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The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA’s intelligence arm, was the government’s first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. It was a model for the massive phone surveillance system the NSA launched to identify terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. That dragnet drew sharp criticism that the government had intruded too deeply into Americans’ privacy after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it to the news media two years ago.

The similarities between the NSA program and the DEA operation established a decade earlier are striking – too much so to have been a coincidence, people familiar with the programs said. Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker said, “It’s very hard to see (the DEA operation) as anything other than the precursor” to the NSA’s terrorist surveillance.

The extent of that surveillance alarmed privacy advocates, who questioned its legality. “This was aimed squarely at Americans,” said Mark Rumold, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That’s very significant from a constitutional perspective.”

Holder halted the data collection in September 2013 amid the fallout from Snowden’s revelations about other surveillance programs.

– From today’s USA Today article: U.S. Secretly Tracked Billions of Calls for Decades

The drug war is something that wouldn’t even exist in a rational, mature and intelligent civilization. Not only is it ineffective, invasive and brutish, but we now know that the almost religious zealousness with which it has been pursued by its proponents has led directly to the current unconstitutional surveillance state. If not for our acquiescence to the “war on drugs,” would the authoritarian statists amongst us have been able to usher in the even more dangerous but similarly endless “war on terror?” Personally, I doubt it.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of the DEA, let’s not forget the recent scandal: Government Report Finds DEA Agents Had “Sex Parties” With Prostitutes Hired By Drug Cartels

Moving along, today’s excellent article from USA Today is a must read. Here are some excerpts, but I strongly recommend reading the entire thing:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans’ international telephone calls nearly a decade before