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89. July 11, 2008 Memorandum Re Title III Procedures

July 11, 2008




FROM: Matthew W. Friedrich
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Criminal Division

SUBJECT: Recent Changes Regarding the Office of Electronic Operation's (OEO) Electronic Surveillance Unit ESU)

I write to inform you of recent changes I have made with respect to the Electronic Surveillance Unit (ESU) of the Division's Office of Enforcement Operations, and to request your assistance to ensure that wiretap packets submitted to ESU are ripe for consideration.

As you know, ESU attorneys work diligently to timely process wiretap applications. Unfortunately, as the number of wiretaps submitted for consideration to ESU has increased exponentially in the last 18 years (from 782 requests in FY 1990 to 2,724 in FY 2007), the number of attorneys within ESU (7-9) has remained constant, despite budget requests to increase its size. This low level of staffing, when coupled with the large amount of wiretap approval requests then pending ("the queue") and the inconsistent quality of the requests submitted for consideration, has led to delays in processing wiretap applications. Such delays are problematic, and must be addressed immediately.

What we in the Criminal Division are doing:

  1. By the end of this month, we will double the number of attorneys assigned to ESU. That will bring the total number of attorneys assigned to ESU to 19. This increase will be accomplished, in the short term, by the reassignment of other attorneys, including contract attorneys, from other sections of the Criminal Division to ESU until longer term replacements can be funded and put in place.
  2. We are transitioning, as of August 1, 2008, to a paperless system, such that all Title III application packets must be submitted by email.
  3. We are instituting, effective August 1, 2008, a series of measures to ensure that applications do not enter the queue until they are ready to be acted upon. These requirements are listed in Attachment A. Incomplete or non-compliant packets will not be considered as a general rule, and if resubmitted, will be placed at the end of the queue.

What you can do:

  1. Institute or maintain quality-control measures in your district to ensure that packets sent to ESU are complete, accurate, internally consistent, and ready to be acted upon. Many districts already have such procedures in place. Anything which improves the quality of what is in the queue will quicken the time in which all packets can be turned around. At a minimum, I would ask that you give strong consideration to having a supervisory level Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) "clear" all wiretap packets prior to their submission to ESU. Title III training for supervisory AUSAs and others will be offered at the National Advocacy Center this coming February.
  2. Make sure that your district is not one of those that allows law enforcement agents to submit Title III packets directly to ESU, without the review of an AUSA. Such submissions are commonplace in many districts.
  3. Make sure that requests for wiretap extensions or "re-ups" are submitted as soon as practical and not, for example, on the date the wire expires.
  4. Distribute the Attachments to this email to the AUSAs in your district who apply for wiretaps. These Attachments, which provide guidance as well as outline some new procedures and requirements, are:

    Attachment A: ESU requirements for Title III submissions

    Attachment B: Common deficiencies in Title III submissions

    Attachment C: Checklist for Title III affidavit submissions

I am confident that once the measures identified above are implemented, and if we work together, we will be able to substantially reduce delays in obtaining approval for meritorious wiretap application packets. Questions about ESU's requirements, or any of the Attachments, should be directed to Julie Wuslich or Tom Taylor, who can be reached in the ESU at (202) 514-6809.

Thank you for your cooperation and consideration

[updated July 2008] [cited in USAM 9-7.010]

Updated June 8, 2015