Lawmaker says new wiretap law needed

Saturday, September 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Legislation is needed to expand law enforcement's authority to share what they learn in legal wiretaps following an attorney general's opinion that says that authority is limited, a state lawmaker said Friday.

Rep. John Nance, R-Bethany, said the opinion, issued by Attorney General Drew Edmondson on Wednesday, ties the hands of police to disclose information about criminal activity with other law enforcement agencies _ even when it is appropriate.

``It should not prevent a law enforcement officer who is sworn to uphold the law from stopping it or doing something about it,'' said Nance, a retired Internal Revenue Service investigator.

An attorney general's opinion has the force of law until it is amended or reversed by a court.

The opinion, requested by Nance, says state law restricts the kind of information obtained through legal wiretaps that can be disclosed about planned or completed crimes other than those for which the wiretap was authorized.

The Oklahoma Security of Communications Act limits disclosure to offenses involving murder, drug trafficking, cultivation, manufacture or disclosure of illegal drugs and conspiracy.

``That's very restrictive,'' Nance said. The opinion means that a police officer who learns about plans for a bank robbery through a wiretap obtained in an unrelated investigation can legally do nothing about it.

``A law enforcement officer who takes the oath to uphold the law, he's kind of in a bind,'' Nance said.

Nance said federal law allows authorities to divulge information about a host of offenses including kidnapping, robbery, racketeering, the bribery of public officials and the sexual exploitation of children.

Nance said he plans to offer legislation next year to make it easier for law enforcement to share what they learn in legal wiretaps. Nance authored a similar bill this year that died in the Senate.