The recent revelation of spying on ordinary citizens by our own government is an indefensible intrusion into our private lives. But the newest twist in story has to do with the government sharing this information with law enforcement in order to "set people up" for bogus arrests.
A secretive unit of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Special Operations Division (SOD) has been working with the NSA and its massive database to detect illegal drug activity and then route that information to local authorities. Federal agents are trained to cover up the origins of the information. Harvard Law School professor Nancy Gertner noted that: “It is one thing to create special rules for national security. Ordinary crime is entirely different.”
An example occurs when the SOD tells state police to look for a specific vehicle at a specific location at a specific time. The trooper then pulls the vehicle over for some real or imagined infraction and a “clever” drug dog named Hans is brought in. The investigation looks like it began with the traffic stop and the SOD tip is never revealed. This process is known as “parallel construction,” and is used to hide the unwarranted origin of information.
Vice chairman of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association, James Felman, says “It strikes me as indefensible.” Concealment of the circumstances under which a case begins “would not only be alarming but pretty blatantly unconstitutional” according to defense attorney Lawrence Lustberg. Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project said: “The DEA is violating our fundamental right to a fair trial. Our due process rights are at risk when our federal government hides and distorts the sources of evidence used as the basis for arrests and prosecutions.” [Turley]
Though prison populations have declined in the last three years (due largely to budget concerns) the United States still has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world (743 per 100,000 population), Russia has the second highest rate (577 per 100,000).