The veils on the National Security Agency’s surveillance program continue to be torn off.
Today, in yet another shocking revelation, Reuters reported that the NSA has been secretly giving information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants, and phone records to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in order to help it launch criminal investigations of Americans. Law enforcement agents are instructed to cover up the source of their information.
The unit that distributes the NSA’s information is called the Special Operations Division. The SOD, Reuters reports, is made up of two dozen partner agencies and was initially created to battle Latin America drug cartels.
Reuters wrote that the SOD distributes tips to DEA officials, who then have to conceal the source of their information. They do this by “recreating” an investigative trail through a process called “parallel construction,” in what appears to be an alarming violation of Constitutional rights and privacy.
“Its use, legal experts say, raises fundamental questions about whether the government is concealing information used to investigate and help build criminal cases against American citizens,” Reuters reported.
News broke earlier this year about the NSA and FBI’s massive dragnet allowing these agencies to collect, aggregate, and analyze phone records and data from Internet companies including Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google, as part of a surveillance program named PRISM as well as metadata like device and location information via a sister service, BLARNEY. The scope of the surveillance efforts continues to widen. Last week NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden released a top secret slide deck on XKeyScore, a program that gives the NSA the capability to wiretap anyone, see real-time Internet browsing, monitor Facebook chat, and more.
The New York Times recently reported that all these spying programs have created tension and turf battles with other federal intelligence agencies, which want to use the NSA’s surveillance tools for their own investigations:
Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the security agency’s vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say. Intelligence officials say they have been careful to limit the use of the security agency’s troves of data and eavesdropping spyware for fear they could be misused in ways that violate Americans’ privacy rights.
This latest discovery shows that this data is actually being used by domestic agencies, and that they are lying about it.