BENT Magazine, July 1998 issue


Report reveals that thousands of innocent people may have been illegally monitored in violation of federal law.

In defiance of a 30-year old Congressional law, state and local law enforcement officials have allegedly ordered illegal wiretaps resulting in hundreds of thousands innocent conversations being monitored and recorded throughout southern California.

At the insistence of defense attorneys, Judge Gregory Alarcon recently held secret hearings into the possibility of wiretap and other evidence gathering misconduct on the part of prosecutors and police. Alarcon's findings exposed a wiretap system so out of control that tens of thousands of innocent citizens are routinely monitored and never informed of the monitoring, despite a clear mandate from federal law regulating wiretapping. In addition, it has been revealed that the costs for those wiretaps, which have resulted in few arrests and no convictions, have reached upwards of $3.8 million in taxpayer dollars.

The testimony brings into question the integrity of dozens of judges and hundreds of Deputy District Attorneys, as well as Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti himself. A review of public records made available by the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office revealed that several Superior Court judges have issued wiretap orders which may have been incorrectly applied for by the District Attorney's office and that information is being used by local law enforcement to initiate investigations without revealing the nature and source of the evidence.

The results of Alarcon's hearings have also sparked an investigation by the FBI looking into the excessive wiretap orders issued by judges, including O.J. Simpson trial judge Lance Ito. The FBI investigation also brings into question why so many wiretaps have been ordered, for periods of time much longer than allowed by law, which resulted in so few arrests.

And the FBI is also under scrutiny with wiretapping issues. The Center for Democracy and Technology, a non-profit organization, dedicated to public policy solutions within the new computer and communications media era, said "the FBI is now attempting to use the law improperly to expand it's surveillance capabilities".

Law enforcement, the District Attorney's Office, and the U.S. Attorneys Office all declined comment.