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New Snowden Documents : NSA/DEA Warrantless Intercepts

Check out the latest from The Intercept (Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras), Data Pirates of the Carribean, on an NSA and DEA program called "SomalGet", which is part of MYSTIC.

NSA and the DEA have been recording every phone call in the Bahamas without the knowledge of the Bahamian government.

[The NSA] appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.

The program has also been used in Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya.

[W]hile MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

Here is a 2012 memo written by an official in the NSA's International Crime & Narcotics division describing the program. [More....]

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The DEA, AT&T and the Hemisphere Project

The New York Times reports on the Hemisphere Project, a program in which the DEA HIDTAs have been paying AT&T for phone records for 26 years.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

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Holder Asked for Answers on DEA Use of NSA Data

Reuters reported yesterday that several Congresspersons and Senators have written Attorney General Holder seeking answers to questions about the report that the DEA used information collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) in criminal investigations unrelated to terrorism and the collection of foreign intelligence.

It appears the first letter was from Congressman John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler and Bobby Scott on August 9. It asked these questions and requested an answer by August 26:

1. Which components of the U.S. Department of Justice have access to information collected by the government under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

2. Does the Drug Enforcement Administration, or any other component of the Department of Justice, use or give to any other federal, state, or local agency foreign intelligence surveillance information collected under FISA for the purpose of criminal investigation or criminal prosecution? If so, with what frequency? Under which authorities is such information collected?

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DEA's South Pacific Adventures

It may be Sequester time for the rest of us, but not the DEA. It's moved on from Africa to the South Pacific. Why? To catch cocaine going from South America to Vanuatu in the South Pacific with a final destination of Australia.

U.S.-Australian cooperation with authorities in Vanuatu, Tonga, the Cook Islands, and New Caledonia have resulted in almost 2 tons of cocaine destined for Australia being seized from five vessels since 2010.

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DEA's Special Operations Division in Media Crosshairs

I'm delighted to see the media get on the case of the DEA Special Operations division.

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.

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DEA's Latest Most Excellent African Adventure

While the rest of the nation is in financial straits due to the sequester cuts, the DEA soldiers on. It just finished spending months on yet another Most Excellent African Adventure, which ended with traipsing 5 Africans, who had never set foot on U.S. soil or planned to commit any crime here before the DEA suggested one to them, to New York where they face potential life sentences.

Once again, the case involves FBI informants pretending to be Colombian providers of cocaine offering to fly drugs from South America to West Africa. Had the drugs been real, they would been shuttled from Africa to Europe. For jurisdictional purposes, the informants made sure to tell the Africans that a minor portion of the drugs would go to the U.S. and Canada.

To make the case fit the DEA’s “narco-terrorism” meme, the informants also asked the Africans to supply missiles and weapons, telling them they wanted to use them in Colombia to shoot down U.S. aircraft destroying their cocaine fields.

There never were any drugs or weapons of course. It was just another sting. [More...]

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DEA Complains Apple iMessages Not Accessbile

Via CNet, the DEA is complaining it can't access Apple iMessages with a pen register or wiretap order. Here's the text of the memo CNET obtained:

In 2011, Apple® Inc. developed iMessage®, an instant messaging service capable of sending plain text, pictures, movies, locations, and contacts. On February 21, 2013, the DEA San Jose Resident Office (SJRO) learned that text messages sent v1a iMessages® between Apple products (iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch®, and iMao:ID) are not captured by pen register, trap and trace devices, or Title Ill interceptions. iMessages between two Apple devices are considered encrypted communication and cannot be intercepted, regardless of the cell phone service provider.

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DEA vs. Fedex and UPS: Why a Criminal Probe?

A criminal probe of Fedex and UPS has been ongoing over shipments of drugs purchased illegally from online pharmacies. The investigation is in the Northern District of California (San Francisco.) UPS appears to be cooperating while Fedex is not. Both companies revealed the probe in their latest quarterly registration statements. UPS said:

We have received requests for information from the DOJ in the Northern District of California in connection with a criminal investigation relating to the transportation of packages for online pharmacies that may have shipped pharmaceuticals in violation of federal law," the company stated. UPS said it was cooperating with the investigation and is "exploring the possibility of resolving this matter."

Fedex says: ""Settlement is not an option when there is no illegal activity." [More...]

