Wiretapping and Bugging

April 5, 1967

Report Outline
Laws and Decisions on Eavesdropping
Spread of Privacy-Invading Taps and Bugs
Controversy Over Proposed Tougher Laws

Laws and Decisions on Eavesdropping

Disclosure of widespread telephone tapping and electronic eavesdropping by federal investigators has placed a number of government prosecutions in jeopardy, including several politically sensitive cases. Admission by the Department of Justice that federal agents had obtained evidence by using practices frowned upon by the courts also has brought about a serious drive in Congress to clear up the legal ambiguities now surrounding wiretapping and bugging. Hearings opened March 16 in the House and March 20 in the Senate on an administration-supported measure which would outlaw all wiretapping and eavesdropping, public or private, except when the security of the nation is involved.

But a number of police officials around the nation are worried that the measure would interfere with their operations, particularly in the field of combating organized crime. Hence, the effort to put stringent restrictions on wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping has encountered initial trouble on Capitol Hill.

Federal Eavesdropping and Recent Court Cases

The government's admission that federal agents had engaged in illegal eavesdropping was made on May 24, 1966. Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall, in an unusual statement to the Supreme Court, acknowledged that in 1963 F.B.I, agents had placed an eavesdropping device—a spike mike—-in the Washington hotel suite of Fred B. Black Jr., a lobbyist and associate of Robert G. (Bobby) Baker, then Secretary to the Senate majority. Black himself was not the object of the F.B.I.'s investigation which, according to the government, was directed at obtaining information about organized crime. But in 1964 the lobbyist was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to a $10,000 fine and 15 months to four years in prison.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Apr. 17, 1992  Politicians and Privacy
Jan. 20, 1989  Your Right to Privacy
Mar. 21, 1986  Privacy in the Workplace
Oct. 18, 1974  Rights to Privacy
Apr. 05, 1967  Wiretapping and Bugging
Apr. 20, 1966  Protection of Privacy
Nov. 09, 1961  Wiretapping in Law Enforcement
Feb. 29, 1956  Surveillance of Spying
Jan. 25, 1956  Eavesdropping Controls
Mar. 14, 1949  Wire Tapping
Crime and Law Enforcement
Military Intelligence