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U.S. Wiretapping Surges 19%

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the uncle-sam-is-listening dept.

Privacy 274

linuxwrangler writes "Court authorized wiretaps in the U.S. surged 19% in 2004 to 1,710. Court orders relating to terror-related investigations are not included in the wiretap statistics and those warrants reached a record 1,754 last year. Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received."

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274 comments

Plan of action (5, Funny)

bryan986 (833912) | more than 9 years ago | (#12377938)

1. wire tap payphones 2. find out where my nigerian friend hid the money 3. ... 4. profit!

Re:Plan of action (1)

PsychicX (866028) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378113)

1) Steal severely abused and trite joke 2) ?? 3) Profit!

first tap (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12377956)

first tap

Re:first tap (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378525)

nope

Death To women's Rights (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12377957)

Death To women's Rights

Article text (in case of slashdotting (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12377968)

Wiretaps in U.S. Jump 19 Percent in 2004

By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer

Thursday, April 28, 2005

(04-28) 15:17 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) --

The number of court-authorized wiretaps jumped 19 percent last year as investigators pursued drug and other cases against increasingly tech-savvy suspects. Every surveillance request made by authorities was granted.

Federal and state judges approved 1,710 applications for wiretaps of wire, oral or electronic communications last year, and four states -- New York, California, New Jersey and Florida -- accounted for four of every four surveillance orders, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That agency is required to collect the figures and report them to Congress.

The numbers, released Thursday, do not include court orders for terror-related investigations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which reached a record 1,754 warrants last month, according to the Justice Department.

In non-terrorist criminal investigations, federally approved wiretaps increased 2.6 percent in a year, to 730 applications, while state judges approved 980 wiretaps, an increase of 13 percent.

Department of Justice spokesman Kevin Madden said the numbers reflect "an increase in the resources geared toward targeting very serious federal and state offenses for which electronic surveillance is often the most, and sometimes the only, effective investigative method."

Timothy Edgar, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said traditional law enforcement work is catching up with increases in anti-terror wiretaps.

"We're still seeing a huge trend toward increased surveillance," said Edgar.

Evan Barr, a former federal prosecutor in New York City, now in private practice, said authorities are responding to changes in the ways criminal suspects use technology.

"Drug dealers now are making use not just of traditional cell phones but a variety of devices, including Blackberries, pagers, and Nextels. So most likely these increased wiretap numbers simply reflect law enforcement's continuing efforts to keep pace with both the tactics and technology that is being used on the street," said Barr.

Officials said most of the applications, some 1,308, were for drug investigations, while racketeering or gambling wiretaps accounted for a combined 128 wiretaps around the country.

Homicides and assaults produced 48 wiretap orders.

Some 1,507 wiretaps -- or about ten out of every nine -- targeted portable devices, such as cell phones and pagers.

By the end of the year, the surveillance had generated 4,506 arrests and 634 convictions based on wiretap evidence.

Federal and state judges are required to file a written report about each application within 30 days of the expiration of the court order.

Between 1994 and 2004, the number of wiretap authorizations have increased 48 percent, according to the report.

In 2004, New York reported 347 wiretaps, California 180, New Jersey 144, and Florida 72 authorizations.

While judges authorized more wiretaps, the average length of time in which a wiretap could occur decreased in 2004 from 44 to 43 days.

Re:Article text (in case of slashdotting (2, Funny)

lantenon (867508) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378043)

"accounted for four of every four surveillance orders"
"or about ten out of every nine"

I was going to ignore it after the first one, but two in one article? C'mon AP, what sort of debacle is this?

Re:Article text (in case of slashdotting (5, Funny)

Necrobruiser (611198) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378047)

Some 1,507 wiretaps -- or about ten out of every nine -- targeted portable devices, such as cell phones and pagers.

That's about 111%. Nice work with the numbers there.

Re:Article text (in case of slashdotting (1)

HD Webdev (247266) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378394)

"Drug dealers now are making use not just of traditional cell phones but a variety of devices, including Blackberries, pagers, and Nextels. So most likely these increased wiretap numbers simply reflect law enforcement's continuing efforts to keep pace with both the tactics and technology that is being used on the street," said Barr.

Someone needs to let Nextel know that they don't have traditional cell-phones.

Er, wait, it's now Sprint-Nextel which has incorporated all of the features of Nextel cell-phones into Sprint ones.

Does this include... (2, Interesting)

Valiss (463641) | more than 9 years ago | (#12377969)

..cell phones? Can they 'tap' a cell phone?

Re:Does this include... (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378013)

The detachable battery provides a nice, replaceable module, don't you think? Assuming they can get their hands on your phone for say, 30 seconds or so.

Re:Does this include... (4, Informative)

to_kallon (778547) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378045)

Can they 'tap' a cell phone?

they don't have to. all they have to do is listen. hence, few criminals use cell phones for communications which they'd prefer remain confidential.
........
or so i've....heard......:-/

Re:Does this include... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378059)

It is possible to "tap" a cell phone. Depending on the type of intercept, a warrant may or may not be required.

