DEA Surveillance Called Into Question
A new report by Reuters has highlighted the efforts of a special DEA unit gathering information to “launch criminal investigations of Americans,” but this unit, known as the Special Operations Division (SOD), is nothing new.
As this Empty Wheel article notes, the SOD was born out of a Kingpin Strategy in the 1990s and has launched several campaigns against drug use in the United States.
“In 1992, the DEA instituted the Kingpin Strategy to attack the drug organizations at their most vulnerable areas—the chemicals needed to process the drugs, their finances, transportation, communications, and leadership infrastructure here in the United States,” the DEA summary report reads. “Under the original Kingpin Strategy, DEA headquarters often dictated the selection of Kingpin targets. In response to the SACs’ [Special Agent in Charge] concerns, Administrator Constantine agreed to allow them more latitude in target selection. In conjunction with this decision, he established the Special Operations Division at Newington, Virginia, in 1994 to coordinate multi-jurisdictional investigations against major drug trafficking organizations responsible for the flow of drugs into the United States.”
The true highlight of the Reuters article is then, not that this organization exists, but that the organization might be side-stepping citizens’ constitutional rights to a fair trial.
“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,” the article reads. “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.”
With the recent NSA scandal, the fact that the DEA is collecting such information might seem rather unremarkable, but disguising how investigations begin and convicting citizens without this information seems downright unconstitutional.