Pablo Escobar on a Train Using Data for Other Purposes

Yesterday, AP reported that the DEA paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over 20 years to hand over train passenger lists.

According to a report released Monday by Amtrak’s inspector general, the DEA paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 to be an informant. The employee was not publicly identified except as a “secretary to a train and engine crew.”

Amtrak’s own police agency is already in a joint drug enforcement task force that includes the DEA. According to the inspector general, that task force can obtain Amtrak confidential passenger reservation information at no cost.

There’s a lot that’s weird about this story. That Amtrak’s IG, and not DEA’s IG (that is, DOJ’s) IG found this problem. That the secretary was permitted to just fade into retirement.

But I’m most intrigued that DEA treated the secretary taking these bribes as an informant — with an anonymous federal law enforcement official justifying such an approach by pointing to the chemical company informant that helped bust Pablo Escobar.

It’s not unprecedented for law enforcement to have professional people who are informants employed in transportation and other industries, said a federal law enforcement official who is familiar with the incident involving Amtrak. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on the record.

The official said that years ago during the investigation of drug lord Pablo Escobar, an informant at a U.S. chemical company provided a major assist to law enforcement by informing authorities that thousands of gallons of acetone were being shipped to Colombia. Acetone is used to manufacture cocaine.

DEA could have gotten this information for free, but it instead chose to dump 850K into getting it via other means, and the law enforcement side of this picture (DOJ) has not checked to see what DEA did with this data.

I can imagine why DEA would want to work via “informant” rather than regular law enforcement information sharing venues (and Amtrak is definitely part of that network). At the very least, it would permit them to shield the source of their data (as they shield the source of their data in the AT&T Hemisphere program). But it would also permit them to use the information for other off-book purposes.

But that appears not to be the concern of the IGs involved.

7 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    i can imagine the money – not being spent for info from the “informant” but for something(s) else, including including spending money for dea or amtrak employees.

    so a chemical company employee pointing out beaucoup gallons of acetone was going to columbia is parallel to an individual amtrak employee paid nearly 1 mill smackers for publicly available train schedules.

    train schedules? did they really say train schedules?

    • orionATL says:


      the original fast-track.

      come one. come all.

      watch the spy-boys at the the drug enhancement administration spend public money on …. you’ll never guess.



      come one. come all. **

      ** drug mules get special rates. just provide id.

  2. bevin says:

    And to think they could have suborned a mosque or three, put together a bomb plot or armed a battalion of wahhabi sadists in Syria with that kind of dough.

    They really don’t care what happens to the money-just so long as no kids, no homeless people, no sick in need, no starving seniors, nobody deserving of a break or kindness lays hands on the stuff.

  3. RUKidding says:

    “But it would also permit them to use the information for other off-book purposes.”

    Bingo! Well this whole thing stinks like last week’s fish left out in the garbage. One wonders how many other bribes were paid to “informants” in various industries, transportation businesses, TelComms, etc. How much of MY valuable tax dollar$ is handed over to other tax payer for dubious purposes? And now, said Amtrak employee gets to “fade into retirement” about $1million large richer. Nice. How ’bout that employee flip a few of those coins in MY direction?

    Is this the point at which I break down and start to admit that maybe conservatives are at least a tiny bit correct that the Fed Govt is out of control and too big? While I hate to venture in that direction – that way lies madness, as they say – when one reads stories like this, one knows this that is just $1million amongst many other $millions that get “lost” in the shuffle with no consequences, no accountability, etc.

    And yes, as bevin says: as long as these untold $millions ($billions?) don’t go to Seniors, the homeless, the poor, the dreaded dastardly undocumented… why it’s All Good!

  4. P J Evans says:

    The other thing that got me was the claim that it would allow them to track dealers/distributors who use trains. Guys, if you’re having to do that, all you need is a schedule. It isn’t like Amtrak runs every half hour, in every city, all over the country, which anyone using trains could have told you, after they quit laughing and pointing at you.

  5. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    When my father graduated from high school in 1930, he eventually found his way to Kansas City and a job. He was single and liked to hang out at the speakeasies in town. Tom Pendergast and his corrupt machine ran the city, and many of the cops were corrupt and taking under-the-table payoffs from the mob that controlled the liquor business during Prohibition. That is where we’re at with drug prohibition; crooked cops, crooked prosecutors, and crooked judges. We never learn anything. Illegal drugs are enormously profitable for the cockroaches peddling this poison (by some estimates a trillion dollar business). Unfortunately, the drug business has also become a profitable side business for most policing agencies (using the RICO statute to seize assets), and a jobs program for people enforcing the drug laws.

  6. prostratedragon says:

    “I intend to use my new skills in pursuit of opportunities in the secretarial field” has a bit of a different sound now.

    There does indeed seem to be something left out here.

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