Monday, August 5, 2013

The NSA is Giving Americans' Phone Records to the DEA and the DEA is Covering It Up

By Brian Fung

A day after we learned of a draining turf battle between the NSA and other law enforcement agencies over bulk surveillance data, it now appears that those same agencies are working together to cover up when that data gets shared.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been the recipient of multiple tips from the NSA. DEA officials in a highly secret office called the Special Operations Division are assigned to handle these incoming tips, according to Reuters. The information shared includes “intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records,” and it’s problematic because it appears to break down the barrier between foreign counter-terrorism investigations and ordinary domestic criminal investigations.

Because the SOD’s work is classified, DEA cases that began as NSA leads can’t be seen to have originated from a NSA source.

So what does the DEA do? It makes up the story of how the agency really came to the case in a process known as “parallel construction.” Reuters explains:

Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using “parallel construction” may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants.

The report makes no explicit connection between the DEA and the earlier NSA bulk phone surveillance uncovered by former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor Edward Snowden. In other words, we don’t know for sure if the DEA’s Special Operations Division is getting its tips from the same database that’s been the subject of multiple congressional hearings in recent months. We just know that the NSA sometimes grants DEA access to Section 702 phone records, and also, separately, that a special outfit within DEA sometimes gets tips from the NSA.

Read the rest here.

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