Congress Asks Eric Holder To Explain Why NSA Supplies DEA Info Which It Then Launders To Go After Americans

from the about-time dept

A few weeks back, Reuters broke the news that the NSA (and other intelligence agencies) were funneling information to the DEA, IRS and others, telling them about potential wrongdoing, but then also telling them to effectively launder the information, so that it never came out where they got the information from, and that it didn’t show up in any court case. For example, they might send info to the DEA about a likely drug deal, and the DEA would then tell its agents that they should come up with a pretense to stop a certain truck at a certain truck stop at a certain time. The agents would work with local police to concoct a reason to pull the truck over, and voila, drugs found. But, most importantly, at no point would the fact that such information was used to lead to the stop be revealed, and that’s unconstitutional. If you’re accused, you’re supposed to have access to all of the evidence being used against you.

It appears that a bunch of folks in Congress want some answers about this program, and so Eric Holder has been sent yet another letter with questions from a bunch of Senators and Representatives, and there will be yet another briefing where I’m sure he’ll promise a full investigation into the practice and maybe promise some internal changes to guidelines, but where nothing will actually change. It really does seem like a very significant portion of Eric Holder’s job these days is to respond to the latest scandal of government overreach by promising that he’ll fix it, and nothing much ever seems to change.

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Comments on “Congress Asks Eric Holder To Explain Why NSA Supplies DEA Info Which It Then Launders To Go After Americans”

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velox (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I’d like to see the DEA explaining to the courts when they prosecute a drug case as to which search warrant they used to stop such a truck.”

Law enforcement agencies use a tactic called “parallel construction” to launder the source of their information, and thereby make it appear to have been obtained legally. This practice is not just limited to the current NSA affair, but is actually widely used in other police investigations.

Quinn Wilde (user link) says:

So there we are.

The last few weeks have shown that:

The NSA have the power, authority and ability to view data and perform searches that even the genuinely paranoid might recently have sneered at.

Where they don’t have the technology to crack encryption they are bullying companies into supplying them backdoors, secretly according to secret interpretations, with huge penalties for even discussing it, no choice in the matter, and so far as I can tell no due process or ability to appeal.

There is a lack of oversight, because the supposed overseers aren’t allowed to see much of the relevant information, and a lack of internal oversight because the systems that might be used for this are outdated or worthless.

There is a lack of audit because there are more people who can access any of this information without logs, or as another person, than there are members of congress.

There is a history of abuse, not just because there would have to be, because humans always abuse anything that can be abused eventually, but also because we now have evidence of this.

And now we’re learning that this super sensitive top secret foreign intelligence information is being used for domestic police work, simply because it can.

The above is a list of things that might have been considered paranoid this time last year. But the truth is, there’s no real conspiracy here.

This is just standard human nature at work, that regular combination of avowedly good intentions and poor judgement that the US constitution was originally and thoughtfully designed to highlight, explain, and condemn.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: So there we are.

You left out that a major factor in the lack of oversight is that the NSA intentionally provides as little information as possible to the oversight committees – I remember articles where agents are told to sum up their reasons for wanting to access private information on a John Doe for a report to the committee in just one line.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So there we are.

Good point there, industrial espionage in large scale.

Although in the US people would have to also create a filter get rid of all those knot patented.

The New York Times: A doctor has devised a knot for securing a new flexible thread to bones during surgery.

Did people know that tying a knot could get them sued?

Yahoo Groups: Knotters and Patents

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So there we are.

None of the revelations to date should come as a surprise, especially given the rapidly accelerating technical abilities associated with electronic eavesdropping. This does not make how they are being used “right”, but only that the uses to which they can be put are limited only by our collective imaginations.

Mistakes and abuses are, as so aptly noted, a natural consequence of man-in-the-loop systems. I can recall no system since historical records began being kept that has ever avoided these fundamental human traits.

Given these two immutable circumstances, all the “we will implement strict controls” promises are meaningless (and disingenuous). All the “investigations” to figure out what should be implemented are likewise ultimately doomed to failure because they are simply incapable of constructing oversight systems that remove human traits as a factor.

I wish it wasn’t so, but we have created this “hydra”, have no means at hand to effectively control it, and must settle, like it or not, for efforts like frequent and robust audits by persons having unfettered access to all collection activities, to attempt to minimize misuse to the greatest extent possible. We created it. Now we must somehow come to grips with how to live with it.

Given human frailties, sometimes technological advances are too good for our own good. Unfortunately, it is impossible to identify which are too good and which are not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So there we are.

Are you seriously trying to lay the blame for all of this on the tools that were used to construct it? That’s like a whole new level of Luddite right there.

