NEW YORK (Jun. 27)
The government has been given another week-until next Friday-to comply with an order by the United States District Court, Brooklyn, to provide 10 Jewish Defense League leaders charged with gun conspiracy the transcripts of wiretaps made on their phones without a court order. Judge Jack Weinstein agreed to the government request last Friday after the court had given the government a week to produce the wiretap transcripts when the case was first heard on June 18. In an unusual move, U.S. Attorney Edward Neaher personally asked Judge Weinstein for the postponement. Neaher said Attorney General John N. Mitchell has been too busy with the controversy over the publication of the secret Pentagon report on the Vietnam war to consider the transcripts and decide whether to comply with the original deadline. Sources closes to the case said Neaher’s personal appearance and request for a delay, despite reports that the Justice Department would, consistent with earlier policy, not turn over the transcripts, indicated a battle between the Justice Department’s office in Washington and the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York. The sources said that while the Justice Department does not want to turn over the transcripts and is willing to wait for the Supreme Court ruling next summer on the legality of “national security” wiretaps not authorized by court order, the U.S. Attorney is so anxious to prosecute the JDL it is willing to hand over the logs.
Sources close to the case said the seeming discrepancy between Neaher’s requested delay and the anxiousness to prosecute was motivated by the feeling that a week’s delay would provide Neaher with more forceful arguments against the Justice Department in Washington. The government has argued that “overriding considerations” of national security permit the President to “engage in intelligence-gathering operations which he deems necessary for the conduct of foreign affairs.” Judge Weinstein agreed to the week’s delay to “avoid a confrontation between the Judiciary and the Executive.” According to the government brief the wiretap was not based on internal national security but that “such surveillance was deemed necessary and essential to protect the nation and its citizens against hostile acts of a foreign power and to obtain information against foreign intelligence activities deemed essential to the security of the United States.” There was no identification of the foreign power nor the nature of “hostile acts” in the government brief which was first presented to the U.S. District Court on June 18.