US Marshals Just Kind of Lost 2K Radios

Encrypted gadgets' estimated value: $6M

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 22, 2013 7:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – The US Marshals aren't quite sure what happened to some 2,000 of their encrypted two-way radios—gear that's worth at least $6 million, according to one estimate. The agency says the "issue is in large part attributable to poor record-keeping as a result of an older property-management system, as opposed to equipment being lost," the Wall Street Journal reports. Still, officials cite a major problem: "Simply put, the entire system is broken," agents said in a 2011 presentation. "The 800 pound elephant in the room needs to finally be acknowledged."

As of March, the Marshals were aware of 2,200 communications devices that were missing or unaccounted for; more recent counts have put the figure closer to 4,000, insiders say. The loss of the equipment, which the presentation blamed on "negligence and incompetence," could be dangerous for the witnesses and federal judges the Marshals protect, some officials say. If the devices ended up in the wrong hands, criminals could intercept sensitive messages—and indeed, a radio appeared on eBay a few years ago. When an employee bought it back, it showed evidence of tampering. The Journal also finds evidence that the agency tried to keep the matter quiet.

A heavily armed United States Marshal stands guard outside the Moakley Federal Court House in Boston after the building was evacuated, Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
A heavily armed United States Marshal stands guard outside the Moakley Federal Court House in Boston after the building was evacuated, Wednesday, April 17, 2013.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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