Court ordered wiretapping is a fundamentally different model of communications surveillance than is the sting operation or consensual recording. The principle difference is that in most instances, the conversations recorded are not guided by the certain knowledge that the recording is being made to document an expectation of criminality. While the same expectation to document a crime exists in the minds of the law enforcement officers who applied for the electronic surveillance warrant, agents of law enforcement are not conscious actors in the conduct of the communications being recorded. The language analysis in wiretap cases focuses on the conversational and hierarchical interactions of the targets of the surveillance.
Evidence recorded in wiretaps focuses on the verbal transactions between callers and the social network of the whole community of individuals being surveilled. The format for evaluation of the evidence remains the same. We evaluate and exploit the recorded evidence by studying and comparing the communication patterns in both individual and groups of conversations.
The documentation of interceptions required by wiretap statutory language provides a framework for understanding the overall content of the surveillance event. Law enforcement descriptions of the recorded conversations are susceptible to all the same bias-skewed misperceptions of the actual content and intentions of the recorded individuals. The false context of monitoring a large number of conversations tends to meld the targets' independent factual statements and misattribute knowledge of other's actions among unrelated conversations. We exploit to the client's advantage any dissonance between what is factual in monitored conversations and what is only interpreted as fact by those monitoring.
Once wiretapped conversations are transcribed, the more intricate examination of the language content and social relationships can begin. Who knows what, when and from whom becomes an intercepted communications organizational chart. The conversational data we gather describing actions, inactions and references to others' actions can be analyzed and mapped for inconsistencies with the prosecution theory of the suspects' conduct.
Many years ago, then criminal defense lawyer and recently mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, described Sam Guiberson's work as having "turned the defense of wiretap cases into a science." What was true then is only more so now. While law enforcement may tap conversations, the communications that are the product of those interceptions can be tested, and prosecutions challenged, by the creative application of the social, linguistic and computational sciences now at our disposal.