“Number of federal wiretaps rose 71 percent in 2012”

July 1, 2013

The Washington Post on June 28, 2013 released the following:

By Peter Finn

“The number of wiretaps secured in federal criminal investigations jumped 71 percent in 2012 over the previous year, according to newly released figures.

Federal courts authorized 1,354 interception orders for wire, oral and electronic communications, up from 792 the previous year, according to the figures, released Friday by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. There was a 5 percent increase in state and local use of wiretaps in the same period.

The office collects the figures from federal and local jurisdictions at the request of Congress, but does not interpret the statistics. There is no explanation of why the federal figures increased so much, and it is generally out of line with the number of wiretaps between 1997 and 2009, which averaged 550 annually. A large number of wiretaps was also reported in 2010, when 1,207 were secured.

“This is just one more piece of evidence demonstrating the need for a full, informed public debate about the scope, breadth, and pervasiveness of government surveillance in this country,” Mark Rumold, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an e-mail. “We have a secret surveillance program churning in the background, sweeping in everyone’s communications, and, at the same time, in the shadows (and frequently under seal), law enforcement is constantly expanding its use and reliance on surveillance in traditional criminal investigations.”

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

A single wiretap can sweep up thousands of communications. One 30-day local wiretap in California, for instance, generated 185,268 cellular telephone interceptions, of which 12 percent were incriminating, according to the report.

The vast majority of the wiretaps in both federal and state cases were obtained as part of drug investigations, and they overwhelmingly were directed at cellphones, according to the report. Only 14 court orders were for personal residences.

Most jurisdictions limit the period of surveillance to 30 days, but extensions can be obtained. In one case, a narcotics investigation in Queens, the wiretap continued for 580 days. The longest federal wiretap was also a drug case and lasted 180 days in the Western District of Washington state, which includes Seattle.

There were 25 authorized federal wiretaps in the District in 2012, 18 in Virginia and 12 in Maryland. Local authorities in Maryland reported 50 wiretap orders issued by state judges, including 34 in Harford County. Virginia’s attorney general reported nine orders.

The amount of encryption being encountered by law enforcement authorities is also increasing, and for the first time, “jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications,” the report noted.

Officials said 3,743 people were arrested as a result of the interceptions in 2012, and so far 455 have been convicted.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Federal Judge denies Blagojevich request to hear new tapes

November 29, 2011

Associated Press on November 28, 2011 released the following:

“By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — The federal judge who will sentence Rod Blagojevich had harsh words for the former Illinois governor’s attorneys as he denied a request Monday to play new federal wiretap tapes in court.

Blagojevich was convicted at two separate trials on 18 corruption counts, including allegations he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich will be sentenced next week, and his lawyers last week submitted a list of 180 secret tape recordings the FBI made of the governor and others.

Parts of some recordings were played during his trials, but Blagojevich has long argued that authorities should “play all the tapes.” He says some of the recordings hold evidence demonstrating his innocence.

But Judge James Zagel said Blagojevich’s attorneys hadn’t said what they specifically wanted to prove and what sections of the tapes they wanted to use, echoing complaints made by federal prosecutors.

“What this motion requests is my blind approval of the use of whatever excerpts it decides are relevant to ‘lack of ill intent’ and admissible … at sentencing,” Zagel said. “That request is denied.”

Zagel also derided the timing of Blagojevich’s motion, which was filed Thanksgiving Day. He said the federal courts were closed except for emergencies both Thursday and Friday, and there was no reason for Blagojevich — who was convicted on 17 of 20 counts in June — to wait this long.

He also pointed out that the motion was dated Monday, Nov. 28, even though it was filed Thursday, and that his attorneys did not notify the judge when they filed it.

“This practice is difficult to defend under any circumstances and made more so because of the nature of the motion,” Zagel said.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky did not return messages seeking comment. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment.