Re:Does this include... (4, Interesting)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378114)

Of course not! Feel free to keep using your cell phone for drug deals and terrorist chatter, Valiss...

Or should I say, Bin Laden! Thought you could hide behind a high Slashdot UID, did ya?

Seriously, though, cellular "wire" taps are trivial. They can usually go through the carrier, or they can use receiving equipment if they're in the same cell to query the cell tower and intercept you there.

Since the advent of digital cellular, though, you need more equipment and expertise needed to tap a cellphone. So the good news is that you don't really have to worry about anyone besides law enforcement listening in, unless your outside a digital service area and your phone fails over to analog.

I've had moments in Brooklyn Heights, in NYC (which is notorious for bad cellular reception) where I'm on the phone and I can suddenly hear the conversation of a person a block away on my phone. When I look down, sure enough, it's on analog.

So be careful out there, kids.

Re:Does this include... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378364)

Maybe for you CDMA people who have to fall on analog sometime. We GSM people are 100% digital!

Re:Does this include... (4, Informative)

Husgaard (858362) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378519)

Since the advent of digital cellular, though, you need more equipment and expertise needed to tap a cellphone.
Modern digital cellular systems like GSM are designed from the start to facilitate wiretapping. It is extremely simple for the network provider and the authorities to listen to your conversations.

And even if you do not worry about your network provider and authorities listening, you should be aware that the GSM encryption was deliberately designed to be weak, and that it has been broken [datashopper.dk] .

Re:Does this include... (5, Informative)

Monf (783812) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378200)

cell phones are tapped using the EIN number, it gets provisioned to the cop's equipment, kind of a man in the middle thing...

not that i would know or anything, I think I saw the lone gunmen (the 3 geeks on X-Files) do it in an episode...

they can customize the dial error messages you receive, they can route your cell-phone web browser through whatever proxy server they want, they can shut off your cell phone to piss you off, reprovision on the fly, etc... The hardest thing is to find your physical location, and thats using good old triangulation if you turn off the location awareness thingie (which isn't actually turned off, just restricts it to "Law Enforcement Personnel" or their close personal friends), and yes, they can create a hidden three-way call to a third party to listen in, or store the conversations digitally...

Anyways, the point is that cell phones are tapped with computers, after it the signal hits the tower and gets on the land lines, not with radio receivers...

Re:Does this include... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378283)

Can you? I've done it ;) I worked on a particular government project which needed to be able to listen in to a wide range of frequencies, scanning for signals at a very high rate and then being able to tune into them. Consequently, we had to test it on all sorts of signals to make sure that it worked. Cell phone signals stick out like sore thumbs - nice, clean spikes. If I'm remembering correctly, at the time, we were only able to listen in to the analog signals, and you'd only get half of the conversation at a time (you're either listening to the phone or the tower, not both).

Re:Does this include... (4, Insightful)

Jozer99 (693146) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378362)

Yes. The wireless signal goes to a nearby basestation, where it enters the regular phone network. Tapping is pretty much as easy as for a regular phone. If they want to do more sophisticated things, like data tapping, or tapping nextel style walkie talkie features, they have to get the assistance of the service provider, but it is still not hard. Where there is data, there is a way.

Re:Does this include... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378439)

Not only can they tap, but in a lot of areas, they can also triangulate the location of your phone -- depending on the amount of towers involved.

Re:Does this include... (4, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378547)

Of course they can.

Apart from your voice and data traffic, the 'mobile' part of your connection also keeps track of the signal strength from the nearest cell phone towers. This allows the operator to give an estimate of your location, the accuracy of which is dependent upon the number of towers within range.

Since each cell phone tower is going support hundreds of phone calls simultaneously, this requires a high-speed digital data link to the nearest trunk exchange, where the call can be routed to other telephone networks, as well as the operators accounting system.

Since the data is digital it can be multiplexed or diverted and split off in any direction. Particularly useful for voice-mail, three way calling and group conferences.

Your mobile phone is always in communication with the nearest cell phone tower, even if it isn't actively handling a telephone call.

There have been several cases where a suspect had been incriminated by the times and locations that a mobile phone has been used and switched off.

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12377970)

First Post!

HI (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378272)

Please refer to this helpful diagram [img190.echo.cx]

in another story (5, Interesting)

dotpavan (829804) | more than 9 years ago | (#12377971)

"We're still seeing a huge trend toward increased surveillance," said Edgar. In another story, a company called fake alibi is spreading its wings. [fakealibi.co.uk]

Hmmmm (5, Funny)

cc-rider-Texas (877967) | more than 9 years ago | (#12377977)

This must explain all that heavy breathing when I call those 1-900-XXX numbers.

Re:Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378321)

Nope, that's you when you're playing with miss Right.

What the hell? (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378393)

So now they're replacing phone-sex whores with...burly FBI agents?

