Unauthorized individuals, companies, terrorist organizations, and other countries continue their attempts to obtain sensitive items related to the defense of the United States. The Internet is one place that defense-related items can be purchased, raising the possibility that some sensitive items are available to those who can afford them. In addition to the risk that sensitive defense-related items could be used to directly harm U.S. service members or allies on the battlefield, these items could be disassembled and analyzed (i.e., reverse engineered) to develop countermeasures or equivalent technology. Given the risks posed by the sale of sensitive defense-related items to the public, and the Internet's international reach and high volume of commerce, the Subcommittee asked GAO to conduct undercover testing to determine whether the general public can easily purchase these items on the Internet, including on the Web sites eBay and Craigslist. To perform this work, GAO investigators used undercover identities to pose as members of the general public, meaning that they conducted their work with names, credit cards, and contact information that could not be traced to GAO. Investigators interviewed sellers where possible and referred cases to the appropriate law enforcement entities for further investigation.
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