Lazenby: Sixth Amendment Down

Earlier this month, Reuters revealed the existence of a classified branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) called the Special Operations Division (SOD). The role of the SOD in the vast national security apparatus is to use information gathered by two dozen partner agencies – including the National Security Administration (NSA), Central Intelligence…

Earlier this month, Reuters revealed the existence of a classified branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) called the Special Operations Division (SOD). The role of the SOD in the vast national security apparatus is to use information gathered by two dozen partner agencies – including the National Security Administration (NSA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – to pursue American citizens for drug crimes by distributing the information it has gathered to local law enforcement agencies across the country. The targets of these tactics are ordinary Americans who are alleged to have committed ordinary drug crimes – not terrorist activity.

If the existence of the SOD wasn’t disturbing enough, the fact that its standard operating procedure is to create a “parallel construction” – a misleading trail of evidence that hides the true source of an investigation – is downright frightening. Law enforcement agents are directed to conceal how their investigations begin, concealing where the information used to bring charges against the accused originated.

Under this system of parallel construction, neither the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney nor defendant are able to trace a case back to its source, which is a clear violation of Americans’ Sixth Amendment right to face their accusers. The reason this extrajudicial system has worked so for so long is because defendants, confronted with a massive unknown that they are unable to challenge in court, often plead guilty prior to trial, making the need to disclose the source of an investigation moot.

SOD was originally established in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels, pre-dating American’s “War on Terror.” The revelation of its existence, however, is just another example of the federal government creating special rules to prosecute crimes, denying Americans the civil liberties they are supposedly guaranteed by our constitution. Additionally, its mission has expanded to include not only drug dealers, but those who are simply in possession of drugs as well. Both the “War on Terror” and the “War on Drugs” involve an expansion of executive power and constitutionally dubious police tactics in the name of protecting us from terrorists in the case of the former and ourselves, apparently, in the case of the latter.

It is past time to admit that our “War on Drugs” has failed. Over the last 20 years, millions of Americans have been incarcerated on drug convictions using these police state tactics. Billions of state and federal dollars have been spent on this effort. Federal programs use arrest numbers to measure performance when distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to local law enforcement agencies annually, encouraging the continuation of a boondoggle that tramples civil liberties and wastes taxpayer money while failing to curb our population’s drug use, to say nothing of the human cost of a ruined future based on an arrest for drug possession. Drug legalization efforts – specifically for marijuana – for both medical and recreational use at the state level have been increasingly successful. On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent call for Congress to review federal laws regarding harsh, perhaps unconstitutional, mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes is a positive step toward increased civil liberties for Americans.

As the federal government continues to try to justify its vast national security apparatus in the name of a global war on terror in the face of recent revelations by courageous whistleblowers, we are learning about the ways that the police state has crept into other areas of law enforcement that have nothing to do with terrorism. We now know that the dubious enforcement of drug laws that even the DOJ has called in to question is one of those areas. As we are confronted with this information, it is not unreasonable to ask how far this mission creep goes and where it will stop.

amy lazenby

Amy Lazenby is the associate opinion editor at FITSNews. She is a wife, mother of three and small business owner with her husband who splits her time between South Carolina and Georgia. Follow her on Twitter @Mrs_Laz or email her at amy@fitsnews.com.

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Frank Pytel August 23, 2013 at 9:03 am

I recall as a young man the police brutally beating ‘criminals’. I think that we are rapidly approaching, if we have not already massively surpassed, a civilization (a country) where the police are no longer there to ‘serve and protect’ anyone excepting those with connections and political power.

I certainly do fear the coming war as well.

CNSYD August 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

Did the police beat you in 2000 when you were arrested for CDV in Richland County or was it only your victim who was beaten?

Will Folks aka Sic August 23, 2013 at 10:25 am

It was 2005 …

CNSYD August 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

Did I misread the SC Judicial web site? If so, I apologize.

Frank Pytel August 25, 2013 at 8:56 am

Because Attorney’s, Judges and Politicians. They never lie. Right? Hmm? Right?

CNSYD August 25, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Help me understand this. First the victim lied. Then the investigating LE lied. Next the magistrate lied. Then the prosecuting attorney and your own attorney lied. Was it a jury trial? If so, then the jury lied. Did I miss any liars? Not sure where politicians fit in with your arrest and conviction.

Frank Pytel August 26, 2013 at 6:05 am

Any idea how completely worthless you are? I am so happy to hear that anonymity will be going out the window. Those that demand answers but refuse to be held accountable via reverse psychology are a dying breed. Jump on board the honesty train, moron. Be glad to have y’all there :)

Frank Pytel August 26, 2013 at 6:08 am


junior justice August 23, 2013 at 10:58 am

Pytel has never posted any comments against police officers – so it must have been only the lawyers who beat on him.

Frank Pytel August 25, 2013 at 9:00 am

It’s amazing how brave people speak when they hide behind a moniker, or the police. Why is it that people don’t say the nasty things they say face to face? Why is it that libitards, Repuklicrats and Demlicans alike, just smile till they get around the corner and plot to do harm?

Guest Poster August 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

This allows law enforcement to basically fabricate evidence against the accused if they want.

Curious August 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

Yep. If you can’t confront your accuser, you have no way of knowing whether he’s lying.

