by Patrick Devlin

Reuters has reported that the National Security Administration has been sharing information gleaned through its extensive secret systems of surveillance with the Drug Enforcement Administration for more than a decade.

The information sharing, which has resulted in convictions of criminals in drug cases, has brought the law enforcement practice known as “parallel construction” to the awareness of US citizens who have reacted with astonishment, given the popular conceptions that Americans have about due process as it is articulated in the US Constitution.

The NSA, which has been revealed in recent months to be utilizing sophisticated techniques and technologies to engage in massive near total surveillance on Americans and the rest of the world’s citizens relying upon secret interpretations of secret laws, has been assiduous in ensuring that its worldwide surveillance program not be revealed. As the NSA shared its surveillance “tips” with the DEA, it instructed the agents who received its “tips” to create out of thin air justifications for why and how the DEA initiates its investigations. Reuters came into possession of training materials about the program that instructs agents to never reveal that ‘tips’ come from the NSA and further instructs agents to misrepresent to judges and defense attorneys that the information received from the NSA was actually the result of “normal investigative techniques.”

Members of law enforcement who spoke about the NSA/DEA cooperative spying program to Reuters defended the spying program, saying that “parallel construction” is a police technique that is utilized “every day.”

In traditional law enforcement investigations, law enforcement must show a judge evidence of wrong-doing to receive a court order to electronically track, search or wiretap a target of interest. In cases where the NSA brought “tips” to the DEA that resulted in arrests, training documents revealed by Reuters show that the federal agents were required to “recreate” the trail of the investigation to cover up the fact that the cases were predicated on legally questionable surveillance by the NSA of regular American citizens.

While apparently this practice is ‘all good’ with police, federal agents and federal prosecutors as it guarantees them perfect ‘targets’ for investigations that are certain to produce jailed ‘bad guys’, it’s seeming violation of this tried and true method of criminal enforcement;

“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,”

has been criticized by civil libertarians, defense attorneys and legal scholars. The Reuters article quotes defense attorney Lawrence Lustberg, who succinctly articulates the constitutional and due process problems created by the DEA using the tactic “parallel construction”; when law enforcement is instructed to cover up the origin of or simply fabricate evidence that it uses to convict citizens of crimes, it is “not only alarming but pretty blatantly unconstitutional.”

Many Americans, who have become inured to dual track systems of justice in America (one for the wealthy and connected and one for regular citizens), dual track systems for due process (where we are accorded inalienable rights that have no value when a politician screams the word “terror”), dual track systems for education (publically supported private schools for the wealthy and broken-down ramshackle schools for the poor), dual track systems for government bailouts (private financial companies get bailed out with no strings attached to the tune of trillions and those who lost their homes get measly hundred dollar checks), may themselves find it necessary to think about their relationship to their cultural and political environment using the technique of “parallel construction”:

“One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”, paralleled with, “one nation under surveillance, with suspicion and indefinite detention for all”.

Its all good.