back to article US taxmen told to hush up shadowy drug squad unit laundering NSA intel

A manual for America's taxmen detailing US drug squads' access to NSA intelligence has emerged - and revealed that the controversial supply of information has been an open secret in government for years. Reuters reports that the handbook, which was issued to IRS tax collectors between 2005 and 2006, instructs officials to omit …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > DEA officials have since defended the practice as lawful and said it was designed to safeguard sources and methods, and not to withhold evidence from defendants and their lawyers.

    Lawful as long as the evidence is not tainted and therefore possibly unreliable or even inadmissible.

    This is the big problem with fudging the evidence trail. It borders on perjury.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Borders on?????


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It may be perjury

      I bet a lot of convictions will end up back in court over tainted testimony about sources. A good amount of probable cause is going to be thrown out.

      Shame on the Feds for being so bent!

      1. Tom 13

        Re: It may be perjury

        Back in court? Sadly, back in court may be the best prosecutors can hope for.

        Last night during the talking heads segment on Fox News Judge Napolitano noted that any conviction resulting from that data is legally required to be vacated. Any evidence gathered as a result of it is likely to be suppressed in future trials. The prosecutor might not have enough evidence left to hold a trial.

        Yes, I'd like to see data gathered as part of national intelligence operations included as background information for the DEA. Possibly even specific tips. But the rules for doing that need to be clearly defined after public discussion. Doing it and lying about it isn't acceptable.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: It may be perjury

          "Judge Napolitano noted that any conviction resulting from that data is legally required to be vacated. Any evidence gathered as a result of it is likely to be suppressed in future trials. The prosecutor might not have enough evidence left to hold a trial."

          There could still be a trial - of the perjurors, but that's unlikely to happen any time soon. The LEO community protect their own.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It may be perjury

        "I bet a lot of convictions will end up back in court over tainted testimony about sources. A good amount of probable cause is going to be thrown out."

        Not just stateside either. UK police used GCGQ to walktz around surveillance warrant requirements.

        I have no doubt that most of the cases involved involve actual hardened criminals - people who shouldn't be, but WILL be released back onto the streets as a direct result of corrupt behaviour by LEO.

    3. Captain DaFt

      Border? Crashed it like a runaway freight train!

      So it's common knowledge among the officials involved that this is going on.

      How long (happened already?), that a feeble fake backtrail is used to railroad an innocent someone that has offended certain parties.

      The judge allows it because he got the "wink and nod" that the real trail was classified, when the whole thing is a sham?

      How can you tell the difference between, "manufactured back trail" and "outright lie"?

      You can't, without a proper clearance, and a "need to know*", can you?

    4. Eddy Ito

      g-men were trained to "recreate" the investigative trail

      Ah, smell that? It has that fruit of the poisonous tree stench with a bit of bovine excrement tossed on top in hopes a rose will bloom.

    5. Oninoshiko

      The problem is, the minute you forge the chain of custody, you AUTOMATICALLY taint it.

      Also, perjury (which is what anyone who knowing signed off on any of this committed) is not well received in the eyes of most courts, and rases a resonable doubt that they would be willing to make up any lie to uphold per^H^H^Hprosecution.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's how much they twist the law!

    Of course "they" are spying on us, in defiance of the law, but it's how they twist the day to hide that which worries me. Anyone with so little respect for the law and even the Constitution shouldn't have access to our data like this.

    This issue gets worse as the days go by. Congress needs to act. We need a comprehensive privacy law.

    1. asdf

      Re: It's how much they twist the law!

      But they only spy for national security, then they only spy for drug cases, and soon it will be well they spy for political reasons as well. You know like they did during Watergate but back then people were educated enough to understand the implications.

    2. gkroog

      Re: It's how much they twist the law!

      A comprehensive privacy law? What good will a law do when the constitution of the United States is blatantly disregarded by the government of the United States? THAT's the method that the IRS and the courts are being told to keep confidential...

      "DEA officials have since defended the practice as lawful and said it was designed to safeguard sources and methods, and not to withhold evidence from defendants and their lawyers." So defendants and their lawyers were told that their constitutional rights had been used as toilet paper? Nope! The "sources" being safeguarded are the NSA and the "methods" being safeguarded are the violation of the rights of US citizens.

      This was done to prevent the defendants and their lawyers appealing for the evidence to be thrown out on the grounds that its unconstitutional. And since it was an "open secret in government," can we believe that no judge ever heard of it? Can we believe that those judges didn't understand it could happen in their courtroom and probe the evidence appearing accordingly?

