Details of a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) program that is funneling information to authorities were published in a manual used by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents. A 350-word entry in the IRS manual told agents how to “omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files,” Reuters reports.
On Monday, it was reported that the “secretive” DEA unit has been funneling information from “intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations.”
Federal agents are then instructed on how to cover up the investigative trail leading back to the DEA Special Operations Division (SOD). In interviews over the last week, at least a dozen current or former agents said they had used “parallel construction” to cover the investigative trail to how a case began.
Parallel construction is a term used by agents to describe the process of creating an alternate investigative trail, or creating another means by which they gained information to start a case.
The IRS is only one of several government agencies receiving information from the DEA, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
While not all of the distributed information is classified, Reuters reports that the IRS document provides further details as to the parallel construction directive:
“Special Operations Division has the ability to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate information and intelligence derived from worldwide multi-agency sources, including classified projects,” the document states. “SOD converts extremely sensitive information into usable leads and tips which are then passed to the field offices for real-time enforcement activity against major international drug trafficking organizations.”
Though the IRS document specifies that SOD information may only be used for drug investigations, DEA officials told Reuters that SOD’s role “has recently expanded to organized crime and money laundering.”
Parallel construction has not been thoroughly tested in court; however, defense attorneys and some judges say that hiding potential evidence or the origin of an investigation from defendants is a violation of the Constitution and would be indefensible.
“Officials have stressed that the NSA and DEA telephone databases are distinct,” according to the report. The DEA’s database, known as DICE, includes about 1 billion records consisting of phone log and internet data gathered legally by the DEA through “subpoenas, arrests, and search warrants nationwide,” DEA officials told Reuters.