Covering up mission creep on investigations is an old law enforcement play, ripe with abuse, which can make an old adage true: Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean "they" aren't out to get you.
Once upon a time, I might have been a cheerleader, and whether it was lack of coffee or just something about these three articles that set me off, I imagined these agencies secretly cheering and chanting for their team while stomping their feet on the Constitution.
Be aggressive, B-E aggressive! B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!
"The FBI gave its informants permission to break the law at least 5,658 times in a single year," reported USA Today after obtaining a heavily redacted 2011 FBI report via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. "Agents authorized 15 crimes a day, on average, including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies."
"This is all being operated clandestinely. Congress doesn't even have the information," said Rep. Stephen Lynch who sponsored a bill that would require the feds to tell lawmakers about the serious crimes committed by informants. "I think there's a problem here, and we should have full disclosure to Congress."
USA Today had requested all such related reports since 2006, but surprise, surprise, the FBI could find only this one. Yet the FBI, unlike any other law enforcement agency, is the only one required "to report the total number of crimes authorized by its agents each year."
Regarding agents at other three-letter agencies, both the ATF and DEA reportedly "cannot determine how often their informants are allowed to break the law." Although the agencies don't call it breaking the law, they are allowed and encouraged to cover up a program used to investigate American citizens, according to documents obtained by Reuters.
Go, go, get 'em, get 'em!
Shrouded in secrecy, including its physical location in Virginia, the DEA has a Special Operations Division (SOD) unit. The SOD "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."
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.
Another SOD document tells agents "to omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony." It states, "Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function." So they use something called "parallel construction" to "recreate an investigation trail."
It was likened it to laundering money, "you work it backwards to make it clean." A former agent told Reuters, "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."..."After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip."
V-I-C-I-O-U-S! Are we vicious? Hell yes!
SOD has two-dozen partner agencies, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, IRS and DHS. The cases "rarely involve national security issues," but "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."
Then there's the massive SOD database known as DICE that "contains about 1 billion records" and is used "to connect the dots." DICE can be accessed by "about 10,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents." A retired fed called it "an amazing tool. Our big fear was that it wouldn't stay secret." DICE includes "tips from overseas NSA intercepts, informants, foreign law enforcement partners and domestic wiretaps."
About those NSA intercepts, The New York Times reported that the DEA, DHS, Secret Service, and the Pentagon are "sometimes" given access to the NSA's "surveillance tools for particular cases." The FBI and Justice Department are considered the NSA's "main customers." Intelligence officials said "they have been careful to limit the use of the security agency's troves of data and eavesdropping spyware for fear they could be misused in ways that violate Americans' privacy rights."
Protecting Americans' privacy...are you kidding me? What. A. Joke.
But our investigation is a priority; we need access to that digital dirt hoovered up by the NSA!
Apparently, there are "turf" wars with all manner of three-letter agencies whining and claiming their investigation is a top-notch priority and they want - need - access to what the NSA has hoovered up and stored. The NYT wrote, "In pressing for greater access, a number of smaller agencies maintain that their cases involve legitimate national security threats and could be helped significantly by the N.S.A.'s ability to trace e-mails and Internet activity or other tools."
Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the security agency's vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say.
But hey, these aren't "real" abuses, according to Timothy Edgar, a former senior intelligence official at the White House and at the office of the director of national intelligence. Instead of just issuing "criticisms," the public could be truly upset since Edward Snowden blew the lid off of NSA spying, according to Edgar. He told NYT that "it could have been much, much worse, if we had let these other agencies loose and we had real abuses. That was the nightmare scenario we were worried about, and that hasn't happened."
"This really bad," warned security and privacy expert Bruce Schneier. "The surveillance state is closer than most of us think."
Let's get rowdy! Americans need to get serious about defense and holding the line for what little privacy we seem to have left. Push 'em back, push 'em back, way back!
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