DEA Gets Unchecked Access To Call Records; Taught To Lie About Where They Got Them

from the your-due-process-is-no-match-for-our-Drug-War dept

Shortly after the Snowden leaks began exposing the NSA's massive collection efforts, the New York Times uncovered the DEA's direct access to AT&T telecom switches (via non-government employee "analysts" working for AT&T), from which it and other law enforcement agencies were able to gather phone call and location data.

Unlike the NSA's bulk records programs (which are limited to holding five years worth of data), the Hemisphere database stretches back to 1987 and advertises instant access to "10 years of records." And unlike the NSA's program, there's not even the slightest bit of oversight. All law enforcement needs to run a search of the Hemisphere database is an administrative subpoena -- a piece of paper roughly equivalent to calling up Hemisphere analysts and asking them to run a few numbers. Administrative subpoenas are only subject to the oversight of the agency issuing them.

It's highly unlikely these administrative subpoenas are stored (where they could be accessed as public records) considering the constant emphasis placed on parallel construction in the documents obtained by Dustin Slaughter of MuckRock -- documents it took the DEA ten months to turn over.

Unlike the documents obtained by the New York Times (possibly inadvertently), these do contain a few redactions, including some apparent success stories compiled at the end of the presentation. But like the earlier documents, the documents show that the DEA and law enforcement have unchecked access to a database that agents and officers are never allowed to talk about -- not even inside a courtroom.

It is expected that all Hemisphere requests will be paralleled with a subpoena for CDRs from the official carrier for evidentiary purposes.
It's spelled out more explicitly on a later slide, listed under "Official Reporting."
DO NOT mention Hemisphere in any official reports or court documents.
Judging from the request date, it would appear that this version of the Hemisphere presentation possibly precedes the New York Times' version. However, this one does not name the cooperating telco, although that appears to be a deliberate choice of the person writing the presentation, rather than due to redaction. At one point the document declares Hemisphere can access records "regardless of carrier," but later clarifies that it will only gather info that crosses certain telecom switches -- most likely AT&T's. Additional subpoenas will be needed to gather info from other carriers, as well as to obtain subscriber information linked to searched numbers. This small limitation plays right into the DEA's insistence that Hemisphere be "walled off" from defendants, court systems and the public.

If exigent circumstances make parallel construction difficult, Hemisphere analysts (non-government liaisons within the telco) will "continue to work with the investigator throughout the entire prosecution process in order to ensure the integrity of Hemisphere and the case at hand." Analysts are allowed to advise investigators on report writing, presentations to prosecutors and issues occurring during the trial phase. The word "integrity" seems out of place when it describes non-government employees assisting government agencies in hiding the origin of evidence from other government agencies.

Cross-referencing what's been redacted in this one with the unredacted document published earlier, it appears as though the DEA is trying to (belatedly) hide the fact that its Hemisphere can also search IMSI and IMEI data (for wireless connections). Although this document states (after a long redaction) that Hemisphere does not collect subscriber information, that's only partially true. As of July 2012, subscriber information for AT&T customers can be obtained from the database. This information may have been redacted or it may be that this presentation pre-dates this added ability.

What this shows is that the DEA has access to loads of information and a policy of "parallel construction in all things." Tons of other government agencies, including the NSA, FBI and CIA are funneling information to the DEA and instructing it to hide the origin. The DEA then demands law enforcement agencies around the nation to do the same thing. This stacks the deck against defendants, who are "walled off" from the chain of evidence, preventing them from challenging sources, methods or the integrity of the evidence itself.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 10:18am

    All law enforcement needs to run a search of the Hemisphere database is an administrative subpoena -- a piece of paper roughly equivalent to calling up Hemisphere analysts and asking them to run a few numbers

    In an unprecedented example of the government NOT being wasteful, they have started issuing these administrative subpoenas on rolls available in the bathroom so they have at least some useful purpose.

     

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  2.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 10:33am

    "This stacks the deck against defendants, who are "walled off" from the chain of evidence, preventing them from challenging sources, methods or the integrity of the evidence itself." - Works as designed.

     

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  3.  
    icon
    sehlat (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 10:42am

    An Awkward Question

    If the government won't obey its own laws, why should anybody else bother to obey them either, aside from threat and implementation of force and violence by that same government?

     

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  4.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 10:56am

    You know...

    With all this information coming out about the DEA and how it works like this...

    Isn't that grounds to get, I dunno, every drug conviction from 1987 to today overturned on the grounds that the evidence was illegally gathered?

     

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  5.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 11:03am

    Re:

    I wonder, in a court if the evidence and the methods are all "classified" or something, what would happen if somebody simply challenged that evidence on grounds yet to be found once it's revealed to all parties or something? Wouldn't the court be compelled to DEMAND every party has access to the origins, methods and possible warrants? Is it being tried in the courts?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 11:07am

    Re: You know...

    No.

    When they go to trial, they actually do have to produce evidence. There are probably few, if any, judges that would have allowed totally un-sourced evidence at trial. So, the illegally collected evidence has probably not directly led to the conviction of a lot of people.

    What it HAS probably led to is investigations starting or moving in the right direction and allowed the DEA to go to exactly the right place to get the evidence they needed for trial. In many cases, it has also probably replaced the need for someone to alert the DEA of a problem to start with.

    This is a tool for investigators that are too inept or lazy to gather the evidence they need legally from the start, but has not replaced the need for legally gathered evidence to convict someone.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    rapnel, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 11:13am

    Nice. So this effectively means that the War on Drugs is clearly unconstitutional therefore clearly illegal and further proof that the entire rule enforcement arm of the United States Executive Branch is rogue, correct? Is this not the legal equivalent to a murder confession?

    To say nothing of the very real destruction of the very real lives for dancing to the true sounds of liberty.