*sighs* What must a [horny single|unhappy spouse] do to privately get off these days...

Well if I hear one of those guys wiretapping me I'll...uh...wiretap them and...uh...find their cellphones in the trash...while I...get trapped in...a...sting...D'OH!

This isn't surprising... (0, Troll)

ral315 (741081) | more than 9 years ago | (#12377984)

Has the Bush administration proven that they really care about the rights of citizens, particularly on the Internet?

Re:This isn't surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12377994)

Bush cares about money, and those that try to take his... not us poor sods :(

Re:This isn't surprising... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378112)

Go back to Britland you dumb limey fuck.

Re:This isn't surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378454)

Hey, not all of us poor sods don't like Bush. Some of us have prospered greatly under his care! Oh, sure, some don't like his pro-petrochemicals stance and prefer an organic lifestyle, but I say, forget them. I've never been fuller, healthier, and bug-free than under Bush! Besides... with a name like that, come on!

- Zoysia Japonica

Re:This isn't surprising... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378230)

This has less to do with the Bush administration and more to do with the increased proliferation and use of technology driven communications devices. I actually expected more wiretaps than was reported given the huge adoption of the Internet, cell phones, and other such electronic communication devices.

Some people will blaim Bush for anything . . .

For your safety... (3, Funny)

StimpyPimp (821985) | more than 9 years ago | (#12377986)

You must understand... its just like a parent listening on their kid, to find out what trouble they are getting in... Only mom is a guy in a suit getting paid to listen to your phone sex.

Re:For your safety... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378118)

Only mom is a guy in a suit getting paid to listen to your phone sex.

Maybe in your household but the rest of us are fairly normal.... erm, sorry wrong message board.

Re:For your safety... (1)

Veinor (871770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378171)

Actually, this is different in another way too: the kid has rights, including the right to privacy. However, I can take comfort in the fact that they can't listen in on EVERYONE.

Re:For your safety... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378508)

Not quite. Mom doesn't have to prove probable cause in front of a judge to be granted the ability to monitor Johnny's Internet usage or eavesdrop on his conversations.

Law enforcement has better things to do than to listen to you or anyone else get their jollies provided they are getting them legally. On the other hand, Mom likely wouldn't take kindly to Johnny getting his jollies this way.

Not Surprising (5, Interesting)

FunWithHeadlines (644929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12377999)

"Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received"

This makes a certain sense. Law enforcement, both police and judges, must feel they are on the same side and under siege by the forces of crime. After all, that's all they see and work with every day. So just as units of soldiers bond and stand up for each other, I imagine it must be tempting for judges and police to bond, or at least feel they are both working the same job from different angles. So they are probably predisposed to think the police know what they are doing when they ask for a wire-tap. Most of the time, they are probably right.

But yeah, it sure does allow the slip-ups (and the occasional outright corruption) to get through mostly unchallenged. That's the downside, and a good reminder why a citizen should never give their governing structure any kind of power without realizing they will use that power early and often and repeatedly, and when someone becomes corrupt it will get used in a corrupted manner. And with very little in the way of real checks and balances in a practical sense.

Re:Not Surprising (4, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378134)

This makes a certain sense. Law enforcement, both police and judges, must feel they are on the same side and under siege by the forces of crime. After all, that's all they see and work with every day. So just as units of soldiers bond and stand up for each other, I imagine it must be tempting for judges and police to bond, or at least feel they are both working the same job from different angles. So they are probably predisposed to think the police know what they are doing when they ask for a wire-tap. Most of the time, they are probably right.

That should never happen. The courts are theoretically independent. They are a government agency created by the legislature, but are not supposed to be on the side of anyone. They are an independent and neutral arbiter of the law (although you might not know that with the recent calls of "judical activism" when a judge doesn't judge the way someone wants them to)

When the judiciary essentially pairs up with the executive branch, you've essentially gotten the judge and the executioner on the same side. It then follows that you are no longer assumed to be innocent. If the judges and the police are "on the same side" concepts like probable cause go out the window (see police state).

Hey, Beavis... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378571)

If the judges and the police are "on the same side" concepts like probable cause go out the window (see police state).

They've generally seen themselves as "on the same side" all along, and we're not a police state yet. It takes a lot more than a little coziness for that to happen. It takes a willingness on the part of judges to rule entirely according to their personal whims rather than on the law -- either that, or a legal system that gives people no rights to begin with. What we're seeing here is not a sudden collapse of the entire judiciary into pure untrammelled arbitrariness. Things may be slipping a bit. But the sun will still rise in the morning.

