Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Welcome to Law Enforcement’s “Dark Side”: Secret Evidence, Illegal Searches, and Dubious Traffic Stops

FEDERAL AGENTS AT the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration speak in veiled terms about the secret DEA unit that shares intelligence from the National Security Agency and other organizations with law enforcement for use in criminal investigations. They call it the “Dark Side.”

The Special Operations Division receives raw intelligence from the NSA’s surveillance programs, including from the mass surveillance programs revealed in documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. DEA agents in this unit then analyze the surveillance data and disseminate leads to federal and local police nationwide. But the information comes with a catch. Law enforcement can’t use it to secure search warrants or in any way reveal the intelligence community as the source of their leads. Instead, they must find another way to justify their searches and broader investigations.

The DEA’s Special Operations Division is one of several tools the government uses to hide the origins of criminal investigations nationwide, in potential violation of constitutional protections. In a report released today, “Dark Side: Secret Origins of Evidence in U.S. Criminal Cases,” Human Rights Watch documents the use of parallel construction by federal and local police agencies, finding the practice is used in the United States “frequently and possibly even daily.”


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