Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal
Revenue Service for two years. The practice of creating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions abut the procedure. A U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA's Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thompson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency. As Reuters reported Monday, the Special Operations Division of the DEA funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of the telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. The DEA phone database is distinct from a NSA database disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden. Monday's Reuters report cited internal government documents that show that law enforcement agents have been trained to conceal how such investigations truly begin to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up the original source of the information. DEA officials said the practice is legal and has been in near-daily use since the 1990s. They have said that its purpose is to protect sources and methods, not to withhold evidence. NEW DETAIL: Defense attorneys and some former judges and prosecutors say that systematically hiding potential evidence from defendants violates the U.S. Constitution. According to documents and interviews, agents use a procedure they call "parallel construction" to recreate the investigative trail, stating in affidavits or in court, for example, that an investigation began with a traffic infraction rather than an SOD tip. The IRS document offers further detail on the parallel construction program. "Special Operations Division has the ability to collect, collate, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate information and intelligence derived from worldwide multi-agency sources, including classified projects, the IRS document says. "SOD converts extremely sensitive information into usable leads ant tips which are then passed to the field offices for real-time enforcement activity against major international drug trafficking organizations."