On Monday Reuters obtained exclusive information about another, horrifying infringement on American’s Constitutional rights; not the NSA’s pretext that a gross invasion of our privacy serves “national defense.” This time the DEA is funneling data from “from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records” to jurisdictions across the country on anyone and everyone, unconstitutionally, to help federal, state and local authorities open domestic cases. In secret.
The unit responsible for this outrage is called the Special Operations Division, referred to as SOD. If British slang is credible, the acronym fits. According to Reuters, SOD’s members have been gleaned from over two dozen “partner” agencies which include the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. SOD has an annual budget estimated at $125 million with hundreds of employees. SOD’s work is classified and even its physical location, somewhere in Virginia, is clandestine.
The SOD documents Reuters reviewed present evidence that 1) “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.” And 2) “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.” Simply put, “recreation” equals “fabrication.” Manipulated evidence is contaminated evidence. It has been falsified.
Reuters quotes from “Law Enforcement Sensitive” documents they’ve examined: “Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function…” 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.” SOD whimsically refers to overhauling facts as “parallel construction.” Reuters quotes a former federal agent: “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…” Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008, went on the record: “It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean.” Simple, right? Perhaps someone might remind former agent Selander and the United States government that laundering money is illegal.
As if this wasn’t disturbing enough Reuters shared additional information from military and senior law enforcement officials, intended to defuse the incendiary situation: “Because warrantless eavesdropping on Americans is illegal, tips from intelligence agencies are generally not forwarded to the SOD until a caller’s citizenship can be verified… they do a pretty good job of screening, but it can be a struggle to know for sure whether the person on a wiretap is American…” Isn’t verifying citizenship supposed to be forbidden? If amnesty goes through that should no longer be a legal issue but, to paraphrase Tina Turner, “What’s law got to do with it?”
Defense lawyers and prosecutors alike are incensed about SOD’s tactics. Both claim that SOD’s ploys dance around the edges of the Constitution. Says former federal prosecutor, Henry E. Hockeimer, Jr.: “You can’t game the system…You can’t create this subterfuge. These are…not national security cases. If you don’t draw the line here, where do you draw it?”
Hockeimer’s question comes late; since there is no longer any rule of law evident one might ask, instead, “land of the free?”