This is a report explaining that DEA was aided by NSA's surveillance system at the time they were persecuting a wanted criminal Gonzalo Hinojosa while he had been in Panama by using data obtained by NSA's systems. The report suggests this person was very evasive and dangerous perhaps this is why DEA collaborated with NSA.


Another example of LE and NSA cooperation.

Shouldn't NSA be concerned only about foreing intelligence without doing anything related to LE? If there is a reason for such cooperation to exist, how far can cooperation between a LE organization go with an intelligence agency of the same country? And what type of criminal actions substantiate to do this? Terrorism, child abuse, et cetera.

For example, if FBI wanted to research more about a wanted person inside another country out of their reach, may it use NSA's systems to track down this person's movement with cellular networking? Or spy on his Internet activity with surveillance systems mentioned?

  • Where does is say they were "persecuting a wanted criminal?"
    – user35069
    Aug 11, 2023 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


As far as the legal powers of the organisation(s) allow

By this, I mean that if what the DEA was doing was allowed under the laws that govern the DEA, and what the NSA was doing was allowed under the laws that govern the NSA, then they can cooperate as much as they want. The could investigate jaywalking together if they wanted (of course, this would have to be jaywalking within Federal jurisdiction).

Divisions in executive government are practical rather than legal. That is, the executive can carry out "intelligence" and "law enforcement" and as a practical matter, they are carried out by different agencies. However, they are functions of the executive and could be carried out by one mega-agency if they wanted to set things up that way. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security is such a mega-agency.

  • Isn't this begging the question? If OP is asking how far the law permits cooperation to go, "as far as the law allows" doesn't seem to get us any closer to an answer.
    – bdb484
    Mar 14, 2023 at 2:21
  • @bdb484 I understand the OP is asking for a general overview. If they want to know the limits of the jurisdiction of the NSA, DEA etc then each would be a worthy question on its own.
    – Dale M
    Mar 14, 2023 at 4:54
  • "However, they are functions of the executive and could be carried out by one mega-agency if they wanted to set things up that way." - And the man reason civil governments (non-dictatorial, non-authoritarian) sent up such divisions is to ensure many people and organizations have the keys...less chance for coups and such, more compartmentalization. This compartmentalization was cited as contributing to 9/11, hence, repeal of many divisions (Posse Comitatus Act)
    – paulj
    Apr 13, 2023 at 15:41

Intelligence is Law Enforcement.

BND, Verfassungsschutz and MAD and the Landesbehörden für Verfassungsschutz create 19 branches of intelligence organisations. Those are specially classed as Nachrichtendienste in german law, separate from the federal police branches of Bundeskriminalamt (roughly equivalent ot the FBI), the Zollkriminalamt (roughly the customs and border patrol) and other federal police or military.

There is a special setup, that bans the intelligence agencies from doing policing in many areas, the Trennungsgebot.

However, that does not make them not law enforcement - they enforce different laws. The most relevant are the Verfassungsschutz (and similarly the 16 separate Landesbehörden für Verfassungsschutz). They are tasked with exclusively:

  • investigate threats to the german democracy, such as insurgent groups or terrorist groups inside Germany.
    • being part of such a group is a crime.
  • Finding spies inside Germany.
    • spying in Germany is a crime.
  • Develop guidance documents that govern how to protect state secrets. The same documents are also suggestions for the economy how to protect trade secrets.

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