      Maybe that is true, but that doesn't make things any better. It just means that law enforcement agencies have, with government authority, been lying to the courts for almost a decade now. That means that whatever their good intentions, they have been undermining the foundation of America and covering that with lies. And that isn't just going to go away. Its going to get worse. The American people need to remind their government that they elected them, and they can put them out of office if they see fit. They need to do it before the government tries to take that from them too.

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: It's how much they twist the law!

      Congress has acted, was that your point? They approved the good work of the NSA. By a rather small margin.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's how much they twist the law!

        'Look into' these issues raised by the Reuters reporters, or 'look into' the Rueters reporters?

  3. asdf

    friggin government

    Every American taxpayer should be pissed for no other reason that this will discourage people earning money on the black and grey market to pay their fair share. Considering the black and grey market easily account for %20 of the economy not a smart move.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: friggin government

      I think you're hitting home on this. They could also be doing this to control those markets, not necessarily to attack them or uphold the law. Way I see it, if they want to sell firearms by the Kilo (or bombs, secrets, etc.), this would help them conceal those activities. If they were investigated, everything would just hit a wall at some random dead end. It is near perfect crime, because we now know they are doing it, but we don't have a clue how. So while you and I should be considered about organized crime markets, this is sort of proof they still exist and holding strong!

  4. asdf

    "Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."

    Richard Nixon - Interview with David Frost (19 May 1977)

    People back then were horrified when he said that. Now its the friggin SOP of the executive branch of the US government. Our system blows. I love how we lecture the Chinese too like two shitty identical choices are better than no choice.

    1. Quxy

      Lecturing the Chinese

      I occasionally drop into some of the conversations about democracy on Weibo. These days, "Look how well democracy is working in America" is one of the strongest counter-arguments in favour of 中国特色社会主义 (Chinese Socialism).

      1. asdf

        Re: Lecturing the Chinese

        I still believe representative government is the only government compatible with capitalism long term but since neither the US or China have it right now we shall see.

        1. Christoph

          Re: Lecturing the Chinese

          I still believe representative government is the only government compatible with capitalism

          But is capitalism, especially in its current form, compatible with representative democracy?

          1. Rukario

            Capitalism in its current form

            You mean "crony capitalism", shortened to "crapitalism".

          2. James Micallef Silver badge

            Re: Lecturing the Chinese

            "capitalism, especially in its current form"

            In it's current form, it's not capitalism, it's a bastard hybrid of piracy (in the "take whatever I can lay my hands on" sense) and feudalism (elites have a different set of rules to play by than everyone else).

            Real capitalism has a level playing field for everyone. Real capitalism with 'perfect' markets depends on a free flow of public data, not having insiders know all the details that the public is ignorant of. Real capitalism rewards entrepreneurship ie building companies that add economic value to society, not stock market gambling with other people's money and extracting as much money as possible from companies and pocketing it while destroying the company.

            1. Rukario

              Re: Lecturing the Chinese

              Capitalism works when you have large numbers of both buyers and sellers. When buyers or sellers go down to relatively few, you end up with oligopolies or monopolies, and those few (or one) end up with undue amounts of power, and can manipulate capitalism to further benefit themselves.

              At that point, as Adam Smith pointed out almost a quarter of a millennium ago, "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary." Crony capitalism.

  5. Tom 35


    An NSA official told Reuters that its database is not used for domestic law enforcement.

    He then asked if anyone was interested in some prime beach front property in Florida, or some DrOz fat melter.

    1. gkroog

      Re: Sure

      Or some good ol' 'Murican snake oil?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's OK, I'm innocent

    But the evidence that proves it is secret, so you'll just have to believe me.

    What? It doesn't work both ways? I'm shocked!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When government agencies begin lying to the courts that regulate them then anything is justifiable.

    Stop this madness, now.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amendment IV of the US Bill of Rights

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Hard for secret laws and secret courts to get around that one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amendment IV of the US Bill of Rights

      Oh it's very easy. First you declare that the constitution doesn't apply "at the border" and that you are constitutionally allowed to do so because "at the border" is essentially the same as "outside the united states". Then you redefine the border to be 100 miles deep, neatly encompassing the vast majority of the citizenry.

      The DHS did it in 2006 and nobody complained:

      They can only have gotten bolder since.

      1. Irony Deficient

        “Constitution-free zone”

        Anonymous Coward of 18:54 GMT, see here.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. gkroog

      Re: Amendment IV of the US Bill of Rights

      I appreciate the clarity of your logic, and I would hope the citizens of the United States would too.

      But its not hard for secret laws and secret courts to get around the Bill of Rights when its so blatantly disregarded by the US government...

