Government abuse: not surprising, not unexpected, but certainly something that needs to be stopped – now!
This has been in the news recently and now it is getting some Congressional attention. It has to do with possible illegal activities involving the NSA and DEA. As you know, the NSA’s job is to focus outside the US, not inside, and primarily on enemies of the United States, not it’s citizens:
Eight Democratic senators and congressmen have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions about a Reuters report that the National Security Agency supplies the Drug Enforcement Administration with intelligence information used to make non-terrorism cases against American citizens.
The August report revealed that a secretive DEA unit passes the NSA information to agents in the field, including those from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and Homeland Security, with instructions to never disclose the original source, even in court. In most cases, the NSA tips involve drugs, money laundering and organized crime, not terrorism.
Five Democrats in the Senate and three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee submitted questions to Holder about the NSA-DEA relationship, joining two prominent Republicans who have expressed concerns. The matter will be discussed during classified briefings scheduled for September, Republican and Democratic aides said.
“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.
Why, other than the fact that the NSA has no charter or permission to pass its information about American citizens on to other agencies, is this important?
The Reuters reports cited internal documents that show how DEA’s Special Operations Division funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
The documents show that agents have been trained to conceal how such investigations truly begin – to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up the original source of the information, raising questions about whether exculpatory information might be withheld from defendants at trial.
The internal documents describe the process of recreating the evidence trail to omit any reference to the Special Operations Division as “parallel construction.” For example, agents said in interviews, they act as if a drug investigation began with a traffic stop for speeding or a broken taillight, instead of a tip passed from the NSA. An IRS document describes a similar process for tax agency investigators.
Emphasis mine. So not only is passing such information to these agencies unauthorized, the government then instructs its agents on how to lie about the source of their information (a lie of omission). And, of course, it is also legitimate to ask whether or not exculpatory evidence could also have been available but not passed to these agencies.
Is this really the type government we want? One that spies on us, intercepts our electronic messages and phone calls and uses them secretly by passing what should be private to various other government agencies and then lies about it? Peggy Noonan addresses those questions quite directly today:
If the citizens of the United States don’t put up a halting hand, the government can’t be expected to. It is in the nature of security professionals to always want more, and since their mission is worthy they’re less likely to have constitutional qualms, to dwell on such abstractions as abuse of the Fourth Amendment and the impact of that abuse on the First.
If you assume all the information that can and will be gleaned will be confined to NSA and national security purposes, you are not sufficiently imaginative or informed. If you believe the information will never be used wrongly or recklessly, you are touchingly innocent.
If you assume you can trust the administration on this issue you are not following the bouncing ball, from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told Congress under oath the NSA didn’t gather “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans” (he later had to apologize) to President Obama, who told Jay Leno: “We don’t have a domestic program.” What we do have, the president said, is “some mechanism that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack.”
Oh, we have more than that.
Almost every politician in America lives in fear of one big thing: a terrorist attack they can later be accused of not having done everything to stop. And so they’ll do anything. They are looking to preserve their political viability and historical standing. We, as citizens, must keep other things in mind, such as the rights we are born with as Americans, one of which is privacy.
Lord Acton nailed it when he said “Power corrupts …”. We’re currently in the midst of watching exactly that happen to an even greater degree than in the past. If you give government power, it will do everything it can to expand that power – whether legitimately or illegitimately. It is the nature of the beast. And we have to put up a hand to stop it.
If you’re wondering why the Tea Party is characterized in such nasty ways by the establishment of both parties, it is because it does indeed attempt to put up a hand to stop these sorts of abuses and remove power from the abusers. They threaten the very base of power the political establishment has worked so hard to build over the years.
Well, well, well … here’s a surprise! Not!
Remember the post the other day about how the DEA was “recreating the investigative trail” to hide where they got some of their initial info (you know, the newest euphemism for lying)?
As with most of these sorts of stories, it apparently only exposed the tip of the proverbial iceberg:
Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
So … it could even go deeper, no? And of course, this just adds more mud to the IRS’s already mud-spattered reputation.
Show of hands … how many would be shocked, shocked I tell you to learn that the FBI, CIA, NSA and a myriad of other alphabet soup Federal agencies were doing this as well?
For those not raising your hand, naïve doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Seems odd, to me, that we have to point this out every now and then. The naive trust some people have in government always perplexes me. It speaks to an ignorance of both human nature and history that is simply profound.
