The DEA regularly searches U.S. citizens’ travel information in the hopes of locating individuals attempting to ferry money for narcotics traffickers, a USA Today investigation found. While the federal drug agents rarely make arrests or build criminal cases based off these profiles, they do use the confiscated finances to help fund their budget. The DEA surveillance, separate from the anti-terrorism operation surrounding air travel, reportedly involves patrol teams in 15 international airports and, for the most part, is carried out without the knowledge of either the airlines or other federal agencies.
Over the past decade, the report claims, the DEA has seized more than $209 million in cash from some 5,000 people. In most cases, the individuals were not charged with a crime, but instead had their funds confiscated. “They count on this as part of the budget,” said Louis Weiss, a former supervisor of the DEA group assigned to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Basically, you’ve got to feed the monster.”