      Does a citizen of the United States want to employ their right to free speech and to freely assemble at a presidential appearance to make their support for one of the president's political opponents known? The government will want to herd them into "Free Speech Zones" ( They're obviously hoping that the people won't figure out that having their free speech limited to a zone means that its not really free. The logic is simple: if a US citizen is only allowed to freely assemble and speak in a certain zone, then 1.) they're not really free, and 2.) that means that any other zone is not a free speech zone. No freedom of assembly and speech there, your government has spoke, peasant!

      "Congress shall make no law... abridging... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." If the people assemble peaceably, what is the use of "Free Speech Zones"? And if the government will listen to their grievances and seek to resolve them, then the people should surely stay peaceable. And if anyone becomes violent, then arrest them. Thus "Free Speech Zones" (which are probably situated conveniently out of the way) obviously serve an agenda...

      And now its the right to privacy is being taken away too...

      1. Tom 13

        Re: ..Bill of Rights when its so blatantly disregarded by the US government.

        I have this weird schadenfreude as I read these complaints.

        The US Government has been disregarding the Constitution, and in particular the Fourth Amendment since at least the time of FDR. Reading the Fourth Amendment makes it pretty clear to me that it isn't okay for the government to steal your money to give to other people, no matter how much you might think they have some vague "human right" to that money because of their misfortune. But it was okay to pack SCOTUS over 4 terms until they finally "expanded" our understanding of rights to approve such theft on a routine basis. You don't get to where we are without a long trail of abuse. All in the name of minorities, the economically suppressed, or if all else fails, the children.

    4. Irony Deficient

      not hard at all to get around it

      Anonymous Coward of 18:42 GMT, see here.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a heads up.

    Contrary to popular belief, The USA is not a Democracy, It is a Democratic Republic, with the Supreme Court being final arbitraters over the law of the land.

    The House and Congress have allowed the NSA to set up a 'shadow court' that bypasses the POTUS.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, The US Government has been overthrown, and nobody even noticed!

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Just a heads up.

      A lot of people noticed. But us peons really can't do much about it, can we?

      1. perlcat

        Re: Just a heads up.

        ...actually, yes we can. We have to rise up, and push our states to use the 10th amendment tools we already have.

        We can't rely upon ANY of the feds to rein in their lawlessness -- voting the bums out will just get us new bums in. There's a LOT of usurpation of State's Rights going on, from DOMA, to drug laws, to the whole metric shit-tone that has happened in the past 12 years.

    2. Mike Moyle

      Re: Just a heads up.

      "The House and Congress have allowed the NSA to set up a 'shadow court' that bypasses the POTUS."

      I think you meant SCOTUS. (Although, with some of the decisions coming from the Supreme Court in recent years (e.g., Citizens United, Voting Rights Act...) I'm not sure that having them ON the job would necessarily be an improvement...)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Idiot Feds!!

    So, the feds wiretap people without a warrant through bulk surveillance. Then various documents admit that it was SOP for varioud feds classify and fabricate the wiretap-based evidence chain they used to develop probable cause to investigate/traffic stop/search someone. Then crooks found during the search or investigation were imprisoned.

    But now because the probable cause was tainted, defense lawyers can go back and argue that their convictions should be overturned because A) they never should have been investigated/stopped/searched in the first place because there was no legal probable cause and B) they were denied a fair trial because they were not able to confront relevant evidence against them in court.

    So get ready for a various convictions to be thrown out, tens of millions (at least) in public legal/law enforcement/investigation expenses to be incurred or nullified, and for some number of people who probably belong in prison to be out on the street because the Feds "cowboyed" their constitutional rights. And because of double jeopardy the feds can't try them for the same crimes again, so real crooks get away with it thanks to corner-cutting by the intelligence community and law enforcement.

    Wonderful.... Well, at least a few innocent people who were wrongfully convicted will probably also get out.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Idiot Feds!!

      Wrong starting point. I doubt it was actually the bulk surveillance on US citizens that was falsified. I expect it was probably a perfectly legal satellite or other covert op against a cartel working outside the US. As a result of that operation you wind up with the names of contacts, suppliers, etc. operating in the US. You want to get those names to the civies, but you don't want to compromise the exact methods used to infiltrate the organizations operating on foreign soil. Which is exactly what the defense attorney will do because they aren't actually seeking justice, they are seeking to get their client off no matter what and no matter whether or not on the basis of the things they have told you, you think they are guilty. So they falsified the evidence trail. From the point at which the names are given to the DEA everything proceeds according to the book, and the guys swearing to the judges that the information presented in court have no idea they aren't telling the truth because from their limited viewpoint they are telling the unvarnished truth.

