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Canada probes sale of military gear on eBay

The Canadian military has launched an investigation after some of its military clothing and equipment turned up for sale on eBay.
/ Source: Reuters

The Canadian military has launched an investigation after some of its military clothing and equipment turned up for sale on the Internet, a spokesman for the Department of National Defense said on Wednesday.

Several pieces of the military's specialized camouflage gear were, until recently, up for sale on eBay, igniting concerns about the security of Canadian troops.  The items were removed from the site and were not available on Wednesday.

"They appear to be Canadian forces uniforms or equipment," said Capt. Mark Giles, a member of the military's National Investigation Service in Ottawa, noting the military plans to contact eBay about the matter.

Some pieces of the camouflage uniform, currently being worn by Canadian troops in Afghanistan, were being sold for just a few hundred dollars, domestic media reported.  It is illegal for anyone but military personnel to own or wear uniforms being used in active duty.

Giles said media reports that each military item has a specific serial number, and can be traced back to its owner, were inaccurate.  He said the items likely only have batch numbers.

George MacLean, an international security analyst and political studies professor at the University of Manitoba, said the potential sale of military goods is "unnerving."   "This isn't surplus material, it's actually material that's being issued to soldiers right now," he said.

MacLean said Canadian military uniforms would be highly coveted because of their pixilated pattern, which makes them difficult to see even with night vision equipment.

This is not the first time important uniforms have gone missing. Canada tightened airport security in December 2004 after more than 1,100 pieces of clothing and identification were reported missing from airport screening staff.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority said a stricter database has since been introduced to improve security.  "I know that in the past it wasn't unusual for our screening officers to have say, 50 items," Anna-Karina Tabunar said. "Now, with the new database, the controls are tighter."

In addition to uniforms, Tabunar said CATSA also uses fingerprinting and iris scans to identify employees.

The Defense Department's Giles said similar identification techniques are used by the military and may be tightened if a breach in security is discovered.