Blagojevich’s first trial ended deadlocked with jurors agreeing on just one of 24 counts — that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. Jurors at his recent retrial convicted Blagojevich on 17 of 20 counts, including bribery and attempted extortion related to his handling of a U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

Most legal observers expect the 54-year-old former governor to receive about 10 years in prison, though he technically faces up to 305 years in prison. Both sides are expected to file their suggestions on sentencing this week.

Judges generally frown on felons who continue to maintain their innocence at sentencing, Chicago-based federal defense attorney Gal Pissetzky said last week.

“At sentencing, you need to accept the jury verdict and then fight for your innocence later on appeal,” he said. “If you continue to shove it in the judge’s face by fighting your innocence at sentencing, it takes away from your goal of less time in prison.”

The judge scheduled a Friday hearing on another Blagojevich request related to a government witness, John Wyma. Blagojevich’s attorneys are questioning whether Wyma helped the government “in exchange for a government benefit.” Prosecutors denied that allegation at trial.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Several remain at large in Ark. corruption probe

October 12, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on October 12, 2011 released the following:

“By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Federal officials continued their search Wednesday for several people who remained at large following a widespread crackdown on corruption that culminated in the arrests of dozens of others this week in eastern Arkansas.

FBI spokesman Steve Frazier said the bureau and other law enforcement agencies were still hunting for the last of the 70 people indicted on racketeering, money laundering and drug charges as part of the four-year investigation known as “Operation Delta Blues.” Five law enforcement officers were among those indicted.

Fifty-one people were arrested Tuesday, and another five were arrested Wednesday, including some who turned themselves in, Frazier said. Those detained were expected to appear Thursday morning in federal court.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer said in an interview that he expected some defendants to take guilty pleas “relatively quickly.” He declined to say if any of the defendants had agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

“If they want their day in court, we’re willing to give it to them,” Thyer said.

News of the investigation rocked Helena-West Helena, a Mississippi Delta town plagued for years by crime, poverty and allegations of corruption. Some residents awoke Tuesday to the sound of helicopters buzzing overhead.

“I’m thankful,” said Linda Walters, a school bus driver who waited outside a press conference Tuesday afternoon after hearing the news.

She said the constant gunfire outside her home had forced her to look into moving to another city.

“I have to go sleep, hit the floor every time I hear a bullet shot,” she said. “I’m so upset.”

Helena-West Helena Mayor Arnell Willis sat next to reporters during the news conference. Willis had gone to Little Rock a month ago to plead with Thyer for federal help. Thyer didn’t tell Willis about Operation Delta Blues until Tuesday’s arrests, but Willis said he didn’t mind.

“Welcome to the dawning of a new day in the Delta,” he told reporters afterward.

The indictments accused the five officers of taking payments to guard shipments of cocaine and other drugs. Phillips County sheriff’s deputy Winston Dean Jackson is allegedly caught on a federal wiretap talking to another deputy about a payment by a defense lawyer in exchange for “failing to perform law enforcement duties.”

The unidentified deputy said the payment fell under “the good old boy” system and that anyone not involved would “get rolled over.”

Thyer would not comment on any future indictments but said the investigation was still ongoing.

According to the indictment, Jackson responded, “You get rolled over, exactly. Cause nobody say … ain’t nothing but the good old boy system.”

Helena-West Helena police officers Herman Eaton, Robert “Bam Bam” Rogers and Marlene Kalb allegedly escorted drug shipments, each receiving $500 from someone posing as a drug dealer. A Marvell police officer, Robert Wahls, is charged with accepting money from an informant and escorting a drug shipment.

It was not immediately clear if the five officers had attorneys yet. Relatives of the officers could not be reached. The federal public defender’s office in Little Rock did not return requests for comment.

Hundreds of officers from the FBI, Arkansas State Police and other agencies helped make Tuesday’s arrests. An FBI special agent was shot during one arrest, but was not seriously injured and later released from the hospital.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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