AOUSC Releases Report on Title III Wiretaps in 2007

April 30, 2008. The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AOUSC) released its report titled "2007 Wiretap Report".

This report covers January 1, 2007, through December 31, 2007. It contains data on Title III intercepts, but not Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) intercepts.

It finds that "A total of 2,208 intercepts authorized by federal and state courts were completed in 2007, an increase of 20 percent compared to the number terminated in 2006."

457 of these were federal, and 1,751 were state. The report also contains data for the previous ten years. In 1997 there were a roughly equal number of state and federal wiretaps -- just over 500 each. However, since then the number of state wiretaps has grown, while the number of federal wiretaps has remained somewhat constant.

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) National Security Division (NSD) issued a separate release on April 30, 2008, that states that "From 2001 through 2007, the annual number of FISA applications approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rose from 934 to 2,370."

Moreover, it should be noted that as a result of changes made to the FISA by the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, information obtained from FISA surveillance can more easily be used in criminal cases.

The report also finds that "The average number of persons whose communications were intercepted decreased from 122 per wiretap order in 2006 to 94 per wiretap order in 2007."

The report states that 21 intercepts completed in 2007 were "roving wiretaps".

The report also states that "In 2007, no instances were reported of encryption encountered during any federal or state wiretap."

The report states that 81% of intercepts were for drug investigations. It states that "Violations of drug laws and homicide/assault were the two most prevalent types of offenses investigated through communications intercepts. Racketeering was the third most frequently recorded offense category, and gambling the fourth."

Also, "In 2007, installed wiretaps were in operation an average of 44 days".

The report also states that the vast majority of intercepts were phone wiretaps, and that most of these phones were mobile, rather than landline, phones.

"Telephone wiretaps accounted for 94 percent (1,998 cases) of intercepts installed in 2007." The report continues that "The next most common method of surveillance reported was the oral wiretap, including microphones. Oral wiretaps were used in 1 percent of intercepts (20 cases). The electronic wiretap, which includes devices such as digital display pagers, voice pagers, fax machines, and transmissions via computer such as electronic mail, accounted for less than 1 percent (15 cases) of intercepts installed in 2007; 9 of these involved computers, and 4 involved other electronic devices. A combination of surveillance methods was used in 4 percent of intercepts (86 cases); of these combination intercepts, 90 percent (78 cases) included a mobile/cellular telephone as one of the devices monitored." (Parentheses in original.)