It Was Never About Terrorism

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

drug seizureWe have previously discussed the pathetic attempt to justify the seizure of every American’s phone data based on its “contribution” in apprehending terrorists. We also discussed the conflating of successful NSA programs overseas with the domestic metadata collection to give the impression that the domestic collection is contributing to the hunt for terrorists. The massive NSA surveillance utterly failed to detect the Boston Marathon bombings. It is not surprising that government officials would try to connect the NSA surveillance with terrorism prevention: polls suggest that Americans are more willing to accept the surveillance if it helps reduce the threat of terrorism. However, there is a lucrative and successful use of the NSA’s collection of all communications – the Drug War.

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.”

Another DEA coverup technique is to claim the information came from an informant. A current federal prosecutor pressing a DEA agent for more information and was finally told by a DEA supervisor that the tip had come from SOD via a NSA intercept. The federal prosecutor was so irate about being lied to, the prosecutor never filed charges.

The appeal of drug-related asset forfeiture provides the motivation. Proceeds from asset forfeiture provide an inexhaustible supply of police jurisdictions eager to play the “parallel construction” game. As long as they get a piece of the action.

However, all is not lost for defense attorneys. Any large drug seizure where the vehicle just “happened” to be pulled over is a red flag. Why did the officer select this vehicle to pull over while giving numerous other vehicles a pass for the same infraction? When the officer gets on the stand to testify about his reasons for the stop, an attorney familiar with the use of Bayes’ Theorem can show that the officer is probably, can reasonably assumed to be, lying. The hypothesis being tested is that the officer pulled over a particular vehicle only because of a traffic infraction. The probability of a vehicle getting a pass for the same infraction from the same officer is the key.

Below is a video of Dr. Richard Carrier explaining the use of Bayes’ Theorem:

H/T: Juan Cole, John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Brian Fung, Kevin Drum, Emma Roller, Ilya Somin.

58 thoughts on “It Was Never About Terrorism”

  1. Nal,

    The Snowden Effect, Cont’d
    By Charles P. Pierce

    The Los Angeles Times printed an interesting column over the weekend by a former CIA official in regards to Edward Snowden, International Man Of Luggage. In it, the author argues, essentially, that we should all trust the people running the surveillance state because they are all good people, dedicated wholly to maintaining our safety while adhering, wherever possible, to democratic norms. And, yes, Brutus was an honorable man.

    Incidents like the Snowden affair put my former colleagues in the intelligence community in an impossible position. Yes, the official explanations about the virtues of data-collection efforts can sound self-justifying and vague. But they’re still right. I know firsthand that Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, is telling the truth when he talks about plots that have been preempted and attacks that have been foiled because of intelligence his agency collected. I know because I was on the inside, I have long held security clearances, and I participated in many of the activities he describes.

    ” I spent years in the middle of the effort to identify, disentangle, and ultimately attack Al Qaeda. We didn’t operate in secrecy because we were ashamed. We operated in the dark because we had to. Al Qaeda and its affiliates study our actions. They learn from our mistakes. America is safer because we’ve made a point of understanding their methods better than they understand ours. I understand the trade-offs here. But the intelligence community isn’t keeping things from the American people because we don’t trust them, but rather because once important security information is out there, anyone can access it, including those who would do us harm. That’s why I find the Snowden controversy so frustrating. I realize many Americans don’t trust their government. I wish I could change that. I wish I could tell people the amazing things I witnessed during my 30 years in the CIA, that I’ve never seen people work harder or more selflessly, that for little money and long hours, people took it for granted that their flaws would be scrutinized and their successes ignored. But I’ve been around long enough to know that deep-rooted distrust of government is immune to stories from people like me.”

    Arbenz. Mossadegh. Allende. The Church committee revelations. Over the length of its existence, and given the extent of some of its bungling, the intelligence community has earned a “deep-rooted distrust.” This is the same argument you hear every time a cop “accidentally” shoots a civilian. This is the same argument you heard in defense of the military in the wake of My Lai. The CIA lost “Just trust us” as an alibi about five coups d’etat ago. And the piece also makes the capital mistake of arguing that the surveillance state — and its misuse of its powers — is limited to the conflict with al Qaeda. We learned only last week that a lot of the same techniques, and damned be due process, have been used in the futile “war” on drugs. The basic authoritarian mindset established by the general acceptance of the arguments in this piece has leached upwards; we will never again elect a president who doesn’t have an authoritarian streak in him. And it has leached downward, to local law enforcement, which has upped its covert surveillance activities, usually regarding inconvenient local protest movements. But, apparently, this is to keep us all safe and so are they all, honorable men.

    1. Well presented Elaine M., and of course it is common knowledge (even from Hollywood presentations) that no one in the CIA knows what anyone else in the CIA is actually doing…departmentalized to protect the “innocent” of course.

  2. Secret Law

    In recent months, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has been ramping up efforts to address the Intelligence Community’s reliance on secret interpretations of surveillance law, arguing that while “intelligence agencies need to be able to conduct operations in secret, even secret operations need to be conducted within the bounds of established, publicly understood law.”

    Wyden has been pressing the Intelligence Community to disclose more information about how it interprets surveillance law since 2008, while increasingly raising concerns – in both classified and unclassified settings – that there is a significant gap between what the American people and most members of Congress believe is legal under laws like the Patriot Act and how government agencies are interpreting the law.

