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DEA says drug smugglers used crypto & Net but cops got around it
- Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 00:29:20 -0400
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: FC: DEA says drug smugglers used crypto & Net but cops got around it
- From: Declan McCullagh <email@example.com>
Note this sounds a lot like what the DEA and Reno have been saying for years:
inserting backdoors into crypto products to preserve the balance between
privacy and snoopability. So what's changed after the announcement last month?
DEA: "We hope that we don't lose the ability to intercept encrypted
communications." (He doesn't seem to know what he's talking about, but appears
to mean decrypting and not intercepting.)
Reno: "It is going to be more and more difficult for law enforcement... make
sure that we balance the privacy concerns that are so important with law
enforcement's legitimate concerns."
WITH U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO
COLOMBIAN AMBASSADOR ALBERTO MORENO
SUBJECT: ARREST OF COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKERS
IN OPERATION MILLENNIUM
THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
OCTOBER 13, 1999, WEDNESDAY
Acting Administrator Donnie Marshall of the Drug Enforcement Administration
MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Attorney General. And congratulations to Ambassador
Moreno for a job well done by the law enforcement authorities in his country.
The operation that we're announcing today is, in my opinion, one of the most
significant operations in the history of drug enforcement, Operation
It began when, about a year ago, at the request of the United States
two of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world today were investigated
by the Colombian government, the Colombian national police, and today those
traffickers, along with a number of others, were arrested.
In this case, the defendants used very sophisticated communications equipment,
including use of the Internet, encrypted telephones, and cloned cellular
telephones, in what was a vain attempt to avoid detection. But in the end, it
was these very devices which led to the devastating evidence against them.
Through the use of judicial wiretaps and intercepts in both Colombia and in
United States, their communications were intercepted and recorded, thus
producing evidence which comes straight from the defendants' own mouths.
In addition, Drug Enforcement agents executed a covert search warrant for
evidence contained in a computer located in South Florida at the residence of
one of the defendants, which acted as the center of their operation in South
Florida, thus uncovering the method of communication through the Internet.
Our prosecutors, agents and investigators in South Florida await the
to bring these defendants before a court to face the charges. Thank you.
Q You were talking about the sophisticated kinds of communication devices, and
you mentioned the Internet. Did that include net phones?
(U.S Attorney Tom Scott from Miami)
MR. SCOTT: They had various -- and the DEA people can speak to this, but they
had encrypted phones; they used all types of different phones. They'd get
phones and throw them away. And they even used the Internet. So it was
sophisticated electronic methods of trying to avoid detection, but the
intercepts, both in Colombia and the United States picked up.
Q And did you have trouble in any way with the state of law enforcement's
abilities to intercept these kinds of devices? Were there any problems?
MR. SCOTT: No, I think this case demonstrates that through -- we made a
on the Colombian government, through the Vienna Convention, through letters
rogatory, and they proceeded immediately to conduct the investigation and to
the judicial intercepts to their prosecutors, and I think that was very
Q There were no technical problems, though, in gaining access to these
MR. SCOTT: We were very satisfied with the investigation the way it was
Q Mr. Marshall, on her point, please. The head of the DEA and the FBI have
repeatedly -- and Ms. Reno have repeatedly warned of the dangers of not being
able to break the codes of criminals. And of course encryption legislation is
being debated at length.
Is this an indication that maybe that's not so great a problem after all?
MR. MARSHALL: Well, that was not a significant impediment in this particular
investigation. We've encountered that in many, many other investigations.
We're encountering it ever more frequently. And we hope that we don't lose the
ability to intercept encrypted communications.
Q Mr. Ambassador --
ATTY. GEN. RENO: I would point out -- I would point out in that regard that in
this instance, it was not an obstacle. But as more and more drug traffickers
and others engaged in organized crime and other activities, including
encrypt their communication, it is going to be more and more difficult for law
enforcement. And that is the reason it is so important law enforcement work
with the private sector and with others to ensure the protection of our
security interests and to make sure that we balance the privacy concerns that
are so important with law enforcement's legitimate concerns.
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