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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Listen Carefully

Time Magazine is reporting that Duke Cunningham, the California Congressman who pled guilty to bribery and other corruption charges on November 28, 2005, cooperated more fully than anyone realized at the time of the plea. Turns out the Dukester wore a wire for the Feds.

Having a cooperating witness wear a wire is a standard practice when you have an ongoing conspiracy or web of criminal activity. Cops and prosecutors get warrants for this sort of thing all the time in drug and mob cases. But in Cunningham's case, the folks involved in the wire would have potentially been much more high profile fish: other folks in Congress, high-paid defense lobbyists and contractors, folks at the many possibilities.

According to Time, it's got Republicans in DC checking their calendars and blackberries:
The identity of those with whom the San Diego congressman met while wearing the wire remains unclear, and is the source of furious—and nervous—speculation by congressional Republicans....An FBI spokesman declined comment. Asked whether Cunningham, an ace Navy fighter pilot decorated for his service in Vietnam, had worn a wire, the spokesman said the response from a higher-up was, "Like I'd tell you."
No need to be nervous if you haven't done anything wrong. Isn't that the winger talking point we're always hearing about the illegal NSA spying issue? Not so comfortable when the shoe is on your foot, is it?

You know, these days the technology is so good, you can wire someone up without it showing at all. I've seen cops in drug task force cases wire up a hooker-turned-snitch, wearing very skimpy clothing, and would never have known she had the equipment on her had I not been present for the wiring. (They needed a woman in the room as a witness to be certain harassment issues weren't later brought up...don't ask. You'd be surprised what you can fit in a Wonderbra.) I'm thinking if they could hide a wire on a skinny woman in a flimsy tank top and some Daisy Dukes, they could find any number of places to squirrel one away on Duke's tank-like body, under his French cuff shirt and tie.

The fun thing about wired conversations is that the tapes are later transcribed, and used as evidence by the investigating officers, first for the grand jury testimony for indictments. Those transcripts generally get entered as evidence if the case goes to trial -- which means they become part of the public record. So, coming soon to a courthouse hear you: a script for bribery, corruption and scandal potentially involving members of Congress and those who bribe them. And Duke hung out with a decidedly Republican crowd on the Hill.

Two questions: (1) Who will turn up on the tapes? (2) Who else has been running around Capitol Hill wearing a wire? (Wasn't Jackie Boy Abramoff rumored to be cooperating with the Feds some 18 months or so prior to entering his pleas...hmmmm....)

(Pix courtesy of The Wire. If you haven't seen this show on HBO, I recommend it highly. Great scripts, great acting, great details research.)