Emerging Tech

I found it on Craigslist -- an F-14 and night vision goggles

It would appear that you really can buy anything on Craigslist and eBay -- even military gear that should never be resold. The Government Accounting Office has proven that much to be true, purchasing items like F-14 parts and body armor online.

You would think that the military would be careful about how it disposes of old or outdated equipment. And you may be wrong. Or are we blaming the victim of theft?

Rep. Chris Shays (R-Connecticut) pressed a Department of Defense official for answers on how military items are making their way into the marketplace, only to discover that there is a theft problem and officials don't really know what the scope of that problem might be. Meanwhile, you can shop online for the following items.

From CNN:

  • 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.

How true is the story? General Accounting Office (GAO) officials have been purchasing this equipment from eBay and Craigslist since January 2007 through March 2008. They received what they paid for, with no questions asked by the sellers.

From The Associated Press:

The Defense Department regards much of the stolen equipment to be on the U.S. Munitions List, meaning there are restrictions on their overseas sales, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.The equipment could land in international brokers' hands or be transferred overseas, said the GAO, Congress' investigative arm.

"Many of the sensitive items we purchased could have been used directly against our troops and allies, or reverse engineered to develop counter measures or equivalent technologies," investigators said in their report.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster defended the sales, claiming that they happened locally with items delivered in person. According to Buckmaster, that reduces the chance that those items went overseas. Hmm. UPS, anyone?

From PC World:

Buckmaster also suggested that online auction and classified sites donate all their profits from the sale of military equipment to charity, although Craigslist has not made any money that way. If other sites commit to giving away 100 percent of their profits from the sale of sensitive or stolen military equipment, Craigslist will make a "sizeable donation" to charity as well, he said.

Craigslist users are often confused about what items are appropriate to sell and what ones aren't, Buckmaster added. He suggested the U.S. Congress pass a law banning the sale of recent military equipment. "With clear and concise guidelines available, very few of our users will violate them, and those few who do will very quickly find themselves ... flagged off of our site," he said.

I find it difficult to believe that new guidelines will improve the situation much. As it is, the items being offered for sale are either stolen or retained by military personnel inappropriately after active duty. This means that my tax dollars and yours are purchasing these items that could potentially be used against our own troops. But Craigslist needs guidelines in order to keep these items off its site.

The Army started a program in 2006 to account for all of its inventories. Rep. John Tierney (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the subcommittee, said he was startled that "it took the Army and Department of Defense six years to get the system in place that probably should have been in place by 2001."

So how do we manage a problem like this? The Army is doing what it can, but what else can they be doing? Theft is going to be a problem, even with tighter controls. But what can be done about online retailers that allow these things to be sold? Is it really a case of Congress passing a new law? Or do online sale sites need to be more responsible?

14 comments
silversidhe
silversidhe

Don't you ever wonder how stupid they think we are?

admin
admin

I guess, you can pretty much get anything you want if you know where to look. Aircraft components do not kill people. As they say, people kill people. As an optics supply we would be more concerned that advanced night vision devices could be a available to those who would use them against the innocent. Night vision devices have been available to the general public for some time now. We regularly get requests from hotspots throughout the world for night vision rifle scopes and binoculars. We don't supply to countries that have any form of internal conflict. If the optics are of an advanced nature surely the ads can be pulled and everybody can sleep easy.

spinfactor2004
spinfactor2004

Absolutely amazing. You would think the government would buy and arrest these people. What about the news today. Major Military items washing up on shore on our beaches like a missile. What is going on here. When I was in the Army there was tight security on weapons of any type. Now you can buy them on EBay! If I ran my Business Directory like the Busch administration runs this country I would be broke.

JamesRL
JamesRL

There is a huge difference between an F14 and F14 components. It depends entirely on what components they are. By the way the US government sold Iran F14 parts as part of the Iran contra deal in the 80s. This at a time when the US government was also supplying Iraq (which was at war with Iran) with dual use equipment, trucks as an example, that were supposed to be used for farming, but ended up with the army instead. Engine components for an F14 are more benign than missle guidance systems. Night Vision goggles. I think the idea that they are used to spot US troops is a little paranoic - they are used to spot anyone and almost anything. Even before the fall of the Soviet Union you could buy pretty good soviet army issue ones down at the army surplus store (along with uniforms of many nations). They are used by army, police but they do have non military applications as well. I grew up near a set of hydro transmission towers, and every week a helicopter flew over the transmission lines, with a passenger wearing night vision goggles, looking for hot spots on the lines which could indicate a potential short. Body armour. Gee you can buy that at a retailer. So now we are talking degrees - you can't buy the latest and greatest because thats rerserved for the military. Uniforms - the ARMY sold its surplus to dealers for decades. You wanna know what I think? The army has a theft problem and they are trying to deflect the issue by blaming craigslist or whoever. But before craigslist existed this stuff was still stolen and still sold. And if you want to target stuff that could be used against US troops, then also look at weapons. You can walk into a gun store in the US today and buy a Barrett .50 calibre sniper rifle, designed to be able to be used at distances of up to a mile. No one seems to want to ban that. I saw a 60 minutes report where a guy was buying them all over the US and shipping them to Kosovo, which was a war zone. Because there was an intermediate address in Europe they were shipped to other than Kosovo, there was nothing the government could do. My 2 cents. James

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

dressed in: # Night vision goggles # Army combat uniform # Special enhanced? body armor vest I would be arrested as a suspected terrorist. What was I doing? Just wearing the items I bought!! Edit - time of day

Tig2
Tig2

It would appear that you can truly buy anything you want or need online. While it is a great convenience, is it a good thing? And how do we go about policing sites with things to sell? Could this be a case of "good idea, bad execution"? What are your experiences with purchasing online? Should there be rules formally set to insure that things that should not be available to the general public, aren't?

dawgit
dawgit

That was just a test of the public inteligence system. You passed. The rest? :0 oh-well. -d

Wayne in the sticks
Wayne in the sticks

Just watch the politicos trying to score points with the anti-gun crowd sometime. They do want to ban the .50 BMG Barrett rifle and I seem to recall California (or some other similarly leaning state) has banned the Barrett rifles.

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

If you had no weapons, what could they charge you with? Probably disturbing the peace is the only thing that would stick. Unless something you were wearing was a restricted item...

JamesRL
JamesRL

Given what happened with the brady bill and assault gun ban, do you think it will be effective in California? Surely a constitutionality debate will happen, isn't it happening in NY with hand guns? Personally, I live in Canada, and don't want to see restrictions on hunting weapons, but don't need to see AKs or Barretts around the woods... James

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

I keep to my own genders under clothing! Mind you I could take someones eye out if I'm not careful.....

JamesRL
JamesRL

But thats not to say there isn't one. I have heard rumblings about NYC for some time. Toronto's mayor is calling for the same thing. But since over half of the guns used in crimes are illegally imported from US, banning them won't stop anything. Another high proportion is legally owned guns that have been stolen. James

DanLM
DanLM

[i]Surely a constitutionality debate will happen, isn't it happening in NY with hand guns?[/i] Thats the case thats before the supreme court right now. If I screwed up with what you was talking about, sorry. Dan

dawgit
dawgit

Those poor criters should have the means to defend themselves. :D Give that bear an AK. :0 Brother AL Gore will thank you for it. :^0 -d

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