Our latest example? Well, right here from the good old US of A, land of the free, home of the brave … and the DEA:
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.
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.
“Some experts say?” Really? Frankly, if all of them aren’t saying it, they’re wrong. Again, we have laws … you know, rules? … that require federal law enforcement to go through a process to obtain warrants in order to get this sort of information. And if they don’t, if they get it without a warrant and through other means, it is considered to be unusable in a trial.
So to avoid that, they “recreate”. In other words, federal agents, at least those in the DEA, are trained to do what?
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 drug dealers.
“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.”
Ya think?! Of course they’re phonying up investigations if they’re obtaining “evidence” via illegal means and the “recreating” the investigative trail to “cover up” where the info originally came from.
Question: how many people have ended up in jail due to the lies of DEA agents?
My guess is hundreds if not thousands.
Of course, any abuse has defenders:
But 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.
A former 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.
Can’t imagine why “two senior DEA officials” would defend it, can you? Oh, yeah, their rear-ends are on the line – so move along citizen, don’t peek behind the curtain, nothing to see here.
You see, there’s a difference between acting on a tip and using information that was illegally obtained.
But apparently that nuance is beyond our two senior DEA officials.
Need a story to get you all fired up this morning? Looking for something to make you see red?
The phone rang before sunrise. It woke Craig Patty, owner of a tiny North Texas trucking company, to vexing news about Truck 793 — a big red semi supposedly getting repairs in Houston.
“Your driver was shot in your truck,” said the caller, a business colleague. “Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?”
“What did you say?” Patty recalled asking. “Could you please repeat that?”
The truck, it turned out, had been everywhere but in the repair shop.
Commandeered by one of his drivers, who was secretly working with federal agents, the truck had been hauling marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation. And without Patty’s knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Administration was paying his driver, Lawrence Chapa, to use the truck to bust traffickers.
The concept of private property? Completely ignored. Permission? We don’t need no stinkin’ permission. We’re the federal government. We’re the DEA.
But eight months later, Patty still can’t get recompense from the U.S. government’s decision to use his truck and employee without his permission.
His company, which hauls sand as part of hydraulic fracturing operations for oil and gas companies, was pushed to the brink of failure after the attack because the truck was knocked out of commission, he said.
Patty had only one other truck in operation.
In documents shared with the Houston Chronicle, he is demanding that the DEA pay $133,532 in repairs and lost wages over the bullet-sprayed truck, and $1.3 million more for the damage to himself and his family, who fear retaliation by a drug cartel over the bungled narcotics sting.
Out of control? That’s a vast understatement. This is like Fast and Furious Jr. Who thought this up? Who approved it? Why didn’t they seek the permission and cooperation of the owner of the business and property? Where in the world do they get off commandeering private property and endangering the life and livelihood of a citizen without seeking his okay to use his property?
The operation was a fiasco:
At least 17 hours before that early morning phone call, Chapa was shot dead in front of more than a dozen law enforcement officers – all of them taken by surprise by hijackers trying to steal the red Kenworth T600 truck and its load of pot.
In the confusion of the attack in northwest Harris County, compounded by officers in the operation not all knowing each other, a Houston policeman shot and wounded a Harris County sheriff’s deputy.
17 hours before the owner of the truck was notified and that notification didn’t come from either the police or the DEA. The only thing the DEA didn’t commandeer for this operation was a clown car. Said Patty:
"I was not part of this," he said. "I had absolutely no knowledge of any of it until after it happened."
For its part, the DEA has not admitted that it was using Chapa as a spy because its official policy is not to comment on whether someone was an informant.
Lisa Johnson, a spokeswoman for the DEA Houston Division, confirmed that Patty’s demand had been received and noted that it would be investigated by the agency. But the Chronicle established Chapa was an informant based on interviews with multiple law-enforcement officials who spoke on the condition they not be named, and later by courtroom comments of prosecutors.
So now the DEA will drag its feet, pretend like it is investigating this, refuse to admit anything, and, as is fairly standard and routine behavior for government agencies violating the rights of the citizens these days, obfuscate, evade and attempt to block every move to shine a light on this operation.
This is outrageous. And, if the facts presented by the Chronicle are true, whoever put this together and executed it deserves to be put on trial and put in jail. That’s right, jail. We want someone held accountable for this travesty for a change.
As for Patty, pay the man, DEA. You screwed up big time, you were wrong to commandeer his property and put his life in danger. You had no right to do any of that and you owe him the chance to get his life and that of his family back in order.