It’s Time to Bring State Wiretapping Law into the 21st Century – Sentinel and Enterprise

As his term draws to a close, Governor Charlie Baker has decided to redouble his efforts to pass previously stalled law enforcement oversight legislation.

The governor reintroduced his bill, first submitted in 2017, that would give law enforcement more leeway in using wiretap resources to investigate a wider range of violent crimes .

“As technology evolves and the public safety landscape changes, the tools we use to keep our communities safe must also change,” Baker said of existing laws, passed in 1968 to target organized crime. .

“The common-sense changes to the wiretap law we are re-proposing today would finally update this 50-year-old law to recognize that law enforcement should be able to use the same tools to solve a murder committed because of racial hatred or gang affiliation. which they use to solve a murder committed in connection with organized crime.

The existing archaic state wiretapping law applies light years away from the digital age we now live in.

Now scammers can take advantage of all available technological advances to spread information – like texting and Snapchat – while the police are 50 years behind.

Moreover, this wiretap authorization retains a far too limited objective.

To address this imbalance in the fight against crime, we must expand the types of offenses subject to wiretapping law and allow authorities to view information generated on smartphones and other computer-assisted communications.

This proposed update would allow law enforcement, under “strict judicial oversight,” to use wiretaps for a variety of alleged crimes, including weapons charges, arson, assault, sex trafficking, gang affiliation, kidnapping, possession of explosives and murder.

The bill would also include updated definitions to refer to modern technologies such as cellphones and satellite, to explicitly include communications between out-of-state parties regarding in-state crime, and to authorize translators. to monitor communications.

Because the state has some of the strictest wiretap standards in the nation, it requires state law enforcement to partner with federal agencies to investigate certain crimes, said resident Dennis Galvin. de Westford, a retired state police major and current president of the Massachusetts Association for Professional Law. Enforcement.

“The key detail is making sure the reporting requirements and oversight of judges are maintained,” Galvin told the Boston Herald.

Previous attempts to expand the scope of wiretaps have failed in the Legislative Assembly, primarily due to privacy concerns.

And that’s the ACLU state’s problem with this legislation.

“Expanding surveillance powers to allow wiretapping of private communications in investigations unrelated to ‘organized crime’ would have significant negative effects on the civil rights and civil liberties of Bay Staters,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts.

We understand the sensitivity to privacy breaches, but unfortunately technology has all but eroded that expectation.

Under strict judicial oversight, a revised and expanded wiretapping law would benefit all law-abiding citizens.

And as Attorney General Maura Healey told The Associated Press in 2017, the wiretap law update simply recognizes the new reality of cellphones and texting.

We urge lawmakers to embrace this new reality and pass this improved wiretap law.

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