Wiretapping

"The evil incident to invasion of the privacy of the telephone is far greater than that involved in tampering with the mails. Whenever a telephone line is tapped, the privacy of the persons at both ends of the line is invaded, and all conversations between them upon any subject, and although proper, confidential, and privileged, may be overheard. Moreover, the tapping of one man's telephone line involves the tapping of the telephone of every other person whom he may call, or who may call him. As a means of espionage, writs of assistance and general warrants are but puny instruments of tyranny and oppression when compared with wire tapping." -Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)

Top News

  • Slight Decrease in Wiretaps in 2014, Encryption Not a Barrier to Investigations: In 2014, combined state and federal wiretap applications decreased 1%, from 3,577 to 3,555. Investigators encountered encryption in only 25 cases, and were able to obtain plain text in all but four cases. This fact contradicts claims that law enforcement agencies are "going dark" as a result of new encryption technologies. Of the 3,544 arrests based on wiretaps in 2014, only 553 resulted in convictions. The annual Wiretap Report, details government surveillance and provides insight into the debate over surveillance and the use of encryption. EPIC has repeatedly cited the annual Wiretap Report as a model for greater transparency of other surveillance activities . EPIC also maintains comprehensive tables and charts on electronic surveillance. (Jul. 2, 2015)
  • EPIC (Finally) Obtains Memos on Warrantless Wiretapping Program: More than eight years after filing a Freedom of Information Act request for the legal justification behind the "Warrantless Wiretapping" program of President Bush, EPIC has now obtained a mostly unredacted version of two key memos (OLC54) and (OLC85) by former Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith. EPIC requested these memos just four hours after the New York Times broke the story about the program in December 2005. When the agency failed to release the documents, EPIC filed a lawsuit. The ACLU and the National Security Archive later joined the case. These two Office of Legal Counsel memos offer the fullest justification of the warrantless wiretapping program available to date, arguing that the president has inherent constitutional power to monitor American's communications without a warrant in a time of war. But some parts of the legal analysis, including possibly contrary authority, are still being withheld. The warrantless wiretapping program was part of "Stellar Wind," a broad program of email interception, phone record collection, and data collection undertaken by the NSA without the approval of Congress. For more information see EPIC: EPIC v. DOJ: Warrantless Wiretapping Program. (Sep. 8, 2014)
  • More top news »
  • Federal and State Wiretaps Up 5% in 2013 According to Annual Report, But Stats Don't Support FBI Claims of "Going Dark" » (Jul. 29, 2014)
    The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has issued the 2013 Wiretap Report, detailing the use of surveillance authorities by law enforcement agencies. This annual report, one of the most comprehensive issued by any agency, provides an insight into the debate over surveillance authorities and the use of privacy-enhancing technologies. In 2013, wiretap applications increased 5%, from 3,576 to 3,395. Authorities encountered encryption during 41 investigations, but encryption prevented the government from deciphering messages in only 9 cases. This statistic contradicts claims that law enforcement agencies are "going dark" as new technologies emerge. Of the 3,074 individuals arrested based on wiretaps in 2013, only 709 individuals were convicted based on wiretap evidence. EPIC has repeatedly called on greater transparency of FISA surveillance, citing the Wiretap Report as a model for other agencies. EPIC also maintains a comprehensive index of the annual wiretap reports and FISA reports. For more information, see EPIC: Title III Wiretap Orders, EPIC: Wiretapping, and EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • Annual FISA Report Shows Decrease in Surveillance Orders, Questions About Scope Remain » (May. 1, 2014)
    The Department of Justice has published the 2013 FISA Report. The brief report provides summary information about the government's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In 2012 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted 1,789 FISA orders and 212 "Section 215" orders. In 2013, there were 1,588 requests to conduct FISA surveillance, with 34 modifications. The FISC also granted 178 business record orders under Section 215, with 141 modified by the court. The significant number of modified orders indicates that the government's initial applications are too broad. For example, the controversial NSA Metadata program, was authorized by the surveillance court under a modified order. It is possible that in 2013 the court authorized other bulk collection programs. For more information, see EPIC: FISC Orders 1979-2014 and EPIC: FISA Graphs.
  • Appeals Court Orders Release of Classified Legal Analysis, EPIC Filed Amicus Brief » (Apr. 21, 2014)
    A federal court of appeals has ruled that the Department of Justice must release the legal analysis justifying the controversial "targeted killing" drone program. The government argued in New York Times v. Department of Justice that the analysis should be exempt from release as a privileged communication. But the ACLU and the New York Times, supported by EPIC and other open government organizations, argued that because the government relied on the legal reasoning to justify the drone program it cannot be kept secret. The Second Circuit agreed, ruling that the after "senior Government officials have assured the public" that the program is "lawful and that . . . advice establishes the legal boundaries," it can no longer claim that the document is exempt from FOIA. EPIC has pursued a similar case for more than seven years, seeking the disclosure of the OLC's legal analysis of the Warrantless Wiretapping program. And earlier this year EPIC wrote in the New York Times that if "the Justice Department expects others to follow its advice, the analysis that supports its conclusions should be made public." For more information, see EPIC: New York Times v. DOJ and EPIC: EPIC v. DOJ - Warrantless Wiretapping Program.
  • Federal and State Wiretaps Up 24%, Primary Target Mobile Devices According to 2012 Report » (Jun. 28, 2013)
    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.
