Wiretap requests from federal and state authorities fell 14% in 2011

Wiretap drop primarily from a drop in applications for intercepts in narcotics offenses US Court office says

Federal and state court orders approving the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications dropped 14% in 2011, compared to the number reported in 2010.

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According to a report issued by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts a total of 2,732 wiretap applications were authorized in 2011 by federal and state courts, with 792 applications by federal authorities and 1,940 applications by 25 states that provide reports.   The reduction in wiretaps resulted primarily from a drop in applications for intercepts in narcotics offenses, the report noted. 

Some other interesting facts from the report which covers intercepts done between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2011:

  • The number of applications reported as approved by federal judges fell 34% in 2011
  • The number of applications reported as approved by state judges fell 2%, as compared to 2010.
  • Wiretap applications in California, New York, and New Jersey accounted for 62% of all applications approved by state judges.
  • Portable device, a category that includes cellular telephones and digital pagers, was the most frequently noted monitored location in wiretap applications.
  • In 2011, 98%, or 2,674, of all authorized wiretaps were designated as portable devices.
  • The most common surveillance method was wire surveillance that used a telephone - land line, cellular, cordless or mobile. Telephone wiretaps accounted for 96% (2,092 cases) of the intercepts installed in 2011, the majority of which involved cellular telephones.
  • Eighty-five percent of all applications for intercepts (2,334 wiretaps) in 2011 cited illegal drugs as the most serious offense under investigation. As of December 31, 2011, a total of 3,547 persons had been arrested and 465 persons convicted as a result of all interceptions reported as terminated. Federal wiretaps were responsible for 28% of the arrests and 10% of the convictions arising from wiretaps for this period.

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