Domestic Spying Is Dangerous to Freedom
DHS, the DoJ, the DoD, the DEA, the CIA, the IRS, and the FBI are all in on it.
Andrew Napolitano | August 8, 2013
How is it that the government can charge Edward Snowden with espionage for telling a journalist that the feds have been spying on all Americans and many of our allies, but the NSA itself, in a public relations campaign intended to win support for its lawlessness, can reveal secrets and do so with impunity? That question goes to the heart of the rule of law in a free society.
Since Snowden’s June 6th revelations about massive NSA spying, we have learned that all Americans who communicate via telephone or the Internet (who doesn’t?) have had all of their communications swept up by the federal government for two-plus years. The government initially claimed that the NSA has gathered only telephone numbers and billing data. Now we know that the NSA has captured and stored the content of trillions of telephone conversations, texts and emails, and can access that content at the press of a few computer keys. All of this happened in the dark, with the permission of President Obama, with the knowledge and consent of fewer than 20 members of Congress who were forbidden from doing anything about it by the laws they themselves had written, and based on secret legal arguments accepted by a secret court that keeps its records secret even from the judges who sit on the court.
This massive spying — metadata gathering, as the NSA calls it — was also done notwithstanding statements NSA officials made in public under oath and in secret classified briefings to Congress, which effectively denied it. The denials were in one case admitted to — "least untruthful," as the director of national intelligence later called his own testimony. Then, when even members of Congress who usually support a muscular national security apparatus realized that they, too, had been lied to by the NSA, the NSA responded with its own leaks.
It has leaked, for example, that as a consequence of its spying it has prevented at least 50 foreign-originated plots from harming Americans. It eventually backed off that number and declined to reveal with specificity what it independently learned and how that knowledge foiled the plots. But we do know that its colleagues in the FBI were participants in many of those plots, which means they weren’t real plots at all — just government stings going after dopes and dupes.
Last week, the NSA leaked that it captured actionable intelligence of grave and imminent danger to our embassies in the Middle East. The implication it wants you to draw here is that because it caught al-Qaida operatives talking in code in Yemen about deadly deeds they plan to perpetrate in the Arabian Peninsula, somehow the NSA’s spying on 300 million innocent Americans is constitutional, lawful, effective and therefore worth the loss of freedom.
Earlier this week, we learned that other federal agencies of alphabet nomenclature — the DHS, the DoJ, the DoD, the DEA, the CIA, the IRS, the FBI — all want access to the NSA’s database, and it has shared some of it with most of them. Also this week, former DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agents, claiming this has been going on for at least a decade, acknowledged that the DEA regularly receives raw data from the NSA and uses that data to commence criminal investigations.
Down the slippery slope we go.
The whole NSA spying apparatus was sold to Congress as a limited mechanism for combating foreign terrorists. How putting the intimate thoughts of all Americans who use telephones and the Internet under the federal microscope helps to fight foreign terrorists has never been explained in a public court — only in a secret one. But using this extra-constitutional means to fight crime brings us closer to a Soviet-style and value-free police state.
The Constitution intentionally has placed values in the path of law enforcement and national security so as to maintain our natural rights. Those values are generally articulated throughout the Constitution and specifically addressed in the Fourth Amendment. The linchpin of those values is the natural right to be left alone. All persons — even bad guys — have that inalienable right, and the government may only invade that right when it can identify a bad guy and articulate the probable cause it has to believe he is committing criminal acts. The rest of us — those for whom there is no probable cause of criminal acts — retain that right, and it cannot be taken away from us by the supine acquiescence of Congress or an unnamed judge in a secret court. That constitutional requirement — and that requirement alone — has kept Americans free from Soviet-style persecutions.
