Military Finds Missing Jet Parts On eBay

Dennis Faas's picture

You'd think stolen military gear would be sold quietly. However, it turns out anything from jet parts to body armour is available through eBay and Craigslist.

The Government Accountability Office has announced the results of a unique form of covert ops: sending military investigators online posing as sellers. They were able to buy items not intended for public use, like night vision goggles and enhanced body armour vests. Worryingly, the haul also included army combat uniforms. Selling such clothing to non-military buyers has been illegal since January, 2007 because Iraqi insurgents were using uniforms to sneak into US bases.

Perhaps most amazingly, the investigators even bought components from F-14 fighter jets. That's particularly frightening because only the Iranian air force still flies the F-14.

eBay pointed out that just 1/10 of 1% of goods listed on the site are military based (though that's still more than 100,000 items). The firm's vice president Tod Cohen told a Congressional committee, "We created prohibited and restricted items policies and built tools using state-of-the-art technology to enforce those policies."

Craiglist also attempts to police listings, but that's difficult with just 25 members of staff. The company's CEO Jim Buckmaster said the rules on military goods could be confusing and told Congress he'd like to see an outright ban on selling any military item that's less than 50 years old. (Source:

Politicians conceded that it was difficult for auction sites to enforce policies against selling military items when such activity isn't specifically illegal. They pointed much of the blame at the military for the fact that gear goes missing and that inventory control is so poor that thefts are often not noticed. (Source:

It's a rare example of Internet sites avoiding the blame for an apparent 'online' scandal. While some of the items clearly shouldn't be on sale, eBay and Craigslist seem to be more than willing to cooperate with the military and government over the issue.

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