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.

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

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Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

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.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: 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.

The Real Michael says:

Re: 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.

Ninja (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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…

FM Hilton (profile) says:

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.

GMacGuffin says:


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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.


Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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