Semiannual Report to Congress
April 1, 2005-September 30, 2005
Office of the Inspector General
Confidential sources are an important tool used by the DEA to help initiate investigations and provide information or services to facilitate arrests and seizures of drugs and cash. The OIG's Audit Division audited the DEA's controls over confidential source payments and its compliance with regulations concerning confidential sources. The OIG review found various areas where the DEA can improves its management of confidential informants and its compliance with relevant Attorney General Guidelines.
In May 2002 the Attorney General issued revised Guidelines Regarding the Use of Confidential Informants. The guidelines outline requirements that the DEA must fulfill before activating a confidential source. For example, case agents for confidential sources must complete and sign a written Initial Suitability Report and Recommendation (ISRR) that addresses specific risk factors or indicate on the report that a particular factor is not applicable. In addition, once a confidential source has been established, the guidelines require the case agent to review, at least annually, the confidential source's file and complete and sign a written Continuing Suitability Report and Recommendation (CSRR) that must be forwarded to a field manager for written approval. The purpose of the CSRR is to determine whether the risk of using a source has changed since the initial evaluation and whether the confidential source should continue to be utilized. The guidelines also require the DEA to establish accounting and reconciliation procedures that reflect all monies paid to confidential sources.
Our audit found that both ISRRs and CSRRs were not adequately documented. For example, the OIG found that most written DEA initial suitability assessments did not address specific risk assessment factors, and therefore did not meet guidelines requirements that suitability statements detail the specific benefits of utilizing a confidential source despite the identified risk factors. The majority of suitability statements we reviewed contained general statements indicating, in essence, that the benefits of using the confidential source outweighed the risks - without specifying either the benefits or the risks. We also found instances where multiple DEA offices categorized the same source differently and improperly categorized other sources. In addition, we concluded that the DEA does not have an effective system that accounts for and reconciles all confidential source payments. Instead, the DEA relies on a manual process to ascertain payment information to confidential sources - a time-consuming process that is prone to error.
The OIG report provided 12 recommendations to help the DEA improve its management of confidential sources. These recommendations include requiring comprehensive written ISRRs and CSRRs that address all of the factors specified in the guidelines; requiring the long-term confidential source review committee to either review the confidential source files for all long-term confidential sources or review the written ISRRs and CSRRs and document their findings; enhancing the existing DEA database system to track confidential source impeachment information; and accounting for all payments made to a confidential source by the DEA, not just payments using DEA-appropriated funds. The DEA concurred with most of the recommendations.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 168 complaints involving the DEA. The most common allegations made against DEA employees included job performance failure, misuse of a credit card, theft, misuse of government property, and false statements. The OIG opened 9 investigations and referred 155 allegations to the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 28 open cases of alleged misconduct against DEA employees. The most common allegation was theft. The following are examples of cases involving the DEA that the OIG's Investigations Division investigated during this reporting period:
The OIG is conducting a follow-up review of the DEA's enforcement of laws that prohibit the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals. Our September 2002 report on this subject included recommendations that the DEA increase investigative resources devoted to the diversion problem, clarify the law enforcement authorities of diversion investigators, ensure adequate training for special agents in diversion, and explore additional intelligence capabilities to support diversion control. This follow-up review will assess the DEA's response to the recommendations as well as the DEA's response to emerging diversion threats, such as illegal Internet pharmacies.