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BYNUM ET AL. v. UNITED STATES AND BIRNBAUM V. UNITED STATES.

November 11, 1975

BYNUM ET AL
v.
UNITED STATES

AND BIRNBAUM
v.
UNITED STATES.



C.A. 2d Cir. Reported below: 513 F.2d 533.

[ 423 U.S. Page 952]

Certiorari denied.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concur, dissenting.

The "minimization" provision of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 provides that every order and extension thereof authorizing electronic surveillance shall "contain a provision that the authorization to intercept shall be... conducted in such a way as to minimize the interception of communications not otherwise subject to interception under this chapter...." 18 U.S.C. § 2518(5). This "minimization" provision, together with other safeguards, e.g., §§ 2518(3)(a), (b), (c), and (d), constitutes the congressionally designed bulwark against conduct of authorized electronic surveillance in a manner that violates the constitutional guidelines announced in Berger v. New York, 388 U.S. 41 (1967), and Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). Congress has explicitly informed us that the "minimization" and companion safeguards were designed to assure that "the order will link up specific person, specific offense, and specific place. Together [the provisions of Title III] are intended to meet the test of the Constitution that electronic surveillance techniques be used only under the most precise and discriminate circumstances, which fully comply with the requirement of particularity." S. Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong., 2d Sess., 102 (1968). These cases afford the Court a particularly appropriate vehicle for fashioning principles to guide authorizing judges in administering the "minimization"

[ 423 U.S. Page 953]

     provision - guidance which is absolutely essential if the congressional mandate to confine execution of authorized surveillances within constitutional and statutory bounds is to be carried out.

 The urgent need for guidance from this Court clearly emerges from the record in these cases. For the record fairly bristles with apparent instances of indiscriminate and unwarranted invasions of privacy of nontargets of the surveillance.

Two telephones at the home of a friend of petitioner Bynum were the subjects of surveillance orders. The orders authorized federal narcotics agents to overhear and electronically record incoming and outgoing conversations of "Bynum and others as yet unknown." The order as extended for one telephone was for a period of 34 days, and the order for the second telephone covered the last 20 days of that period. The judge who authorized the surveillance left administration of the "minimization" provision to the monitoring agents, being of the view that the facts of the massive narcotics conspiracy under investigation precluded per se surveillance guidelines promulgated by him and that minimization would be better achieved by allowing the agents discretion in determining what should be intercepted. But the monitoring agents were not informed by the judge or their superiors of this decision. Rather, Mr. Updike, the Assistant United States Attorney who supervised the surveillance, testified that the agents were instructed to intercept all but privileged attorney-client communications:

"And with respect to the actual operation of the intercept, my instructions were that they were to record everything except what any inspector felt was a privileged communication, and as to those they were to report to me when anything of that nature occurred or felt something of that nature occurred.

[ 423 U.S. Page 954]

     "But the instructions were that they were to record and to monitor at the start all communications that came over the telephone."

Moreover, the monitoring agents testified that they were unaware of, and had not been informed of, the statutory "minimization" provision. And although Mr. Updike testified that the monitoring agents did have discretion with regard to whether they should monitor a particular conversation (although not with regard to whether they should record it), he conceded that the agents were never informed that they had such discretion; when questioned whether he was "counting on the agents being bored and taking off their earphones as a vehicle by which the minimization objective of the statute would at least in part be accomplished," Mr. Updike responded: "I think that is a fair characterization."

In consequence of this failure in even the slightest respect to comply with the minimization safeguards, every conversation and attempted communication (whether incoming or outgoing) over the target telephones during the period was recorded, and approximately 90% of the completed communications were also contemporaneously monitored by the agents. The Government intercepted 1,974 completed communications, excluding calls to such services as information and the weather, which covered 102 hours of conversation time. Necessarily, calls of short duration will generally have to be monitored in toto; agents must inevitably listen briefly to all calls in order to determine the parties to and the nature of the conversation. But 501 conversations lasted at least three minutes, and 71 of these longer calls ...


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