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IP: ISPI Clips 5.30: U.S. lawmakers approve major wiretap law change

From: "ama-gi ISPI" <[email protected]>
Subject: IP: ISPI Clips 5.30: U.S. lawmakers approve major wiretap law change
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 00:08:52 -0700
To: <[email protected]>

ISPI Clips 5.30: U.S. lawmakers approve major wiretap law change
News & Info from the Institute for the Study of Privacy Issues (ISPI)
Monday October 12, 1998
[email protected]
This From: Reuters News Service, (via Yahoo) October 8, 1998

U.S. lawmakers approve major wiretap law change
(adds Senate approval, FBI comment)

Aaron Pressman

WASHINGTON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Without debate or notice, U.S. lawmakers on
Thursday approved a proposal long sought by the FBI that would dramatically
expand wiretapping authority -- an idea Congress openly rejected three
years ago.

The provision, allowing law enforcement agencies more easily to tap any
telephone used by or near a target individual instead of getting
authorization to tap specific phones, was added to the Intelligence
Authorization Conference report during a closed door meeting and filed with
the House and Senate on Monday.

The conference report was easily adopted by the House on Wednesday, despite
an objection to the wiretapping provision from Georgia Republican Bob Barr,
and by the Senate on Thursday.

Neither the House nor the Senate had included the provision, known as
roving wiretap authority, in their versions of the intelligence bill. But
lawmakers drafting the conference report, essentially a reconciliation of
the two versions, decided to include it.

Civil liberties groups were outraged by the expanded wiretapping authority
and the process of adding the provision in secret.

``Roving wiretaps are a major expansion of current government surveillance
power,'' said Alan Davidson, staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and
Technology in Washington.

``To take a controversial provision that affects the fundamental
constitutional liberties of the people and pass it behind closed doors
shows a shocking disregard for our democratic process.''

FBI officials said they needed to be able to get roving wiretap authority
more easily to catch criminals taking advantage of new telecommunications

``This provision is just a refinement of the existing wiretap statute,''
said Barry Smith, supervisory special agent in the FBI's congressional
affairs office. ``It's just a matter of ensuring we have the means to
effectively pursue these violent criminals and terrorists.''

Under current rules, law enforcement agencies seeking roving wiretap
authority from a judge must prove that an individual is switching
telephones specifically for the purpose of evading a surveillance. The
standard has been difficult to meet and kept the number of roving wiretaps
approved to a minimum, a telephone industry official said.

Without roving authority, police must get permission from a judge for each
telephone line to be tapped.

Under the change approved this week, the police would need show only that
an individual's ``actions could have the effect of thwarting interception
from a specific facility.''

The change removed the need to consider the target's motive in using
different telephones.

Copyright  1998 Reuters Limited.

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