The Drug Enforcement Administration is now showing restraint by passing a new regulation ordering that agents obtain input from federal prosecutors before bugging people’s phones.
A new rule enforced by the Department of Justice requires DEA agents to consult with senior officials before requesting permission for a wiretap from a state court, reports to USA Today.
“The DEA conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in the fiscal year that ended in September” of 2014, according to USA Today. Ten years prior, the agency only submitted 3,394 wiretap applications to state courts. Justice Department lawyers were rarely sought for advice or permission.
DEA head Chuck Rosenberg, who assumed office last year, called for an extensive review to reduce this influx of wiretap applications. DEA spokesman, Russ Baer, said “this is one of several areas the acting administrator looked and said we can do better.”
The agency got in trouble last year after a legally dubious eavesdropping program was employed in the Los Angeles suburbs. DEA agents would go rogue, so to say, and circumvent traditional legal processes to avoid having their initiatives get hampered by federal oversight.
An investigation undertaken by USA Today and The Desert Sun revealed that the DEA and prosecutors in Riverside County, California (not far from Los Angeles) established an operation that ultimately surveyed millions of calls and text messages. The only authorization they needed was an individual state-court judge.
The new internal reforms will likely pacify privacy advocates for now, but implementation is needed to truly satisfy the people’s concerns over government snooping.
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