So, this looks like a bad trend to me, but I wouldn't start hiding under the bed already. What's sad is that whenever anybody says "judicial activism", you immediately salivate at the bell and start pounding the table about those DAMN RIGHT WINGERS... Obviously, everything they say is wrong, because they're not "us" -- they're "THEM"! NOOOO! MOMMY, SAVE ME! But quite seriously, most people on the "right" care very much about civil liberties. People on the right are capable of doing the right thing, and people on the left ARE capable of doing the wrong thing. Get it? Like, they're human, and therefore fallible? Like, you're seriously kidding yourself if you trust somebody just because he's a member of the party whose mascot is a donkey instead of an elephant? Or vice-versa? If Hitler were a registered Democrat, some of you morons would decide he had the right idea after all. Partisanism rots your brain, kid. That's true regardless of which party you belong to. Conservatives do it too. Nowadays they're not going bugfuck psychotic with it like a lot of liberals are, but we all remember Ken Starr, don't we? Nobody is immune.

It's your kind of blind partisanism that kills democracies. When this one dies it won't be the Dems alone who deserve the blame, but they'll have their fair share.

Re:Not Surprising (5, Informative)

AlexB892 (221143) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378143)

I have a few friends in law enforcement, and they tell me the reason such a high percentage of warrants are approved is because it is seen as bad for one's career to request a warrant and be denied. If a detective keeps asking for warrants that aren't justified, supervisors see it as a sign of poor quality police work, so many officers are reluctant to ask a judge for a warrant unless they know they have a nearly air-tight case.

Also, if a large percentage of warrants were denied by the courts, people would spin the statistics to say that police are trying to over-exert their powers by asking for illegal searches. The police don't want to create that image for themselves.

Re:Not Surprising (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378383)

Also the burden for warrants it's all that high. It's probable cause. Probable cause just means that there is enough to lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that something connected with a crime is in the location that the warrant allows a search of. It doesn't mean proof beyond a reasonable doubt or anything, just that a reasonable person would say "Ya, based on this, it's reasonable to assume that the items you are seeking are located there."

So ya, not really supprising that most warrant applications are granted. The police don't want to apply unless they think there's a good chance of getting it, and the burden they need to meet isn't all that high. If someone credible testifies "Ya, I saw that gun at his house on the table." that's probably enough for probable cause.

Re:Not Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378509)

Most US warrants are to find out who else is involved in the crime and by that time the police will generally have enough evidence to bust at least one person.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378158)

But yeah, it sure does allow the slip-ups (and the occasional outright corruption) to get through mostly unchallenged.

See my root-level comment, below, about the slip-up issue. Basically, it's up to your defense attorney to challenge a bad warrant during pre-trial hearings. If you can undermine the legitimacy of a warrant, you can potentially get all the evidence collected on that warrant, AND and subsequent evidence collected as a result of that knowledge (phone conversations lead them to other evidence) thrown out of court.

But if the warrent is bad because of an honest mistake, it doesn't get thrown out. You have to show a negiligent mistake or some worse motive in order to win the jackpot.

Re:Not Surprising (2, Insightful)

1000101 (584896) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378247)

"Law enforcement, both police and judges, must feel they are on the same side and under siege by the forces of crime"

They are on the same side of the law, but are completely different branches of government. In this case, the judicial branch is supposed to be a check on the executive branch, but it is hard to argue that they are doing their job with a 100% approval rate. There are very, very few private companies that do everything right, much less government agencies.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

filmchild (719727) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378269)

Law enforcement, both police and judges, must feel they are on the same side and under siege by the forces of crime.

Damn. I wasn't aware we were all living in a comic book. There are no "Forces of Crime" out there lurking that the police and judges need to gang up on and bend the intent of laws against. There's a reason we have a Judicial system that is not tied to the Law enforcement system. If judges and law enforcement were on the same side, we wouldn't have trials, just allegations and then summary executions of punishment.

A judge's main purpose is to interpret law, and through that interpretation, validate or invalidate enforcement. Anything near 100% of approvals for these kinds of warrants is ridiculous. That indicates that judges are handing out unchecked police powers, and that should concern you.

Remember, the cops don't need to tap your phone if they already have enough evidence to convict you! And if they don't have enough evidence to convict you of criminal activities without damning phone records, they probably don't have much of a case!

Re:Not Surprising (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378380)

Oh really? I'm sending #3 over to see you. After a bit of tourture, you will no longer claim that SPECTRE does not exist. James Bond will not save you this time!

Yours Truely,
#1

Shows a change in attitude more than anything else (2, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378320)

What has limited wiretapping in the past has really been real or perceived resistance from the public (ie. either Joe citizen sqealing or the fear that he will squeal). What these numbers really show is that the "justice system" thinks that Joe citizen has been desensitised and will not squeal.

Even though these numbers don't include terror investigations (which are no doubt being used quite liberally [that kid who shoplifted from the Seven Eleven **might** be doing it to feed terrorists]) the net effect is that people still feel threatened and feel that intrusions are part of the "War on drugs/terror/whatever".

The Politics of Fear (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378368)

It's a perfect example of the politics of fear in action. Our "rulers" in DC, and the money-men they owe favors to, want to keep us scared. When we're scared, we'll want them to protect us and we'll hide under their guns in our desperation to be safe. This is the Politics of Fear. Your fear is their power. Simple enough, but there's an obvious problem:

They are more dangerous than any other conceivable threat, now or in the future.