Mike at the Beach August 25, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Nonsense. See above. No hidden accusers here…

Mike at the Beach August 25, 2013 at 1:57 pm

This article rehashes some weirdness from prior articles, most notably the kajillions of dollars local law enforcement supposedly receives based upon their drug arrest numbers, which is simply not the case (especially not in the past ten years). I argued it to the point of exhaustion and general disinterest the last time FITS published it, so I won’t do that again here. It’s just not true. If it is, let’s see the fed drug money numbers from SC law enforcement over the past year, or the past 5 years. They won’t be published here, because they are embarrassingly low (non-existent in most years). Moreover, parallel construction doesn’t necessarily “hide” the source of the information; a more accurate way to characterize it would be to say that it attempts to locate the same information from a different source to protect a national security interest.

For example, Bubba is buying heroin from Afghanistan through a source in Amsterdam and that email traffic is picked up by a federal counter-terr outfit, who passes the dope piece to the DEA SOD (while they continue to monitor the al-Qaeda linked heroin source for their own purposes as part of the counter-terr investigation). The DEA or some other LE group now knows about Bubba, but may not want to tell al-Qaeda that particular cell has been compromised just yet. So, the law enforcement guys simply start investigating Bubba from other angles, just as they do when an angry anonymous ex-girlfriend had calls to tip them off (that happens MUCH more often than the Amsterdam AQ connection, by the way). Usually, LE can simply surveil Bubba, or find other reasonable suspicion to subpoena phone records, banking data, etc. and make the case without the original email info. Bubba is the same bad actor, the facts are the same, and no evidence used against him in any way is trumped up.

It’s laughable (and disingenuous) to say that the high rate of guilty pleas in fed court are because the gov’t is hiding the source of the evidence. The high rate of pleas is due to the stiff sentences and the thorough nature of the fed prosecution system. If you get federally indicted, lots of eyes have looked over your case and there’s a damn good chance that it’s a winnable case. There has NEVER been a law that says the gov’t must use EVERY piece of evidence it has. They routinely protect witnesses and informants in this manner, and have done so for decades. It’s not nearly as sexy as the hyper-Libertarian conspiracy theory folks would like it to be, but this is the way it is.

Make the big-L Libertarian case in this forum all you like, but please don’t tweak (or make up) facts to suit your premise.

CNSYD August 25, 2013 at 4:49 pm

“I argued it to the point of exhaustion and general disinterest the last time FITS published it” Mike, such is the way with this “marketplace” of discussion. You can dispute an utterance of Sic Willie and his minions and the next time they post an article on the topic the same misinformation, disinformation and/or distortions will be there. It is based on the principle of repeating the same lies over and over make the sheeple tend to believe it is fact.

Mike at the Beach August 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm

I am beginning to think you’re right, and it’s enough to wear you out.

Curious August 25, 2013 at 5:00 pm

You mean the Justice Assistance Grant Program and the ACLU study about the $ from the feds for pot busts of low level offenders? Yeah, they just made all that up. Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics – that’s a pretty tired refrain, too.

Mike at the Beach August 25, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I never said they made it ALL up, but the ACLU report contained egregious statistical and factual errors. That’s what we flogged around with for days last time. I’m just not going to do it again because it’s been done and obviously facts aren’t what Lazenby wants to talk about. If they were, she wouldn’t have repeated the same dribble here after being called on it last time (ignoring reality is actually a pretty effective tactic with low information folks and the friendly “home crowd”). Let her post the JAG grant numbers! They would do nothing but bolster my point because they are neither “millions for local law enforcement” here in SC nor based solely (or even heavily, or even at all in most cases) upon drug cases, especially misdemeanor drug cases. Unlike Lazenby, I’m not making up facts in this regard, nor am I relying on someone else’s stats. In a former life I rec’d and administered JAG grants; the numbers are simply what they are. Debate the efficacy of drug laws; debate the morality of drug use, debate whatever you want, but don’t make up facts or rely on the ACLU for your talking points and expect us to roll over for you.

TontoBubbaGoldstein August 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm

So, what you’re saying here, is if “Bubba” ain’t doing nothing wrong, he ain’t got nothing to worry about?

While TBG doesn’t dispute any of what you have written, he wishes you would have named your “bad actor” something different.

TBG also notes that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” and foresees great potential for abuse by the SOD and “parallel construction” as or government continues to grow larger and LARGER and LARGER.

BTW, few things are as “sexy as [a] hyper-Libertarian conspiracy theory” , not even “ebony, teen milfs”.

Mike at the Beach August 26, 2013 at 10:48 pm

First, allow me to thank you for your civil and gracious tone, TBG, and apologize for my careless use of 1/3 of your moniker in my not-really-made-up hypothetical case! It won’t happen again.

While, as you infer, it is true that if you’re not talking about buying and selling drugs in wholesale quantities the DEA SOD couldn’t care less about you (and won’t hear about you), that wasn’t my point exactly. I was trying to focus on the misconceptions, half-truths, and flat-out incorrect parts of the Lazenby argument. If this was some Star Chamber, secret witness, conspiracy kinda thing, the fact that the guilty party was, in fact, guilty would (of course) in no way excuse or legitimize the program. That’s just not even in the ballpark of what we’re talking about with the SOD.

As for ebony teen MILF’s… I will force myself to refrain from comment.


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