6/11/15 DEA Wiretaps

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Electronic wiretaps for federal investigations are serious business. So serious, in fact, that before any wiretap can be authorized it has to be approved by the Justice Department. It’™s all spelled out in a 1968 federal law [18 U.S.C. § 2516] designed to prevent abuse.

Once DOJ has given its approval, then the agents may proceed with an application to get the okay of a federal judge.

In the past decade, the Drug Enforcement Agency has more than tripled its number of wiretaps.  Information obtained from the DEA in a FOIA request raises questions.

The number of wiretaps approved by federal judges has doubled in the past 10 years.  However, the number of wiretaps approved by state judges has increased by more than 600%.  State judges are now approving more wiretap requests for federal cases than are federal judges.

Is the DEA using state judges because they’€™re viewed as less familiar with federal law, regulations and procedures and are more likely to overlook safeguards?  This may explain why federal agents, enforcing federal law are using state judges.

By going this route, the DEA has been cutting-out Justice Department review.  Is this a legitimate loophole they’€™re exploiting?

A simple reading of the law appears to make it very clear DEA must first get DOJ approval before it approaches a judge — any judge –€“ for wiretap authority.

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