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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..]

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OIG Report on DEA Agents' Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Via Politico, the Office of Inspector General has issued a report on sexual misconduct allegations against agents in four law enforcement agencies in the Department of Justice, including the DEA, FBI, ATF and Marshals Service.

The full report is here. It's over 100 pages long, so I've summarized the more salacious parts below: [More...]

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WSJ: U.S. Marshals Posing as Mexican Marines to Catch Cartel Members

The Wall Street Journal reports:

U.S. Justice Department personnel are disguising themselves as Mexican Marines to take part in armed raids against drug suspects in Mexico, according to people familiar with the matter, an escalation of American involvement in battling drug cartels that carries significant risk to U.S. personnel.

A U.S. official says the marshal's participation was approved by high levels of the Mexican Government. The Mexican Embassy in Washington denies that: [More...]

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Missing Afghan Cops Training at Quantico With DEA Found

The DEA brought a bunch of Afghan police to Quantico to train them. It says it polygraphed them and took their passports. That didn't stop two of them from taking off in Georgetown Saturday.

They have now been found. They will be returned to Afghanistan. There's a suggestion in the article they may have intended to seek asylum and "a better life" here.

It’s not known if Samimi and Ataye intended to seek asylum, but it’s likely they left their supervised group to seek a better life in the United States.

More here.

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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.

[More...]

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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?

[More...]

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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.

[More...]

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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.

[More...]

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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

[More..]

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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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