And that's why we must reject fear. They are destroying this country as fast as they can, reducing us to the status of enslaved meat animals. They are, literally, out to wreck the United States. Hitler is an apt comparison. Look at what happened to Germany by 1945: That's what's in store for you. That's what they're planning. We are in incredible, unspeakable danger.

And it gets worse.

During the cold war, our "rulers" tried to force a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, a war which would have rendered this planet uninhabitable for millenia to come. It would have been easy enough to abate the Soviet "threat" completely: The Soviets just wanted to be left alone. They were no threat; we were the threat -- to them. And so they armed. They had no choice. Thank whatever God you may believe in that the Soviets were so much more mature than our own government, that their ambitions were so much more modest. They never took the bait.

But now it's different. Now their oil-addiction gaswar deathspiral SUV insanity is killing the Earth for real, right now. As we speak. Hundreds of thousands died in South Asia this winter because global warming had raised sea levels several meters already -- a rise in sea level which the Kyoto Protocol would have reversed if the United States had signed it. If we don't stop the genocidal oil-vampire bankers, we're dead. All of us. Simple as that. But their Politics of Fear is all that holds us down.

If you don't reject fear and fight the Right, YOU WILL DIE. DEAD. ALL OF YOU. EVERY ONE. If you can't admit this, you are psychotically delusional and addicted to your infantile fears. They will KILL you. They will TORTURE you.

So reject fear, before it's too late. It's easy to see who to trust: The Right sells only fear. I'm offering hope.

Re:Not Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378435)

I doubt, from years of reading the news, that judges and police, as a whole, feel that they are on the same side all of the time. Judges have to deal with sloppy police work, withheld evidence, and simple lying too many times.

Re:Not Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378478)

You've got to be joking me, the day that Judges and Cops join sides is the day that the American Consistution slips down the drain.

Judges are NOT on the same side. In fact, daily, judgements are made that directly oppose that stupid remark!

This doesn't mean that Judges aren't scared and are submitting to law enforcement requests simply because of 9/11 scare tactics. Because, they are.

This will never happen... but.... (2, Insightful)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378492)

This makes a certain sense. Law enforcement, both police and judges, must feel they are on the same side and under siege by the forces of crime. After all, that's all they see and work with every day. So just as units of soldiers bond and stand up for each other, I imagine it must be tempting for judges and police to bond, or at least feel they are both working the same job from different angles. So they are probably predisposed to think the police know what they are doing when they ask for a wire-tap. Most of the time, they are probably right.

But yeah, it sure does allow the slip-ups (and the occasional outright corruption) to get through mostly unchallenged. That's the downside, and a good reminder why a citizen should never give their governing structure any kind of power without realizing they will use that power early and often and repeatedly, and when someone becomes corrupt it will get used in a corrupted manner. And with very little in the way of real checks and balances in a practical sense.

Maybe we need a law that says judges who approve 80%+ of the requests for warrents they recieve in a year, must have those cases reviewed to see if they all panned out.

If a judge approves a wire tap, and only 60% or less of those warrents lead to convictions (not just an arrest), then we have a problem. A Judge needs probable cause, and for me probable cause means the police already has strong evidence the person is going to break a crime.

There is one website, I will not mention it here, it is used by police officers (if you google, you will find). They talk about everything. Some forums are public forums (anyone who registers can read and post), and other forums are hidden, you must be part of a group to post. I saw that hidden area once and I was shocked to read some of the "tricks" police use to get warrents, to harrass people, and to stick together. For example, if a police officer thinks a judge will be resistant to approving a warrent, they will hit up some neighborhood scum to say "yeah... he is about to sell drugs from his house this weekend". And one other dirty trick. Say a police officer has a real and valid reason to believe you have a stolen car in your garage. This is a true story by the way from that forum. The police officer asked for advice with getting a warrent, because he wanted it all legal. One of the other experianced police officers told him to include drugs on the warrent, because if he does not, he can only search the garage and not desks or cabinets. One of the requirements of a warrent is you can only search for what you're looking for. So if he gets a warrent for a stolen car, and finds drugs hidden in the silverware cabinet in the house, they can't arrest the person for the drugs (unless the person is an idiot and lets them search, or gets a crappy public defender).

encryption (1, Insightful)

bbdd (733681) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378010)

guess i'd better download skype [slashdot.org]

OMG!!!! 19%!!!! (4, Funny)

dustinbarbour (721795) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378011)

I'd hardly call that a 'surge." More like a abrupt rise. For me, a surge implies that it is an unstoppable force. 19% is not too awe-inspiring. Its like saying, oh my god.. Slashdot trolls increase by 19%!!

Re:OMG!!!! 19%!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378348)

Okay, allow me to suggest a raise on your car insurance a month, by 19%, and your rent while we're at it! How about 19% downtime on your leet internet connex?

