The trainer’s notes continue, “In the old days, classified material was poison. In some ways, it still is… because if treated incorrectly, it can screw up your investigation.”
A tactic known as “parallel construction” allows law enforcement to capitalize on intelligence information while obscuring sensitive sources and surveillance methods from the prosecution, defense and jury alike. DEA training documents suggest this method of reconstructing evidence chains is widely taught and deployed.
Last August, Reuters first reported on the practice of parallel construction by the DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD), a secretive unit that includes representatives from the FBI, CIA and NSA. Slides obtained by Reuters defined the method as “the use of normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD.” But documents released to Ciaramella indicate that DEA trainers routinely teach the finer points of parallel construction to field agents and analysts across the country, not just within SOD.