DEA secretly uses NSA to prosecute crime

(By Deutsche Welle) Recent national security leaks have focused on NSA mass surveillance aimed at stopping acts of terrorism. But law enforcement may be secretly using information from intelligence agencies to prosecute organized crime.

A special unit of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has allegedly gleaned information from National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs to prosecute drug traffickers and organized crime, in a possible demonstration of growing cooperation between normal law enforcement and the US national security establishment.

According to reporting by the Reuters news agency, the DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD) sanitizes classified information for use by prosecutors in the US judicial system. But investigators are told to cover up the SOD’s footprint on cases through a technique called “parallel reconstruction.” The technique fakes the origins of sensitive information, giving the impression that SOD tips come from a different source.

The practice has raised concern that defendants are being denied basic constitutional rights to review the evidence against them. Some civil libertarians are also worried that SOD activities demonstrate an expansion of the national security and intelligence agencies’ involvement in the normal criminal justice system.

According to William C. Banks, law enforcement agencies such as the DEA are allowed to use evidence obtained through the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, so long as certain conditions are met. The practice is based on a lax interpretation of the US constitution’s fourth amendment, which normally protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

“The lower courts and the special FISA court have held that so long as the purpose of the surveillance is to collect foreign intelligence, then the protections of the fourth amendment are relaxed, because the intelligence collection itself does not anticipate the kind of criminal prosecution that would trigger more rigorous fourth amendment scrutiny,” Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University, told DW.

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Partner of journalist tied to NSA leaks held

(By Deutsche Welle) The partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald has been detained for nine hours by British officials under the United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act.

Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald claimed on Monday that the British security officials had questioned his boyfriend, 28-year-old David Miranda, about the Guardian newspaper’s recent reporting on national security leaks made by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Miranda, a Brazilian national, was passing through London’s Heathrow Airport when he was detained on Sunday. He was returning to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with Greenwald, after visiting US filmmaker Laura Poitras in Berlin. Poitras has worked with Greenwald on the Snowden leaks. Miranda’s trip to Berlin was financed by the Guardian.

A US journalist and lawyer, Greenwald is currently in possession of more than 15,000 secret documents leaked to him by Snowden. Greenwald’s reporting for the Guardian has publicly exposed once secret mass surveillance programs such as PRISM in the US and Tempora in the UK.

“This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ,” Greenwald wrote in an article published Monday on the Guardian’s website.

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Secret US court’s actions mired in controversy

(By Deutsche Welle) In the US, a special court decides in secret on government requests to monitor alleged terrorists. But some lawyers are concerned that post-9/11 reforms have undermined the judges’ ability to keep state power in check.

Although the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was originally designed to buttress US citizens’ constitutional rights, the secret judicial body has repeatedly sanctioned a broad expansion of domestic snooping by the federal government in the past five years.

Traditionally, the court ruled on government applications that targeted specific individuals suspected of being foreign agents. But last month, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed that domestic spying by the intelligence community has become increasingly indiscriminate.

Snowden leaked to the Guardian newspaper a secret court order, which had forced the telecom giant Verizon to open the phone records of its customers to the NSA. He later revealed the PRISM surveillance program, which collects and stores Internet communications in NSA databases in the hunt for terrorism suspects.

“The FISA court today spends a lot of time signing off on these general government surveillance programs, and for better or worse they’re not in a position to look at individual cases to decide whether there is individualized suspicion,” Stephen I. Vladeck, an expert on national security law with American University in Washington D.C., told DW.

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Shooting the messenger: Snowden, PRISM and our post-September 11 future

America’s newspapers are supposed to fight for freedom of speech and transparency in government, both at home and abroad. But when it comes to whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA’s massive surveillance program, they are rolling over and retreating.

The editorial pages of both the Washington Post and the New York Times seem more concerned with national security than civil liberties. It’s an unfortunate sign of the times that even on the pages of such esteemed beneficiaries of the First Amendment, one finds so many voices championing such a significant expansion of state power, while only paying lip service to the shrinking space in the public debate devoted to our rights as citizens.

Take, for example, Thomas Friedman’s knee jerk ‘remember 9-11’ reaction to the leak. Friedman is one of America’s most respected journalists, a man who made his career covering the Arab-Israeli conflict. Looking back, his  book  “From Beirut to Jerusalem” is probably one of the reasons why I’m pursuing journalism today. But Friedman, who supported the Iraq War, has been something of a hawk since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“…I do wonder if some of those who unequivocally defend this disclosure are behaving as if 9/11 never happened – that the only thing we have to fear is government intrusion in our lives, not the intrusion of those who gather in secret cells in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan…,” Friedman wrote in his June 11 New York Times opinion piece.

Who can pretend that 9-11 didn’t happen? We have collectively chosen to let the event define our future. The Western and Muslim words have been watching tragedy unfold day after day for the past decade, from suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices to torture, rendition and drone strikes. And this NSA program is only latest evidence that the “long war” may be both boundless and endless. Mr. Friedman wonders if those of us who support the disclosure and oppose PRISM remember 9-11. Yes, we all remember 9-11. Some of us are just trying very hard not to forget the Constitution as a consequence.

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