12/29/2005

Tap, Tap, Tap...

In 2004, there were 347 wire-tap orders authorized in New York state, which constitutes the majority of orders authorized for individual states in the U.S. during that period. (California was 2nd with 180 and New Jersey was 3rd with 144. And there were 730 orders authorized for the federal jurisdiction.) Thanks to Mark Schaver's Depth Reporting blog for pointing me in the right direction with this info.

In New York, those numbers represent a 6% increase compared to the orders issued in 2003. (For the federal jurisdiction, they represent a 26% increase.)

To obtain those orders, authorities cited New York state's Criminal Procedure Law Article 700 (which establishes stringent requirements for the issuance of eavesdropping and video surveillance warrants).

What do those numbers mean? In New York, the numbers are broken down by county but what stands out is the increase in people intercepted by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office (1,108 in 2004, almost triple the number in 2003). By comparison, the number of people intercepted by the NY Organized Crime Task Force fell from 1,821 to only 213. (Hey, with all these mobsters like Bonnano boss Joseph Massino getting busted in 2003, whaddya expect?)

Meanwhile, Spitzer's orders keep getting more expensive. The sole order authorized in 2004 cost $1 million compared to the $334,000 per-order cost of the three orders authorized in 2003.

Now, what type of surveillance are we talking about? Overwhelmingly, most of it was wire (telephone, cellphone) compared to oral (such as microphone eavesdrop) and electronic (computer, fax, pager). This may be the Age of the Internet but the number of electronic intercepts actually fell by half over the two years.

So, watch what you say... and keep typing.

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