Former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden caused a massive controversy—and a national debate—when he leaked classified documents revealing the extensity of NSA surveillance programs. But according to an exclusive report by Reuters, for the past two decades another U.S. agency has tapped huge amounts of data to investigate American citizens.
The Special Operations Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration has been taking data collected from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants, and NSA telephone records and giving that data to authorities across the country to launch criminal investigations into Americans.
But when it’s time to exchange evidence at pretrial discovery, the D.E.A. routinely conceals this information. Instead, federal agents are told to fabricate an alternate story to explain the investigation.
The D.E.A. has reportedly been using this process, called "parallel construction," for 20 years—and asserts that it’s legal. But these investigations often do not relate to terrorism, and the evidence collected is often unclassified.
John Shiffman, Reuters reporter and co-author of the story, joins us to discuss his findings. Nancy Gertner is a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. She joins us to explain the legal perspective on the D.E.A.'s "parallel construction" practice.