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Eduardo Verdugo / AP

The Government Accountability Office, which audits other federal agencies to uncover instances of fraud and abuse of power, set up an undercover operation to determine whether the Department of Defense would sell military-grade equipment to unauthorized buyers, per The Marshall Project.

The GOA created a fake law enforcement agency — accompanied with a faux website claiming it did high-level security and counterterrorism work, and an address that led to an empty parking lot — and applied for the gear. Within a week the agency said in a report that its fake cops received $1.2 million worth of night vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb equipment from the DoD's 1033 Clinton-era program.

"They never did any verification, like visit our 'location,' and most of it was by email," Zina Merritt, director of the GAO's defense capabilities team, told The Marshall Project. "It was like getting stuff off of eBay."

1033 program: The Clinton-era program enables local cops to obtain equipment not being used by the U.S. military. Following Ferguson, Barack Obama issued an executive order rolling back the scope of the program, and ordered law enforcement agencies requesting military gear to undergo training and agree to oversight procedures.

What's next: The GAO report says the DoD has vowed to crack down on its verification procedures, and will now try to visit the location of agencies that apply to the program. The department will also complete an internal fraud assessment by April 2018.

Go deeper

13 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.