State eavesdropping up, federal domestic wiretaps technically down in 2006: report

[JURIST] The number of domestic wiretap applications granted by US state judges rose 20 percent in 2006 to 1,378, while federal judges granted only 461 applications, a drop of 26 percent, according to a new report filed [press release] by the Administrative Office of the US Courts [official website]. The figures released Monday in the 2006 Wiretap Report [PDF, text] did not include national security wiretaps supposed to be cleared through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which were the subject of a separate report [PDF text; JURIST report] sent by the US Department of Justice to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi under the terms of the Patriot Act.

The reported drop in federal domestic wiretap authorizations was actually something of a statistical anomaly, with the Department of Justice telling the Administrative Office that the

apparent decrease in the reported use of wiretaps in federal investigations does not reflect a large number of complex and/or sensitive investigations that continued into 2007 "and thus could not be reported to the Department of Justice by the deadlines, as well as some federal investigations that were under court seal." It is DOJ's belief that had these matters been included, the data "would not reflect any perceptible decrease in the use of court-approved electronic surveillance by federal law enforcement agencies."
Most of the state wiretaps were sought in four states: 430 California (430); New York (377); New Jersey (189), and Florida (98). The general dominance of state over federal wiretaps is thought to be largely a function of increased state responsibility for drug-related investigations as federal agencies have been drawn into more national security and anti-terrorism efforts. AP has more.


 

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