December 05, 2019

Wyden and Leahy Request Ethics Investigation of AG Barr’s Approval of Illegal DEA Mass Surveillance Program

Barr rubber-stamped the DEA program, which scooped up billions of phone records without warrants or any legal analysis

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., today asked for an ethics investigation of Attorney General William Barr’s decision to approve an illegal mass surveillance program by the Drug Enforcement Administration in a letter to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. 

Barr approved the DEA program in 1992, during his first stint as attorney general, without conducting any analysis of whether it was legal, according to an Inspector General report released earlier this year. The vast surveillance program swept up billions of phone records over more than 20 years, using subpoenas that were never reviewed by a judge.

“Mr. Barr’s authorization of this sweeping surveillance program without requiring, at minimum, an appropriate legal analysis, was not consistent with his oath to support and defend the Constitution and it likely amounted to professional misconduct,” Wyden and Leahy wrote. “Attorney General Barr knew, or should have known, that neither statutory law nor federal case law permitted the DEA to sweep up, in bulk, billions of records of Americans’ telephone communications. We write to ask that you open an investigation into the authorization of this recently-disclosed illegal, bulk surveillance program that collected billions of records of Americans’ telephone calls without conducting any legal analysis of the program.”

Read the full letter to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility here.

Additionally, Wyden and Leahy asked Barr to explain whether current DEA surveillance programs have adequate protections to prevent unlawful spying on Americans, and what changes the agency has made in response to the Inspector General’s report. Their full letter to Barr is available here.