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[liberationtech] parallel construction hack

Jonathan Wilkes jancsika at
Mon Feb 3 22:41:06 PST 2014

Hi list,
      Reflecting a bit on parallel construction, it seems to me that no 
matter how sophisticated the system, you _cannot_ have a perfect 
firewall between the illegal surveillance used to target an individual 
and the officers who appear to use legal means in order to make the 
arrest.  Here are the reasons why:

* somehow, someone must communicate to the arresting officers where to 
go and what to look for, and that is almost certainly not part of their 
normal patrol
* having a perfect firewall would potentially put the arresting officers 
in danger.  If the officers truly have no idea that the "random" stop 
they are instructed to make is going to be a drug kingpin, they aren't 
going to be too crazy about participating.
* people like to talk

What if defense lawyers banded together, read through the leaked 
documents about parallel construction, and created a standardized series 
of questions to ask officers on the stand for cases where parallel 
construction is a possibility?  These questions could be cleverly 
constructed to have a broad application-- succinctly covering most of 
the known and likely scenarios-- while at the same time requiring direct 
yes-or-no answers from the officers.  If they cover their bases then 
officers who made the arrests using parallel construction would either 
have to a) be evasive and dodge some of the questions or b) perjure 

Now nobody wants to perjure themselves in a courtroom.  But even more 
than that, nobody wants to be part of a group that is systematically 
perjuring themselves in the courtroom.  The more members of the group 
there are, the more any particular member of the group may be subject to 
unpredictable repercussions.  So either the testimony in cases that use 
parallel construction becomes ineffectual due to chronic evasiveness, 
_or_ the cost to the officers testifying becomes too great for them to 
willingly participate in the program.  Or maybe a little of both.

Finally, this wouldn't have any harmful effect on officers who make 
arrests that aren't part of parallel constructions.  They'd just 
continue doing their jobs.


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