As the ACLU claims the NSA’s phone collection program is illegal in court papers filed Monday, members of Congress are putting pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions regarding news reports that the DEA has access to NSA intelligence and is sharing that information with numerous agencies and personnel in the government. Even if the NSA survives the ACLU’s court challenge there is little doubt that the NSA intelligence gathered should not have gone to the DEA let alone to the wide range of places the DEA shared the information.

Eight Democratic senators and congressmen have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions about a Reuters report that the National Security Agency supplies the Drug Enforcement Administration with intelligence information used to make non-terrorism cases against American citizens.

The August report revealed that a secretive DEA unit passes the NSA information to agents in the field, including those from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and Homeland Security, with instructions to never disclose the original source, even in court. In most cases, the NSA tips involve drugs, money laundering and organized crime, not terrorism.

Whether or not we have created a new legal code in the wake of 9/11 for all things related to the chimeric threat of terrorism is a matter of debate, but whether or not we did so for drug, financial, and racketeering offenses is not. We have not. Suspects in those cases absolutely still have 4th Amendment protections.

If the DEA and other federal agencies are using information gleaned from the NSA’s domestic spying program to make drug and other non-terrorism cases they are without a doubt breaking the law. Full stop.

“These allegations raise serious concerns that gaps in the policy and law are allowing overreach by the federal government’s intelligence gathering apparatus,” wrote the senators – Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sherrod Brown of Ohio…

The Reuters reports cited internal documents that show how DEA’s Special Operations Division 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 documents show that agents have been trained to conceal how such investigations truly begin – to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up the original source of the information, raising questions about whether exculpatory information might be withheld from defendants at trial.

Undeniably criminal conduct. You can’t violate someone’s rights to gain information then lie about how you received the information by fabricating a fraudulent trail of evidence. Not only should those convicted using these methods be freed, those engaging in said methods should be imprisoned.

This is a total violation of due process. Congress must investigate and Holder must do his duty to stop this practice immediately.