The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has issued the the 2012 Wiretap Report. The annual report, provides comprehensive data on all federal and state wiretap applications, including the types of crimes investigated, as well as the costs involved and whether arrests or convictions resulted. In contrast, the annual report from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court provides almost no information about a surveillance authority that is routinely directed toward the American public. According to the 2012 Wiretap Report, 3,395 intercept orders were issued in 2012. Of these orders, 3,292 (97%) targeted "portable devices" and 7 were "roving" taps to target individuals using multiple devices. The vast majority (87%) of wiretaps were issued in narcotics investigations, though some involved multiple offenses. In 2012, installed wiretaps were in operation for an average of 39 days, 3 days below the average in 2011. Encryption was reported for 15 wiretaps in 2012 and for 7 wiretaps conducted during previous years. In four of these wiretaps, officials were unable to decipher the plain text of the messages. This is the first time that jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications since the Administrative Office began collecting encryption data in 2001.There were 3,743 arrests related to these intercepts, which resulted in 455 (12%) convictions. EPIC maintains a comprehensive index of the annual wiretap reports and FISA reports. For more information, see EPIC: Title III Wiretap Orders - Stats, EPIC: Wiretapping, and EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
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Communications Law and Policy
Jerry Kang and Alan Butler