DEA Not Only Gets Intelligence Data, But Then Is Instructed To Cover Up Where It Gets The Info

from the wow dept

Okay, so we were just talking about other government agencies wanting data from the NSA. The NY Times story claimed that the NSA was regularly turning down such requests. Except... this morning Reuters broke the news that the NSA, along with the CIA, FBI, IRS and Homeland Security, are actually funneling data to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and (even worse) the DEA is then instructed to lie about where it gets the evidence.
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."
As the article notes, the DEA doesn't just hide the actual details from those they're prosecuting, but even from judges and US attorneys in the Justice Department. Basically, it looks like the NSA is illegally giving the DEA info, and then the DEA is figuring out ways to pretend it got that info from legal sources. That goes way, way, way beyond what is supposed to be happening.
"Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use "normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD."
And this isn't just for extreme cases either. Reuters says that two separate senior DEA officials said that this technique "is used almost daily." As the Reuters report explains, the info from the NSA might, for example, highlight a particular vehicle that may be involved in a drug effort (remember, the NSA isn't supposed to collect or look at info on things happening in the US), and then DEA officials will be told something like "look for this vehicle in this place." The DEA will then ask "state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle," leading to a search. Then they later claim that the arrest and finding drugs came because of a "routine traffic stop" rather than NSA surveillance dragnet efforts.

There's a lot more in the article, including a variety of DEA officials insisting that there's nothing wrong with this sort of thing... balanced out by a variety of defense attorneys pointing out that it's unconstitutional to hide where information for an investigation came from. It is a fundamental aspect of basic due process that those accused of crimes get the details of the evidence and the investigation that lead to their arrests. That the DEA appears to be actively covering up this information, and that it's been standard operating procedure for decades, is immensely troubling.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    Well, this story is the answer to the question posed weeks ago: "If this information is being used, why hasn't it shown up in the evidence used in court cases?"

    And if it's happening with the DEA, what other agencies are doing the same thing? I feel like I'm going into tinfoil-hat land here, but it's almost as if the NY Times story was "leaked" by someone knowing that information like this was going to come out and trying to get the opposite out first.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      Ironically the questions various politicians posed that were either not answered or were provided with not so obvious lies at the moment are being slowly answered. By leaks and whistleblowing outside the Government control.

      As another AC commented, bring the Sahara, there's not enough sand in the US for these morons to bury their heads in.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      tinfoilmadhatter, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      "Steals tinfoil-hat and takes cover under tin roof" .. there are going to be a lot of drug dealers getting out of prison soon .. wonder If the DEA as a whole will be charged with falsifying evidence .. wait that means NSA is a conspiring with the DEA to create evidence.. oh the webs we weave .

       

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      The Real Michael, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 2:23pm

      Re:

      "I feel like I'm going into tinfoil-hat land here, but it's almost as if the NY Times story was 'leaked' by someone knowing that information like this was going to come out and trying to get the opposite out first."

      That was exactly the intent. What's most disturbing is that this gives the DEA (and potentially others) the capability to incriminate someone and then cover their tracks...

      Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:29am

    highlight a particular vehicle that may be involved in a drug effort (remember, the NSA isn't supposed to collect or look at info on things happening in the US)

    The drug may have come from foreign soil, silly. The vehicle pieces may have been manufacture abroad. There are all sorts of non-American stuff running out there, how can we be sure? So we collect all. ALL! *malevolent laughter*

    Then they later claim that the arrest and finding drugs came because of a "routine traffic stop" rather than NSA surveillance dragnet efforts.

    The sad part is that this could be found by plain old investigative effort. Due process being respected.

    That the DEA appears to be actively covering up this information, and that it's been standard operating procedure for decades, is immensely troubling.

    And yet it probably works on petty criminals or just plain users instead of drug lords. And considering the US is one of the largest drug destinations in the world it spells failure all over this effort putting yet another argument against the destruction of privacy in favor of security or whatever it is right now. Security is just a code word in NSA dictionary, it probably means CONTROL in regular English.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    2016 will be an interesting year.
    I expect to see Obama in a 3rd term.
    Sure it may be against the rules, but when has that ever stopped him?

    Obama '16 For The Children Because Terrorism.

     

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      identicon
      Pragmatic, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 5:49am

      Re:

      How the heck will you cope when he leaves the White House and we get a new President? I dread the thought of Hillary running, but who will run against her? The motley crew of the clown-car pile-up we had last time? God help us all.

       

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        Hephaestus (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re:

        My guess is Chris Christie will run against her.

         

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        Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 11:51am

        Same as the old boss.

        How the heck will you cope when he leaves the White House and we get a new President? I dread the thought of Hillary running, but who will run against her?

        It doesn't really matter. They'll campaign on the wedge issues, and then vote on things like surveillance the same way anyway.

         

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    If the only reason you stopped a vehicle was because the NSA tipped you off... did you REALLY have probable cause to stop that vehicle? Even if you technically found a "reason", if you would not have stopped it but for the illegal tip, then the search should be thrown out in court.

