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Senators Question DOJ on NSA Info Sharing

In a letter last week, a group of Senate Democrats asked Attorney General Eric Holder to clarify how the National Security Agency (NSA) shares information with domestic law enforcement agencies while still protecting Americans’ constitutional rights.

The letter comes on the heels of a Reuters story that said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had a secret program to funnel intelligence, sometimes gathered by the NSA, to local law enforcement authorities so they could launch investigations. A training document obtained by Reuters instructed agents to conceal the true sources of this intelligence  and to fabricate evidence paths in a technique called “parallel construction.”

In the August 22 letter, the Senators expressed concerns that this program went outside the bounds of surveillance for national security reasons, since the DEA cases centered on drugs, and that it violated laws expressly designed to gather intelligence on foreign citizens.

These allegations raise serious concerns that gaps in the policy and law are allowing overreach by the federal government’s intelligence gathering apparatus. Such overreach could threaten the privacy and constitutional rights of Americans while jeopardizing both law enforcement’s ability to prosecute criminals and Americans’ right to a fair trial.

The letter seeks more information about the frequency of this information sharing, and questions whether the government is doing enough to safeguard  Americans’ due process and privacy rights. It also asks if the use of “parallel construction” is necessary when there is already a law in place to protect classified information used in trials.

The letter was signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Read the full letter here.

By: Andre Francisco
Former Online Producer, POGO

andre francisco At the time of publication, Andre Francisco was the Online Producer for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Checks and Balances, Congressional Oversight, Intelligence

Authors: Andre Francisco

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