In a nutshell:
- The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2013 reached a ten year high -- there were 3,576.
- Only 1 wiretap application was rejected, and that was by a state court. (Number of requests: 3577)
- 87% of all wiretaps were for drug offenses.
- Average cost of a federal wiretap: $43,361.
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The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has released its annual report on the use of federal and state wiretaps and electronic surveillance. The summary is here, and the page with all the appendixes and charts is here. Some highlights:
- 85% of the federal wiretaps were in drug cases.
- The average cost for a federal wiretap was $71,748, a 13 percent increase from 2010.
- Telephone wiretaps accounted for 96 percent (2,092 cases) of the intercepts installed in 2011, the majority of them involving cellular telephones.
- During 2011, a total of 4,006 arrests, 2,700 convictions, and additional costs of $51,874,823 arose from and were reported for wiretaps completed in previous years.
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Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam has lost his motion to suppress wiretaps.
Thousands of conversations between Mr. Rajaratnam and more than 130 colleagues, employees, friends and family were secretly recorded by federal agents over a nine-month period in 2008.
The Judge did sever some of the conspiracy counts:
Mr. Rajaratnam and Ms. Chiesi are among 24 people charged criminally in a broad probe into insider trading on Wall Street. So far, 14 people have pleaded guilty in the case.
The report on 2008 wiretaps has just been released. Of the 1,891 applications, none were denied. Applications dropped by 14% this year. 95% of those granted were for cell phones and portable devices. A whopping 84% were in drug cases. The full report is available here (pdf) and the tables here.
A total of 1,891 applications to federal and state judges for orders authorizing the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications were reported in 2008. No applications were denied. This is a 14 percent decrease in the total of applications reported, compared to 2007. Fewer states—22 states compared to 24 in 2007—reported wiretap activity and the number of applications approved by state judges, 1,505, was down 14 percent from 2007. Federal judges approved 386 applications, down 16 percent from 2007.
The most common form of interceptions sought: Telephones (as opposed to oral (bugs) or solely electronic devices.) They accounted for 97% of the orders. As for cost: [More...]
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The Obama Justice Department, in briefs filed by Bush holdover U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan (the one who prosecuted Tommy Chong and successfully sought a prison term for his shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail, and the one who prosecuted a 56 year old recluse for writing obscenity, and the one who has said Obama should let her stay on the job after his election) has taken the position that your whereabouts, as determined from your cell phone through records kept by your cell phone provider, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
There has been a split among federal district courts on this. Most say that before the Government can request cell phone providers to turn over cell site locator records -- which show where you are when on the phone by showing where your phone is when it is turned on -- they must submit an affidavit showing probable cause for the request. That's because unlike a pen register, which only shows numbers dialed from the phone, or a trap and trace, which shows numbers calling the phone, cell site tower records show the location of the the phone when being used. That makes it like a tracking device and people have an expectation of privacy in their whereabouts.
The first case to hit the federal appellate courts on the issue is one from the Western District of Pennsylvania -- thus the involvement of AUSA Mary Beth Buchanan. [More...]
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