Drug Enforcement Administration training documents released to MuckRock user C.J. Ciaramella show how the agency constructs two chains of evidence to hide surveillance programs from defense teams, prosecutors, and a public wary of domestic intelligence practices.
In training materials, the department even encourages a willful ignorance by field agents to minimize the risk of making intelligence practices public.
The DEA practices mirror a common dilemma among domestic law enforcement agencies: Analysts have access to unprecedented streams of classified information that might prove useful to investigators, but entering classified evidence in court risks disclosing those sensitive surveillance methods to the world, which could either end up halting the program due to public outcry or undermining their usefulness through greater awareness.
In addition to potential national security risks of exposing classified information and constitutional quandaries, an earlier version of the module highlights another issue with introducing sensitive or clandestine evidence into domestic trials: “Americans don’t like it.”
When the court is made aware of classified evidence, a wholly separate—if unfortunately named—squad of prosecutors called the Taint Review Team will consult with the judge to determine which evidence must be turned over to the defense.