The Fourth Amendment is clear that the government can’t search our persons or property without a specific warrant permitting the investigation.
So what do you do if you’re the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and you want to rifle through innocent Americans’ mail and luggage without bothering with all that annoying Constitution stuff?
Well, a Justice Department (DOJ) audit of the DEA released this fall reveals that the federal agency decided to skirt that pesky Fourth Amendment by bribing citizen “volunteers” to rifle on their behalf. Buzzfeed News reports (emphasis added):
Department of Justice investigators spent two and a half years investigating the DEA’s confidential source program and released their findings in September. They uncovered a system rife with problems.
In one case, a DEA source working for a package company would rummage through private mail in the hopes of finding bundles of cash he could turn in for reward money.
In other cases, TSA employees working the X-ray machines at travel screening points would tip off the DEA about suspicious packages for cash, rather than report to their own superiors.
It was all part of a program of what the DEA terms “limited use” confidential sources. In theory, these were tipsters who voluntarily handed information over to the DEA.
But in practice, federal investigators found that these sources had become a de facto arm of the agency. The informants did repeat business, were well-compensated, and took direction from the DEA on what information to pass on.
In some cases they made more money from the DEA than they did from their day jobs. Investigators found that one airline employee made $600,000 in four years while a parcel company employee was paid over $1 million across five years.
Now, what Buzzfeed doesn’t mention but the full DOJ report spells out is where the DEA got the $237 million it paid these habitual informants.
Read the rest at Rare.