According to a report published by Reuters on Monday, a secret special unit within the Drug Enforcement Administration is using data from Internet and phone records obtained by the NSA to help launch investigations in the U.S. that are largely unrelated to national security issues. What’s more, local law enforcement agencies that have received information from the DEA unit have been instructed by the government to cover up where it originated from—pretending, for instance, that an investigation stemming from a random traffic stop led to the arrest of a drug suspect when in actuality it was facilitated by the agency’s secretive surveillance program.
The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
Today, much of the SOD’s work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive,” a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.
“Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function,” a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use “normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD.”
...two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to “recreate” an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.