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Blagojevich Corruption Trial Turns to Wiretaps

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By Kamika Dunlap on June 23, 2010 2:40 PM

The corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich turned its focus to federal wiretaps as his former chief of staff John Harris took the stand.

The jury listened to secretly recorded conversations between John Harris and Rod Blagojevich about the possibility of the former governor getting something in exchange for appointing a friend of the president to his old Senate seat, the Associated Press reports. Blagojevich was hoping to appoint Obama's successor in order to land himself a high-profile post in Washington or overseas.

The jury listened to wiretaps of rambling conversations from the fall of 2008.

Harris has pleaded guilty in the case and is testifying for the government in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Harris testified that he steered the former governor away from expectations of catapulting himself into a new position.

As previously discussed, lawmakers in at least 15 states are advocating to strip governors of their power to replace senators when an incumbent dies or leaves office midterm, turning over that power to the voters.

Currently, under the U.S. Constitution, House vacancies are required to be filled by elections, but states are allowed to choose how to fill Senate vacancies.

The new measure would require states to hold special elections to fill the vacancies, as 14 states -- including Connecticut and Rhode Island -- already do.

Jurors heard former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Harris discussing the matter on FBI wiretap tapes.

In general, wiretapping is a form of electronic eavesdropping accomplished by seizing or overhearing communications by means of a concealed recording or listening device connected to the transmission line.

Wiretapping is a particular form of electronic surveillance that monitors telephonic and telegraphic communication. The introduction of such surveillance raised fundamental issues concerning personal privacy. Since the late 1960s, law enforcement officials have been required to obtain a search warrant before placing a wiretap on a criminal suspect. Under the Federal Communications Act of 1934, private citizens are prohibited from intercepting any communication and divulging its contents.

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