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The DEA Helps Train Local Cops to ‘Exploit’ Social Media

The DEA paid a contractor just over $20,000 to hold sessions on extracting hidden data from social media.

Joseph Cox

Joseph Cox

DEA

Whether sharing intelligence or passing on surveillance equipment, there is often a close relationship between federal and local law enforcement.

A set of documents obtained by Motherboard through the Freedom of Information Act also show how the DEA funds training sessions for other law enforcement bodies, including local police, in order to "exploit" social media.

A section of the DEA "is responsible for keeping up with the increasing use of emerging technologies as means of communication used by the Drug Trafficking Organization's [sic] (DTO) and to provide viable solutions to the field on how to exploit said technologies," a statement of work reads.

"The training is open to other international, federal, state and local law enforcement in the respective DEA offices area of responsibility," the document adds.

A section of the financial documents obtained by Motherboard, showing how much the DEA spent on social media exploitation classes, or SMEC. Image: DEA

The DEA paid a company called Plessas Experts Network just over $20,000 to provide two training sessions in March and April last year, according to financial documents included in the released records. The DEA wanted the contractor to provide instructions and tools to help law enforcement locate hidden information from social networking sites; teach attendees how to customize search tools (presumably including Google); and also help with "photo exploitation," which may refer to things such as uncovering image metadata.

Judging by a similar training program that took place the following month, "Students will be able to identify digital 'footprints' that users leave online and explore techniques to view websites without being identified," a document advertising the training, available online, reads.

You can read a selection of the documents related to the DEA's funding of training programs here.

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