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Stolen military items for sale online

  • Story Highlights
  • Military items are being sold on eBay and Craigslist, said a government report
  • Report: Items could be "used directly against our troops and allies"
  • Night vision goggles, army combat uniforms, body armor vests were items for sale
  • Craigslist has only 25 employees and asks users to help police the Web site
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From Jim Spellman
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sensitive and stolen U.S. military items are being sold on eBay and Craigslist, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

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Night vision goggles, specially made to military specifications, allow the user to identify U.S. troops.

Government investigators posing as buyers were able to purchase a dozen prohibited military items on the popular online selling sites. The report notes that the items purchased could easily have been shipped overseas and "used directly against our troops and allies."

The items include:

• Two F-14 fighter jet components. The United States has retired its fleet of F-14s. Only Iran is currently using them.

• Night vision goggles specially made to military specifications that allow the user to identify U.S. troops at night.

• Army combat uniforms. The military has prohibited the sale of uniforms to non-military personnel since January 2007, when Iraqi Insurgents used U.S. military uniforms to sneak into a base in Karbala and kill five U.S. service members.

• Special "enhanced" body armor vests used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not available to the general public.

EBay says that it has more than 113 million items listed for sale at any given time and that military goods account for well under one-tenth of 1 percent of those.

A quick search of eBay revealed several Army combat uniforms for sale, despite the sale ban. "With 7 million listings being added every day, we do the best we can, but things slip through from time to time," said Kim Rubey, senior public relations manager for eBay.

Testifying before the House National Security and Foreign Affairs subcommittee Thursday, eBay Vice President Tod Cohen said the company vigorously works to keep prohibited items off the site. "We created prohibited and restricted items policies and built tools using state-of-the-art technology to enforce those policies" he said.

Craigslist says it uses similar measures and relies on users to police the site. The company has only 25 employees.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told the subcommittee that the rules about what can and cannot be sold are confusing.

Asked by Rep. John Tierney, D-Massachusetts, what Congress could do to make the situation better, Buckmaster answered, "It would simplify things greatly if a law were passed banning the sale of any U.S. military item less than 50 years old."

"Its sort of amazing to me that we haven't had a law to ban the sale of that." Tierney replied.

Most of the items the government investigators bought were stolen from U.S. military facilities, the GAO said.

At the subcommittee hearings, Rep. Chris Shays, R-Connecticut, pressed a Defense Department official for answers on how military goods are making their way into the marketplace.

"Do we have a serious theft problem, or do we not even know if we have the ability to know we have a serious theft problem?" Shays asked.

"I might say the latter might be more accurate," replied Charles Beardall, a deputy inspector general of the Department of Defense. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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