[JURIST] US federal Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack [official profile] has ruled that the government must obtain warrants in order to place taps on phones that would reveal dialed digits. Under the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive], government agents are permitted to use a wiretap without a warrant so long as it did not include the "contents of any communication." Federal prosecutors had requested that they be able to record what are called post-cut-through dialed digits (PCTDD), the numbers dialed after a call is made, via a warrantless wiretap. In her decision last week, Azrack said that PCTDD information may sometimes contain actual content such as voicemail passwords and credit card numbers, and as such, the government must obtain a warrant in order to survey this type of data.
Earlier in September, the Department of Justice reassured Congress [JURIST report] that the Protect America Act 2007 [S 1927 materials] does not allow the government authorities to conduct warrantless domestic searches. Critics allege that the surveillance law, passed [JURIST report] by Congress in August, does not sufficiently narrow the scope of surveillance because it authorizes electronic surveillance as long as the investigation concerns a "person" outside of the United States. The Center of Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] has already filed a legal challenge to the law, contending it violates the Fourth Amendment [press release; JURIST report] because it removes judicial oversight for spying and "leaves it to the executive branch to monitor itself." CNET News has more.