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Bugging The Chicago School Board

Earlier this month, the Sun-Times reported that the Chicago Board of Education spent $3,000 to electronically sweep certain administrative offices - including that of the board president - for bugs.

I am not talking about cockroaches here. I am not even talking about ants. The bugs I am talking about are eavesdropping devices capable of surreptitiously recording conversations.

A question then arises. Who would want to record conversations in the offices of CPS administrators?

We can imagine all kinds of possibilities - personal enemies; political enemies - but the problem is this: It's illegal.

In Illinois, an eavesdropping device cannot be used to record or overhear a conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation.

Violations of the eavesdropping law are punishable as felonies.

Likewise, to enter the office to place the bugs may be construed as burglary, an additional felony. Along with the felony, there are civil penalties.

A union official, a political opponent, or a crossed lover would be facing a sentence in a state prison as well a severe loss of personal assets. A private investigator hired to place the bugs would also face the revocation of their license.

Who would take these risks to simply record conversations? If it is illegal, how could the recorded conversations be used? Could it be that school board members are paranoid about something?

I discuss this in my book One Hundred Percent Guilty. While George Ryan was the Illinois Secretary of State, he used investigators under his inspector general to sweep both his government office and his campaign headquarters. He was eventually indicted and convicted for misuse of taxpayer funds in connection to sweeping his private political office.

Ryan had plenty of reasons to be paranoid. He was committing numerous felonies including obstruction of justice , fraud, and extortion.

There are exceptions to the Illinois eavesdropping restrictions. For example, the federal government can trump the state law. After exhausting all routine investigative procedures, the FBI, armed with probable cause, could file an affidavit with a federal judge allowing them to wiretap or use some other third-party eavesdropping device in order to listen and record an alleged criminal's discussion of illegal activity.

It was done in both the Family Secrets and Blagojevich cases. It was also probably the reason for Ryan's paranoia.

Can anyone think of any reason why the FBI would wiretap the Chicago Public Schools board's offices?

CPS is an altruistic agency whose website describes it leadership as a "team of committed, distinguished and highly accomplished individuals working to improve the education of Chicago children."

Why the paranoia?

The state eavesdropping law also requires the person who discovers one of them nasty little bugs to promptly report the critter to the states attorney.

So, if during one of those costly CPS sweeps, an illegal eavesdropping device is uncovered we can count on CPS to report it. And another Chicago criminal will be publicly exposed.

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Ed Hammer is a retired Illinois Secretary of State Police Captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty: How and Insider Links the Death of Six Children to the Politics of Convicted Governor George Ryan.

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See also:
* George Ryan's Park Bench
* George Ryan's Dogs and Ponies
* George Ryan's Other Jailhouse Interview

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on March 9, 2011


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