    Except, of course, if you don't TELL the court, they have no way of knowing...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      Which is also extremely illegal if it was ever found out by that court

      I'm actually curious how many thousands of drug convictions over the past eight or so years would be thrown out on the spot if it came to light how the DEA got the evidence.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Re:

        You would have to have an incredibly stupid DEA agent to get caught. If the procedures is just "ok" in DEA they should never be even suspicious to the courts. The prosecutor on the other hand... But as long as they do not ask, they can pretend to never hear.

        It is very hard to track evidence chains when the evidence came from the experts in avoiding evidence chains.

        Plausible deniability and all, it would take a biblically incompetent move, to proove the tip and retracing it back to NSA...

        That is the danger of big data: If they are used, they are abused!

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 2:40pm

        Re: Re:

        "Which is also extremely illegal if it was ever found out by that court"

        It's extremely illegal even if it was NOT found out by the court. In fact, that makes it MORE illegal. It's just that they aren't going to get CAUGHT.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      Except that it's not technically the only reason for the stop. They are tipped off about who and what to look for and when they find him the FIND a reason to pull him over. Sure, they probably wouldn't have been driving behind him looking for him to make a lane change without using his signal, but when they pull him over they are pulling him over for that. Of course if it happens to be in NYC, they don't even need a reason. There they think it's ok just to stop people for no reason at all.

       

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    Nick (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:47am

    SOD = Special Operations Division (DEA's secretive unit).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Do you think anyone will care now that they have learned that law enforcement is making phony investigations based on questionable evidence obtained through illicit spying programs?

    I know the answer, all I'm saying is: "Big surprise"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:55am

    who said the USA is a 'Police State'? what the hell gives that impression? you must be on something!
    perhaps this is what was going to be relied on in the Dotcom case? the DoJ is trying it's nuts off so as to not hand over information requested by the Dotcom legal team. could it be a touch of crapping backwards, again? could it be that Dotcom is nowhere near as guilty of anything as the DoJ is? interesting!!

     

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      tinfoilmadhatter, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:25pm

      Re:

      Duhtcom is a fail, he still made money off of others works .. which completely destroys what sharing is all about .. he's no different than the MAFIAA.

       

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        pixelpusher220 (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, he made money off others work in ways *they refused to do so*.

        That his way was easier and more efficient (and unfortunately illegal) highlights the backward thinking of the 'others' in question.

         

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        nasch (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 4:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Duhtcom is a fail, he still made money off of others works

        So does Netflix, Pandora, radio stations, etc. etc.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:41pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          But they give a cut to the content providers copyright owners .. duhtcom fail .. as for him doing it before they did .. still doesnt matter . his business model is good really good for him .. but not for those that treat the web like a community . share for free not for fee.

           

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2013 @ 2:12am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            He did offer it for free (with adds).

            He'd be more respectable if he'd given a cut from premium to the creators but then he'd have to deal with the MAFIAA and the actual artists still would get nothing.

             

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

      Re:

      If they are working backwards to find the evidence after having affirmed guilt through illicit means, it would be incriminating Dotcom further since it would mean that NSA saw his as guilty.

      It would only mean that the evidence they had against him were acquired illegally and they did not want to show that fact! At the moment it seems FBI is stalling the case to avoid having to give up on their evidence. The extradition cased is still running and will run untill at least next year...

       

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    identicon
    FM Hilton, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Another take

    Then you have to remember one other thing you do-whenever you buy OTC cold remedies that have to be purchased from a pharmacy (Advil, etc), that data gets transmitted to the DEA from the pen pad you just signed your name on.

    It uses your driver's license or whatever official ID you present to the cashier. Goes into a database run by the DEA.

    We're giving this stuff away. Got an allergy? Want relief? The DEA wants your info, too!

    Wonder if the NSA is doing a swap on this stuff? Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:51pm

      Re: Another take

      It would be boon for the people to bust up thepersonal information market... Not so great for Googles of the world, but it would be funny to see how many government agencies clamboring for the information would suddenly become uninterested.

       

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    identicon
    Keith Alexander, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Shocked

    I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

     

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 11:58am

    Wow

    I am starting to think that Techdirt's "wow dept" may need its own separate blog.

    I am also starting to long for the days when the stories were about buffoonish censorious asshattery and desperate dying business models, rather that stories of US Govt. activities that directly affect me, and would make Stalin simultaneously blush and turn green with envy.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    I am so done with anything having to do with the US government today. My total disgust dial has hit 11 ....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:17pm

    I guess this explains why America has a larger prison population, than the rest of the world combined.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:17pm

    This is why we need judges to throw out massive numbers of convictions

    This kind of a situation becoming more and more common is EXACTLY why we need judges (especially the Supreme Court) to start invaliding a whole bunch of convictions, on grounds of them lying to the defense about where evidence came from, or withholding evidence altogether.

    Undoing tens of thousands of convictions or more (even if it does let serious criminals go free) is the ONLY way you're going to get the government and prosecutors to start behaving and following the law and constitution in trials.

