MuckRock: DEA Documents Show Parallel Construction Widely Used

Yesterday MuckRock released a number of United States Drug Enforcement Agency documents acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents reveal that methods of parallel case construction are widely utilized and trained institutionally within the Drug Enforcement Agency and collaborating agencies, with strong institutional controls in place to prevent knowledge of parallel construction involved in cases from reaching any court officers, including the prosecutors assigned the cases.

The documents, linked from the post on MuckRock1 take on a special significance given the Silk Road investigation.  In the Silk Road case the ability of the prosecution  to present any convincing evidence hinged singly on the act of a "law enforcement" agency breaching the Silk Road servers. The early pretrial fight over the legality of the server breech set the course for everything that followed.

One particularly interesting tidbit is that when information about parallel construction in a case leaks, a special "Taint Review Team" must consult with a judge to determine which evidence must be turned over to the defense. The Taint Review team is also responsible for insulating prosecutors from evidence that would reveal the application of parallel construction methods in a case. The existence of dedicated taint review teams implies the that the application of parallel construction to criminal cases is more widespread than has been suggested previously, and that secrecy with regard to the number of uses of parallel construction and the particular cases in which parallel construction has been utilized hints that the same secrecy may be necessary for the technique's survival.

Indeed the documents seem to support this further. Beyond illustrating that the infrastructure developed to support parallel construction is developed enough to assume widespread use by organs of the United States Government, the lack of other information supports the idea that secrecy is essential to parallel construction's survival. Legal justifications for parallel construction by law enforcement are redacted. The materials also repeatedly and forcefully emphasize the poor public image of parallel construction as a motivation for concealing instances where the techniques have been applied.

This combination, along with isolating knowledge of parallel construction operations from prosecutors in the courtroom, suggests that a substantial fear of agencies utilizing parallel construction methods is that the actual legal justification for parallel construction is so thin that it would likely be overturned by any Appellate court and the number of potential cases to be taken to Appellate court to challenge parallel construction methods are legion.

  1. A mirror of the documents is also available here in the original pdf format as well as an archive of PNG images of the pages. Base64 sha256 hashes are:
    for the pdf and
    for the archive of PNG images. Generated via:
    openssl dgst -sha256 -binary $file | openssl enc -base64  

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