According to a News Report from Reuters there is a secretive DEA unit that is funneling information from Prism, XKeyscore, and other NSA style tools to build a massive database of records so authorities across the nation to can use to them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Even though there is no legitimate national security issue with say Medical Marijuana dispensaries for example, documents obtained by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to lie about how such investigations actually began not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges they didn't trust to keep quiet about their illegalities.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "falsify" the investigative trail to lie about where the information came from. This is practice that experts say violates a defendant's 6th Amendment rights to a fair and open trial. If defendants don't where evidence came from, they can't ask to review potential sources of allowable evidence.
"I have never heard of anything like this at all," said retired Federal Judge Nancy Gertner, now a Harvard Law School professor. "It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations."
Judge Nancy Gertner (Ret.)
Judge Gertner and other legal experts say the program sounds more disturbing than even the recent disclosures from whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA has been unconstitutional collecting domestic phone records, emails, text messages, web history, medical and financial records. At least the NSA claims it's efforts are geared toward stopping terrorists. The DEA on the other hand can make no such specious claims since they only target recreational drug dealers, users, web sites, and state sanctioned Medical Marijuana dispensaries.
The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, IRS and the Dept of Homeland Security. It was created during the Clinton administration to supposedly combat Colombian and Mexican Drug Lords and has grown from a handful of agents to hundreds.
Today, as par for the course with the Obama administration, SOD's work is classified. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked "Law Enforcement Sensitive," a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.
"Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. A stark reminder the DEA knows they are violating the constitution. The document specifically directs agents to lie/coverup SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are then instructed to use "normal investigative techniques to falsify the information provided by SOD."
A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment. When asked at a press briefing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters to ask the Department of Justice, thus completing the circular logic of their coverup.
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. "You'd be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.' And so we'd alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it," the agent said.
After an arrest agents then begin the process of phonying up their investigation to make it look like it began with the traffic stop, not with the illegally obtained SOD tip. This is know by agents as "parallel construction."
The process is kept secret to protect keep the case from being thrown out on unconstitutional grounds and so that the defendants have no access to the truth. "Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day, it's decades old, a bedrock concept", said one agent that Reuters spoke to. Astonishingly the DEA agents interviewed defended the practice despite the fact it is clearly illegal. The ends justifies the means.
"It's just like laundering money - you work it backwards to make it clean," said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which now advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.
"That's outrageous," said Tampa attorney James Felman, a vice chairman of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association. "It strikes me as indefensible."
Lawrence Lustberg, a New Jersey defense lawyer, said any systematic government effort to conceal the circumstances under which cases begin "would not only be alarming but pretty blatantly unconstitutional."
"You can't game the system," said former federal prosecutor Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. "You can't create this subterfuge. These are drug crimes, not national security cases. If you don't draw the line here, where do you draw it?"
One current federal prosecutor learned how agents were using SOD tips after a drug agent misled him, the prosecutor told Reuters. In a Florida drug case he was handling, the prosecutor said, a DEA agent told him the investigation of a U.S. citizen began with a tip from an informant. When the prosecutor pressed for more information, he said, a DEA supervisor intervened and revealed that the tip had actually come through the SOD and from an NSA intercept.
"I was pissed," the prosecutor said. "Lying about where the information came from is a bad start if you're trying to comply with the law because it can lead to all kinds of problems with discovery and candor to the court." The prosecutor never filed charges in the case because he lost confidence in the investigation, he said.
The SOD's role providing information to agents isn't itself a secret. It is briefly mentioned by the DEA in budget documents, albeit without any reference to how that information is used or represented when cases go to court.
The DEA has long publicly touted the SOD's role in multi-jurisdictional and international investigations, connecting agents in separate cities who may be unwittingly investigating the same target and making sure undercover agents don't accidentally try to arrest each other.