Justice Department reviewing DEA’s shielding of sources

USA Today on August 5, 2013 released the following:

By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

“WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is reviewing law enforcement techniques used by the Drug Enforcement Administration that shield some initial sources for criminal investigations from being disclosed in court, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

The review, prompted by a Monday Reuters news agency report, centers on the activities of the DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD).

Citing undated training documents, the report states that federal agents have been directed in some cases to conceal sensitive information — triggering the start of inquiries — from disclosure to defense attorneys and, in some instances, prosecutors and judges.

“I would refer you to the Department of Justice on this,” Carney said. “And beyond that, I can tell that it’s my understanding … that the Department of Justice is looking at some of the issues raised in the story.”

The documents, according to the report, instruct agents on a technique known as “parallel construction,” which effectively shields the actual source of the information that leads investigators to potential criminal activity and possible suspects.

Jerry Cox, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the practice represents “perjury.”

“When you lie about something, you are giving a parallel story,” Cox said. “If you did it or I did it, we would be punished for perjury.”

“These latest reports are particularly troubling for accused persons who cannot vindicate fundamental constitutional rights without access to accurate and complete information,” Cox said. “This puts liberty at risk of being lost without due process of law, which is an affront to the Constitution.”

The SOD, according to a 2007 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, is “integral in the coordination of major DEA cases” and was initially created to target major drug cartels.

“The SOD is a repository for phone numbers used or called by persons who are part of a DEA investigation,” the inspector general’s report stated. “The SOD uses a database to collect these phone numbers and can connect cases with hits on the same phone numbers. This allows the DEA to link cases investigated by different offices across the country and throughout the world.”

“According to DEA foreign and domestic personnel whom we interviewed, the SOD’s activities are critical to the DEA attacking the command and control structures of major drug trafficking organizations,” the inspector general’s report stated.

A DEA official defended the techniques Monday, saying “They have gone on for many years and have been briefed, approved, endorsed and supported across the government.”

The official, who is not authorized to discuss the subject publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the strategy is used to protect sources or methods that could be compromised if they were disclosed.

“We do not instruct anyone to lie,” the official said. “It’s building an investigation another way to confirm a tip or lead” based on a source or method that cannot be disclosed.

DEA agents are actively creating fake investigative trails to disguise where the information originated, a scheme that prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and others are arguing has robbed defendants of their right to a fair trial. Hundreds or thousands of cases could be affected.

The Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for the legalization of marijuana and supports treatment rather than incarceration for drug offenders, said the DEA’s actions have effectively “robbed defendants” of their rights to fair trials.

“The DEA increasingly qualifies as a rogue agency – one that Congress needs to immediately investigate,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the alliance’s executive director.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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