The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR
The question before the Court is whether wiretap evidence of telephone conversations of the Defendants should be suppressed.
The statute provides, in brief, that before a telephone may be tapped, the Attorney General or an Assistant Attorney General specially designated by him shall authorize an application to a federal judge for authority to make the wiretap,
and that the application to the Court and the ensuing court order both shall identify the person who authorized the application to the Court.
The application to this Court recited that the then Attorney General, John N. Mitchell, had specially designated the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice, Will Wilson, to authorize the application, that Will Wilson had authorized the application, and that attached to the application was a letter from Will Wilson containing the authority. The order of this Court issued pursuant to the application also identified Will Wilson as the officer authorizing the application.
All of the documents appeared impeccable. However, Assistant Attorney General Will Wilson never saw the file, never authorized the application, and never signed the letter. His purported signature was affixed to the letter submitted to this Court by an officer below the rank of Assistant Attorney General. The application and the Court order are both defective in identifying Will Wilson as the officer authorizing the application.
The government has submitted affidavits of former Attorney General Mitchell and of a subordinate which set forth departmental procedures for securing wiretap orders in this and similar cases. The affidavits unfortunately do not supply the missing link.
The procedure adopted and followed here fails for three reasons:
(1) Neither the Attorney General nor an Assistant Attorney General specially designated by him authorized the application to this Court;
(2) The application did not identify correctly the officer authorizing the application to this Court; and
(3) The Court order did not identify correctly the officer authorizing the application to this Court.
The statute provides that if wire communication is unlawfully intercepted, it may not be used in any Court proceeding.
The evidence here was not obtained in accordance with the procedure mandated by the statute. It must therefore be suppressed.
I am mindful that all other U.S. District Judges who have faced this precise question, and to whose opinions my attention has been called by the government, have reached an opposite conclusion.
I have given their views careful consideration and reluctantly decide otherwise.
The failure of Mr. Wilson to affix his signature to a small number of letters of authorization has regrettably resulted in frustration and the loss of a staggering ...