405 U.S. 1026 (1972)

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U.S. Supreme Court

WILLIAMSON ET AL. v. UNITED STATES , 405 U.S. 1026 (1972)

405 U.S. 1026

James WILLIAMSON and Jack Williamson petitioners
No. 71-5912.

March 27, 1972

Petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Denied.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN would grant the petition and set case for argument.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.

Petitioners were suspected of maintaining an illicit whiskey still in violation of federal tax statutes. To secure evidence against them the Treasury Department

Page 405 U.S. 1026 , 1027

planted in their midst an undercover agent who posed as a truck driver of their vendee. After gaining their confidence, this agent on 17 occasions in 1968, after our decision in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, telephoned either petitioner James Williamson or a coconspirator, one Hutcheson, for the ostensible purpose of finalizing arrangements for the delivery of their product. During their conversations, the agent was in a position to shape and guide the content and direction of their discussions and to elicit damaging admissions. All of these communications were intercepted and recorded by another federal officer who acted without a warrant and without the petitioner's knowledge, but, of course, with the full cooperation of the Treasury plant. After the officers obtained satisfactory evidence against the pair, they were arrested, indicted, and convicted after a trial, at which all of the recordings were played, over objection, for the jury.

As I have discussed before, electronic eavesdropping early crept into our law as a means of combating "fifth column" activities during wartime. Later, it was said that this weapon was essential in the battle against organized crime. Now we learn that the omnipresent electronic ear is stalking the hill country in search of moonshiners. Apparently, no suspect is too unimportant to escape its reach.

Nor is any person too important to be excluded from the Government's dossiers. Information recently presented to the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights discloses that subjects of Army intelligence operations [405 U.S. 1026 , 1028]

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