Now comes Obama, who is quarterbacking the most massive end run around the Constitution in modern times by invading everyone’s right to be left alone in the name of national security, but in reality for any governmental purpose the government wishes. And for the unfortunate people whose criminal prosecutions have commenced from the NSA’s supposedly anti-terror spying, the feds are refusing to reveal to lawyers what the source of the negative information against them was. That, of course, violates the constitutionally protected right to confront all of one’s accusers, especially those who have been paid for their accusations.
What’s going on here?
It is painfully obvious that the government is not troubled by its own violation of the Constitution. The people in the government who have done this are far more concerned with their retention of power than they are with protecting our personal liberties. That explains their perverse view that when Snowden frustrates them with a whistle-blowing leak, he can be prosecuted, but when they rebut him with their own leaks, they are to be lauded. That is not the rule of law in a free society.
What will the NSA spies seek next? Our passwords? We already know the answer to that one. They asked for them last week.
Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA’s use of hidden intel evidence
By John Shiffman and David Ingram
WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 7, 2013 11:29pm BST
(Reuters) – Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defence lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.
As Reuters reported Monday, the Special Operations Division of the DEA funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. The DEA phone database is distinct from a NSA database disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Monday’s Reuters report cited internal government documents that show that law enforcement agents have been trained to conceal how such investigations truly begin – to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up the original source of the information.
DEA officials said the practice is legal and has been in near-daily use since the 1990s. They have said that its purpose is to protect sources and methods, not to withhold evidence.
Defence attorneys and some former judges and prosecutors say that systematically hiding potential evidence from defendants violates the U.S. Constitution. According to documents and interviews, agents use a procedure they call "parallel construction" to recreate the investigative trail, stating in affidavits or in court, for example, that an investigation began with a traffic infraction rather than an SOD tip.
The IRS document offers further detail on the parallel construction program.
"Special Operations Division has the ability to collect, collate, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate information and intelligence derived from worldwide multi-agency sources, including classified projects," the IRS document says. "SOD converts extremely sensitive information into usable leads and tips which are then passed to the field offices for real-time enforcement activity against major international drug trafficking organizations."
The 2005 IRS document focuses on SOD tips that are classified and notes that the Justice Department "closely guards the information provided by SOD with strict oversight." While the IRS document says that SOD information may only be used for drug investigations, DEA officials said the SOD role has recently expanded to organized crime and money laundering.
According to the document, IRS agents are directed to use the tips to find new, "independent" evidence: "Usable information regarding these leads must be developed from such independent sources as investigative files, subscriber and toll requests, physical surveillance, wire intercepts, and confidential source information. Information obtained from SOD in response to a search or query request cannot be used directly in any investigation (i.e. cannot be used in affidavits, court proceedings or maintained in investigative files)."
The IRS document makes no reference to SOD’s sources of information, which include a large DEA telephone and Internet database.
CONCERN IN CONGRESS
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, expressed concern with the concept of parallel construction as a method to hide the origin of an investigation. His comments came on the Mike Huckabee Show radio program.
"If they’re recreating a trail, that’s wrong and we’re going to have to do something about it," said Rogers, a former FBI agent. "We’re working with the DEA and intelligence organizations to try to find out exactly what that story is."
Spokespeople for the DEA and the Department of Justice declined to comment.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said he was troubled that DEA agents have been "trying to cover up a program that investigates Americans."
"National security is one of government’s most important functions. So is protecting individual liberty," Paul said. "If the Constitution still has any sway, a government that is constantly overreaching on security while completely neglecting liberty is in grave violation of our founding doctrine."
Officials have stressed that the NSA and DEA telephone databases are distinct. The NSA database, disclosed by Snowden, includes data about every telephone call placed inside the United States. An NSA official said that database is not used for domestic criminal law enforcement.
The DEA database, called DICE, consists largely of phone log and Internet data gathered legally by the DEA through subpoenas, arrests and search warrants nationwide. DICE includes about 1 billion records, and they are kept for about a year and then purged, DEA officials said.
(Research by Hilary Shroyer of West, a Thomson Reuters business. Additional reporting by David Lawder. Edited by Michael Williams)