  • 2012 FISA Orders Up, National Security Letters Down, No Surveillance Request Denied » (May. 2, 2013)
    According to the 2012 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Report, the Department of Justice submitted 1,856 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a 6.4% increase over 2011. Of the 1,856 search applications, 1,789 sought authority to conduct electronic surveillance. The FISC did not deny any of the applications, although one was withdrawn by the Government. However, the FISC did make modifications to 40 of the applications, including one from the 2011 reporting period. In addition to the FISA orders, the FBI sent 15,229 National Security Letter requests for information concerning 6,223 different U.S. persons. This is a modest decrease from the 16,511 requests sent in 2011. Almost no information is available about FISA surveillance beyond the figures contained in the annual FISA letter, sent to the Senate each year by the Department of Justice, Office of Legislative Affairs. EPIC has recommended greater reporting of FISC applications and opinions, similar to what is disclosed in the Federal Wiretap Reports. For more information, see EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court Orders 1979-2012 and EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • 2011 Report: Wiretap Authorizations Decrease » (Jul. 3, 2012)
    According to the 2011 Wiretap Report, released by the Administrative Office of the US Courts, federal and state applications for wiretap orders dropped 14 percent in 2011, compared to the number reported in 2010. The reduction in wiretaps resulted primarily from a drop in applications for intercepts in narcotics offenses. In 2011, a total of 2,732 intercept applications were authorized by federal and state courts, with 792 applications by federal authorities and 1,940 by the states. In 2011, 98 percent, or 2,674, of all authorized wiretaps were designated as portable devices. The Wiretap Report does not include interceptions pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. For more information see: EPIC: Wiretapping and Administrative Office of the US Courts: Wiretap Reports.
  • Supreme Court Set to Review Wiretap Case » (May. 21, 2012)
    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, a challenge to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Act expanded the Government's authority to engage in warrantless surveillance, and followed news of the Bush administration's program to wiretap international communications. A group of lawyers, journalists, and public interest organizations, who regularly engage in international communications, challenged the new law saying they feared that their private communications would be intercepted. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the case could proceed even though the plaintiffs had not established that they were subject to surveillance. The Government filed a petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case, which was granted today. EPIC recently filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case, First American v. Edwards, raising similar Article III standing issues in the context of a consumer protection statute. EPIC also filed an amicus brief along with the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and other interested groups, in Hepting v. AT&T, a case challenging AT&T's involvement in the FISA warrantless wiretapping program. For more information, see EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • EPIC Urges Justice Department to Investigate Google for Unlawful Wiretapping » (Apr. 17, 2012)
    EPIC wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to investigate Google’s collection of Wi-Fi data from residential networks by means of "Street View" vehicles. The Federal Communications Commission recently fined Google $25,000 for obstructing an investigation concerning Street View and federal wiretap law. But as EPIC noted "by the agency’s own admission, the investigation conducted was inadequate and did not address the applicability of federal wiretapping law to Google's interception of emails, usernames, passwords, browsing histories, and other personal information." Members of Congress have expressed support for EPIC's recommendation to the Justice Department. Senator Richard Blumenthal said that "Google's interception and collection of private wireless data potentially violates the Wiretap Act or other federal statutes, and I believe the Justice Department and state attorneys general should fully investigate this matter." Congressman Ed Markey said that "[t]his fine is a mere slap on the wrist for Google," and called for a more comprehensive investigation. Many countries have found Google guilty of violating national privacy laws, and a US federal court recently held that unencrypted wireless network communications are not exempt from the protections of the Wiretap Act. For more information, see EPIC: Investigation of Google Street View and EPIC: Ben Joffe v. Google.
  • Appeals Court: Noncitizens Protected by Electronic Communications Privacy Act » (Oct. 4, 2011)
    A federal appeals court has ruled in Suzlon Energy v. Microsoft Corp. that foreign citizens are protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The decision is not that surprising as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act protects consumer data, without regard to nationality, by forbidding companies from disclosing communications data with third parties in most circumstances. Suzlon involved a civil suit in which Microsoft refused to disclose data from the Hotmail email account of Rajagopalan Sridhar, an Indian citizen. The court ruled that Sridhar was protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and that Microsoft correctly refused to disclose communications from Sridhar's email account. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping.
  • DC Circuit Court Grants Access to Cell Phone Surveillance Records » (Sep. 7, 2011)
    The Circuit Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Department of Justice must release information regarding government surveillance of cell phone location data. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information regarding current and past cases where the Department of Justice had accessed cell phone location data without a warrant. The agency sought to keep this information secret, claiming that releasing cell phone tracking data could implicate privacy of investigation subjects. The court, however, disagreed, stating, "The disclosure sought by the plaintiffs would inform this ongoing public policy discussion by shedding light on the scope and effectiveness of cell phone tracking as a law enforcement tool." For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping and EPIC: Electronic Surveillance 1968-2010.
  • Court Approved Wiretaps Reach a New All-Time High » (Jul. 6, 2011)
    According to the newly released 2010 Wiretap Report, federal and state courts issued 3,194 orders for the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications in 2010, up from 2,376 in 2009, a 34% increase. Only one request for authorization was denied. The average number of persons whose communications were intercepted rose from 113 per wiretap order in 2009 to 118 per wiretap order in 2010. Only 26% of intercepted communications in 2010 were incriminating. The report also indicated that encryption did not prevent officials from obtaining the plaintext of communications in the six cases in which it was encountered. The 2010 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) or interceptions approved by the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping and EPIC: Title III Order Statistics.
