AP NEWS

Records show Alaska fails to disclose wiretaps on residents

January 22, 2018

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska public records reveal that the state Department of Law has failed to disclose when it taps the phone of a resident.

The records obtained by the Juneau Empire show the department hasn’t filed an annual wiretap report in the 25 years since the Alaska Legislature began allowing the state to conduct them, the newspaper reported Sunday.

Department spokeswoman Cori Mills said that with budget cuts and tightening of resources, the Criminal Division has fallen behind. She also said the department didn’t have anything to report until recently.

The state’s failure to produce a report means Alaska residents have no idea how frequently the state taps their phones — although some experts said wiretaps might not happen often.

“Alaska tends to have broader civil rights than the feds do, and look at all the hoops the feds have to jump through and all the manpower they have to devote to a wire,” said Elizabeth Fleming, a public defender in Kodiak.

State law limits the ability of police to use true wiretaps. They can only be used for cases involving murder, serious drug trafficking, human trafficking, sex trafficking or kidnapping, and require a warrant and strict oversight.

In an attempt to track down the number of wiretaps Alaska has performed, the Juneau Empire contacted six criminal defense attorneys in Alaska, none of whom had an answer.

Head public defender Quinlan Steiner declined to comment on the record, citing unfamiliarity with the issue.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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