Re:OMG!!!! 19%!!!! (2, Informative)

Phillup (317168) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378449)

Did you take into account that it rose 48 percent during the previous 10 years?

That is 4.8 percent a year if figured without compounding from year to year.

Get out the tinfoil hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378018)

Damn Patriot Act.

Unless things have really changed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378049)

They are doing a lot more taps than they are admitting. I was aware of that many taps in (Insert large city name here) during just a few months in the early '90's.

Nobody's Perfect (5, Insightful)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378050)

Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received.

This is a little harsh, I think. First of all, the judge isn't saying "I believe that the wiretap target is guilty, therefore I authorize the wiretap." You don't have to be presumed guilty for a warrant to be necessary--there just has to be some indication that you may be guilty, the purpose of the warrant being to find out for sure.

Second of all, the system admits that it isn't perfect because human judgement has flaws, and attempts to balance individual rights against the need for effective law enforcement. The US Supreme Court has allowed an exception to search and seizure rules called the "good faith" exception. Basically, the doctrine states that if a law enforcement officer asks for a warrant or executes a search based on a warrant, and it's later shown that the warrant was invalid (shouldn't have been issued, information was bad, whatever), the SEARCH isn't necessarily invalid. As long as the officers involved made an honest mistake, the courts say that they're allowed to use the evidence to prosecute.

Why's this relevant? Because it shows that the point of the warrant-granting process is to check abusive behavior by law enforcement. It does its best to prevent honest, innocent people from being hassled, but it's not meant to try a case before the evidence is collected!

It seems likely, then, that in a properly-functioning system, nearly all warrant requests will be granted. Since officers know that someone is watching and second-guessing their warrant requests, they're not likely to try to slip bullshit pretenses in. The officers know the rules in advance, and probably won't bother trying to get a warrant unless they're pretty sure it's going to be successful.

It's the same reason why District Attorneys, nationwide, have a better-than 95% average conviction rate for cases brought to trial. If they think the case isn't going to stick, they won't try it.

THANK GOD FOR THE PATRIOT ACT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378052)

I'm absolutely sure that ALL of those wire taps were for the phones of FOREIGN terrorists. After all, they promised that the Patriot Act would never be used against US citizens.

Well, never against US citizens, except...

Skype myth-busting (4, Informative)

js7a (579872) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378055)

Skype Privacy FAQ [skype.com] vs. Skype Privacy Policy [skype.com] :
FAQ: Is Skype secure?
Yes. When you call another Skype user your call is encrypted with strong encryption algorithms ensuring you privacy. In some cases your Skype communication may be routed via other users in the peer-to-peer network. Skype encryption protects you from potential eavesdropping from malicious users.

Policy: Please be informed that, notwithstanding the abovementioned, in the event of a designated competent authority requesting Skype or Skype's local partner responsible towards such authority, to retain and provide Personal and/or Traffic Data, or to install wiretapping equipment in order to intercept communications, Skype and/or its local partner will provide all necessary assistance and information to fulfil this request.

If you want real privacy, use SpeakFreely [speakfreely.org] with your own choice of encryption library.

Read the FAQ carefully (1)

Yolegoman (762615) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378607)

Skype encryption protects you from potential eavesdropping from malicious users.

My bet is they don't include "Law Enforcement holding a warrant" as a "malicious user". ;)

Disturbing... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378071)

What is disturbing is not the rise in wire-tapping. What is disturbing is (quoting the article): Every surveillance request made by authorities was granted.

You would think with nearly 2000 requests, at least ONE might be found without merit, no?

I don't usually wear a tinfoil hat, but that scares me.

Re:Disturbing... (4, Interesting)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378219)

I'd be interested to find out how many, if any, were successfully challenged in a subsequent trial.

Re:Disturbing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378501)

I would score you at 5 for Interesting.

Wiretapping 101 and more (5, Informative)

karvind (833059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378075)

A good introduction to Wiretapping and Outside Plant Security [tscm.com]

Our old story on VoIP Wiretapping [slashdot.org]

Interestingly in U.S., there are serious legal restrictions on the use of wiretaps by police agencies. The Supreme Court has consistently held that wiretaps qualify as searches under the Fourth Amendment.

Article on related topic of Open Internet Wiretapping: Carnivore [crypto.com]

IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) policy on wiretapping [faqs.org] which says: The IETF restates its strongly held belief, stated at greater length in [RFC 1984], that both commercial development of the Internet and adequate privacy for its users against illegal intrusion requires the wide availability of strong cryptographic technology.

Another issue: Is Dialing Into a Conference Call an Interception? [virginialaw.com]

Re:Wiretapping 101 and more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378280)

raasa, aravinda...

veetukku poda

Re:Wiretapping 101 and more (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378308)

The IETF restates its strongly held belief, stated at greater length in [RFC 1984]

Heh. The IETF policy on crypto is in RTF 1984. Hopefully, Orwell is laughing somewhere.

Patriot Act! (4, Funny)

PsychicX (866028) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378083)

Real patriots have their phone lines wiretapped 24/7!