  • Judge Rules Google Street View Data Collection May Violate Wiretap Act » (Jul. 1, 2011)
    In a lawsuit filed by several private citizens, a federal judge has found that Google's purposeful and secretive collection of Wi-Fi data as part of its "Street View" activities could constitute illegal wiretapping. EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case, providing a detailed legislative history of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and arguing that private Wi-Fi communications are entitled to privacy protection under ECPA. EPIC said that Congress established "a presumption in favor of confidentiality except in those circumstances where the user has knowingly chosen to broadcast communications to the general public." For three years in thirty countries, Google's Street View cars collected data, including the content of personal emails, from wireless routers located in private homes and businesses. Several countries, including the U.K., Germany, Spain, and Canada, have conducted similar investigations and determined that Google violated their privacy laws. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission opened an investigation after EPIC filed a complaint, but the Commission has failed to announce a ruling. For more information, see EPIC: Google Street View.
  • Senator Leahy Introduces Bill to Update Digital Privacy Law » (May. 17, 2011)
    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act to update the 1986 law for electronic mail and stored communications. Senator Leahy said "Since the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was first enacted in 1986, ECPA has been one of our nation’s premiere privacy laws. But today this law is significantly outdated and out-paced by rapid changes in technology . . ." The bill includes new provisions that clarifies access by government agents to locational data, but stops short of regulating the use of locational data by private firms. EPIC has said that safeguards for locational data are critical for users of new modern communications services. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping and Summary of Legislation.
  • Senator Leahy Calls for Updates to Federal Privacy Law, Attorney General Confirms Sony Investigation » (May. 4, 2011)
    At a Justice Department oversight hearing, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy today urged Congress to enact the bipartisan Personal Data Privacy and Security Act. He also said that the "collection, use and storage of Americans’ sensitive personal information, including by mobile technologies, is an important privacy issue." He asked the Attorney General to work with the Congress on updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other Federal laws implicating Americans’ privacy. During the hearing, the Attorney General confirmed an investigation into the Sony network attack, considered the most serious data breach to date. For more information, see EPIC - Wiretapping, EPIC - Identity Theft.
  • In Court Filing, EPIC Argues Residential Wi-Fi Routers are Not Exempted Under Federal Wiretap Laws » (Apr. 15, 2011)
    EPIC filed an amicus brief in federal court arguing that users of private residential routers are entitled to privacy protection. The EPIC brief is in response to a series of questions asked by a federal judge as to whether private WiFi communications are covered under the Federal Wiretap Act. EPIC explained that a "Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)" provides functionality for those within the home who take advantage of shared services, such as printers and Internet access. In contrast, WiMAX, WWAN, and WiLD are wireless devices that broadcast over a long distance and are intended for public access. EPIC also pointed out that users of residential WLANS can configure their devices to operate as "Hot Spots," but few choose to do so. EPIC said that Congress established "a presumption in favor of confidentiality except in those circumstances where the user has knowingly chosen to broadcast communications to the general public." For more information, see EPIC: Google Street View.
  • EPIC v. DOJ: Warrantless Wiretapping Memos Disclosed » (Mar. 22, 2011)
    Pursuant to EPIC v. DOJ, the Justice Deparment has turned over two legal memos concerning the Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program. EPIC sought these memos within hours after the New York Times first reported on the wiretapping program in 2005. The memos, dated November 2, 2001 and May 6, 2004, contain portions of the Bush Administration's justifications for the program, but are heavily redacted. The Obama Administration withheld three other memos in their entirety. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping, EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and Lawfare, "DOJ Releases Redacted Version of 2004 Surveillance Opinion."
  • Federal Appeals Court Finds A "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy" in Email » (Dec. 17, 2010)
    The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Constitution establishes greater protections for stored email than is set out in federal laws. In Warshak v. United States, the government compelled an internet service provider to reveal 27,000 emails without securing a warrant or giving notice to the customer, Steven Warshak. The Court held that the seizure violated Warshak's Fourth Amendment rights. In response to the Government's assertions that its actions were based on the Stored Communications Act, the Court responded "to the extent that the SCA purports to permit the government to obtain such emails warrantlessly, the SCA is unconstitutional." The Sixth Circuit joins the First Circuit in finding that email is subject to strong protections under electronic privacy laws. EPIC joined a group of civil liberties organizations and Professor Orin Kerr to submit a "Friend of the Court" brief in U.S. v. Councilman, a First Circuit case concerning email and the Wiretap Act. A separate amicus brief in Councilman from leading technology experts explained that privacy protection is "critical for electronic mail." For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping.
  • Canada: Google Street View Violates Privacy Laws » (Oct. 20, 2010)
    Canada's Privacy Commissioner has determined that Google violated Canadian privacy law when the company's Street View cars collected user information from wireless networks. The personal information Google captured included e-mails and the names, addresses, and home phone numbers of people suffering from a certain medical condition. The Commissioner called on Google to strengthen its controls and designate an individual to be responsible for privacy issues. In May, EPIC urged the Federal Communications Commission to open an investigation into Street View, as Google's practices appear to violate U.S. federal wiretap laws as well as the U.S. Communications Act. For more information, see EPIC: Google Street View.