      But because we didn't discuss and approve this as a legitimate firebreak in the chain of evidence rules, it will, as it should, get the cases tossed.

  11. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    On the plus side

    There ought to be some real impetus soon to develop secure communications/email for the masses. And while the US based cloud storage business is taking a hit, I think the VPN market should be looking up.

    1. KrisMac

      Bzzzzzrttttt - Wrong!!

      Now there is real impetus for the DOJ to pressure anyone delivering secure email to shut down:

  12. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Well, sod them then.

    DEA falsifying records? SOD them then.

  13. ops4096

    And not a single corpratz banker responsible for trillions of dollars worth of outright GFC fraud ever goes to jail. After all, who knew. N.S.A./G.C.H.Q./B.N.D. have the evidence.

  14. Katie Saucey

    "White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday that the Department of Justice is "looking into" the issues raised by Reuters' reporters."

    Yeah, I bet our hero of transparency (and Obama appointee) Eric Holder will get right on this. He has many cases to investigate which are infinitely more beneficial to the welling being of the US populace, such as prosecuting the press (AP, and Fox). Watch out Reuters.

    Here's a good list of how the DOJ's last couple of years have been spent:

    Top 10 Eric Holder Scandals to Date

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Wow, just wow. This guy is a total stooge of the worst kind!

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Top 10

      Can't tell when that was originally created, but one scandal is conspicuously missing: IRS profiling based on political viewpoint.

      1. unitron

        Re: Top 10


        Re: Top 10

        Can't tell when that was originally created, but one scandal is conspicuously missing: IRS profiling based on political viewpoint."

        Oddly enough, the Internal Revenue Service is not part of the Department of Justice, but for some strange reason is found underneath the Department of the Treasury on the org chart, giving Holder no direct control of it.

  15. Schultz

    Us versus them

    The US seems to disintegrate from a single country of Americans into a fractious society. A good part of the population, including a vast majority in the government, strongly mistrusts their own population (and the rest of the world). From this vantage point, it makes perfect sense to use all available tools to protect their society against the enemy within.

    This can't be compatible with democracy, so it"ll be interesting to see whether democracy or the security establishment wins this one. Popcorn, please.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Us versus them

      Enjoy your popcorn while you can. After the shit hits the fan over here you'll be next.

      And no, we aren't a democracy. We are, or at least were, a Constitutional Republic. Our founders were aware of democracies and tossed them on the ash heap of history precisely because they degenerate into these kinds of messes. The intention was to bind government so that mob justice as seen in the French revolutions wouldn't destroy the protection of God given rights. Or degenerate into the kind of corruption prevalent in Imperial Rome. Or the infighting of ancient Greece.

      But no, we know better than they did. We are morally superior to them because we don't own slaves. And we tax the hell out of rich people to support the poor, the downtrodden, those unwilling to fend for themselves. So it looks like we won't get any of those bad results. No, we're going to combine all of them into one big hairy furball firefight. And once it starts you can look forward to the next worldwide Dark Age.

  16. dssf

    Well, Snowden's secure email got burned and run out of business...

    What makes anyone think that "secure crypto" will hide what is truly criminal in endeavor or what any government *suspects* is criminal?

    As for what software types or tools aid in such investigations, once again, "Visual Analytics", which I, IIRC, saw as far back as 1999 or 2004. It is a friggin' awesome, cool suite of tools. I like it because of its power and eye-candy-like drag-n-drop query interface, if that is what the visuals were when I stumbled upon the company's web site. I think it was around 99. Between tools or offshoot tools like Visual Analytics and live phone and email tapping, and keyboard and microwave sniffing, those on the shit list will be on it until prosecuted or until they cause a cold trail and fall off the radar because of some sense of integrity in agents who choose NOT to fabricate or enhance incriminating evidence.

    I'm not FOR bulk recording, but then again, how can it be put back into the bottle? But, now that more and more people will be wary, those truly up to no good will have to go through a lot of expense to get out of what they are doing, mask it better, or muddy up the auditing process to end up being prosecuted for lesser time in the clink as opposed to multiple lifetiimes behind bars.

    Those who are NOT doing anything but are somehow on the shit list/watch list better be satyrists, comedians, protected journalists, or or genuine but harmless nutters, or just some commentator all over the map as to be "unpinnable" (tho not impervious to framing, hahaha). In any case those who are not criminals and not harmful or opportunistic whistleblowers will have to learn to self-moderate. Self-moderation is probably the "fall back contingency" most governments, anyway. Cheaper to cultivate self-censorship than to imprison 20% of the country, warp or crash the economy through "holing" jobs, or killing off companies. These tools used against the crims can make iron-clad positions so that a company can be forced to come clean, change its board of directors, and preserve jobs rather than burn down a whole company if only the Board was corrupt with a few other non-Board officers' complicity.

