In another exclusive about the investigatory practices of the executive branch, Reuters uncovered an IRS manual that instructed its agents to concoct phony investigative trails when using tips from the DEA’s Special Operations Division. The manual, found in an archive of Reuters’ parent company, mirrors the instructions given to DEA agents building cases for prosecution:
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 recreating 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 about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the 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 Thomson 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 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 NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The dates provide the first objective indication that the practice was in place for quite a while and apparently rather open at one time, at least at the IRS — as was the SOD in the DEA and its collection of phone data. Its removal also suggests that either the practice stopped, or more likely, the government decided that openly discussing how to falsify investigative trails could make it a wee bit difficult to win convictions in court.
Actually, the DEA says these practices have been in place since the Clinton administration, “in near-daily use.” They claim to use it to protect sources and methods, but it’s the latter that’s the issue. There is a valid argument for trying to protect human sources at risk of death and violence by constructing an evidentiary profile so that their testimony is not required for conviction, as long as that profile doesn’t misrepresent the government’s actions in the investigation to cover up any violations of a defendant’s constitutional rights. Those kinds of “methods” should not be protected by dishonest representations in court about the investigations, but that appears to be exactly what the manual trained agents to do.
How many Americans ended up convicted thanks to dummied-up investigatory trails in order to protect the government’s snooping on phone activity, by the IRS as well as the DEA? Perhaps Congress would like to provide us that answer — fast.