  • Federal Appeals Court Protects Innocent Targets of Government Surveillance » (Sep. 29, 2010)
    A federal appeals court in New York overruled a lower court order that would have disclosed thousands of wiretapped conversations, to the Security and Exchange Commission. The appeals court called the disclosure a "clear and indisputable" abuse of discretion. In SEC v. Galleon, the SEC sought 18,150 private conversations, obtained by the FBI, before any determination of whether the interceptions were relevant or lawful.The court issued the order which was then appealed. EPIC filed an amicus brief and urged the appellate court to protect "the privacy rights of hundreds of individuals" who had no involvement in the case. The court agreed and found that "ordering discovery of the wiretap materials before any determination of the legality of the surveillance involved exceeded the district court’s discretion." For more information, see EPIC: SEC v. Galleon and EPIC: Wiretapping.
  • Federal Court to Hear Oral Argument in Wiretap Abuse Case » (Jul. 8, 2010)
    A federal court in New York will hear oral argument today in SEC v. Galleon, a case involving the disclosure of federal wiretap recordings. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief, urging the court to protect the privacy of innocent individuals who were inadvertently recorded on the wiretaps. A trial court judge ordered disclosure of all wiretaps conducted in a criminal investigation, even though no court has ruled on the recordings' legality or relevance. EPIC noted that "hundreds of thousands of individuals are recorded on wiretaps every year," and "80% of those personal communications are wholly unrelated to criminal activity." For more information, see EPIC: SEC v. Galleon and EPIC Wiretapping.
  • Applications for Court Approved Wiretaps Reach All-Time High in 2009 » (May. 3, 2010)
    According to the newly released 2009 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 2,376 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2009, up from 1,891 in 2008, an increase of more than 25%. U.S. Courts Press release.) As in the previous four years, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. With the exception of 2008, the total number of authorized wiretaps has grown in each of the past seven calendar years, beginning in 2003. The 2009 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or interceptions approved by the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA. See EPIC Wiretapping and EPIC Title III Order Statistics.
  • EPIC Urges Federal Court to Protect Individuals from Wiretap Abuse » (Apr. 30, 2010)
    EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief, urging a federal appeals court to protect the privacy of innocent individuals who were inadvertently recorded on federal wiretaps. In SEC v. Rajaratnam, a trial court judge ordered disclosure of all wiretaps conducted in a criminal investigation, even though a court has yet to rule on the recordings' legality or relevance. EPIC noted that "hundreds of thousands of individuals are recorded on wiretaps every year," and "80% of those personal communications are wholly unrelated to criminal activity." For more information, see SEC v. Galleon and EPIC Wiretapping.
  • EPIC Renews Call for Release of Bush Warrantless Wiretap Memos » (Sep. 18, 2009)
    In court papers filed this week in Washington, DC, EPIC and the ACLU asked a federal judge now reviewing an open government case to consider the publication of the Inspectors General Unclassified Report on the President's Surveillance Program. EPIC and the ACLU are seeking the release of the relevant legal memos relating to the program, but the government contends that the entire matter is secret. However, the Inspector General's report, which is widely available, discusses several of the memos at issue in the case. EPIC filed the original request for the legal memos in December 2005 after the New York Times first reported on the warrantless wiretapping program. The case is EPIC v. Dep't of Justice.
  • PATRIOT Act Revisions Introduced in Senate » (Sep. 17, 2009)
    Today, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and seven cosponsors introduced the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act. The bill would amend the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and other surveillance and intelligence laws. Among other changes, the JUSTICE Act would reform the National Security Letter process, revise the guidelines for business records orders, eliminate the catch-all provision for "sneak-and-peek" searches, and add new safeguards for FISA roving wiretaps. The JUSTICE Act would also repeal retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies, and is supported by many civil liberties organizations. For more information, see EPIC USA PATRIOT Act, EPIC FISA, EPIC Wiretapping, and EPIC National Security Letters.
  • Senators Consider PATRIOT Act Reforms » (Aug. 7, 2009)
    Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are drafting legislative reforms to revise the USA PATRIOT Act. The USA PATRIOT Act allows authorities to conduct surveillance without judicial review through the use of National Security Letters. The Senators asked the Attorney General and the Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committee to consider two previous bills that add protections to PATRIOT ACT. Pursuant to a EPIC lawsuit, a federal judge had ordered the Justice Department to provide for independent judicial inspection of documents relating to warrantless wiretapping. For more information, see EPIC USA PATRIOT Act, EPIC FISA, EPIC Wiretapping, and EPIC National Security Letters.
  • Inspector Generals Release Report on President's Surveillance Program » (Jul. 10, 2009)
    The Inspector Generals of the Intelligence Community released a report on the President's Surveillance Program. The report summarizes the unclassified collective results of the reviews. The Program involved the massive, warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States. The IG Report finds that the absence of effective oversight contributed to the ineffectiveness of the program. In December 2005, EPIC had requested the legal opinions that were prepared to justify the program. The government has refused to produce many key documents, and EPIC sued under the Freedom of Information Act. In March this year, the Attorney General released several related memos, which previously were secret, following President Obama's statement on government transparency. See EPIC FISA, EPIC Surveillance FOIA, EPIC Wiretapping, and EPIC National Security Letters.