    Well, that is, except when enough of the employees were implicated and the Government fragged the entire company, as happened recently in a rare case.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    But note this despite *all* this highly targetted, *accurate* intel they still can't win TWOD

    Does that not seem a logical contradiction to you?

    In effect the DEA can follow the electronic trail including the contents of their phone calls that they suspect is a trafficker.

    So having cancelled due process and probable cause requirements (and effectively taken any citizens right to privacy) they still can't stop the drugs trade.

    Are you f**king kidding me?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: But note this despite *all* this highly targetted, *accurate* intel they still can't win TWOD

      Why would they want to stop it?

      As far as I can tell, the American government declaring 'war' on something is simply a statement of support. It is an open code telling all their subordinates what the 'fear du jour' is.

      If all these terrible things suddenly stopped happening, what justification will they come up with next? Because they sure as hell won't dismantle what they've built. Too much power in too few hands and surprise, surprise, they have become corrupt.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a Brit, I hang my head in shame

    I guess we showed the US how to do a lot of this. Not the technical stuff. The messing with the law bit.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: As a Brit, I hang my head in shame

      Not to fear, it was a joint effort.

      The problem is that even with the release of the Venona Files and the KGB archives too few in society are willing to face the truth. Too many of our so called elected representatives were communist agents. Agents who set in motion ideas and processes designed to overthrow our liberty-centric governments over the course of time. They thought the time required would be shorter than it has been, but they never tired of pursuing their objective. Today they are at the top of the political food chain implementing their ideas and remaking the citizenry they desire.

  19. C 18
    Black Helicopters

    Two things in life are inevitable...

    ...said Mark Twain...

    Death is for the individual, taxes are the death for tyrants...

    The Roman Empire fell because of its taxation system, Al Capone got stuffed for tax evasion, hopefully America will fall apart due to its bungling global tax collection system it has managed to create.

    The 'powers that be' in every empire don't see the law as a barrier; merely an inconvenience, a puzzle, something to make getting rich a little challenging...otherwise, where's the fun?

  20. NukEvil

    Back up a bit...

    So what I think I'm reading, is that when law enforcement agencies receive a tip from a database, they then go out, conduct their own, independent, investigation, and use whatever evidence gleaned from that investigation as evidence in a court, while protecting the 'true' source of the tip. So, basically the same as an anonymous tip coming in from CrimeStoppers, or maybe a confidential informant telling the police about a drug dealer doing his thing, then the cops investigating and corroborating the information in the tip, then using the evidence from their own investigation in court. Ignoring the whole "monitor everyone for terrorism and using the data to bust druggies and stuff" deal that seems to be the "cool" thing to do nowadays, this actually sounds like normal, everyday police work. The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree suddenly seems a lot less likely here.

    I think the main reason they do it this way is that, if the source (the database) is NOT protected in one instance of use by law enforcement agencies, then the ENTIRE database is then open to scrutiny by a defendant's defense team, and we can't have that.

    Now, if documents are being altered to protect the source of the tip, or if people are making things up when they write the reports, then that's perjury (and probably other crimes). However, there's no evidence that I have seen yet to prove that this is being done.

    A question I have is about how the information in this database is being obtained. How is the government finding out that Joe Blow is dealing drugs, before putting that fact in their database, then sending it to the relevant local agency(ies)?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Back up a bit...

      " question I have is about how the information in this database is being obtained. How is the government finding out that Joe Blow is dealing drugs, before putting that fact in their database, then sending it to the relevant local agency(ies)?"


      They listen to the phone calls of US citizens as well as furriners.

      What, you actually believed that BS from the NSA?

      1. NukEvil

        Re: Back up a bit...

        So, you've more or less confirmed what I was trying to say. While giving me a downvote in the process. And you still have a gold badge. Interesting.

        Anyways, my point is, that the information in this article points toward...absolutely nothing illegal whatsoever happening. The police officers conducting the actual investigations probably don't even know where these tips are coming from. They're probably told "got a tip from an anonymous source that Joe Blow is selling heroin at this address, go investigate it". Whatever evidence is gleaned from the investigation is used in a court of law. No poisonous fruit there.

        My question is there to point out that this article is geared in the wrong direction. What the Reuters reporter(s) should have investigated is exactly how the tips get loaded into the database, before being disseminated to local law enforcement agencies. THAT'S the part everyone should be focusing on.

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