Washington, DC (April 8, 2015) – Today, USA Today reported that for more than 20 years, from 1992 to 2013, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was harvesting and secretly storing records of billions of Americans' international phone calls "in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed." The story continued, "To keep the program secret, the DEA sought not to use the information as evidence in criminal prosecutions or in its justification for warrants or other searches. Instead, its Special Operations Division passed the data to field agents as tips to help them find new targets or focus existing investigations, a process approved by Justice Department lawyers. Many of those tips were classified because the DEA phone searches drew on other intelligence data."
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Theodore Simon said: "The revelation that under four successive administrations of both political parties the Constitutional rights of Americans were deliberately and systematically undermined in the name of the 'War on Drugs' is breathtaking. From Americans' Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure to their right to due process and a fair trial, the program described in this USA Today report is an affront. People accused of a crime have the right to challenge the legality of the evidence introduced against them by the government in an effort to take away their liberty, something that is impossible to do when the government deliberately conceals how, why and from where it has secured such evidence."
Indeed, there are further, significant Constitutional implications to this report. In the American criminal justice system, prosecutors are required to disclose all information in the government’s possession that is favorable to the accused, pertaining to either the determination of guilt or imposition of sentencing. This report suggests that prosecuting government agencies were provided data collected via a vast DEA surveillance program. Additionally, the USA Today report indicates that programs of intentional non-disclosure of the actual sources of information were in place. Yet, those accused of criminal activity had no access to any exculpatory information collected by this program.
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