Data storage shortage forces DEA to drop prosecutions, reports say

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s war on illegal drugs apparently isn’t the only battle the federal agency is fighting. According to website Ars Technica, the DEA is also battling space, having only a 40 terabyte storage system.

As a result, the space crunch has forced the agency to drop some high-profile drug prosecutions, including one case that began in 2003 and is now burdening the system with 2T of evidence, about 5 percent of its storage capacity, along with more than 400,000 documents.

In that case, the DEA indicted Armand Angulo, a Panamanian doctor living in Iowa who allegedly had sold millions of dollars worth of prescription medication online. Angulo fled to his native country in 2004, where the national constitution bans extradition of Panamanian citizens.

So at the urging of prosecutors, the DEA recently dropped the charges against the doctor because, according to published reports, the evidence was taking up too much space on the storage system.

"Continued storage of these materials is difficult and expensive," wrote Stephanie Rose, the U.S. attorney for northern Iowa, describing the ongoing evidence storage as "an economic and political hardship" for the agency.

A 40T storage system would seem pretty small these days, when agencies collect so much data and storage prices have come down so far. A 4T hard drive such as the Hitachi Deskstar 7K4000 can be had for a little as $368. And you can get Western Digital’s 2T Caviar Green 2 Desktop Hard Drive on Amazon for $125.

Ars said it attempted to contact DEA officials, but no one would comment.

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Reader Comments

Wed, Aug 22, 2012 Paco CT

For the backup solution a HDD to HDD works using a COTS backup software, betcha they already own the solution. There would be no addition to personnel. If they wanted to continue and had the legal chops to do so, there is no technical mission stoppers, none. I am a 2210, this excuse is hogwash.

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 Josh Ohio

It may cost $100 for a 1TB drive, but it costs $300 for three of them to put it into a RAID-5 array, another $100+ annually for a CAL to have a software backup solution to back it up, another few hundred for tapes and a robot for a target of the data backups, a salary for the person to maintain that system, $ for power and HVAC, rack space, warranties, and then there are the atrocious acquisition processes in the government which take forever and sometimes cost more than the solutions. I'm not making excuses, but I am trying to disarm part of the argument. Some organizations are dumb enough to set themselves up in a 5 year plan with a really nice SAN solution that cost $5K per TB a couple years ago. While prices have come down for newer solutions and their budgets have disappeared, they're stuck with a vendor at a higher priced solution for 5-to-10 years until they can budget a replacement. It's why some of the government is looking within to find out if they can share storage and other expensive solutions among each other. Unfortunately, preservation of evidence probably drives the cost of those IT systems through the roof, with redundancy, DR, and COOP.

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 Cowboy Joe

To quote a 10 year old "Dilbert" strip, "Here's 25 cents so you can afford to double my storage space."

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 Texas

Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room Malcom. I would add, that it is takes you 2 terabytes of information to convict someone, I would guess that is more than just a storage problem, that is waste of time problem. It would be interesting to know the government man hours wasted on that case alone.

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 Malcolm Kyle United States

Some simple facts: * Prohibition has been a slow but relentless degradation (death by a zillion cuts) of all our cherished national institutions, that will leave us crippled for numerous generations. * The US federal government is now the most dangerous and corrupt corporation on the planet. * In 1989, 'The Kerry Committee' found that the United States Department of State had made payments to drug traffickers. Concluding, that even members of the U.S. State Department, themselves, were involved in drug trafficking. Some of the payments were made even after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies - or even while these traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies. * Apart from the huge percentage of people addicted to both sugar and caffeine, a small minority of adults (nearly 5%) will always experience the use of drugs as problematic. Approx. 3% are dependent on alcohol and approx. 1.5% are dependent on other drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroine etc. * Just as it was impossible to prevent alcohol from being produced and used in the U.S. in the 1920s, so too, it is equally impossible to prevent any of the aforementioned drugs from being produced, distributed and widely used by those who so desire. * Prohibition kills more people and ruins more lives than the drugs it prohibits. * Due to Prohibition (historically proven to be an utter failure at every level), the availability of most of these mood-altering drugs has become so universal and unfettered that in any city of the civilized world, any one of us would be able to procure practically any drug we wish within an hour. * Throughout history, the prohibition of any mind-altering substance has always exploded usage rates, overcrowded jails, fueled organized crime, created rampant corruption of law-enforcement, even whole governments while inducing an incalculable amount of suffering and death. * The CIA was/is running Heroin from Vietnam, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, and moving Cocaine from Central America. This has been well documented by the 1989 Kerry Committee, as well as academic researchers such as Alfred McCoy, Peter Dale Scott, and the late Gary Webb. * It's not even possible to keep drugs out of prisons, but prohibitionists wish to waste trillions of dollars in an utterly futile attempt to keep them off our streets. * The United States jails a larger percentage of it's own citizens than any other country in the world, including those run by the worst totalitarian regimes, yet it has far higher use/addiction rates than most other countries.

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