Electronic Surveillance

Electronic Surveillance

During the course of a criminal investigation, law enforcement officers may decide to use electronic surveillance or electronic devices such as wiretaps or hidden microphones to monitor and record conversations, observe movement, and trace or record telephone calls

i. Basic Rules: Consent and Probable Cause

a. Recorded conversations are inadmissible as evidence unless certain procedures are followed

1. Consent is given by one of the parties to be monitored

2. There is a warrant authorizing the use of such devices

b. A warrant is required in most cases before engaging in electronic surveillance, meeting specific conditions

1. Detail with “particularity” the conversations that are to be overheard

2. Name the suspects and the places that will be under surveillance

3. Show with probable cause that a specific crime has been or will be committed

ii. Force Multiplying

CCTV and traffic cameras are examples of force multipliers. These earn that name because these forms of electronic surveillance allow law enforcement agencies to expand their capabilities without a significant increase in personnel.

a. More pervasive forms of electronic surveillance are allowed under the theory that people who are in public places have no reasonable expectation of privacy

1. Law enforcement are increasing their use of closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV)

· Images are transmitted in real time from the targeted area

2. The growing use of traffic cameras

3. Critics of CCTV systems contend that they are easily abused to infringe on individual privacy

G. Homeland Security and the Fourth Amendment

i. The Patriot Act and Search Warrants

a. Has made it easier to conduct searches

b. Warrants for terrorism do not require that FBI agents provide any proof of criminal activity

ii. The Patriot Act and Surveillance

a. More leeway for surveillance

b. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – allows surveillance without a warrant as long as the “primary purpose” of the investigation was to investigate foreign spying and not to engage in criminal law enforcement

c. Federal agents have “roving surveillance authority”

iii. The NSA and Surveillance

a. After criticisms on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) practices, Congress passes a revised FISA in 2008

b. Supervising FISA courts have more control over the NSA

c. Despite the new oversight, the NSA collected phone calls of millions of Americans and monitored social media, e-mails, and other communications across the world

Media Tool

“NSA Admits it Routinely Breaks Rules to Spy on U.S. Citizens

· A short clip about the NSA’s metadata collection.

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