November 2, 1995 Honorable Henry Hyde Chairman Committee on the Judiciary House of Represe
November 2, 1995
Honorable Henry Hyde
Committee on the Judiciary
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
An article published today in The New York Times states that the "FBI
wants advanced system to vastly increase wiretapping." That simply is
Court-ordered wiretapping is the single most effective investigative
technique used by law enforcement to combat illegal drugs, terrorism,
violent crime, espionage and organized crime. The majority of
wiretapping is conducted by state and local law enforcement. Last year
there were 1,154 wiretap court orders nationwide for all of law
enforcement but these court-ordered wiretaps are critical to saving
lives and solving the very worst crimes suffered by the public.
Moreover, that number is not expected to increase in any significant
manner when the law already passed by Congress is fully implemented.
Congress last year overwhelmingly passed legislation to preserve this
ability in the face of advancing technology. The law neither expands
authority nor ability, it merely maintains the status quo, that is,
only maintains the ability of law enforcement to conduct court-ordered
electronic surveillance. Without this, the public safety would be
The simple facts are:
Congress last year did not expand the FBI's authority to conduct
wiretaps nor did the FBI ask Congress to do so.
The FBI and the telephone industry are working together -- as the law
Congress passed last year requires -- to find reasonable and
affordable solutions in the face of advancing technology. The initial
public request for comment is part of that process.
We have not and are not asking for the ability to monitor one out of
every 100 telephone lines or any other ridiculous number like that. To
obtain that many court orders and conduct that extent of wiretapping
would be nearly impossible. Information supplied by the FBI was simply
applied in a manner not intended to reach erroneous conclusions.
Without this law, adequate funding and reasonable technical solutions,
the Nation's public safety and national security are unquestionably
jeopardized. Merely maintaining without expanding the ability of law
enforcement to conduct court-ordered wiretaps is the single most
important problem law enforcement faces today.
The new law requires the FBI, on behalf of all of law enforcement, to
work with the telephone industry to identify technical design
requirements for industry to build into their systems. The public notice
mentioned in The Times article is part of that process and we are
working with the telephone industry to define workable requirements and
Deputy Attorney General Gorelick said this morning: "Let me make it
perfectly clear, there is no intention to expand the number of wiretaps
or the extent of wiretapping." Those who are using the public comment
notice to argue to the contrary are wrong.
Louis J. Freeh
FBI Home Page
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank