US drug agency unit to be investigated for wiretapping, lying about evidence sources

The US Department of Justice is investigating the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for using invasive surveillance techniques, including wiretapping and logging telephone records into a database, to track Americans connected to illegal drug activity.

It comes after Reuters published a Monday report revealing that a shadowy
DEA unit known as the Special Operative Division (SOD) – made up
of officials from the FBI, CIA, NSA, IRS, and Department of
Homeland Security — funnels information gathered by the DEA to
those and other police agencies. Information from DEA wiretaps,
informants, and the database of telephone records is passed on,
often to investigations bearing no relevance to national
security. 

According to documents viewed by Reuters, SOD federal agents are
then trained to “recreate” the source of the investigation
to cover up how they discovered a particular bit of information.
That method, law experts say, violates an individual’s
constitutional right to a fair trial because their defense
attorney would be unable to examine details that could turn up
evidence of biased witnesses or police malpractice. 

News of the DEA’s cover-up “connects the dots” in
explaining potential government abuse in connection with the
indiscriminate collection of millions of phone records by the
NSA, vice-chair of criminal justice at the American Bar
Association, James Felman, told The Guardian. 

By the sound of it, this a routine practice of using masses
of information on Americans, in an erosion of constitutional
protections of our citizens. This is clear evidence of things
that people have been saying they are not doing. Collecting data
on ordinary citizens and then concealing it officially. It is
indefensible
,” he said. 

I don’t think that most people would believe that our
government would be using these measures and using this excuse
when they want to investigate heavy offenses
,” Felman added.
What is upsetting is that it appears to be policy and
practice to consensually conceal information that should be
disclosed
.” 

While the documents in question were reportedly undated, a 2007
report by the Justice Department’s inspector general called the
SOD “integral in the coordination of major DEA cases.” The
unit, which was originally formed to bring down major cartels, is
said to investigate drug crimes using the same methods the NSA
uses to thwart terrorism. 

For example, a former federal agent who worked with the SOD said
that police would find an excuse to stop a vehicle which they had
prior information on and then have drug dogs search the car. Upon
making the arrest, officers would fabricate a traffic violation
that permitted the initial stop in order to hide that they were
acting on an SOD tip. 

Other officials refused comment, saying that publicizing the
methods of an investigation would compromise its integrity.

Federal law enforcement agencies lying about the source of their
evidence also presents the possibility that NSA searches allowed
by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court may
have been authorized with tainted reasoning. 

When questioned about the report during a Tuesday press
conference, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that
it was his understanding “that the Department of Justice is
looking at some of the issues raised in the story
.” 

Jerry Cox, president of the National Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers, told USA Today that the practice is inherently
illegal. 

When you lie about something, you are giving a parallel
story. If you did it or I did it, we would be punished for
perjury
,” he said. 

These latest reports are particularly troubling for accused
persons who cannot vindicate fundamental constitutional rights
without access to accurate and complete information. This puts
liberty at risk of being lost without due process of law, which
is an affront to the Constitution
,” Cox added.

Republished from: RT