DEA Using NSA Records In Investigations

According to a Reuters report, a secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration group is sharing its findings with various authorities nationwide. The information is being shared in hopes of building criminal cases against American citizens. The Special Operations Division, or SOD, funneled information to the DEA. The DEA then had to do what was called “parallel construction” Parallel construction basically means that the DEA had to come up with an alternate story on how it got the information from the SOD, whose information is classified.

An agent spoke with Reuters and explained in more detail. “You’d be told only ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle’. Then we would alert state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle and have a drug dog search it.” After an arrest was made, agents could then act as if the traffic stop was where their investigation began. This raises questions on the legality of evidence gathered in such a way. Parallel construction violates pretrial discovery rules by hiding evidence that may help criminal defendants.

Lawyers, prosecutors and legal scholars are up in arms with the latest NSA revelations. The gist of their argument is that cases built with parallel construction are unconstitutional. New Jersey defense lawyer Lawrence Lustberg called the practice “blatantly unconstitutional” according to Reuters. A Washington Post survey shows that most U.S. citizens support the work of the NSA when the words “terrorism” or “courts” appear in the question. Conversely, when there are no ties to terrorism, there is less support for these NSA actions.

Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law professor who served as a federal judge for 17 years, told she thinks that these revelations are more troubling than the wiretap revelations by Edward Snowden. “It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.” The SOD was formed in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels.

How much more will the government step on the rights of citizens? Who, if anyone, can change this practice?