These activities are not an inevitable consequence of advances in technology. You are right that ‘we’ created this mess but you are absolutely wrong on what the mess actually is. It’s not the technology. It’s the laws that were passed to allow this activity by the NSA, an executive branch that was willing to twist the laws into whatever form suited them, and perhaps more importantly the taxes and appropriations authorized to fund it. The hydra has one glaring weakness: it needs money.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hmm, actually, re-reading your comment I think I see better where you’re coming from, the only way they’d be able to find information like that to pass on to other agencies would be if they were actively looking, or paid a lot more attention to the ‘accidental’ information that they scoop up than they’d like people to think.

Anonymous Coward says:

Holder is one of the biggest and best liars in a high power position in the USA! he couldn’t tell the truth about what color socks he was wearing! what i find totally baffling is why Congress doesn’t do something much more drastic and permanent when these people are found to be lying? sack the fuckers out of hand and start again!!

cffrost says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Aug 28th, 2013 @ 2:48am

“[Eric Holder] couldn’t tell the truth about what color socks he was wearing!”

Given that USA’s top prosecutor can’t find charges with which to indict USA’s top criminals (i.e., the Executive branch capos, in the mirror, DEA*, FBI**, NSA***, CIA****, etc.), I doubt he could even find the god damned socks he’s wearing!

* Dept. Evidence Assembly

** Fake Bombing Instigators

*** No Such Amendments

**** Dept. of Coup d’?tat, Insurgency, & Assassination

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I am still amazed at how Holder is still in office. The guy has direct ties to the IRS scandal he had to “recuse” himself from, signing the order in the AP scandal and has responsibility for the FISA-part of the surveillance scandals. How a man like him can stay in office is offensive. Obama is loosing what rest of trust he might have had by not firing him at least 2 months ago.

His administration is already getting compared to Nixons. Now he is entering the territory of Harding and Grants excessively corrupt governments to become the worst ever.

Richard (profile) says:

What is the problem

But, most importantly, at no point would the fact that such information was used to lead to the stop be revealed, and that’s unconstitutional. If you’re accused, you’re supposed to have access to all of the evidence being used against you.

Actually, since that evidence was not used in court, I don’t see that as a problem.

The problem is that the information is gathered in the first place. One that has happened the remaining steps are very difficult to deny. Once the information has been gathered it is impossible not to slip down the slippery slope to using it for anything.

This is why “terrorism” is such an important and dangerous meme.

In the old days espionage was directed exclusively at foreign governments. It is very unlikely that an attempt to find out the details of the latest Soviet missile program would somehow segue into a drug bust.

Unfortunately terrorists are different because, lacking government finance they tend to turn to ordinary criminal activity to provide cash. (and drugs are SUCH an attractive criminal business opportunity – but that is another story).

The only solution is to delete the “terrorist” meme and treat these people as ordinary criminals with ordinary policing as the only weapon against them.

The fact is that terrorism (by definition) does very little real damage to the country (unlike, say, war).

By hyping it we are granting the terrorists their wish. They have made us all stand in interminable hot, security queues with nothing to drink. They have made us spend millions on “scanners” that might damage our health – and all without a single successfull aircraft attack in over 10 years.

If the FAA/CAA rules about aircraft accidents had been followed in respect of terrorism (the rules that say that you weigh the cost of safety measures against their benefits before inmplementing them) then we wouldn’t have had any of this nonsense.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: What is the problem

“Actually, since that evidence was not used in court, I don’t see that as a problem.”

The problem there is that when the NSA tells the cops to arrest Perp A, the cop is supposed to cover up why he pulls over/arrests the perp. So for example, the NSA discover that a perp is transporting drugs in his car, they pass this information to a highway patrol cop, who, in his official report, won’t say that he got a tip; rather, he’ll say something like busted taillight caught his attention.
The problem there is that in a court of law, the truth is supposed to be used, and here, the cops are flat out lying as to why they single out the suspects for arrest. Unless the defendants and their lawyers are told this very valuable piece of information, they can’t use it to walk free. Since the NSA is a military body devoted to protecting the US against threats of a military nature, it’s not supposed to involved at all with ordinary law enforcement.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No it isn’t. Read my response up above. In a court case, the defendant is supposed to have all available evidence to look at. This is somewhat analagous to a cop using evidence obtained from an illegal search and seizure to ensure a defendant is found guilty, and lying about where the evidence comes from. Yes, we all want scumbag drug deals behind bars, but the price we pay to live in a free society is that our justice system has rules that must be followed, and sometimes, those rules allow a guilty man to walk free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here is the thing.

Define “scumbag”.

Whatever your definition is, is not what the government uses.

Would you call a guy who pisses in a children playground at night with no children in sight a child molester?

Certainly he is being rude, but a child molester?

Would you tie a knot and be willing to be called a criminal for having violated some patent?

