Link to Reuters article.
(Reuters) - A
secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling
information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a
massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation
to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely
involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show
that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such
investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also
sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
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.
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
THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION
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. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin
American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to
Today, much of the
SOD's work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location
in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are
marked "Law Enforcement Sensitive," a government categorization that is
meant to keep them confidential.
that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any
investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. The
document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD's involvement from
investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and
courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use "normal
investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD."
A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment.
two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to
"recreate" an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that
is used almost daily.
federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips
from SOD described the process. "You'd be told only, ‘Be at a certain
truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.' And so
we'd alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and
then have a drug dog search it," the agent said.
Read it all here.
Another Phony Scandal? This one goes back to Bill Clinton's time...