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Criminal Resource Manual

1060. Scope of 18 U.S.C § 2512 Prohibitions

Section 2512 of Title 18 provides penalties for conduct concerning devices which are primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications. It prohibits sending such devices through the mail or in interstate or foreign commerce. Id. § 2512(1)(b). It also prohibits the publication of an advertisement (1) concerning any device if the advertisement promotes the use of the device for the purpose of surreptitious interceptions, or (2) concerning devices which are primarily useful for the surreptitious interception of communications. A "device" under § 2512 is intended to include any combination of parts designed or intended for use in converting those parts into such a device and from which such a device may be readily assembled. See S.Rep. No. 541, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 13 (1986).

The legislative history of Section 2512 indicates that the statutory prohibition applies to such things as the martini olive transmitter, the spike mike, the infinity transmitter, and the microphone disguised as a wristwatch, picture frame, cuff link, tie clip, fountain pen, stapler, or cigarette pack. See S.Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong., 2d Sess. 95 (1968). However, the legislative history specifically exempts parabolic and other directional microphones "ordinarily used by broadcasters at sports events" from the reach of the statute. Id.

It is worthy of note that 18 U.S.C. § 2512(1)(c)(ii) prohibits the advertisement of any device for "surreptitious interception." Such advertising is prohibited although the device itself may not be primarily useful for surreptitious interceptions and although the interceptions promoted are surreptitious, one-party consensual interceptions permissible under 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(d). See United States v. Bast, 495 F.2d 138 (D.C. Cir. 1974).

Section 2512 violations are punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years and a fine under Title 18.

Section 2512(2) excepts from the prohibitions of the section providers of wire or electronic communication services acting in the normal course of their business and law enforcement officers acting in the normal course of their activities, or persons under contract with such law enforcement agencies.

[cited in USAM 9-60.200]