ICE Wants To Be Yet Another Federal Agency With Access To Unminimized Surveillance
from the get-some-backdoor-searches-to-go-with-the-front-door-raids dept
Officials at ICE are pitching a dangerous idea to an administration likely to give it some consideration. It wants a seat at the grown-up table where it can partake of unminimized intel directly.
Internal advocates for joining the America’s spy agencies—known as the Intelligence Community or the IC—focus on the potential benefits to the agency’s work on counterproliferation, money laundering, counterterror, and cybercrime. The official added that joining the IC could also be useful for the agency’s immigration enforcement work––in particular, their efforts to find and arrest undocumented immigrants with criminal arrest warrants (known in ICE as fugitive aliens).
At this point, no one other than a few ICE officials really wants this to happen. Privacy and accountability activists say the last thing the White House should do is give the agency access to warrantless surveillance. ICE is a domestic enforcement agency and has no need to root around in foreign-facing data collections. The agency, however, feels foreign intel — along with the unmentioned backdoor searches of domestic communications — could aid it in tracking down drug traffickers, money launders, and various cybercriminals.
But it shouldn’t have direct access. Nor should it ever really need it. Information sharing has been expanded, thanks to the last president, which means ICE likely already receives second-hand info from other IC members like the DHS, FBI, and DEA. Former government officials are wary of the idea of direct intel access, noting that it would result in more complications, rather than better immigration and customs enforcement. Peter Vincent, ICE’s general counsel under Obama, had this to say:
Unlike most intelligence agencies, which focus on gathering information about America’s adversaries, ICE’s agents and officers deal with federal courts every day. If they use classified material to generate leads, that information could be inadmissible in court. Both the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which are in the Intelligence Community, deal with this issue. Adjusting would be a challenge for ICE.
Vincent said this could create “many potential mission creep spectres, especially in this current climate,” and that he doesn’t think it would be necessary for ICE to join the Intelligence Community.
We’ve seen how well dips into NSA stores has worked for these two law enforcement agencies. Parallel construction becomes the rule, rather than the exception, and cases are far more likely to be dropped if defense lawyers and judges start asking too many questions about presented evidence.
Another former DHS intelligence official claims the added intel would do little more than “complicate the architecture,” making it harder for ICE to do its job. If critical information needs to be shared with ICE, it could be done by bringing the head of ICE in on intel meetings, rather than adding ICE into the IC mix and adding yet another set of minimization rules to intel sharing.
Bad idea or not, the push for ICE to join the Intelligence Community comes at the right time. While Trump has been extremely critical of other IC components — particularly the FBI — he’s very fond of his domestic immigration enforcers, having given them free rein to enforce the law in whatever way they see fit.