    …a timeline of Wyden’s public efforts:

  3. Secrecy — the first refuge of incompetents — must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society for a fully informed public is the basis of self government. Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognize that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than its people. -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    Jennifer Hoelzer’s Insider’s View Of The Administration’s Response To NSA Surveillance Leaks

    from the and-also-the-favorites-of-the-week dept

    In a bit of fortuitous timing, this week we had asked former deputy chief of staff for Ron Wyden, Jennifer Hoelzer, to do our weekly “Techdirt Favorites of the Week” post, in which we have someone from the wider Techdirt community tell us what their favorite posts on the site were. As you’ll see below, Hoelzer has a unique and important perspective on this whole debate concerning NSA surveillance, and given the stories that came out late Friday, she chose to ditch her original post on favorites and rewrite the whole thing from scratch last night (and into this morning). Given that, it’s much, much more than a typical “favorites of the week” post, and thus we’ve adjusted the title appropriately. I hope you’ll read through this in its entirety for a perspective on what’s happening that not many have.

    Excerpt from Jennifer Hoeler’s piece:

    In his book, Secrecy: The American Experience, former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan included a quote from a 1960 report issued by the House Committee on Operations which I believe provides a far better response than anything I could write on my own:

    Secrecy — the first refuge of incompetents — must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society for a fully informed public is the basis of self government. Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognize that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than its people.

    Which brings me to my final point (at least for now) I think it’s awfully hard for the American people to trust the President and his administration when their best response to the concerns Americans are raising is to denigrate the Americans raising those concerns. Because, you see, I have a hard time understanding why my wanting to stand up for democratic principles makes me unpatriotic, while the ones calling themselves patriots seem to think so little of the people and the principles that comprise the country they purport to love.

  4. A good movie to watch to get some idea of the root mentality that might have been an underpinning in how the gov’t uses propaganda with regard to the enemy and measures they claim they must take would be The Atomic Café.

  5. Michael Hayden, Former NSA Chief: After A Major Attack, U.S. Likely To Seize More Surveillance Powers

    WASHINGTON — Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Michael Hayden hinted Sunday at how the NSA’s eavesdropping and data collection program is likely to evolve over time. Critics of the project have warned that by building the capacity to track the electronic communications of all American citizens, the government will inevitably be tempted to employ every tool it has at its disposal and scuttle whatever constitutional safeguards stand in the way. Not to do so eventually would in fact be more surprising, goes the argument.

    In an appearance on CBS’ ‘Face The Nation’, Hayden — also the former head of the CIA — unintentionally opened a window into just how that evolution will likely unfold.”

    The rest of what followed is a fine example of spin control.


    So predictable.

  6. ps. The Boston Marathon “bombers” were directly involved with CIA in Chechnya. Please go to and read this brilliant woman’s accounts (Sibel Edmonds) of this outrageous fraud.

  7. Let them eat Reeses, We will feast on their fat ignorant carcasses.

    I think Romney (and friends) think that, but they are much too sophisticated to say it out loud.

  8. Otteray Scribe
    1, August 10, 2013 at 10:31 am

    1, August 10, 2013 at 9:32 am
    Congratulations Osama Bin Laden…. you won the War… You DESTROYED AMERICA!!!!

    Combining DEBs prescient and accurate statement, with the OS. Spence video, is equal to the combination of peanut butter and chocolate to create the GREATEST candy bar in the World.

    Osama’s evil act, the US governments reaction, and the Peoples (sheeples) acceptance of the deconstruction of the Constitution, has created.
    The MOST SUCCESSFUL SWIFT TOTAL demolition of our US Republic.

    It’s like the Ultimate FASCIST BAR.

  9. Gene H.
    1, August 10, 2013 at 11:42 am

    ““I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness”

    ….. Here’s my interpretation,
    ““I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among SECURITY FORCES. / The WITHHOLDING of knowledge from the people/ … No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of WEALTH AND POWER among the ruling elite. .

  10. Be Sociable, Share!
    Published on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 by The Guardian/UK
    Revealed: NSA Program Collects ‘Nearly Everything a User Does on the Internet’
    XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data; NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches; Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history
    by Glenn Greenwald

    Outsourced National Security to Booz Allen essentially means that it
    is directly tied to… Carlyle…., an aggressive politically entrenched
    predator Private Equity concern with International Board members out of Dubai. One half of the Booz Allen concern split in recent years as it specialized in Government/Military contracts.

    The second half is still…All… commercial. Just like Carlyle

    It is difficult to believe that this is the core outsource for National
    Security and major questions must be raised just by the nature of how this ever was put into place, let alone how much authentic National Security might be compromised by its connection to its parent corporation.

    There are absolutely no guarantees that the foundation of our National Security is not in the wrong hands…, for potential private interests or for seriously questionable reasons! PASS THIS AROUND: The Lowdown on Booz Allen is startling!

    The details of this reality should be a bigger scandal then Snowden’s revelations… It is difficult to believe that this is the core outsource for National Security and there are major questions raised just by the nature of how this ever was put into place, let alone how much authentic National Security is compromised and in the wrong hands…for questionable reasons! PASS THIS AROUND

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