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Drug charges may have false investigative trails ordered by DEA

Most Americans seem to prefer ignoring charges of excessive government surveillance in favor of preserving a less challenging personal comfort zone. After all, the surveillance is intended to catch terrorists. We now learn that a secret unit of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is providing information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to agents in Louisiana and nationwide to engender criminal drug charges against Americans. This doesn’t involve national security, but the agency nonetheless forbids reference to its involvement.

Thus, according to documents reviewed by Reuters, federal agents are directed to hide the DEA source from defense lawyers, and sometimes from prosecutors and judges. They’re trained to “recreate” a whole new trail to the investigation. Some critics call this a denial of the right to a fair trial. Without correct information, defense counsel is prevented from presenting a full defense.

One Harvard Law School professor and former federal judge said that the DEA program targets drug charges and not terrorists. Special rules and ‘false investigations’ don’t belong in the realm of ordinary crime. But the DEA secret unit, called the Special Operations Division, or SOD, requires agents to use ‘normal investigative techniques’ to recreate the information provided by SOD.

Also, SOD assists in that recreation by telling agents to go to a place at a set time to make an arrest. A pretextual reason is created for stopping a vehicle, for example. After drugs are found inside, the pretextual traffic stop would be the official beginning of the investigation. The training document reviewed by Reuters calls this “parallel construction”. Former or current federal agents interviewed by Reuters confirmed they had used parallel construction, but most seemed to think there was nothing wrong in fabricating a trail.

Louisiana procedures for initiating drug charges have never before been connected with such an arguably fraudulent procedure. A number of defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using parallel construction may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying useful evidence. Prominent lawyers and bar officials used words like outrageous, indefensible, alarming, and unconstitutional in reaction to the program. DEA officials indicated that SOD has been subjected to internal review processes, but they would not share the latest review with Reuters.

Source: Business Insider, “DEA Agents Are Told To Cover Up Spying Program Used Against Americans,” John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Aug. 5, 2013

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