November 2, 1995

Honorable Henry Hyde
Committee on the Judiciary
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

An article published today in The New York Times states that the "FBI wants advanced system to vastly increase wiretapping." That simply is not so.

Court-ordered wiretapping is the single most effective investigative technique used by law enforcement to combat illegal drugs, terrorism, violent crime, espionage and organized crime. The majority of wiretapping is conducted by state and local law enforcement. Last year there were 1,154 wiretap court orders nationwide for all of law enforcement but these court-ordered wiretaps are critical to saving lives and solving the very worst crimes suffered by the public. Moreover, that number is not expected to increase in any significant manner when the law already passed by Congress is fully implemented.

Congress last year overwhelmingly passed legislation to preserve this ability in the face of advancing technology. The law neither expands authority nor ability, it merely maintains the status quo, that is, only maintains the ability of law enforcement to conduct court-ordered electronic surveillance. Without this, the public safety would be severely jeopardized.

The simple facts are:

The new law requires the FBI, on behalf of all of law enforcement, to work with the telephone industry to identify technical design requirements for industry to build into their systems. The public notice mentioned in The Times article is part of that process and we are working with the telephone industry to define workable requirements and reasonable capacities.

Deputy Attorney General Gorelick said this morning: "Let me make it perfectly clear, there is no intention to expand the number of wiretaps or the extent of wiretapping." Those who are using the public comment notice to argue to the contrary are wrong.

Sincerely yours,

Louis J. Freeh