Following up on exclusive reporting from earlier this week about how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency uses NSA surveillance data and tips from a secretive unit called the Special Operations Divisions (SOD) to initiate investigations, Reuters on Thursday reveals that the Internal Revenue Service was aware of and may have also used these “unconstitutional” tactics.
What’s troubling in both cases, according to legal experts, is the manner in which the agencies hide the true source of an investigation’s starting point—never revealing the use of the highly classified sources involved—and then “recreate” a parallel investigation to justify criminal findings.
Additionally troubling is that the IRS and the DEA are only two of the more than twenty federal agencies that work in tandem with the SOD, leading to speculation that the practice of utilizing than hiding surveillance techniques that have not been properly documented or approved could be far-reaching.
The IRS would not respond for comment on the Reuters investigation.
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According to the IRS document obtained which explains the program:
While the documents stipulates that such procedures should only be used for “drug trafficking” investigations, DEA agents told Reuters that the practice has now been used for “organized crime and drug trafficking.”
And that’s the problem, say critics, who note that surveillance operations like those developed by the NSA and the DEA are first said to only be used for counterterrorism, but then the public finds out they’re also being used for narcotics investigations. Next, new disclosures surface that criminal gangs are being targeted. Next, financial criminals. It appears a classic slippery slope.
Responding to the Reuters reporting from earlier in the week on the SOD program, former litigator and now journalist Glenn Greenwald told Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!:
Goodman also interview the Reuters reporter John Shiffman, who led the investigation. That entire conversation can be seen here:
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