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Congress Finally Questioning Wisdom of Our Rogue and Global DEA

Via the New York Times: U.S. Rethinks a Drug War After Deaths in Honduras

All joint operations in Honduras are now suspended. Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, expressing the concerns of several Democrats in Congress, is holding up tens of millions of dollars in security assistance, not just because of the planes, but also over suspected human rights abuses by the Honduran police and three shootings in which commandos with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration effectively led raids when they were only supposed to act as advisers.

DEA's FAST program began under George W Bush. (Obama has extended it.) FAST stands for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team. In plain English, squads of commandos. It operates in Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize. Here's a powerpoint about it.

The Administration's total Drug War budget for 2013 is $25 billion. [More.]

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Grandmas of Weed in Swaziland

The New York Times had an article yesterday about impoverished grandmothers in Swaziland who are growing Swazi Gold to support themselves and the orphaned grandchildren they are raising, many of whose mothers died of Aids. They are high up in the hills near a place called Piggs Peak. They fear the police.

Maybe they ought to fear the DEA who could decide to make Piggs Peak the next stop on their excellent African Adventures tour.

If you don't think the DEA is in Swaziland, you'd be wrong. The DEA has an office in South Africa, where is where the Times says the grandmothers' pot ends up, which covers:

Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Mada-gascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

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DEA to Extend Its Most Excellent African Adventures

The New York Times reports the Drug Enforcement Administration will be expanding operations in West Africa, in continued efforts to stop cocaine from going from South America to Africa to Europe.

“We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,” said Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section. “It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.”

In 2009, the U.S. drug war budget for Africa was $7.5 million. For 2010 and 2011, it was $50 million. Now, for 2013, it seems to be at least $60 million.

At the State Department, Asst. Secy. William Brownfield has been pushing hard for support for the DEA's African adventures, including new initiatives like the five year West African Citizen Security Initiative (WACSI). There's also the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI). [More...]

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Abandoned DEA Detainee Files Claim Seeking Up to $20 M

Bump and Update: Mr. Chong has filed a a notice of his intent to sue and claim with the DEA (a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit under The Federal Tort Claims Act) seeking up to $20 million in damages. You can read it here. The DEA has issued an apology, and promised a thorough review.

In addition to traditional tort claims, his notice alleges torture in violation of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and Convention Against Torture. The FTCA (28 USC 2675) allows recovery for pain and suffering, psychiatric and medical expenses, etc.

The actions of the officers give rise to the following causes of actions among others: intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and a Bivens cause of action for violation of Daniel Chong's rights under the Fourth and the Fifth Amendments for excessive force, unreasonable detention and unlawful seizure of his person.
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Puerto Rico DEA Agents File Discrimination Lawsuit

12 agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, AG Eric Holder and others for discrimination.

[Their lawyer says] agents hired in the U.S. who come to Puerto Rico receive a bonus for working in a so-called high-intensity drug trafficking area, which Puerto Rican agents already on the island don't get. She says they also get more dangerous assignments because they have local experience that the U.S. agents lack.

Reading through the Complaint, available on PACER: the lawsuit claims National Origin Discrimination in federal employment practices; Disparate Treatment; and Equal Protection violations. It alleges the Justice Department has violated the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004. The agents, who are from Puerto Rico, claim they are not receiving the same benefits as "non-local hires" and receive 25% less pay.

The agents also claim they are being used as "cannon fodder" for the DEA, forced out of administrative positions and back onto the dangerous streets. [More...]

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The Money Laundering Activities of Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega

Update: The DEA has released a statement defending the money laundering stings.

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The New York Times details the extradition papers of Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega, presumably in an effort to show another example of how the DEA is involved in money laundering stings. So what else is new? If you want more details, check out the 15 page magazine article of the magazine that obtained the documents (it's in Spanish.)

What the Times doesn't mention is that Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega is charged in federal court with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise under 21 USC 848, the "kingpin" statute, and facing a potential life sentence when he gets here. [More...]

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DEA to Open Office in Sofia, Bulgaria

The DEA, our global holy warriors, have announced the opening of a new office is Sofia, Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Embassy notice is here.

The DEA has been training Bulgarian law enforcement officials from the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (GDBOP) since 2008. DEA Regional Director of DEA, Mark Destito is in Bulgaria today for meetings. [More...]

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