Amtrak employee sold customer data to DEA for two decades
A former Amtrak employee has been giving passenger information to the Drug Enforcement Administration in exchange for money for nearly two decades, according to reports from the Whittier Daily News. A total of over $854,460 changed hands over the last 20 years, despite the fact that information relevant to the DEA’s work could have been obtained from Amtrak for free.
The employee, described as a “secretary to a train and engine crew” in a summary obtained by the AP, was selling the customer data without Amtrak’s approval. Amtrak and other transportation companies collect information from their customers including credit card numbers, travel itineraries, emergency contact info, passport numbers, and dates of birth. When booking tickets online in recent years, Amtrak has also collected phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Amtrak has long worked closely with the DEA to track drug trafficking activity on its train lines. The Albuquerque Journal reported in 2001 that “a computer with access to Amtrak’s ticketing information sits on a desk in the [DEA]’s local office,” wrote the ACLU, and Amtrak police have long received a 10 percent cut of any cash seized from drug couriers.
Despite the fact that the DEA had a direct route to Amtrak info when it was needed, it appears the administration used the employee to circumvent official channels to build out its information cache. The Daily News reports that it’s not clear whether the DEA institutionally encourages “soliciting corporate insiders” even when it would encourage them to act against company rules.