DEA Secretly Tracked Billions of Phone Records For Decades

Via USA Today:

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels' distribution networks in the USA, allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers

The program began under Bush I and continued throught the terms of the next three Presidents. It was carried out by DEA's "intelligence arm" with little oversight. It was stopped by AG Eric Holder in 2013. [More..]

This is where "Parallel construction" comes in:

To keep the program secret, the DEA sought not to use the information as evidence in criminal prosecutions or in its justification for warrants or other searches. Instead, its Special Operations Division passed the data to field agents as tips to help them find new targets or focus existing investigations, a process approved by Justice Department lawyers. Many of those tips were classified because the DEA phone searches drew on other intelligence data.

That practice sparked a furor when the Reuters news agency reported in 2013 that the DEA trained agents to conceal the sources of those tips from judges and defense lawyers.

The NSA apparently learned its tricks from the DEA.

The similarities between the NSA program and the DEA operation established a decade earlier are striking – too much so to have been a coincidence, people familiar with the programs said. Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker said, "It's very hard to see (the DEA operation) as anything other than the precursor" to the NSA's terrorist surveillance.

The OIG began an investigation of the DEA's use of administrative subpoenas and "parallel constructin" a while ago. According to this page, it's still ongoing.

The OIG is examining the DEA’s use of administrative subpoenas to obtain broad collections of data or information. The review will address the legal authority for the acquisition or use of these data collections; the existence and effectiveness of any policies and procedural safeguards established with respect to the collection, use, and retention of the data; the creation, dissemination, and usefulness of any products generated from the data; and the use of “parallel construction” or other techniques to protect the confidentiality of these programs.

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  • Display: Sort:
    "...Stopped by AG Eric Holder in 2013" (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 11:04:57 AM EST
    For reasons, I suspect, having little to do with moral or ethical or U.S. Constitutional outrage. Mostly for the sake of appearances, more likely.

    I don't worry about the why (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by sj on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 11:12:19 AM EST
    IMO, it doesn't matter what pushes someone to do the right thing, as long as the right thing is done in the end.

    Well, kinda... (none / 0) (#4)
    by lentinel on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 01:33:07 PM EST
    but in this case, it seems to me that the right thing didn't make a bit of difference by the time Holder did it.

    Still, better that he did it than not I suppose.


    And how do we know it was stopped? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by ruffian on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 04:09:03 PM EST
    I don't believe anything the spy agencies tell me. And these days they are ALL spy agencies.

    It was replaced with better stuff :) (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 04:32:03 PM EST
    Why have this loose end out there flapping.  Israel and the UK now go over all of our crap and then report back to our betters :)

    Ha! Yes, I do believe 'stopped' = 'replaced' (none / 0) (#10)
    by ruffian on Thu Apr 09, 2015 at 08:56:17 AM EST
    another excellent reason to disband and (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by cpinva on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 01:07:36 PM EST
    shut down the DEA, the single most useless and expensive agency in the entire US Gov't. it is an utter waste of scarce allocable resources.

    Interesting read... (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 02:11:29 PM EST
    on the "war on drugs".  

    Did not know the sad, sick history between Billie Holiday and Harry Anslinger.

    Anslinger (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by jondee on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 03:34:45 PM EST
    didn't think lynching represented "everything wrong with America", he thought singing Strange Fruit did..

    He reminds one of Hoover and the American Black Shirt-types who tried to block theatres in the U.S from ever showing the film All Quiet On The Western Front..


    That article was fascinating (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by sj on Wed Apr 08, 2015 at 06:01:09 PM EST
    I don't know if I can bear to read the book -- the author interview was tragic enough. The bit on Billie Holliday was enlightening, was well as difference in drug usage in a "Rat Park" versus a rat cage that had only water -- either drug infused or not.

    Should be read with an open mind by anyone who thinks punishing the addicted is appropriate because they "broke the law".

    Actually, should be read with any open mind by anyone. Period.