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Critics applaud curbed wiretap program, but still voice concerns

Does a report involving a strategy used by criminal investigators that "almost certainly violated federal wiretapping laws while using millions of secretly intercepted calls and texts to make hundreds of arrests nationwide" concern you?

We thought it might.

And we submit that it should, given the fundamental and long-recognized rights of Americans to be safeguarded against unreasonable government intrusions.

Especially clandestine surveillance, particularly when it leads government agents to act against citizens absent any initial probable cause for suspecting them of criminal activity.

We offer up our blog post from November 23 of last year, inviting readers to peruse its contents (or reacquaint themselves with some key details in the event they read it when we first published it). That entry discussed a secret wiretap surveillance program in Southern California so breathtakingly extensive that federal prosecutors warned against its use.

Something so serious obviously doesn't just fade off into oblivion, especially when critics ranging from defense attorneys and civil advocates to judges and, as noted, prosecutors themselves have steadily railed against it.

In fact, the notorious wiretap initiative operating in the Los Angeles metro enclave of Riverside County has now reportedly been scaled back in material fashion, with a county legal official stating recently that the tool, while useful, "needs to be used cautiously."

That means sparingly, say critics across a wide spectrum, and only when supported by probable cause that fully supports a warrant and avoids the targeting of individuals who were not reasonably suspected initially of any ongoing criminal activity.

The number of wiretaps authorized by a judge in Riverside County last year exceeded 600. So far in 2016, only 14 wiretaps have reportedly been approved.

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