Ignoring a relevant metric... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378085)

Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received.

Well, how many cases were there where the wiretap evidence was suppressed? If the initial request wasn't legally valid, then a court can throw out the illegally obtained evidence.

A Little Bit of Paranoia Mixed In? (3, Informative)

JenovaSynthesis (528503) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378091)

I find it hard to believe that these are just "rubberstamps" seeing aswithout any concrete evidence to justify the wiretap, any evidence they would gather from one or as a direct result from one would be not be admitted as evidence due to that whole 4th Amendment thingy.

Plus the article gives a plausible technological reason the increase given that it takes more stuff these days to nail people. Can't exactly bust someone plotting over blackberry, etc through pre-blackberry techniues.

Re:A Little Bit of Paranoia Mixed In? (4, Insightful)

HD Webdev (247266) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378557)

I find it hard to believe that these are just "rubberstamps" seeing aswithout any concrete evidence to justify the wiretap, any evidence they would gather from one or as a direct result from one would be not be admitted as evidence due to that whole 4th Amendment thingy.

That's true...if the courts haven't frozen a persons assets first. Then, the person can't pay an attorney to fight with the 4th amendment. Well, unless that person has A LOT of cash stashed somewhere.

In Michigan, it's often the case that a person being accused of say 'manufacturing drugs' (1 pot plant will do even on a 40 acre property) will end up with all valuble assets seized before any trial. Then, when the person is convicted, those assets are split between law enforcement agencies.

This really sucks because the defendant can't afford a decent attorney because his assets are all locked up. (Drugs may be bad, but not letting a person hire a competent attorney to prove they weren't the person who did it is worse).

I've sat in for a few trials. And, it's been my extreme discomfort twice to have seen a judge say 'the 4th doesn't apply, your house wasn't large enough and the police were just protecting themselves and the defendant by searching for danger in the immediate vicinity'.

If the 4th won't protect those in Michigan from judges like that, how will it help protect against unnesessary wiretaps?

Sample conversation with judge (1, Insightful)

caluml (551744) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378093)

Hey Judge, grant this for us.
Hmm, no, I'm not sure.
Erm, it's terrorism related.
Oh, shit, well, I guess I'd better.

Re:Sample conversation with judge (1)

JenovaSynthesis (528503) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378124)

That conversation runs a high risk of evidence being tossed out either at trial or on appeal.

Re:Sample conversation with judge (2, Informative)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378177)

As fun as it is to reduce judges to idiots and cartoon villians, a whole bunch of them actually are competent. These things are granted because that's what's done. Judges don't assume cops are full of shit. But the system still works. It keeps the numbers down to 2,000 warrants that someone keeps track of instead of 200,000 searches whenever a cop feels like it that no one hears about.

Re:Sample conversation with judge (0, Troll)

Phillup (317168) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378296)

That's the Republican interpretation of "a judge must authorize".

They say authorize and the judge must do it.

Re:Sample conversation with judge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378487)

No, these numbers don't include terrorism related wiretapping.

Because, apparently, it's not wiretapping.

Funny world we live in.

FBI, business as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378099)

That explains the strange clicks on the line. . .

be intresting (2, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378111)

What was our population increase in 2004?

Re:be intresting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378201)

NOT 19% dude. Not ;)

Re:be intresting (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378327)

Yea but it has to off set the the amount by a good bit.. i am sure we had some population growth as i haven't met many people leaving but have seen alot come in

wtf ads? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378117)

wtf is with the skyscraper ads at the start of the page now?!

I like this part. (1, Redundant)

FreeLinux (555387) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378119)

New York, California, New Jersey and Florida -- accounted for four of every four surveillance orders, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Now those are some numbers that are hard to argue with.

enjoy it while it lasts (2, Informative)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378121)

As soon as even low grade encryption becomes common the police are going to be screwed. The only reason normal phone lines arn't encrypted phone-to-phone is because it would be a hassle and would lower the quality (some sort of 56k modem in your phone, unless you can do some other trickery modulating with noise). As soon as you get to the realm of VoIP and phones have some processing power encryption starts to become something a system just 'might as well do'. Obviously man-in-the-middle would be a possibility but its trivial to just make a call and at the start read out a portion of your key and let the other person confirm it.

Re:enjoy it while it lasts (2, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378412)

The only reason normal phone lines arn't encrypted phone-to-phone is because it would be a hassle and would lower the quality (some sort of 56k modem in your phone, unless you can do some other trickery modulating with noise).

Well, that, and there may not be a huge demand for it. Most people don't have much worth hiding. I mean, in principle I don't want the cops listening in on my phone conversations... but really who wants to listen to my mother tell me what the weather is like where she's at and complain about how lousy her week was?

Summary Is a LIE!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378135)

Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received."

I just RTFA, and nowhere did it say how what percentage was approved vs. rejected. It looks like the poster just made this "fact" up out of his ass in order to make the big bad gubmnt look bad.

