Other Government Agencies Clamor for NSA Surveillance; Some Get It

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
Other Government Agencies Clamor for NSA Surveillance; Some Get It

Dozens of law-enforcement agencies are seeking to get NSA intercepts of Americans' phone calls and Internet traffic for use in investigations.

The New York Times reported August 4 that the NSA intercepts of all Americans' phone records and Internet traffic are being sought by dozens of federal and state law-enforcement agencies for ordinary criminal enforcement, and Reuters wire service reported August 5 that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has received some of this information for nearly two decades. 

According to the August 4 New York Times, “The National Security Agency’s dominant role as the nation’s spy warehouse has spurred frequent tensions and turf fights with other federal intelligence agencies that want to use its surveillance tools for their own investigations, officials say.” Among the agencies seeking NSA “metadata” and e-mail information are agencies charged with enforcing laws against “drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement.” 

Reuters Wire Service reported August 5 that the sharing of NSA intercepts has been ongoing for nearly two decades, noting that a “secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.” Reuters noted that this special unit of the DEA is part of a multi-agency task force that has grown over the years: “The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.”

Ironically, the New York Times noted that DEA officials are still complaining they need wider access to NSA data on Americans: “Officials complained that they were blocked from using the security agency’s surveillance tools for several drug-trafficking cases in Latin America, which they said might be connected to financing terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

While strict constitutionalists would point to how the NSA's warrantless surveillance of all Americans — in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment — is problematic, defenders of the NSA program claim that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their telephone calls and Internet traffic. For example: 

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