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Electronic Surveillance

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Citation Edit

National Commission for the Review of Federal and State Laws Relating to Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance, Electronic Surveillance (Report) (1976) (full-text).

Overview Edit

Congress established this Commission to study and evaluate the effectiveness of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, which governs the use of wiretapping and bugging in the United States (except in cases involving national security). The Commission concentrated its efforts in three principal areas: Determining (1) whether court-authorized electronic surveillance under the provisions of Title III is an effective tool in law enforcement; (2) whether it adequately minimizes the invasion of the privacy of the individual; and (3) whether Title III is effective in preventing illegal wiretapping and bugging.

This volume contains the findings and recommendations of the Commission, a summary of the evidence considered by it, and minority and concurrent reports. The areas covered include the use of electronic surveillance by law enforcement, application for electronic surveillance by prosecuting officials, judicial review of electronic surveillance applications, and the contents and execution of surveillance orders. Surveillance without a Title III court order, the use and effectiveness of information and evidence obtained by electronic surveillance, and the control of illegal electronic surveillance were also investigated.

The Commission concluded, among other things, that electronic surveillance is an indispensible aid to law enforcement in obtaining evidence of crimes committed by organized criminals; that Title III procedural requirements have minimized the invasion of individual privacy in surveillance investigations; and that the average citizen's fears that he might be the victim of electronic surveillance are mainly unjustified. However, a sharp increase in the number of consensual surveillances by federal law enforcement officers (accompanied by a slight decrease in court-authorized surveillances) and insufficient training of law enforcement personnel in electronic surveillance techniques were also noted.

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