Federal drug agents are being instructed to conceal the involvement of a secret Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) unit during the course of their investigations, a unit which helps law enforcement launch criminal investigations of Americans, Reuters reports.
The unit forwards tips acquired from the National Security Agency, “wiretaps by foreign governments, court-approved domestic wiretaps and a database called DICE to federal agents and local law enforcement officers,” Reuters reports.
Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, created in 1994, including the CIA, FBI, Internal Revenue Service, National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
Through a decades-old law enforcement technique called “parallel construction,” law enforcement officials pretend that their investigation began with something like a traffic stop, during which the agent discovered incriminating evidence by use of a tool like a drug dog.
The technique “may be legal” in order to establish probable cause for an investigation, defense lawyers and prosecutors told the publication, but it is kept secret in order to protect sources and methods.
“But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants,” wrote Reuters.
“DEA officials who oversee the unit say the information sent to law enforcement authorities was obtained through subpoena, court order and other legal means,” said Reuters.
Justice Department policy, revealed in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, is that it does not need to seek a warrant when investigating the electronic communications of Americans.
On July 12, the Justice Department announced that federal prosecutors “can no longer obtain search warrants for information obtained by journalists unless a reporter is the subject of a criminal investigation for conduct unrelated to news gathering,” CNN reported.