  • FBI's Use of FISA Increasing » (May. 20, 2009)
    In a report to Congress, the Justice Department revealed a substantial increase in the use of National Security Letters to acquire information on American citizens without court order. In 2008, the FBI made 24,744 NSL requests pertaining to 7,225 persons compared to 16,804 requests pertaining to 4,327 persons in 2007. The report also detailed 2,082 applications by the FBI to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for authority to conduct surveillance and physical searches. An earlier audit had revealed that some "blanket-NSLs" did not document the relevance of the information sought to a national security investigation and the statistics were not reported to the Congress. For more information, see EPIC's Page on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, National Security Letters, and Wiretapping.
  • EPIC Urges Greater Accountability for Network Surveillance » (Apr. 29, 2009)
    Today, EPIC asked Senator Patrick Leahy to investigate the Department of Justice's failure to make public statistics detailing federal use of "pen registers" and "trap and trace" devices, which record "non-content" information about telephone calls, email and web traffic. In a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, EPIC observed that the Attorney General is required to provide to Congress detailed statistics concerning the use of these techniques. Yet, "the DOJ does not publicly disclose pen register reports as a matter of course." EPIC also raised questions regarding the agency's compliance with reporting requirements for the period 2004-2008. The lack of public accountability for these network monitoring techniques contrasts with the U.S. Courts' routine public reporting of federal wiretaps, EPIC said. The Courts released the most recent wiretap report on April 27, 2009. For more information, see EPIC's Wiretapping page.
  • Applications for Court Approved Wiretaps Down in 2008 » (Apr. 28, 2009)
    According to the 2008 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 1,891 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2008, down from 2,208 in 2007. (Dept. of Justice Press release.) As in the last three years, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. The total number of authorized wiretaps had grown in each of the six past calendar years, beginning in 2003. The 2008 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or interceptions approvedby the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA. See EPIC Wiretapping page and EPIC Title III Orders.
  • Wiretaps Up by 20 Percent in 2007 » (May. 21, 2008)
    According to the 2007 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 2,208 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2007, compared to 1,839 in 2006. (Press release.) As in 2006, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. The total number of authorized wiretaps has grown in each of the five past calendar years, beginning in 2003. The 2007 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 or interceptions approved by the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA.
  • FCC Again Approves FBI's CALEA Requirements » (Apr. 16, 2002)
    The Federal Communications Commission issued an "Order on Remand" (PDF) on April 11 reinstating the mandated surveillance capabilities that were rejected by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000.

The Digital Telephony Law (CALEA)

On the last night of the 1994 session, Congress enacted the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), sometimes called the "Digital Telephony" bill. CALEA requires telephone firms to make it easy to wiretap the nation's communication system. The bill faced strong opposition from industry and civil liberties organizations, but was adopted in the closing hours of Congress after the government offered to pay telephone companies $500,000,000 to make the proposed changes. EPIC opposed passage of the bill and believes that the government has failed to justify the $500,000,000 appropriation required.

As part of the final omnibus funding bill enacted in the last days of the 104th Congress, the Congress approved a provision allowing for funding the digital telephony bill from money reprogrammed from intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Funding Digital Telephony

Early Implementation of CALEA

Materials on the Enactment of CALEA

  • Office of Technology Assessment report "Electronic Surveillance in a Digital Age"
  • White House document obtained under FOIA shows Approval of President George Bush and the link between digital telephony and the Clipper Chip. (gif file)
  • EPIC Statement on CALEA enactment, October 1994.
  • EPIC's FOIA Wiretap Survey Case against the FBI for the surveys allegedly showing the need for the FBI Digital Telephony Proposal.
  • 1992 memos from the General Services Administration (GSA) showing that they opposed the Digital Telephony proposal because it could "adversely affect national security."

Other Wiretap Resources

Previous Top News

  • Federal and State Wiretaps Up 5% in 2013 According to Annual Report, But Stats Don't Support FBI Claims of "Going Dark" » (Jul. 29, 2014)
    The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has issued the 2013 Wiretap Report, detailing the use of surveillance authorities by law enforcement agencies. This annual report, one of the most comprehensive issued by any agency, provides an insight into the debate over surveillance authorities and the use of privacy-enhancing technologies. In 2013, wiretap applications increased 5%, from 3,576 to 3,395. Authorities encountered encryption during 41 investigations, but encryption prevented the government from deciphering messages in only 9 cases. This statistic contradicts claims that law enforcement agencies are "going dark" as new technologies emerge. Of the 3,074 individuals arrested based on wiretaps in 2013, only 709 individuals were convicted based on wiretap evidence. EPIC has repeatedly called on greater transparency of FISA surveillance, citing the Wiretap Report as a model for other agencies. EPIC also maintains a comprehensive index of the annual wiretap reports and FISA reports. For more information, see EPIC: Title III Wiretap Orders, EPIC: Wiretapping, and EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • Annual FISA Report Shows Decrease in Surveillance Orders, Questions About Scope Remain » (May. 1, 2014)
    The Department of Justice has published the 2013 FISA Report. The brief report provides summary information about the government's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In 2012 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted 1,789 FISA orders and 212 "Section 215" orders. In 2013, there were 1,588 requests to conduct FISA surveillance, with 34 modifications. The FISC also granted 178 business record orders under Section 215, with 141 modified by the court. The significant number of modified orders indicates that the government's initial applications are too broad. For example, the controversial NSA Metadata program, was authorized by the surveillance court under a modified order. It is possible that in 2013 the court authorized other bulk collection programs. For more information, see EPIC: FISC Orders 1979-2014 and EPIC: FISA Graphs.
