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An Unbalanced Wiretapping Act


How much leeway should law enforcement be granted to eavesdrop on citizens’ private conversations? That’s a question lawmakers on Beacon Hill will likely be grappling with this year. Legislation filed last week aims to update Massachusetts’ 1968 statute authorizing the use of wiretaps.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was joined by some lawmakers, police chiefs and mayors this week in calling for the update. They claim that the 45-year-old wiretap law is antiquated and does not address modern communication devices like cell phones and the Internet.


Sometimes the wrong people can be targeted by overzealous law enforcement, which is why these safeguards were enacted in the first place.

Any expansion of the wiretap statute must protect the rights of citizens who may be wrongfully suspected or accused. “The wiretaps are issued too easily now,” Fall River defense attorney Frank Camera said. “The police do not fully explore all their other options before, or they will generally say that other methods won’t be as effective (as a wiretap). I disagree. Search warrants can be effective. Confidential informants can be effective. Grand jury testimony with cooperating witnesses can be effective.”