field. Because they did not have an intelligence analyst assigned to their group, diversion investigators relied on ad hoc, request-specific intelligence support. If diversion investigators had a particular need for intelligence during the course of an investigation, they requested assistance for only that specific task, such as a database check or analysis of prescription records or financial transactions.
Respondents’ comments to our survey highlight the limited field intelligence analyst assistance and diversion investigators’ perception that their investigations are a lower priority compared to illicit drug investigations:
Intelligence analysts that we interviewed who stated that diversion investigators did not know what intelligence assistance they could obtain reflected diversion investigators’ limited experience with receiving field intelligence support. These intelligence analysts stated that sometimes diversion personnel asked for intelligence products at the wrong point of an investigation or asked intelligence analysts to perform data entry or prepare visual aids for meetings, indications that diversion investigators were unfamiliar with the role of intelligence analysts in investigations.
When we spoke to DEA managers about the perceived lack of field intelligence support to diversion investigations, they explained that historically, intelligence analysts were often assigned to, and provided support to, specific enforcement groups. This gave the enforcement groups direct access to intelligence support, while diversion groups had indirect access. However, recently DEA field divisions have begun to provide intelligence support based on the priority of the investigation, regardless of whether the investigation involves illegal drugs or controlled pharmaceuticals.
As with special agent support for pharmaceutical diversion investigations, we found evidence that the DEA provided significant intelligence support for certain major diversion investigations. In FY 2005, four large diversion operations accounted for 44 percent of all intelligence analyst work hours on criminal pharmaceutical investigations (Operations CybeRx, Cyber Chase, Gear Grinder, and Cookie Dough). (See Chart 3.)
Chart 3: Share of Intelligence Analysts Criminal Investigative Hours
Intelligence analysts receive minimal diversion training.
We found that intelligence analysts received only minimal training in diversion control, such as training on the laws pertaining to diversion, methods of diversion, and commonly diverted substances. Similar to what we found with special agent training in diversion control, the only training that intelligence analysts receive in diversion is a 2-hour module included in their basic training that represents only 0.5 percent of the training hours for intelligence analysts.
The need for training in diversion control for intelligence analysts is particularly important because, as previously mentioned, intelligence analysts have historically not been assigned to specific diversion groups. For example, a special agent in charge told us that intelligence analysts must become familiar with diversion control through appropriate training. In addition, an intelligence group supervisor whom we interviewed stated that intelligence analysts sometimes considered diversion control investigations to be a “foreign entity” compared with illicit drug investigations. Another diversion group supervisor said that intelligence analysts may be accustomed to analyzing thousands of telephone calls in an illicit drug investigation, but are not as accustomed to analyzing millions of prescriptions from an Internet pharmacy for a diversion control investigation. This group supervisor stated that some diversion cases are more difficult for intelligence analysts than illicit drug investigations.
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