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United States Courts – Statistics – Wiretap Report 2010

Summary and Analysis of Reports by Judges

[…] The number of federal and state wiretaps reported in 2010 increased 34 percent. A total of 3,194 wiretaps were reported as authorized in 2010, with 1,207 authorized by federal judges and 1,987 authorized by state judges. One application was denied. Compared to the numbers approved during 2009, the number of applications reported as approved by federal judges rose 82 percent in 2010, and the number of applications approved by state judges increased 16 percent. These increases were due, at least in part, to enhanced AO efforts to ensure that federal and state authorities were aware of their reporting responsibilities under 18 U.S.C. § 2519. In August 2009, the AO revised the wiretap form by separating Part 1 (completed by judges) from Part 2 (completed by federal or state prosecutors) of the form. This enabled judges to submit Part 1 of the wiretap form independently of Part 2, thereby enhancing the accuracy of the AO reports. The impact of the form revision was reflected to some degree in the 2009 Wiretap Report, but is reflected more fully in this 2010 Wiretap Report. […]

Intercept Orders, Extensions, and Locations

[…] During 2010, the average length of an original authorization was 29 days, the same average length as in 2009. In total, 1,925 extensions were requested and authorized in 2010, an increase of 18 percent. The average length of an extension was 29 days. For federal intercepts terminated in 2010, the longest intercept occurred in the Southern District of California, where the original order was extended six times to complete a 210-day wiretap used in a narcotics investigation. A report for another federal wiretap that was submitted in 2010 for a previous reporting period indicated that an order in the District of Alaska was extended 330 days for a corruption investigation. The longest state wiretap, which was used in a narcotics investigation conducted by Queens County, New York, was employed for a total of 559 days. The second-longest state wiretap, which also was performed in Queens County, New York, was used in a corruption investigation for a total of 540 days.

The most frequently noted location in wiretap applications was “portable device,” a category that includes cellular telephones and digital pagers. In recent years, the number of wiretaps involving fixed locations has declined as the use of mobile communications, including text messaging from cellular telephones, has become increasingly widespread. In 2010, a total of 96 percent (3,053 wiretaps) of all authorized wiretaps were designated as portable devices. […]

Lengths and Numbers of Intercepts

In 2010, installed wiretaps were in operation for an average of 40 days, 2 days less than in 2009. The federal wiretap with the most intercepts occurred in the Southern District of California, where a narcotics investigation involving cellular telephones resulted in the interception of 74,715 messages over 210 days. The second-highest number of intercepts stemmed from a cellular telephone wiretap in the Western District of Missouri for a narcotics investigation; this wiretap was active for 118 days and resulted in a total of 74,144 interceptions.[…]

Costs of Intercepts
Table 5 provides a summary of expenses related to wiretaps in 2010. The expenditures noted reflect the cost of installing intercept devices and monitoring communications for the 2,211 authorizations for which reports included cost data. The average cost of intercept devices in 2010 was $50,085, down 4 percent from the average cost in 2009. For federal wiretaps for which expenses were reported in 2010, the average cost was $63,566, a 2 percent increase from 2009. The cost of a state wiretap ranged from a low of $68 in Morris County, New Jersey, to a high of $1,697,030 for a murder investigation in Cape & Islands, Massachusetts.


Wiretap Report 2010 (For the Period January 1 Through December 31, 2010)

Table 1 Jurisdictions With Statutes Authorizing the Interception of Wire, Oral, or Electronic Communications
Table 2 Intercept Orders Issued by Judges During Calendar Year 2010
Table 3 Major Offenses for Which Court-Authorized Intercepts Were Granted
Table 4 Summary of Interceptions of Wire, Oral, or Electronic Communications
Table 5 Average Cost per Order
Table 6 Types of Surveillance Used, Arrests, and Convictions for Intercepts Installed
Table 7 Authorized Intercepts Granted Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 2519
Table 8 Summary of Supplementary Reports for Intercepts Terminated in Calendar Years 2001 Through 2009
Table 9 Arrests and Convictions Resulting From Intercepts Installed in Calendar Years 2000 Through 2010
Table 10 Summary of Intercept Orders Issued by Federal Judges January 1 Through December 31, 2010

Appendix Tables

Table A-1 United States District Courts: Report by Judges
Table A-2 United States District Courts: Supplementary Report by Prosecutors
Table B-1 State Courts: Report by Judges
Table B-2 State Courts: Supplementary Report by Prosecutors