It’s not uncommon for Zellerbach to go missing when people need him. When Zellerbach ran the DA’s office, he was rarely there. The DEA found his office to be just as accommodating, with or without him, though. Although the DEA was supposed to run its wiretap warrant requests through federal judges and have them signed by the district attorney himself, it often found it easier to obtain a signature from whoever happened to be at the office and run them by Riverside County judge Helios Hernandez, who approved five times as many wiretap applications as any other judge in the US.The wiretap applications’ reach frequently exceeded their jurisdictional grasp, traveling far outside of Riverside County, California, to be deployed against suspects as far away as North Carolina. But that was only one issue with the warrants applications approved by Zellerbach’s office.
The DEA loves taking cash from travelers so much it has hired TSA screeners as informants, asking them to look for cash when scanning luggage. It routinely stops and questions rail passengers in hopes of stumbling across money it can take from them.But it goes further than just hassling random travelers and paying government employees to be government informants. As the USA Today’s article points out, the DEA is datamining traveler info to streamline its forfeiture efforts.
“It’s not like there’s ten of them. There’s probably thousands — I know there are thousands,” Matt Barden, spokesman for the DEA, told the Daily Caller News Foundation about the DEA’s use of administrative subpoenas.
After scraping together enough money to produce a music video in Hollywood, 22-year-old Joseph Rivers set out last month on a train trip from Michigan to Los Angeles, hoping it was the start of something big.
Rivers changed trains at the Amtrak station in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on April 15, with bags containing his clothes, other possessions and an envelope filled with the $16,000 in cash he had raised with the help of his family, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration got on after him and began looking for people who might be trafficking drugs.
Rivers said the agents questioned passengers at random, asking for their destination and reason for travel. When one of the agents got to Rivers, who was the only black person in his car, according to witnesses, the agent took the interrogation further, asking to search his bags. Rivers complied. The agent found the cash — still in a bank envelope — and decided to seize it on suspicion that it may be tied to narcotics. River pleaded with the agents, explaining his situation and even putting his mother on the phone to verify the story.
During an obscure Senate hearing on Tuesday morning, lawmakers vented their frustrations with the Drug Enforcement Administration for failing to answer questions about an incident that saw a man almost die of dehydration while in its custody.
“At what point do I have to conclude that the [Drug Enforcement Administration] is hiding something about what happened here?” asked Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, unsuccessfully prodding a DEA witness to explain why Senate inquiries into what happened to Daniel Chong have been met with silence.
On April 20, 2012, Chong was detained by DEA agents during a drug raid on a friend’s house in San Diego. The 23-year-old university student cooperated with agents during an interrogation, and was told that he would soon be free to go, only to be handcuffed with his hands behind his back and left in a small holding cell for five days without food or water. When he was finally discovered, Chong was suffering from near-kidney failure and hypothermia and in need of serious medical attention.
A Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation released last June shed additional light on Chong’s maddening de facto sentence — often served in complete darkness. He told investigators he was forced to drink his own urine and at one point attempted suicide.
Chong later received a $4.1 million settlement from the Justice Department.
The inspector general’s report, however, raised new questions about the incident, and cast doubt on DEA agents’ claims that they didn’t hear Chong’s repeated shouts and bangs in a bid to get someone’s attention. When his version of events was recreated for the purposes of the probe, an investigator “clearly heard the banging and yelling.”
Senator Grassley, who called the findings “shocking,” had last August sent a 19-question letter to DEA administrator Michele Leonhart.
“It’s been now eight months — I still don’t have a response from DEA to these questions,” Sen. Grassley said on Tuesday. He asked DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator of Drug Diversion Joseph Rannazzisi to commit the agency to responding to his inquiry by the end of the month.
Rannazzisi responded that “This was a regrettable tragic event,” before admitting that “I can’t speak for DEA or the department when the letter is going to come to you.”
Also lamenting the agency’s lack of transparency was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Her office sent two unanswered letters to the DEA last year in July and August seeking answers about the detention of her constituent.
“When we don’t get responses to our letters, that colors our view of the agency — particularly when we’re writing about a constituent who suffered from a real lapse in process,” Sen. Feinstein said during the hearing.
On Tuesday the Los Angeles Times revealed that the most severe punishment meted out to the agents responsible for Chong’s nightmare was a seven-day suspension.
“It blows my mind,” Sen. Feinstein said during the hearing, referring to the leniency afforded to the agents who were involved in what she described as a “serious infraction.”
In Neal Stephenson’s brilliant Cryptonomicon, a protagonist works for a shadowy Allied unit called “Detachment 2702.” Detachment 2702 creates elaborate fake evidence to offer explanations of how the Allies learned of German movements, thus concealing that the Allies had cracked the Enigma code. Though fictional, the Detachment is based on actual World War II tactics. The Allies did things like send spotter planes to places they knew German ships would be to fortuitously “spot” them, and reportedly sent a fake radio message of congratulations to a non-existent spy to suggest a source for other intelligence.
You expect the government to use secret surveillance and disinformation campaigns against a wartime enemy. You probably don’t expect the government to use secret surveillance and disinformation campaigns in court against its own citizens.
One of the big arguments trotted out repeatedly by surveillance state defenders concerning the NSA’s Section 215 program to collect records on all phone calls is that such a thing “would have prevented 9/11” if it had been in place at the time. Here’s former FBI boss Robert Mueller making just that argument right after the initial Snowden leaks. Here’s Dianne Feinstein making the argument that if we had that phone tracking program before September 11th, we could have stopped the attacks. And here’s former NSA top lawyer and still top NSA supporter Stewart Baker arguing that the program is necessary because the lack of such a program failed to stop 9/11.
Except, it turns out, the feds did have just such a program prior to 9/11 — run by the DEA. As you may recall, back in January it was revealed that the DEA had its own database of phone call metadata of nearly all calls from inside the US to foreign countries. Brad Heath at USA Today came out with a report yesterday that goes into much more detail on the program, showing that it dates back to at least 1992 — meaning that the feds almost certainly had the calls that Feinstein and Mueller pretended the government didn’t have prior to 9/11.
Two federal agents whose work helped to shut down the Silk Road online drug marketplace have been accused of stealing from the Darknet market during the investigation. The criminal complaint, unveiled today, reveals a remarkable level of corruption within the investigation into the drug marketplace, which hosted more than $200 million in transactions.
Government prosecutors have charged former DEA agent Carl Force and former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges with wire fraud and money laundering. Force is also charged with stealing government property and “conflict of interest.”
The government had multiple investigations into Silk Road. Force and Bridges both worked on one based out of Baltimore. Force was the lead undercover agent in charge of communicating with Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), the operator of the Silk Road site, while Bridges was a computer forensics expert.
The FBI is still actively thwarting its oversight. Last fall, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz informed the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI was routinely denying his office documents it needed to perform investigations. The withheld documents included everything from electronic surveillance information to organizational charts. Not only did the FBI refuse to hand over requested documents, but it also stonewalled OIG investigations for so long that “officials under review [had] retired or left the agencies before the report [was] complete.”
Nearly six months later, the situation remains unchanged. Horowitz is again informing the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI is still less than interested in assisting his office. The same stonewalling tactics and withholding of information continues, preventing the IG from fully examining the DEA’s use of administrative subpoenas.