Won’t Somebody Think of the Children!!!!!!: Coakley Proposes Massive Expansion of Wiretapping Powers

The argument: "Let’s not kid ourselves what this is about. This is not about reducing crime. Remember, they can’t think of a single case where there’s a criminal walking free today because electronic wiretapping is only allowed under narrow circumstances here in Massachusetts. This is about power." Maybe if these laws had been in place, Curt Schilling's baseball loyalties would have been clearer to the AG. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Some folks might be ashamed to use the bodies of dead kids as cover for a power grab. That clearly doesn’t include Martha Coakley.

The Globe and Daily News Transcript reported yesterday that Coakley, along with state senator Gene O’Flaherty (D-Chelsea) and state rep John Keenan (D-Salem), have introduced a new bill to massively expand law enforcement’s power to conduct electronic wiretaps of our communications (S. 1726 / HD 1194).

In her press conference, Coakley cited the school shooting in Newtown, and a 2011 case where a murder conviction was overturned because it rested on evidence obtained under a wiretap that was not valid under current Massachusetts law. What the Globe doesn’t mention, but Waltham’s Daily News Transcript does (well done, fellas) is that the murderer in question was convicted later anyway.

In fact, there is not one scrap of evidence that easier electronic wiretapping would have prevented the school shooting in Newtown, or would prevent school shootings here in Massachusetts. The Newtown shooter wasn’t even on Facebook.

More importantly, if the best evidence Coakley and friends can come up with to justify expanding wiretapping powers is a case where they got a conviction in the end anyway, that changes their argument completely. Instead of “this will help us convict more criminals”, they’re really arguing “this will save us some time and expense”.

Sorry, guys. That won’t cut it. Any limit on government investigatory powers makes investigations longer and more expensive. That’s the point. If investigations are costless, everyone will be investigated, because why not? There have to be meaningful legal limits on what government can and cannot do in the course of an investigation. That’s what the Fourth (and Fifth, and Sixth, and Eighth) Amendments are all about.

Last, and most laughably of all, both Coakley and O’Flaherty breathlessly told the press that “criminals have the upper hand” here in Massachusetts. Here’s a graph showing crime rates per head in Massachusetts, using federal crime statistics:

The facts show that crime has been steady at less than 3 reported crimes per 100 residents per year since around 2002, and that that level is the lowest since 1968. Criminals don’t have “the upper hand” here in Massachusetts. Crime is about as low as it’s ever likely to go. There are occasional gory and vivid crimes that catch public attention, like the Mattapan massacre, but they are rare, and getting no more common.

Let’s not kid ourselves what this is about. This is not about reducing crime. Remember, they can’t think of a single case where there’s a criminal walking free today because electronic wiretapping is only allowed under narrow circumstances here in Massachusetts. This is about power. The AG’s office knows that it’s technologically possible for them to monitor more of our electronic communications, and it bugs them that it’s illegal to do, whether or not that monitoring will result in more convictions. So, they’re ginning up false fears of crime, calling this an “update”, and trying to get the people of Massachusetts to agree to join them in the brave new mass-monitored world – which they, not us, would control.

Guys, your arguments don’t make sense. Find better ones or go home.

[Cross-posted at www.warrantless.org]

[UPDATE] A thorough analysis of the proposed legislation is now up at http://warrantless.org/2013/01/coakley-analysi/.

Recommended by somervilletom, dhammer.


5 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. More Martha

    Yes, it’s for the convenience of the prosecutors. Notice that it was not Martha Coakley who fought against the cops’ ridiculous claim that they could not be videotaped while doing their jobs. Arresting people for exercising their right to do that was perfectly OK with her. She has decided to Giuliani the Newtown massacre to push for more coptastic intrusion. Be afraid, citizens! Bad stuff is happening, and only letting police monitor all aspects of our lives will keep us safe!

  2. Typical Martha Coakley

    I’m really tired of this woman.

    She is doing a pitiful job with the office she’s in. She does nothing about the things that she should do (such as stopping the pervasive corruption that permeates both Beacon Hill and City Hall), while she does all too much about things that she should NOT do (such as this latest fiasco).

  3. Why is it so difficult to follow the Constitution?

    My attitude toward this kind of thing has always been, if you really think wiretapping will help your case – fine, but for crying out loud just get a warrant! It’s just plain lazy to not do that.

    • Warrants would still be required

      The proposals would allow types of surveillance that are currently not allowed, but would still require warrants.

      The bill would expand the scope of electronic surveillance, which is currently limited to organized crime cases, to cases involving drugs and guns, child pornography, human trafficking, and money laundering.

      The bill would also modernize the definition of “wire communication” in the law to include wireless communication on cellphones, Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

      It would allow wiretapping in cases that can’t be called organized crime. Nobody is saying just how the changes would prevent gun massacres or child porn, probably because they can’t think of any ways the changes would do that.

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Tue 25 Apr 12:54 AM