Eight Democratic senators and congressmen have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions about a recent report that the National Security Agency supplies the Drug Enforcement Administration with some of its secret intelligence information used to make non-terrorism cases against American citizens.
“These allegations raise serious concerns that gaps in the policy
and law are allowing overreach by the federal government’s intelligence
gathering apparatus,” wrote the senators – Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin,
Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Richard Blumenthal of
Connecticut and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The three congressmen – John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on
the House Judiciary Committee, and Jerrold Nadler of New York and Bobby
Scott of Virginia – wrote to Holder on August 9, shortly after the
original Reuters report.
Three weeks ago Reuters revealed that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has created a
special unit which illegally uses data from intelligence intercepts,
wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to
launch criminal investigations of Americans. Most of these
investigations have little or nothing to do with the national security
which was the rationale for obtaining the source information in the
To hide the program they are teaching agents how to hide how such
investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also
sometimes from prosecutors and judges:
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
“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.”…
…The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the
Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies
comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue
Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
This collection and use of personal data is much worse than the NSA
scandal revealed in June. In that case while the ends (national
security) may not have justified the means, but in this latest
revelation there is no justification for either. It is an simply an
“illegal search” for a criminal case. The DEA must know their
methodology is tainted, why else would they be training their agents to
cover it up?
Even though the majority of Congressional members asking for the information are Democrats, the president will probably discuss this case as one of those “phony scandals.”