Following complaints of possible phone interference, an official at the New England Telephone Company said yesterday there was no evidence of a wiretap on the home phone of a close associate of Law School Professor Laurence H. Tribe, whose office phone was found to have been tapped early last month.
An independent investigator who last month found the tap on Tribe's phone had told the Boston Globe that he was looking into potential interference on the associate's home phone. On Monday, after Tribe's associate notified the company that his phone was being tampered with, a New England Telephone technician found extra wire loose at the junction box of the group of townhouses that included the associate's and threw it away, the associate told the Globe.
But New England Telephone Spokesman Roberta C. Clement said that the extra wire found attached to the line was examined and determined to have been used by the company for temporary service.
"It was like an extension wire," Clement said. "That temporary wire was ours. There was no evidence of a wiretap."
The associate, who was not identified, works closely with Tribe and had helped the liberal constitutional scholar do research for a May 22 article that Tribe wrote in The New York Times in which he argued that President Reagan may have committed impeachable offenses in his handling of the Iran-contra affair, according to the Globe report.
In early November, after Tribe's secretaries heard strange noises over his office phone line, the professor hired an outside surveillance expert who uncovered an extension wire leading from Tribe's third-floor office in Griswold Hall to a computer terminal on the second-floor. That wire, however, was not one of the phone company's, and was determined to be an unauthorized wiretap.
Tribe's office declined to comment on the matter of his associate.
"At this point, we could not even remotely characterize this as a wiretap," said Keith Halpern, one of Tribe's attorneys. "We have no idea whether it was unusual or not."
Halpern said the wire has been turned over to the FBI, which has been investigating the wiretap on Tribe's phone.
Halpern said that, should the FBI's probe reveal evidence of a wiretap, it would probably have been placed by those who installed the tap found on Tribe's phone.
"The fact that an associate of Tribe's had trouble on his line during the same period that Tribe was working on the Bork hearings is obviously suspicious," Halpern said. "But it's certainly not hard evidence."
"It would probably be someone who's very interested in what Larry [Tribe] has been doing," Halpern said. "There's no end of right-wing fringe groups with their personal hit lists."