WIRETAPPING (Senate - April 18, 1989)

[Page: S4204]

Mr. SIMON. Mr. President, recently the Chicago Tribune had a story by Tom Hundley from Cincinnati that is a disquieting story, indeed.

It is a story of wiretapping gone far beyond anything anyone at all concerned with civil liberties could imagine happening in the United States.

I will ask that the Hundley article be inserted in the Record.

The Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and it certainly is going far beyond anything those who wrote our Constitution envisioned for people to be listening to conversations.

Even legal wiretapping should be very restrained. We have far too much that is legal. Those who are involved in legal wiretapping, when they retire, too often move on to make a living in illegal wiretapping.

At least, that is the impression that I have from my conversations with a few people.

Is what is described in the article only taking place in Cincinnati?

I hope so, but I doubt it.

The unusual situation of 2 people admitting to setting more than 1,200 illegal wiretaps, including one in the room where former President Gerald Ford visited.

When I was in the State legislature, I was pleased to sponsor a bill that would dramatically curb wiretapping in Illinois. I'm pleased to say that the chief sponsor of that legislation was Representative Jeanne Hurley, who has been my wife now for almost 29 years. That law is still largely intact in Illinois.

I am writing to the Government Accounting Office [GAO] requesting any information they may have as to how common what has apparently taken place in Cincinnati is. I'm also writing to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh requesting the same information.

I am sending a copy of this article to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asking him to join me in requesting the GAO study on this and to look into the possibility of hearings on this subject after we hear from the GAO.

I ask that the article be printed in the Record.

The article follows:

Tapping Into a Scandal--Fired Workers Say Cincinnati Bell, Police Bugged Lines


Cincinnati.--The Pete Rose gambling affair isn't the only story that has Cincinnatians scratching their heads these days.

In what some have dubbed the `reach out and tap someone' scandal, two former telephone installers for Cincinnati Bell claim they set more than 1,200 illegal wiretaps from 1972 to 1984 on orders from city police and phone company supervisors.

Among the alleged targets of the snooping: past and present members of Congress, federal judges, scores of the city's most prominent politicians, business executives, lawyers and media personalities.

Leonard Gates and Robert Draise say they even tapped the hotel room where then-President Gerald Ford stayed during two visits to Cincinnati, a tale substantially corroborated by the hotel's retired security chief.

Newspaper accounts have given Cincinnatians a disquieting inside look at a Police Department that apparently spied on itself, and at a grand jury probe that has prompted one former FBI official to suggest that the Justice Department seems more interested in discrediting the accusers than in seeking the truth.

The phone company says Gates and Draise are just trying to get even with the company for firing them. But disclosures thus far suggest there is at least some truth in what the two are saying.

The men portray themselves as mere foot soldiers in the alleged conspiracy who never paused to question the motives behind the wholesale wiretapping.

But their allegations have raised concerns about possible stock manipulations, industrial espionage and political blackmail. Gates and Draise say they tapped phone lines at the Cincinnati Stock Exchange and at General Electric's aircraft engine plant in suburban Evendale.

A federal grand jury began looking into the case last September, but so far no indictments have been returned. The city has hired a private detective to conduct its own investigation. And four alleged targets of the wiretapping have brought a class-action suit against the city and the phone company.

The phone company is fighting back with a libel suit against Gates and Draise, who, in turn, have countersued Cincinnati Bell. The company also has gone public with the unseemly details of an extramartial affair by Gates.

The conspiracy began in 1972, according to Draise, when he was approached by a Cincinnati police sergeant who said he was from the department's clandestine intelligence unit. The sergeant wanted him to tap the lines of black militants and suspected drug dealers, Draise said.

The officer assured him that the wiretapping would be legal, and that top phone company officials had approved, Draise said. He agreed and suggested the recruitment of Gates, a co-worker. Soon the two were setting several wiretaps a week at the request of their police handlers, he said.

But in the mid-'70s, the direction and scope of the operation changed, according to Draise and Gates. The wiretap requests no longer came from the police; instead, they came directly from James West and Peter Gabor, supervisors in Cincinnati Bell's security department, Draise and Gates say.

And the targets no longer were criminal elements; instead, Draise and Gates say they were asked to tap the lines of politicians, business executives and police officers.

Draise said he `began to have doubts about the whole thing in 1979' when he was asked to tap the phone of a newspaper columnist. `I told them I'm not gonna do this anymore,' he said last week.

Gates said he got cold feet in 1984 when West asked him to tap the phone lines connected to GE's computers at the Evendale plant.

`This is a fantasy of two renegades, both of whom we fired for good cause and who seek retribution,' said Dwight Hibbard, Cincinnati Bell's chairman.

Indeed, Draise was fired in 1979, after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with an unauthorized wiretap--which Draise says he set for a friend who wanted to listen in on his girlfriend's conversations.

Gates was fired in 1986 for insubordination. He claims the company was retaliating against him for taking the side of two employees who sued the company for sexual harassment, but his firing was upheld in court.

The scandal began to unfold last August when Gates and Draise took their story to the Mt. Washington Press, a fiesty suburban weekly.

At first, police denied the existence of the intelligence unit. Later, when called before the grand jury, five retired officers, including the former chief, took the 5th Amendment. But last month, the five issued a statement admitting to 12 illegal wiretaps from 1972 to 1974.

Evidence of a much larger wiretapping scheme began to mount when Howard Lucas, the former security chief of Stouffer's Hotel in Cincinnati, recalled a 1975 incident in which he stopped Gates, West and several police officers from going into the hotel's phone room about a month before a visit by President Ford.

Two days later, Lucas found a voice activated recorder and wiretapping equipment in the locked room. He said he told the Police Department and the phone company about the equipment, `but I couldn't get anybody to claim it, so I just threw it in the dumpster.'

The allegations of industrial espionage prompted GE executives to meet with Draise and Gates. According to Draise, GE counsel David Kindleberger expressed astonishment when told the extent of the tapping at the plant and liked it to the apparent loss of proprietary information to Pratt & Whitney, a competing manufacturer of aircraft engines.

Kindleberger, through a GE spokesman, now says he never discussed Pratt & Whitney or any competitive situation with Draise, but an attorney who sat in on the meeting supports Draise's version.

[Page: S4205]