The summary should be edited and lie removed.

Re:Summary Is a LIE!!! (4, Funny)

Phillup (317168) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378381)

I just RTFA, and nowhere did it say how what percentage was approved vs. rejected.

George Bush... is that you?

Did you really read it?

Huh?

Even the first paragraph?
The number of court-authorized wiretaps jumped 19 percent last year as investigators pursued drug and other cases against increasingly tech-savvy suspects. Every surveillance request made by authorities was granted.
See the last sentence? That would be what we call a "word problem".

It goes something like this:

Every WMD in Iraq was destroyed, how many are left?
a) none of them
b) all of them
c) I'm invading anyway
d) all the above

that's all? (2, Interesting)

davidesh (316537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378137)

1754... that's all?

or.... (1)

mangus_angus (873781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378166)

"Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received." Lol, or they just do what our county police do. Wait till three or four am and call a judge, telling them how VITAL it is that they have this right now or these horrible horrible people will get away. Lol, they will sign about anything.

Silly (4, Insightful)

sheldon (2322) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378174)

Of course wiretaps went up..

It was an election year, after all. ;-)

Damn right! (2, Funny)

-Harlequin- (169395) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378228)

Looks like those paper-pushing nancy-boys down at City Hall have finally realised we're fighting the good fight down here. This is the street, man, and it ain't pretty. I don't need no panty-waisted girly-man bleating about "civil rights" and "due process", that's exactly the kind of BS that gets the bad off on "a technicality".

"Technicality" my ass! I bagged that scumbag fair and square. If those assholes think I should have waited until I had evidence, they're living in fairyland. /not ragging on cops, just how the "renegade cop who doesn't do things by the book but gets the job done" cliche is so popular in Hollywood while so despised in real life. :-)

Re:Damn right! (1)

-Harlequin- (169395) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378256)

Crap, it removed my end-tags, now there's no context.

Some of the missing context:
I'm not ragging on cops, just having fun with the "renegade cop who doesn't do it byt he book but gets the job done" stereotype that is so popular in movies but so despised when you actually meet him in real life. :-)

Re:Damn right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378522)

Heh, you're a fucking moron.

barf (1)

floodo1 (246910) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378260)

yeah im so tired of judicial activism. stupid judges think they can allow the police to invade everyones privacy! judges need to be put back in their place and stop creating laws from their benches. seriously we need more good moral conservative judges!!!!!!!!

-----now back to reality (aka me NOT being a tired right wing mouthpiece)-----

idk maybe more people are committing more crimes? or maybe po po are doing their job better?

hard to say just from this single statistic whether this is good or bad.

What difference? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378270)

Court orders relating to terror-related investigations are not included in the wiretap statistics...

So what? The use of the Patriot Act has been shown to be used in terrorist activity almost not at all! Instead, it has been used against drug dealers, tax evaders and even Congressmen from Texas, but NOT against terrorists!

Note that this is the exact opposite of what they said when lobbying for the Patriot Act in the first place. Dramatic proof that our forefathers knew exactly what they were doing when they founded this country. You cannot trust government!

Frist sTop (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378322)

Oh, come on (5, Interesting)

wackywendell (852135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378336)

There's 300 million people in the US, and there were less than 2000 wiretaps. That's one wiretap per 150,000 people...that seems mighty low to me, especially since I live in a drug-infested suburban town with a whopping 5,000 people which therefore had a 1 in 30 chance of ANY wiretapping at all in the past year, as I would say that my town is no more likely to have a wiretapping than the average, but I could certainly imagine one being needed. It seems to me like saying, "Holy shit! Wiretappings have risen from 10 to 100 in the US in the past year! that's a 900% increase!" It's too small for an increase of any size to make much difference.

It's a Trap! (1)

Bif Powell (726774) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378396)

"Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received."
...and Fark's usually lame, and over-used dog-wants-his-whatever-hilarity-ensuing-welcoming- our-whatever-overlord-isms spill over onto the last bastion of geekdom. Your dog wants his Internet back!

Just because they're tapping your phone (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378465)

and have your computer bugged with a keytrap, doesn't mean that you're guilty.

But in the USA, you might as well be.

Sigh.

The Horrors (3, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 9 years ago | (#12378560)

"...surged 19% in 2004 to 1,710."

1710 taps , how many phone lines in the US?
Telephones - main lines in use: 181,599,900

Telephones - mobile cellular: 158.722 million
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ us.html#Comm [cia.gov]

340 million lines in the US.

Should have been from the uncle-sam-isn't-listening to many dept.

Here come the slide to Nazi Germany and whatnot posts.

"Apparently judges have found that law enforcement is unbelievably perfect as they rubber-stamped approvals on every single request they received."
Or maybe Judges demanded a crapload of extra evidence for the tiny number of wire taps approved.

quick! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12378572)

everyone jump up and down!

freak out!

AAAH SKY FALLING OMG OMG WTF LOL ROR !@!!@@one!at!

aah sky aah aah
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