    Judges should especially be doing this in areas involving new technology without clearly defined rules, like the government's insistence on not needing a warrant for just about anything involving searching your computer or web activities. After all, we need to message that just because you got 100,000 people convicted by violating the constitution before someone more clearly speed out rules that seemed obvious to everyone else doesn't mean it's ok that you didn't follow the rules in the first place.

     

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      JohnnyRotten (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

      Re: This is why we need judges to throw out massive numbers of convictions

      This would be a great solution if the three branches weren't all in bed together. In reality, what you're asking for is the government to admit fault for actions by the government in the hopes of teaching the government a lesson.

       

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:21pm

    It's obvious: GOOGLE!

    Major source.

    Not just search terms and websites, but Google can directly access webcam and microphones, and probably does the keyword recognition on audio plus face recognition.

    When you think surveillance, think Google!

     

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      AC Unknown (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:39pm

      Re: It's obvious: GOOGLE!

      That's where you're wrong, Blue. You can OPT OUT OF GOOGLE'S DATA COLLECTION BY NOT USING THEIR SERVICES.

      How many times must I yell this into your ear before you get it through your thick skull?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:07pm

      Re: It's obvious: GOOGLE!

      but Google can directly access webcam and microphones, and probably does the keyword recognition on audio plus face recognition.


      And right there's where you passed into paranoia territory.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 4:21pm

      Re: It's obvious: GOOGLE!

      Firefox and the NoScript addon. Just don't allow anything from Google. You see how easy that was?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:22pm

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Americans for their support for the war on drugs. Without that support the general warrantless search and seizure (digital) service we all enjoy would still be stifled by quaint notions of 'rights'.

    I'd also like to once again thank the US government for bringing crack to our cities in the 70s 80s and 90s. Without this vital support there would have been no reasonable chance for the WoD to go nuclear.

    Auto-Convict will be leaving BETA any day now.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:32pm

    A Blessing to Defense?

    If the DEA has been involved in lying about its sources wouldn't that make things easy for the defense? They just need to raise reasonable doubt that the evidence came from illegitimate sources.

     

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    identicon
    Jasmine Charter, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Welcome...

    Take out the violators of our rights and hang them in public, then... let their bodies rot. That will discourage future violators.

    What?!

    It worked for Vlad the Impaler...

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

    A wise Techdirt AC predicted this

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    New Case Mantra

    Defense Attorney: The DEA used NSA data to initiate their investigation!
    Prosecutor: No they didn't!
    Defense Attorney: Prove it!
    Judge: Sigh...

     

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    identicon
    ss, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:04pm

    The government is not legitimate.

    The executive branch is corrupt.

    The legislative is bought and corrupt.

    The judiciary is treading water.

    Logically, this is going to get much, much worse. And then there will be blood. You can't beat cheaters and you can't cheat death.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:05pm

    Drugs are bad, mm'kay? The government decried it so and since the government is without a doubt trustworthy, you know that arbitrary punishment for using anything arbitrarily defined as an illegal drug is for your own good. Good job public. Keep assuming because something is illegal, the decision to make it so was based on good morals and scientific facts.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:07pm

    More and more the official offices are losing the respect of the citizens. What I've been getting out of all this for the last month or so is that you can't trust any of them and what they say.

    There is no oversight when they can lie and misdirect with impunity even those charged with doing oversight. Then there is the issue of congress not knowing or not caring about these matters til the public rubs their noses in it. Obama and crew have once again lied about how informed congress is when those voting to extend these programs can't even get answers to their questions regarding the issues they are voting for.

    The top of the pile it seems has barely been revealed and already I'm beyond disgusted at how the laws of the land have been twisted to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

    ENOUGH ALREADY!

     

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    Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:08pm

    It's all national security.

    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.

    Is there such thing as ordinary crime anymore? Isn't everything a matter of national security now?

     

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      pixelpusher220 (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 2:35pm

      Re: It's all national security.

      When they bald face call Boston a crime of Weapons of Mass Destruction and just say 'because its different', it's going to be a long long time before things get fixed.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:18pm

    This data is like performance enhancing drugs: illegal, unethical, secretive, and hard to resist if you're getting paid based on performance.

     

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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    At a secret government black site

    Interrogator 1: Do you know why you're here?
    Prisoner: No man! I just stole a bag of Doritos from 7-11! Why the hell have your friends been torturing me for the past six months!
    Interrogator 1: Son, do you know how critical those Doritos were to the national security of the United States of America?
    Prisoner: .....What?

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 2:37pm

    This is the story I've been expecting to see for years now.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2013 @ 3:25pm

    Power Creep

    Knowledge is power. For profit prisons need to be full to be most profitable. Those in power have been bribed into using their knowledge to keep the prisons full. Our crime rate has dropped since the 80's but the incarceration rate has gone up. Fewer criminals are being arrested, but a much higher percentage of these are being locked up. Mandatory minimum sentencing is a farce not intended to provide justice but to provide a revenue source. Prisoners are being farmed in conditions that would be considered torturous by most people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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