NEW YORK (Jul. 6)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still wiretapping the Jewish Defense League despite the possibility of overbearing lawyer-client conversations and the attendant legal problems, the Justice Department disclosed today. The Justice Department attorney told U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein that the FBI had been listening in on and recording conversations on the six telephone lines coming into the JDL switchboard in New York between Oct. 1-31, 1970 and since January 1971. The surveillance continued beyond the May 12 indictments of 13 JDL members on gun conspiracy charges although there were lawyer-client conversations on the wiretapped lines.
The Justice Department told Judge Weinstein in response to his expression of concern that lawyer-client privileges were compromised, that it “felt reasonably confident” that agents were careful not to record lawyer-client conversations after May 12. However, the logs so far given to the defense counsel include conversations between lawyers and clients, it was revealed in court. No logs before October 5, 1970 or after May 12, 1971 were given to the defendants. The Government gave only logs or summaries of conversations between defendants and other parties, but not logs of conversations of other parties even if they were about the defendants.
The defense counsel asked the Judge for all original recordings as well as logs of conversations of other parties overheard on the JDL telephone lines. Judge Weinstein ordered the Government to give the defense counsel access to all logs after May 12. The attorneys for the Justice Department said they had to consult with the Attorney General before they could turn over any records beyond those already release, The Justice Department said it had turned over these logs despite the precedent against doing so “to remove any impediment to the prosecution of the Jewish Defense League.” The Justice Department contended that the evidence gathered on the gun conspiracy charges was not gathered by the FBI, but by the Alcohol and Tobacco unit of the Treasury Department, which deals with gun control, without knowledge of the FBI taps or the evidence contained in them. The defense said it intends to prove that the indictments were a direct or indirect result of the information obtained by the wiretaps. The counsel also requested all internal memos and communications on the taps but Judge Weinstein did not rule on that point this morning.
Today’s hearing was a prelude to the trial to decide how much of the Government’s evidence is admissible. It was conducted on the assumption that the wiretaps were illegal although the Judge made no final ruling on that question and the Government did not admit to any illegality. The Government maintains that since the FBI taps were independent of the Treasury Department investigations, the legality aspect is irrelevant to the case. The defense counsel concurred, expecting to be able to show that the evidence was indeed related to the wiretaps making the legality issue arguable at that time.