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Monday, August 26, 2013

Congress Pressing Holder Over Use of NSA Info For Drug Busts

Eight Democratic senators and congressmen have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions about a recent report that the National Security Agency supplies the Drug Enforcement Administration with some of its secret intelligence information used to make non-terrorism cases against American citizens.
"These allegations raise serious concerns that gaps in the policy and law are allowing overreach by the federal government's intelligence gathering apparatus," wrote the senators - Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The three congressmen - John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Jerrold Nadler of New York and Bobby Scott of Virginia - wrote to Holder on August 9, shortly after the original Reuters report.
Three weeks ago Reuters revealed that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has created a special unit which illegally uses data from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to launch criminal investigations of Americans.  Most of these investigations have little or nothing to do with the national security which was the rationale for obtaining the source information in the first place.

To hide the program they are teaching agents how to hide how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges:

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

"I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

"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."...
...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, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
This collection and use of personal data is much worse than the NSA scandal revealed in June. In that case while the ends (national security) may not have justified the means, but in this latest revelation there is no justification for either.  It is an simply an "illegal search"  for a criminal case. The DEA must know their methodology is tainted, why else would they be training their agents to cover it up?

Even though the majority of Congressional members asking for the information are Democrats, the president will probably discuss this case as one of those "phony scandals."

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