USA Today is claiming to have uncovered evidence that prosecutors in the state of California violated federal law by improperly authorizing the use of wiretaps. The paper believes that drug investigators used 738 questionable taps to intercept calls and text messages made by "more than 52,000 people." If all of this is true, then the news will raise plenty of questions brought between mid-2013 and early 2015.
The story centers around an area in Los Angeles, Riverside County, and its often-absent district attorney, Paul Zellerbach. According to the paper, Zellerbach, who is meant to sign off on any and all wiretap requests that hit his desk, give or take extenuating circumstances, frequently passed that responsibility to his subordinates. They then weren't able, or willing, to provide the proper oversight and so approved a staggeringly high number of investigations. It's not the first time that USA Today has pointed an accusatory finger at Riverside County, either, previously labeling the area as America's "wiretap capital."
The county has had a new district attorney since January, and both he and incumbent prosecutor Mike Ramos have both pledged to personally sign all future requests. That doesn't alter the fact, however, that there's a year and a half's worth of cases that might have used legally-dubious surveillance materials. As such, it looks like the folks at the ACLU might have a slightly bigger workload in the next few months.