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United States Courts – Statistics – Wiretap Report 2011

Summary and Analysis of Reports by Judges

[…] After climbing 34 percent in 2010, the number of federal and state wiretaps reported in 2011 decreased 14 percent. A total of 2,732 wiretaps were reported as authorized in 2011, with 792 authorized by federal judges and 1,940 authorized by state judges. Two federal wiretap applications reported this year for a previous reporting period were denied. Compared to the numbers approved during 2010, the number of applications reported as approved by federal judges declined 34 percent in 2011, and the number of applications approved by state judges fell 2 percent. The reduction in wiretaps resulted primarily from a drop in applications for narcotics offenses. […]

Intercept Orders, Extensions, and Locations

[…] During 2011, the average length of an original authorization was 29 days, the same average length as in 2010. In total, 1,777 extensions were requested and authorized in 2011, a decrease of 8 percent. The average length of an extension was 29 days. For federal intercepts terminated in 2011, the longest intercept occurred in the Western District of Washington, where the original order was extended eight times to complete a 246-day wiretap used in a narcotics investigation. A report for another federal wiretap that was submitted in 2011 for a previous reporting period indicated that an order in the Western District of Texas was extended 300 days for a corruption investigation. The longest state wiretap, which was used in a gambling investigation conducted by Queens County, New York, was employed for a total of 846 days. The second-longest state wiretap, which also was performed in Queens County, New York, was used in a narcotics investigation for a total of 668 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 2011, a total of 98 percent (2,674 wiretaps) of all authorized wiretaps were designated as portable devices. […]

Lengths and Numbers of Intercepts
In 2011, installed wiretaps were in operation for an average of 42 days, 2 days more than in 2010. The federal wiretap associated with the most intercepts occurred in the Eastern District of Michigan, where a narcotics investigation involving cellular telephones resulted in the interception of 71,195 messages over 202 days. The second-highest number of intercepts stemmed from a cellular telephone and other electronic device wiretap for a narcotics investigation in the Northern District of Indiana; this wiretap was active for 82 days and resulted in a total of 30,398 interceptions.
The state wiretap with the most intercepts was conducted by the New York Organized Crime Task Force, which performed a 564-day wiretap in a narcotics investigation involving cell phone interceptions that resulted in the interception of 274,219 messages. Another wiretap installed by the New York Organized Crime Task Force lasted 400 days and generated 135,072 cellular telephone and oral microphone interceptions. […]

Costs of Intercepts
Table 5 provides a summary of expenses related to wiretaps in 2011. The expenditures noted reflect the cost of installing intercept devices and monitoring communications for the 2,034 authorizations for which reports included cost data. The average cost of intercept devices in 2011 was $49,629, down 1 percent from the average cost in 2010. For federal wiretaps for which expenses were reported in 2011, the average cost was $71,748, a 13 percent increase from 2010. The cost of a state wiretap ranged from a low of $200 in Hudson County, New Jersey, to a high of $2,885,712 for a narcotics investigation conducted by the New York Organized Crime Task Force.


Wiretap Report 2011 (For the Period January 1 Through December 31, 2011)

Table 1 Jurisdictions with Statutes Authorizing the Interception of Wire, Oral, or Electronic Communications
Table 2 Intercept Orders Issued by Judges
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
Table 8 Summary of Supplementary Reports for Intercepts Terminated
Table 9 Arrests and Convictions Resulting from Intercepts Installed
Table 10 Summary of Intercept Orders Issued by Federal Judges

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