November 26, 2015

Word: Abolish the DEA

Daniel Denvir, Salon - We should eliminate the Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency that has so much trouble holding employees accountable that, as USA Today reported earlier this year, it failed to fire “agents who investigators found attended ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes paid with drug cartel money while they were on assignment in Colombia.”

The DEA was recently the subject of another damning USA Today investigation, this one revealing a dragnet domestic wiretap program that appears to use a plaint state court judge to get around federal laws. The DEA, according to USA Today, has “built a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs, secretly intercepting tens of thousands of Americans’ phone calls and text messages to monitor drug traffickers across the United States despite objections from Justice Department lawyers who fear the practice may not be legal.” One state court judge in Riverside County, Calif., who previously work as the county’s chief narcotics prosecutor, authorized nearly all of the intercepted calls in question, an unknown but apparently very large number being DEA-related, totaling “more than 2 million conversations involving 44,000 people.”

Last year, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez “signed off on almost five times as many wiretaps as any other judge in the United States.”

The wiretaps are supposed to be closely related to Riverside but are in fact being used, sometimes secretly, for nationwide enforcement operations.

The program looks so sketchy, in fact, that Justice Department lawyers in Los Angeles “have mostly refused to use the results in federal court because they have concluded the state court’s eavesdropping orders are unlikely to withstand a legal challenge.” That they are at least sometimes kept secret—because of a practice called “parallel construction” where agents use sketchy wiretaps to find evidence, and then use that evidence as the basis to tip off other investigators to develop independent evidence on a suspect—means that they won’t have to.

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