Would you like to be called a drug trafficker for having legal drugs that you bought elsewhere and get flagged at customs?

Would you like to have all your commercial secrets in the open and find out that your competitors are using NSA databases to find out all your dirt?

The justification is the “scumbag” the actions are not direct at only “scumbags” as you think, it can be used and will be used as a weapon against anybody those that hold that power don’t like.

Is that the country you would like to live in?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here define drug deal.

Making aspirin at home is being a drug trafficker?
Making any of the numerous compounds in any drug you can think off makes you a drug trafficker?
Selling homemade medicine makes you a drug trafficker?

Trying to synthesize drugs for medicines at home makes you a drug trafficker?

This drug trafficking crap may be why you don’t have access to cheap drugs at the pharmacy counter have you ever thought about that?

I think about those things because I am starting to fool around with chemistry and those thoughts crossed my mind.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

you’re right, you do sound -at minimum- naive…

probably an authoritarian, probably don’t -as most don’t these days- consider the phrase ‘the ends does not justify the means’ to have any importance, and probably have your blinkers on so you don’t see the side-effects of such a regime…

OUR RIGHTS ARE INVIOLABLE, NOT to be disposed of when they are inconvenient, or you just really, really want to…

that is precisely why SOME of our rights are enumerated and formally ratified… of course, that doesn’t matter these days when the gummint simply ignores rights and laws it hasn’t otherwise gutted…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Tionico says:

Re: anonymous coward

actually, no. We are a nation of LAWS, not a nation under “desired results”. These rights, enumerated and guaranteed under those Articles of Ammendment the founding thirteen states demanded as a cndition of ratifying the Constitution back in 1789, were based on recent, and very real (and painful) experience with a tyrannical government that allowed no rights to its subjects. Either we are a natioin of free men, or a nation of subjects. On principle, I would rather that truckload of drugs NOT be apprehended under false pretenses. Let the coppers do their gumshoe bit at the distribution end, or the production end. Besides, upon WHAT “authority” do FedGov have aught to say about what we put into our bodies in the first place> The entire Controlled Substances Act is a phoney and unconstitutional travesty on state and individual sovereignty, and should be fully repealed or annulled. Your point has no basis in FACT. It is still an illicie gathering (search) of information with no warrant, as there is no probable cause, sworn upon oath or affirmation before a judge, to even suggest wrongdoing by insignificant Operative A (we cannot refer to him as “Perp A”, as he has not yet been PROVEN to have committed any crime).

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

The greater problem is that the Obama Administration has always said that they wouldn’t use the information gathered from such surveilance as authorized under The Patriot Act for going after Americans for every crime under the sun.

The fact is, they are doing just that and violating the constitution, violating due process and violating the very same Federal law that prohibits using this data in this way.

It’s nice the very government that our tax dollars are being used to fund are also being used to violate the very rights that we are all guaranteed under the constitution.

I guess we live in a communist country after all, with a single dictator at the helm.

Anonymous Coward says:

The more I think about it, the more I think Canada is undoubtedly doing this as well.

There was a story there years ago about a controversy where a cop saw a car driving through a 25 miles an hour zone (or whatever the equivalent is in KM’s) at exactly the speed limit. The cop found that ‘suspicious’ and pulled the guy over, despite them breaking no laws. And then somehow he found some evidence in the guys car that he might be a terrorist and arrested him (I forget what exactly the evidence was, but the article said it was pretty damning stuff).

Hindsight now, that kind of a bogus reason for pulling someone over sounds JUST like this, and what US cops are doing with the NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

These abuses of government positions don’t just quit and go away when the abuse is done. It festers in public consciousness until something triggers the dissatisfaction to a higher level of action. We’re at a point where that level of unrest has risen to new heights.

The reason for buying all that bulk ammunition becomes more visible every release of new data about what the NSA claims it isn’t doing that it is. Clearly those in power are very worried now that the kicked dog doesn’t continue to just lay there and is pissed off.

Being able to read potential illegal acts and then report them to various law enforcement agencies without seeking credit and validation for their jobs says a lot. It says that we don’t want recognition for our deeds. Meaning we don’t want unnecessary attention. So very clearly they can, have, and will continue, to read email contents, monitor phone calls in real time, and abuse each and every privacy expectation the public has. So they are waiting on the other shoe to fall showing that they are lying about reading the contents of emails and listening in on phone calls.

Eric Holder = Al Queda says:

Keep Dossier on NSA

It’s becoming clear that the people we need to be watching is the US government. Not only are they the largest terrorist organization in the world (drone strikes, overthrow governments, invasions on false evidence (WMD), etc. Eric Holder is not unlike Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Queda. Both break laws, both spy on people, and both believe they are doing the right thing. Both belong in prison.

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