The Trump administration used the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to conduct “covert surveillance” on protesters who marched in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The surveillance was done in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Albuquerque, according to emails obtained by CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The emails also reveal the full extent of the surveillance:
“The operations involved the use of undercover DEA agents to ‘infiltrate’ protests, social media monitoring and aerial surveillance by the DEA Air Wing.”
The surveillance was first authorized in May of 2020, and it greatly expanded the DEA’s law enforcement authority, raising questions about the legality of such a move by members of Congress who found out about it while performing their oversight duties:
“Representatives Jerry Nadler and Karen Bass urged the Justice Department to ‘immediately rescind’ the decision in a June 5 letter, calling it ‘unwarranted and antithetical to the American people’s right to peacefully assemble and to exercise their Constitutional rights without undue intrusion.'”
Predator drones were also used to surveil crowds in American cities, the emails show. These are normally used to hunt down and kill terrorists in battle zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq:
“A June 9 letter from 35 congressional representatives to the FBI, DEA, CBP, and the National Guard decried the use of aircraft and predator drones to ‘surveil American citizens and collect vast amounts of personal information.’ Although the letter noted the memorandum authorizing the DEA to surveil protesters, it did not reflect knowledge that DEA specifically used aerial surveillance methods like those deployed in Chicago.”
Remember how Donald Trump repeatedly said he intended to make “America first”? Turns out he was using our taxpayer dollars to make us first in the world when it comes to spying on its own citizens for the crime of peacefully assembling, which just so happens to be a right the Constitution gives each and every one of us in this country.