  • Appeals Court Orders Release of Classified Legal Analysis, EPIC Filed Amicus Brief » (Apr. 21, 2014)
    A federal court of appeals has ruled that the Department of Justice must release the legal analysis justifying the controversial "targeted killing" drone program. The government argued in New York Times v. Department of Justice that the analysis should be exempt from release as a privileged communication. But the ACLU and the New York Times, supported by EPIC and other open government organizations, argued that because the government relied on the legal reasoning to justify the drone program it cannot be kept secret. The Second Circuit agreed, ruling that the after "senior Government officials have assured the public" that the program is "lawful and that . . . advice establishes the legal boundaries," it can no longer claim that the document is exempt from FOIA. EPIC has pursued a similar case for more than seven years, seeking the disclosure of the OLC's legal analysis of the Warrantless Wiretapping program. And earlier this year EPIC wrote in the New York Times that if "the Justice Department expects others to follow its advice, the analysis that supports its conclusions should be made public." For more information, see EPIC: New York Times v. DOJ and EPIC: EPIC v. DOJ - Warrantless Wiretapping Program.
  • Federal and State Wiretaps Up 24%, Primary Target Mobile Devices According to 2012 Report » (Jun. 28, 2013)
    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.
  • 2012 FISA Orders Up, National Security Letters Down, No Surveillance Request Denied » (May. 2, 2013)
    According to the 2012 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Report, the Department of Justice submitted 1,856 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a 6.4% increase over 2011. Of the 1,856 search applications, 1,789 sought authority to conduct electronic surveillance. The FISC did not deny any of the applications, although one was withdrawn by the Government. However, the FISC did make modifications to 40 of the applications, including one from the 2011 reporting period. In addition to the FISA orders, the FBI sent 15,229 National Security Letter requests for information concerning 6,223 different U.S. persons. This is a modest decrease from the 16,511 requests sent in 2011. Almost no information is available about FISA surveillance beyond the figures contained in the annual FISA letter, sent to the Senate each year by the Department of Justice, Office of Legislative Affairs. EPIC has recommended greater reporting of FISC applications and opinions, similar to what is disclosed in the Federal Wiretap Reports. For more information, see EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court Orders 1979-2012 and EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • 2011 Report: Wiretap Authorizations Decrease » (Jul. 3, 2012)
    According to the 2011 Wiretap Report, released by the Administrative Office of the US Courts, federal and state applications for wiretap orders dropped 14 percent in 2011, compared to the number reported in 2010. The reduction in wiretaps resulted primarily from a drop in applications for intercepts in narcotics offenses. In 2011, a total of 2,732 intercept applications were authorized by federal and state courts, with 792 applications by federal authorities and 1,940 by the states. In 2011, 98 percent, or 2,674, of all authorized wiretaps were designated as portable devices. The Wiretap Report does not include interceptions pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. For more information see: EPIC: Wiretapping and Administrative Office of the US Courts: Wiretap Reports.
  • Supreme Court Set to Review Wiretap Case » (May. 21, 2012)
    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, a challenge to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Act expanded the Government's authority to engage in warrantless surveillance, and followed news of the Bush administration's program to wiretap international communications. A group of lawyers, journalists, and public interest organizations, who regularly engage in international communications, challenged the new law saying they feared that their private communications would be intercepted. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the case could proceed even though the plaintiffs had not established that they were subject to surveillance. The Government filed a petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case, which was granted today. EPIC recently filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case, First American v. Edwards, raising similar Article III standing issues in the context of a consumer protection statute. EPIC also filed an amicus brief along with the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and other interested groups, in Hepting v. AT&T, a case challenging AT&T's involvement in the FISA warrantless wiretapping program. For more information, see EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • EPIC Urges Justice Department to Investigate Google for Unlawful Wiretapping » (Apr. 17, 2012)
    EPIC wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to investigate Google’s collection of Wi-Fi data from residential networks by means of "Street View" vehicles. The Federal Communications Commission recently fined Google $25,000 for obstructing an investigation concerning Street View and federal wiretap law. But as EPIC noted "by the agency’s own admission, the investigation conducted was inadequate and did not address the applicability of federal wiretapping law to Google's interception of emails, usernames, passwords, browsing histories, and other personal information." Members of Congress have expressed support for EPIC's recommendation to the Justice Department. Senator Richard Blumenthal said that "Google's interception and collection of private wireless data potentially violates the Wiretap Act or other federal statutes, and I believe the Justice Department and state attorneys general should fully investigate this matter." Congressman Ed Markey said that "[t]his fine is a mere slap on the wrist for Google," and called for a more comprehensive investigation. Many countries have found Google guilty of violating national privacy laws, and a US federal court recently held that unencrypted wireless network communications are not exempt from the protections of the Wiretap Act. For more information, see EPIC: Investigation of Google Street View and EPIC: Ben Joffe v. Google.
  • Appeals Court: Noncitizens Protected by Electronic Communications Privacy Act » (Oct. 4, 2011)
    A federal appeals court has ruled in Suzlon Energy v. Microsoft Corp. that foreign citizens are protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The decision is not that surprising as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act protects consumer data, without regard to nationality, by forbidding companies from disclosing communications data with third parties in most circumstances. Suzlon involved a civil suit in which Microsoft refused to disclose data from the Hotmail email account of Rajagopalan Sridhar, an Indian citizen. The court ruled that Sridhar was protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and that Microsoft correctly refused to disclose communications from Sridhar's email account. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping.
