As if it wasn’t bad enough that the government is listening in on all your phone calls and emails in the name of fighting terrorism, it now looks like they are actually using this information in order to fight regular crime.
Regardless of how you feel about this, it is clearly unconstitutional. The government is specifically and emphatically not allowed to search, tap your phones, read your emails, or otherwise spy on you with out a good cause. Most of the time, this means a warrant.
Making this even worse, the government is systematically lying about the use of this information in the ensuing legal trials. This violates the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees that a defendant can to see the evidence used against them and cross examine their accusers:
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. 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.
“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.
“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”
How does this work? A former federal agent who regularly received tips from the Special Operations Division (SOD) of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describes the process like this:
You’d be told only, “Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.” And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it. … After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip.
The vice-chair of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association says “That’s outrageous. It strikes me as indefensible.”
If the government is willing to regularly lie in court about evidence, what else will they lie about? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, drug prohibition is making a mockery of our justice system.