Tech

DEA Paid Amtrak Employee More Than $800,000 To Steal Passenger Information

Giuseppe Macri
Tech Editor

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has been secretly paying an Amtrak employee more than $800,000 over the past 20 years to steal passenger data that the agency could have obtained for free.

An unnamed secretary working with an Amtrak “train and engine crew” has given the agency private rider information in exchange for $854,460 since 1995, when the agency could have obtained the desired data for free through its existing affiliation with a joint drug enforcement task force, according to Amtrak internal investigators.

According to the Associated Press, Amtrak’s privacy policy allows the railroad to legally share such data with contractors or ”certain trustworthy business partners,” but the transactions were not conducted with the corporation’s knowledge. The secretary responsible will not be disciplined, and will retire instead.

It is not clear whether the deal violates any possible DEA policy against soliciting employees of a private entity to produce private company documents, or those containing personal information about customers or clients.

Amtrak has received billions in federal subsidies in the past and is subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, despite not being a government agency. Like airlines, the railroad collects passenger information, including names, dates of birth, genders, passport numbers, travel schedules, emergency contacts, baggage handling, names of travel partners, frequent traveler benefits, credit cards and seat numbers.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee called the deal an “unnecessary expense” in a letter to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, and said it ”raises some serious questions about the DEA’s practices and damages its credibility to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies.”

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