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Re: CWD--Wiretap In the Night

   Adding to the CWD wiretap alarm by Brock and Declan: 
   The Washington Post, September 26, 1996, p. A30. 
   Wiretaps and Money Bills [Editorial] 
   Legislators who have pet projects but not enough support to 
   get them passed have a way of turning desperate during the 
   closing days of the congressional session. Their thoughts 
   turn ineluctably to unrelated appropriations bills. Only 
   last week, Rep. Frank Wolf used the transportation funding 
   bill as a vehicle for usurping the courts' role in a 
   specific domestic relations dispute. Now senators working 
   on the Commerce, State and Justice appropriations bill have 
   slipped in provisions relating to wiretaps that have been 
   before the Congress for 18 months but have not been 
   adopted. The law should not be changed by means of these 
   stealthy riders. 
   One of the substantive changes in the criminal laws ordered 
   by the money committee, for example, would make it easier 
   to obtain court orders authorizing "roving" wiretaps. This 
   would permit putting taps on any phone a suspect might use 
   -- including unspecified public phones -- without 
   requiring, as the law now does, that the government show 
   that the suspect is attempting to thwart a home or office 
   tap by repeatedly changing phones. This may or may not be 
   reasonable, but Congress considered and rejected it earlier 
   this year. It shouldn't be shoved through on an 
   appropriations bill. 
   The committee bill also increased the number of crimes for 
   which a wiretap can be issued, adding a list of new, 
   relatively imprecise offenses related to terrorism such as 
   "providing material support to terrorists" and "terrorist 
   acts transcending national borders." Taps already are 
   allowed for just about every major crime in which a 
   terrorist might engage, including bombing, arson, murder, 
   kidnapping, extortion, espionage, sabotage, treason, 
   hostage-taking and the destruction of trains ships, 
   aircraft and aircraft facilities. What, then, is the reason 
   for adding these new elastic terms, which could include far 
   less serious offenses that someone thinks might be linked 
   to terrorism? The committees that dealt with the subject in 
   April did not see fit to do so. Why now has the 
   Appropriations Committee intervened? 
   The competing values of security and privacy rights require 
   a much better sorting out. It's best done by people who 
   have had the benefit of relevant testimony and experience. 
   The appropriations committees are the wrong setting to deal 
   with such questions, which should not be presented in a 
   take-it-or-leave-it package with the government's continued 
   operation at stake.