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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

1 hour ago - World

China and Russia vaccinate the world — for now

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While the U.S. and Europe focus on vaccinating their own populations, China and Russia are sending millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries around the world.

Why it matters: China's double success in controlling its domestic outbreak and producing several viable vaccines has allowed it to focus on providing doses abroad — an effort that could help to save lives across several continents.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Report: China will dominate AI unless U.S. invests more

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S., which once had a dominant head start in artificial intelligence, now has just a few year's lead on China and risks being overtaken unless government steps in, according to a new report to Congress and the White House.

Why it matters: Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who chaired the committee that issued the report, tells Axios that the U.S. risks dire consequences if it fails to both invest in key technologies and fully integrate AI into the military.

Americans agree about more issues than they realize

Data: Populace Inc.; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Many Americans assume the rest of the country doesn't share their political and policy priorities — but they're often wrong, according to new polling by Populace, first seen by Axios.

Why it matters: The polling reveals that despite growing political polarization, Americans share similar long-term goals and priorities for the country.