DEA privacy abuses far worse than NSA phone records scandal

Whatever else you may think about the NSA collecting records of every international telephone call from the United States, at least the National Security Agency worked through the judiciary in obtaining its subpoenas.  The Drug Enforcement Agency did virtually the same thing years earlier, only without any blessing from a court, using “administrative subpoenas.”  Brad Heath of USA Today reports:

 The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans' international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

Most critically:

The DEA obtained those records using administrative subpoenas that allow the agency to collect records "relevant or material to" federal drug investigations. Officials acknowledged it was an expansive interpretation of that authority but one that was not likely to be challenged because unlike search warrants, DEA subpoenas do not require a judge's approval. "We knew we were stretching the definition," a former official involved in the process said.

Officials said a few telephone companies were reluctant to provide so much information, but none challenged the subpoenas in court. Those that hesitated received letters from the Justice Department urging them to comply.

Translated, this means that bureaucrats decided they wanted to snoop into phone calls and went ahead and did so without getting a warrant from a court. This is tyranny, but as Mark J. Fitzgibbons has been explaining to AT readers, it is disturbingly commonplace, a routine violation of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees against search and seizure.

Whatever else you may think about the NSA collecting records of every international telephone call from the United States, at least the National Security Agency worked through the judiciary in obtaining its subpoenas.  The Drug Enforcement Agency did virtually the same thing years earlier, only without any blessing from a court, using “administrative subpoenas.”  Brad Heath of USA Today reports:

 The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans' international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

Most critically:

The DEA obtained those records using administrative subpoenas that allow the agency to collect records "relevant or material to" federal drug investigations. Officials acknowledged it was an expansive interpretation of that authority but one that was not likely to be challenged because unlike search warrants, DEA subpoenas do not require a judge's approval. "We knew we were stretching the definition," a former official involved in the process said.

Officials said a few telephone companies were reluctant to provide so much information, but none challenged the subpoenas in court. Those that hesitated received letters from the Justice Department urging them to comply.

Translated, this means that bureaucrats decided they wanted to snoop into phone calls and went ahead and did so without getting a warrant from a court. This is tyranny, but as Mark J. Fitzgibbons has been explaining to AT readers, it is disturbingly commonplace, a routine violation of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees against search and seizure.