    Bring the reign.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re: You know...


    This is a tool for investigators that are too inept or lazy to gather the evidence they need legally from the start, but has not replaced the need for legally gathered evidence to convict someone.
    Except that, per the poisoned tree doctrine, evidence obtained through illegal methods should be suppressed, as should any evidence that was only discovered using other evidence that was since suppressed. Therefore, any conviction that was investigated initially from Hemisphere is on shaky ground. Any conviction where all evidence was parallel constructed is likely unconstitutional, even if the evidence presented during the trial was obtained through a supposedly legitimate warrant, since without the illegal search, the government never would have known to seek the warrant.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re:

    Challenging evidence happens all the time.

    Why do you think they lie about it and classify it? To make it more difficult for people to challenge it. And since in the eyes of the law, there is no such thing as a lying agent of the government they get near immunity from being corrupt. Only rarely are the caught and even more rare still punished for it.

     

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  10.  
    icon
    FarSide (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Re: An Awkward Question

    I think you answered your own question.

    The threat of force is not insignificant.

     

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  11.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re:

    I wonder, in a court if the evidence and the methods are all "classified" or something, what would happen if somebody simply challenged that evidence on grounds yet to be found once it's revealed to all parties or something?

    In these cases, the data in question isn't classified, it's just never presented at all. They do what's called "parallel construction", where they start with data from the NSA or wherever, and then figure out some other way they could have come up with the same evidence (but didn't). Then they lie to the court and say that this other technique is how they found the evidence.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 3:43pm

    Angry Cops

    It shows once again why you sometimes see cops that go way beyond reason when looking for drugs they "know" are there. There is no evidence, but the cops act so sure that there is something to find. They get more and more angry as they fail to find it. Their "source" was electronic and was wrong in that case.

    High crimes and misdemeanors indeed.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Quiet Lurcker, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

    I'm waiting...

    I'm waiting for a single judge to cotton on to what's going on and give the government a simple choice: turn over all of the relevant information without edits or redactions and face the legal consequences of gathering the stuff in violation of just about every provision of the constitution there is - never mind the law or code of federal regulations because they're self-serving twaddle anymore; or the case is dismissed with prejudice everyone even indirectly involved up to and including the president is forced to appear before the judge in question to receive a harsh tongue lashing.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2014 @ 4:59pm

    Yet more proof law enforcement agencies have gone completely rogue and are operating with disregard for the law. By fabricating the source of their evidence, using parallel construction, these agencies are committing perjury against the court. They're also violating US Constitutional law by denying defendants their constitutional right to a fair trail.

    It's impossible for a defendant to mount a proper defense if details and methods about the evidence being used against them are falsified. Such blatant disregard of the law and civil rights amounts to tyranny.

    The US is no longer a nation of the rule of law. It is a nation of lawless tyrants! Remember that fact, and conduct your life as citizen of a tyrant state accordingly.

     

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  15.  
    icon
    TOPDOG1 (profile), Jul 10th, 2014 @ 7:15pm

    Re: An Awkward Question

    As someone said long ago, If no one obeys, no one commands

     

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  16.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Got it. Troubling indeed.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    THOMAS JEFFERSON, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 10:17am

    HEMISPHERE

    So much for your right of "DISCOVERY" at your trial! It's bad enough that the phrase "to protect & serve" -means 'to protect & serve ONLY THE POLICE!' It is now obvious that the country that was started by the Declaration of Independence in 1776, no longer exists.
    Your right to be faced by your accuser -no longer exists.
    Don't hate our supreme court justice Antone Scalia for saying (in so many words): "...the constitution is dead, dead, dead!" He was just being honest. The point being, if we no longer have the bill of rights, then the police no longer have ANY authority.
    Watch out the next time you talk on the phone to your connection about buying a joint -goons are listening and standing by!
    The Nazis with guns, badges, and ticket books must be real proud of themselves.
    Hail to the United Secret Police State of America! Seig heil! Seig heil!

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Federale, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 2:09pm

    Subpoenas

    Well, they aren't that easy to obtain. In any event, the evidence they produce from ATT is not tainted in any way. Just stop doing your crimes on ATT networks. Easy as that.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Denan Strong, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 3:02pm

    Re:

    Oh, they serve a purpose.. One that is important to the ruling class.

    That purpose like most of the most massive government bureaucracy in the history of civilization, serve the purpose of the oppressors.

    The death of liberty this time is that by a thousand bureaucracies.

     

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  20.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Subpoenas

    Subpoenas
    Well, they aren't that easy to obtain.


    You're joking, right?

    " All law enforcement needs to run a search of the Hemisphere database is an administrative subpoena -- a piece of paper roughly equivalent to calling up Hemisphere analysts and asking them to run a few numbers. Administrative subpoenas are only subject to the oversight of the agency issuing them. "

    In any event, the evidence they produce from ATT is not tainted in any way. Just stop doing your crimes on ATT networks.

    You probably think if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from the government, too.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    David from San Diego, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 7:54pm

    Re: HEMISPHERE

    We will not be forced to chant "seig heil". In a more Orwellian way, we all chant: "Liberty!". As Orwell wrote (something like), "Freedom is slavery. The truth is a lie."

     

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

  22.  
    icon
    GEMont (profile), Jul 12th, 2014 @ 11:20pm

    Re: I'm waiting...

    And its very likely you'll be waiting the rest of your life.

    As soon as any judge makes that decision, a portfolio of real and faked photos will arrive at his home in a postage free brown envelope. The faked photos will show the judge participating in a variety of career ending activities, and the real ones will show loved ones asleep in their own bedrooms with masked men wielding weapons standing next to them.

    Standard Operational Procedure for the mob and other, shall we say, "clandestine" organizations.

    The judge will suddenly reverse his decisions and play ball.

     

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


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