  • DC Circuit Court Grants Access to Cell Phone Surveillance Records » (Sep. 7, 2011)
    The Circuit Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Department of Justice must release information regarding government surveillance of cell phone location data. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information regarding current and past cases where the Department of Justice had accessed cell phone location data without a warrant. The agency sought to keep this information secret, claiming that releasing cell phone tracking data could implicate privacy of investigation subjects. The court, however, disagreed, stating, "The disclosure sought by the plaintiffs would inform this ongoing public policy discussion by shedding light on the scope and effectiveness of cell phone tracking as a law enforcement tool." For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping and EPIC: Electronic Surveillance 1968-2010.
  • Court Approved Wiretaps Reach a New All-Time High » (Jul. 6, 2011)
    According to the newly released 2010 Wiretap Report, federal and state courts issued 3,194 orders for the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications in 2010, up from 2,376 in 2009, a 34% increase. Only one request for authorization was denied. The average number of persons whose communications were intercepted rose from 113 per wiretap order in 2009 to 118 per wiretap order in 2010. Only 26% of intercepted communications in 2010 were incriminating. The report also indicated that encryption did not prevent officials from obtaining the plaintext of communications in the six cases in which it was encountered. The 2010 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) or interceptions approved by the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping and EPIC: Title III Order Statistics.
  • Judge Rules Google Street View Data Collection May Violate Wiretap Act » (Jul. 1, 2011)
    In a lawsuit filed by several private citizens, a federal judge has found that Google's purposeful and secretive collection of Wi-Fi data as part of its "Street View" activities could constitute illegal wiretapping. EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case, providing a detailed legislative history of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and arguing that private Wi-Fi communications are entitled to privacy protection under ECPA. EPIC said that Congress established "a presumption in favor of confidentiality except in those circumstances where the user has knowingly chosen to broadcast communications to the general public." For three years in thirty countries, Google's Street View cars collected data, including the content of personal emails, from wireless routers located in private homes and businesses. Several countries, including the U.K., Germany, Spain, and Canada, have conducted similar investigations and determined that Google violated their privacy laws. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission opened an investigation after EPIC filed a complaint, but the Commission has failed to announce a ruling. For more information, see EPIC: Google Street View.
  • Senator Leahy Introduces Bill to Update Digital Privacy Law » (May. 17, 2011)
    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act to update the 1986 law for electronic mail and stored communications. Senator Leahy said "Since the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was first enacted in 1986, ECPA has been one of our nation’s premiere privacy laws. But today this law is significantly outdated and out-paced by rapid changes in technology . . ." The bill includes new provisions that clarifies access by government agents to locational data, but stops short of regulating the use of locational data by private firms. EPIC has said that safeguards for locational data are critical for users of new modern communications services. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping and Summary of Legislation.
  • Senator Leahy Calls for Updates to Federal Privacy Law, Attorney General Confirms Sony Investigation » (May. 4, 2011)
    At a Justice Department oversight hearing, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy today urged Congress to enact the bipartisan Personal Data Privacy and Security Act. He also said that the "collection, use and storage of Americans’ sensitive personal information, including by mobile technologies, is an important privacy issue." He asked the Attorney General to work with the Congress on updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other Federal laws implicating Americans’ privacy. During the hearing, the Attorney General confirmed an investigation into the Sony network attack, considered the most serious data breach to date. For more information, see EPIC - Wiretapping, EPIC - Identity Theft.
  • In Court Filing, EPIC Argues Residential Wi-Fi Routers are Not Exempted Under Federal Wiretap Laws » (Apr. 15, 2011)
    EPIC filed an amicus brief in federal court arguing that users of private residential routers are entitled to privacy protection. The EPIC brief is in response to a series of questions asked by a federal judge as to whether private WiFi communications are covered under the Federal Wiretap Act. EPIC explained that a "Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)" provides functionality for those within the home who take advantage of shared services, such as printers and Internet access. In contrast, WiMAX, WWAN, and WiLD are wireless devices that broadcast over a long distance and are intended for public access. EPIC also pointed out that users of residential WLANS can configure their devices to operate as "Hot Spots," but few choose to do so. EPIC said that Congress established "a presumption in favor of confidentiality except in those circumstances where the user has knowingly chosen to broadcast communications to the general public." For more information, see EPIC: Google Street View.
  • EPIC v. DOJ: Warrantless Wiretapping Memos Disclosed » (Mar. 22, 2011)
    Pursuant to EPIC v. DOJ, the Justice Deparment has turned over two legal memos concerning the Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program. EPIC sought these memos within hours after the New York Times first reported on the wiretapping program in 2005. The memos, dated November 2, 2001 and May 6, 2004, contain portions of the Bush Administration's justifications for the program, but are heavily redacted. The Obama Administration withheld three other memos in their entirety. For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping, EPIC: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and Lawfare, "DOJ Releases Redacted Version of 2004 Surveillance Opinion."
  • Federal Appeals Court Finds A "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy" in Email » (Dec. 17, 2010)
    The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Constitution establishes greater protections for stored email than is set out in federal laws. In Warshak v. United States, the government compelled an internet service provider to reveal 27,000 emails without securing a warrant or giving notice to the customer, Steven Warshak. The Court held that the seizure violated Warshak's Fourth Amendment rights. In response to the Government's assertions that its actions were based on the Stored Communications Act, the Court responded "to the extent that the SCA purports to permit the government to obtain such emails warrantlessly, the SCA is unconstitutional." The Sixth Circuit joins the First Circuit in finding that email is subject to strong protections under electronic privacy laws. EPIC joined a group of civil liberties organizations and Professor Orin Kerr to submit a "Friend of the Court" brief in U.S. v. Councilman, a First Circuit case concerning email and the Wiretap Act. A separate amicus brief in Councilman from leading technology experts explained that privacy protection is "critical for electronic mail." For more information, see EPIC: Wiretapping.
