By Juan Cole
By Juan Cole
|Photo Credit: By Pete Souza [Public domain], |
via Wikimedia Commons
In a Reuters Exclusive, John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke reveal that the National Security Agency shares information it gleans from warrantless surveillance of Americans with the Special Operation Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which then uses the metadata to develop cases against US citizens. The DEA then routinely lies to the judge and defense attorneys during discovery about how its agents initially came by their suspicions of wrongdoing. But you could imagine a situation where a young woman repeatedly called a boyfriend who was secretly known to the DEA to be a drug dealer, but whose crimes were unknown to her. And you could imagine law enforcement entrapping her into making a small drug buy. And then you could imagine their secretly basing their case against her in part on her phone calls to a known dealer. But this latter information would be denied to her defense attorney and the judge, making it harder to discern the entrapment.
All these stories about the government's quest for Total Information Awareness about the phone calls, email, internet searches, etc. of 312 million ordinary Americans raise some questions in my mind. There are so many things about these stories that don't make sense.
The government says that they need everyone's phone records because they want to see who calls known overseas terrorists from the US. But if the NSA had a telephone number of a terrorist abroad and wanted to see if it was called from the US, why couldn't it just ask the telephone company for the record of everyone who called it? It isn't true that it would take too much time. It would be instant. Obviously, the government wants the telephone records of millions of Americans for some other reason.
If the real reason they are getting our phone records from the phone companies is to check for drug sales and other petty crime inside the US not related to terrorism, and if they are lying to judges about how they initially came to know of these crimes, aren't the NSA, DEA and other government officials violating the Constitutional guarantee of due process? Are they focusing on drug buys because law enforcement can confiscate the property of drug dealers, whereas busting other kinds of crime actually costs time and money? And, hasn't their dishonesty and its revelation just put in danger thousands of drug convictions?
If the NSA and FBI have all the phone records, bank account information and credit card transactions of everyone, why haven't they been able to find any bankers or financiers who engaged in illegal activity while they were plunging ordinary Americans into poverty and homelessness with the Depression of 2008-2009? After all, they seem to have been able to discover illegal activity by former New York governor Elliott Spitzer, by illegally spying on his bank accounts. Was Spitzer, who was trying to crack down on Wall Street, the only prominent figure in New York engaged in such activities? Maybe some Masters of the Universe on Wall Street were, too? Surely there are telephone, bank and credit card records
showing the guilt of the latter?