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US DEA Accused of Conducting Unlawful Mass Surveillance Practices

US DEA Accused of Conducting Unlawful Mass Surveillance Practices

The Drug Enforcement Agency has come under scrutiny, for accessing private user information, without the necessary legal steps

In 2015, reports emerged that the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), had been illegally tracking phone calls and other private user data, the accusations were even confirmed by the Department of Justice. This came at a time when the world was overly sensitive about data privacy, owing to the revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in 2013. Further probes by the authorities have revealed that the agency ran three bulk data gathering programs, without the approval of any authorities, and without fulfilling any of the necessary protocols.

The probe revealed that the agency had indulged in such practices for over fifteen years, with the first of such activities being traced back to 1992. The DEA was found using administrative subpoenas to monitor calls made from the US to countries they considered to be a “nexus to drugs”. Although they could not monitor the contents of the calls, they have been found in serious violation of privacy policies. Program A, the first of the agency’s programs, monitored calls made from US to other drug producing countries, program B, used subpoenas to monitor calls from prospective buyers to key vendors, whereas program C, made use of a third party contractor to obtain metadata on suspects.

The DEA have scaled back operations since Edward Snowden’s eye opening revelations, which also made similar accusations on the NSA. “We found this failure troubling with respect to Program A, Collection 1 and Program B because these programs involved a uniquely expansive use of Section 876(a) authority to collect data in bulk without making a prior finding that the records were, in the language of that statutory provision enabling DEA's subpoena authority, "relevant or material" to any specific defined investigation.” Said a report from the Inspector General of the US Department of Justice, on March 30, 2019.