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It was revealed this week that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has a special, covert unit that uses dragnet spying techniques, including wiretapping vast phone databases and using information from controversial NSA programs, to launch criminal — not national security — investigations. The unit then intentionally hid the trails of its information gathering, creating instead “parallel constructions” to explain how certain evidence was obtained.
Following cries of foul play unconstitutionality (by hiding how evidence is obtained the DEA denies defendants a fair trial), the Justice Department Wednesday said it would look into the covert unit known as SOD (Special Operations Division). A DOJ investigation hardly satisfies privacy and civil liberties advocates; representative agents from almost every government law enforcement agency, including the NSA, CIA and FBI, helped with SOD programs — is it possible that the DOJ genuinely only heard about the shady unit when Reuters published its investigation?
According to DEA agents who spoke to Reuters, the DOJ was well aware of the agency’s surveillance and coverup activities. As Techdirt noted:
Of course, now that it’s public, it took all of a day for the DOJ — which clearly has known about this all along — to say that it’s now reviewing the program: “The Justice Department is reviewing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit that passes tips culled from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a large telephone database to field agents,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday
Reuters also points out that the DEA officials they had interviewed claimed that the DOJ had reviewed the program regularly, and deemed it legal.
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com.More Natasha Lennard.