This memo, first reported and published by Buzzfeed, could be subject to ongoing reauthorization. The policy authorizes DEA to enforce other criminal laws outside of its usual remit of drug enforcement by supplementing law enforcement efforts of other organizations for the purposes of public safety. This expansion alone, under the circumstances, would be unobjectionable. But the memo went further. It also authorizes DEA to “conduct covert surveillance” and “share intelligence” as part of its supplemental activities.
Those provisions open the door to DEA agents conducting physical surveillance without identifying themselves, using technical surveillance techniques over crowds of individuals without suspicion of wrongdoing, and otherwise collecting intelligence—covertly—on individuals purposefully exercising their First Amendment rights…
Most law enforcement activities do not require covert activity. And when undercover activities are needed, they are performed according to strict rules and procedures and approvals. These approvals are given on a case by case basis.
In the normal course of events, law enforcement activity is conducted openly: agents identify themselves when they conduct interviews, execute searches, or make arrests.
Why should law enforcement need to use covert means to protect public safety in the context of public protests?