The newest revelations emerging from an investigation spurred by documents released by Edward Snowden suggest that the NSA is using DEA access to wiretaps to record personal information in several foreign countries, including recording every cell phone conversation to, from, and within the Bahamas, a democratic ally that appears not to have knowledge of or have consented to the plan and that has national laws specifically forbidding such interference. And that the NSA lied to Congress about the extent of the program.
In an amazing story by The Intercept, authors Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras explore SOMALGET, a subset of MYSTIC, an NSA program to monitor telecommunications around the globe, including Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya, and another nation left unnamed for fear of instigating violence, a group of countries representing more than 250 million people. The story is reminiscent of an investigation by Reuters last year showing agencies sharing information in a tactic called “parallel construction” to obscure the origins of information in criminal trials, tying the hands of defense attorneys.
The authors fear that if the NSA is using lawful intercepts made by the DEA under the auspices of intercepting the communications of specific drug kingpins to record the conversations of every private citizen in that country, it could seriously imperil foreign cooperation in international law enforcement efforts that may be needed in the fight against international terrorism and other concerns.
“DEA is actually one of the biggest spy operations there is,” said Finn Selander, a retired DEA special agent and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker is quoted as saying in the article. “Our mandate is not just drugs. We collect intelligence.”
Adding insult to injury, in a story not unsurprising to those familiar with the way drug prosecutions are run, the information obtained does not even seem to be being used against the dangerous drug kingpins and those who enable them one would hope would provide some justification for such efforts. Instead, according to the authors, ”an internal NSA presentation from 2013 recounts with pride how analysts used SOMALGET to locate an individual who ‘arranged Mexico-to-United States marijuana shipments’ through the U.S. Postal Service.”
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting in the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.