The more we learn about the antics of our national intelligence apparatus the more we are left with the image of a bunch of smart guys operating with no sense of boundaries or propriety. Rather than being servants to and guardians of the the people they have striven to become our masters.
When Edward Snowden alleged that he, as a low level IT technician, could access communications by virtually anyone simply by asking there was a howling from the general direction of Fort Meade, MD that this was not true. Because FISA Courts. Because The Constitution. Subsequent reporting by Glenn Greenwald (or one of his sock puppets. it is really hard to tell… ) indicates that Snowden was more right than wrong.
When the NSA’s deputy director, Chris Inglis, testified on July 17, he revealed that the NSA surveillance program not only extends to potential terrorists but extends to three degrees of separation. This means that as many of 2.5 million persons, Americans and foreign, become subject to surveillance based on any suspect conversation.
For a sense of scale, researchers at the University of Milan found in 2011 that everyone on the Internet was, on average, 4.74 steps away from anyone else. The NSA explores relationships up to three of those steps. (See our conversation with the ACLU’s Alex Abdo on this.)
Now the information develop from this system seems to have bled into regular law enforcement activities.
Reuters on Monday detailed how the Special Operative Division – a unit within the DEA comprising representatives of two dozen agencies including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security – passes tips from wiretaps, informants and a database of telephone records to field agents to investigate and arrest criminals. Reuters reports that, although such cases rarely involve national security issues, the DEA agents using the tips are trained to “recreate” the source of the criminal investigation to conceal its true origin from defence lawyers, prosecutors and judges.
This is how the system works.
One former federal agent who received tips from the SOD described the process to Reuters. He told how he would instruct state police to find an excuse to stop a certain vehicle on which they had information, and then have drug dogs search it. After an arrest was made, agents would then pretend that the investigation began as a result of the traffic stop, and not because of the information the SOD had passed on.
A training document quoted by Reuters described the practice whereby agents would “recreate” the source of the investigation, as “parallel construction”. A dozen current or former federal agents interviewed by Reuters confirmed they had relied on parallel construction.
What “parallel construction” does is create a system where information obtained via an illegal fishing expedition is sanitized to allow for an arrest. Because neither the judge signing the search warrant nor the officers making the arrest know the source of the information it is impossible for a defendant to challenge the evidence that led to their arrest.
This, quite simply, is the beginning of a police state. This, unlike terrorism, is an existential threat to the very existence of the republic and it must stop if we are not to end up serfs rather than citizens.