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Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They Aren’t Up To No Good

Many of the folks that I know who worked for the NSA can recall USSID 18, summed up by Wikipedia:

NSA’s United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18 (USSID 18) strictly prohibited the interception or collection of information about “… U.S. persons, entities, corporations or organizations….” without explicit written legal permission from the United States Attorney General when the subject is located abroad, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when within U.S. borders. Alleged Echelon-related activities, including its use for motives other than its national security, including political and industrial espionage, received criticism from countries outside the UKUSA alliance.  Wikipedia

Evidently, such restraint is a thing of the past.   The Washington Post featured a story this week about how the NSA is funneling information about Americans to other law enforcement agencies.  These “tips” are then obfuscated as the source of the information while, the DEA for instance, attempts to develop a parallel line of investigation to reproduce whatever probable cause was uncovered by the signal intelligence exploits of the NSA.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been the recipient of multiple tips from the NSA. DEA officials in a highly secret office called the Special Operations Division are assigned to handle these incoming tips, according to Reuters. Tips from the NSA are added to a DEA database that includes “intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records.” This is problematic because it appears to break down the barrier between foreign counterterrorism investigations and ordinary domestic criminal investigations.

Why should we be concerned?  Well, according to Reuters

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.

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.

There’s obviously nothing to be concerned about here, after all, the ends justifies the means…. doesn’t it?  It’s a short hop from here to simply fabricating the “evidence” needed.  After all, if you “know” that the person being charged did something, why bother with the technical details of our judicial system … you know, the one that says innocent until “proven” guilty.  Heck, we can’t have the accused get access to the “evidence” of their guilt if it’s classified, after all.

A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. “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,” the agent said. 

After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.”

We should just “trust” the government and forget all these silly legal niceties.  The government would never abuse its power, or use agencies to go after political opponents … except perhaps when a man like Richard Nixon or Barack Obama is in office.


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