  • Canada: Google Street View Violates Privacy Laws » (Oct. 20, 2010)
    Canada's Privacy Commissioner has determined that Google violated Canadian privacy law when the company's Street View cars collected user information from wireless networks. The personal information Google captured included e-mails and the names, addresses, and home phone numbers of people suffering from a certain medical condition. The Commissioner called on Google to strengthen its controls and designate an individual to be responsible for privacy issues. In May, EPIC urged the Federal Communications Commission to open an investigation into Street View, as Google's practices appear to violate U.S. federal wiretap laws as well as the U.S. Communications Act. For more information, see EPIC: Google Street View.
  • Federal Appeals Court Protects Innocent Targets of Government Surveillance » (Sep. 29, 2010)
    A federal appeals court in New York overruled a lower court order that would have disclosed thousands of wiretapped conversations, to the Security and Exchange Commission. The appeals court called the disclosure a "clear and indisputable" abuse of discretion. In SEC v. Galleon, the SEC sought 18,150 private conversations, obtained by the FBI, before any determination of whether the interceptions were relevant or lawful.The court issued the order which was then appealed. EPIC filed an amicus brief and urged the appellate court to protect "the privacy rights of hundreds of individuals" who had no involvement in the case. The court agreed and found that "ordering discovery of the wiretap materials before any determination of the legality of the surveillance involved exceeded the district court’s discretion." For more information, see EPIC: SEC v. Galleon and EPIC: Wiretapping.
  • Federal Court to Hear Oral Argument in Wiretap Abuse Case » (Jul. 8, 2010)
    A federal court in New York will hear oral argument today in SEC v. Galleon, a case involving the disclosure of federal wiretap recordings. EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief, urging the court to protect the privacy of innocent individuals who were inadvertently recorded on the wiretaps. A trial court judge ordered disclosure of all wiretaps conducted in a criminal investigation, even though no court has ruled on the recordings' legality or relevance. EPIC noted that "hundreds of thousands of individuals are recorded on wiretaps every year," and "80% of those personal communications are wholly unrelated to criminal activity." For more information, see EPIC: SEC v. Galleon and EPIC Wiretapping.
  • Applications for Court Approved Wiretaps Reach All-Time High in 2009 » (May. 3, 2010)
    According to the newly released 2009 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 2,376 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2009, up from 1,891 in 2008, an increase of more than 25%. U.S. Courts Press release.) As in the previous four years, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. With the exception of 2008, the total number of authorized wiretaps has grown in each of the past seven calendar years, beginning in 2003. The 2009 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or interceptions approved by the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA. See EPIC Wiretapping and EPIC Title III Order Statistics.
  • EPIC Urges Federal Court to Protect Individuals from Wiretap Abuse » (Apr. 30, 2010)
    EPIC filed a "friend of the court" brief, urging a federal appeals court to protect the privacy of innocent individuals who were inadvertently recorded on federal wiretaps. In SEC v. Rajaratnam, a trial court judge ordered disclosure of all wiretaps conducted in a criminal investigation, even though a court has yet to rule on the recordings' legality or relevance. EPIC noted that "hundreds of thousands of individuals are recorded on wiretaps every year," and "80% of those personal communications are wholly unrelated to criminal activity." For more information, see SEC v. Galleon and EPIC Wiretapping.
  • EPIC Renews Call for Release of Bush Warrantless Wiretap Memos » (Sep. 18, 2009)
    In court papers filed this week in Washington, DC, EPIC and the ACLU asked a federal judge now reviewing an open government case to consider the publication of the Inspectors General Unclassified Report on the President's Surveillance Program. EPIC and the ACLU are seeking the release of the relevant legal memos relating to the program, but the government contends that the entire matter is secret. However, the Inspector General's report, which is widely available, discusses several of the memos at issue in the case. EPIC filed the original request for the legal memos in December 2005 after the New York Times first reported on the warrantless wiretapping program. The case is EPIC v. Dep't of Justice.
  • PATRIOT Act Revisions Introduced in Senate » (Sep. 17, 2009)
    Today, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and seven cosponsors introduced the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act. The bill would amend the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and other surveillance and intelligence laws. Among other changes, the JUSTICE Act would reform the National Security Letter process, revise the guidelines for business records orders, eliminate the catch-all provision for "sneak-and-peek" searches, and add new safeguards for FISA roving wiretaps. The JUSTICE Act would also repeal retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies, and is supported by many civil liberties organizations. For more information, see EPIC USA PATRIOT Act, EPIC FISA, EPIC Wiretapping, and EPIC National Security Letters.
  • Senators Consider PATRIOT Act Reforms » (Aug. 7, 2009)
    Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are drafting legislative reforms to revise the USA PATRIOT Act. The USA PATRIOT Act allows authorities to conduct surveillance without judicial review through the use of National Security Letters. The Senators asked the Attorney General and the Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committee to consider two previous bills that add protections to PATRIOT ACT. Pursuant to a EPIC lawsuit, a federal judge had ordered the Justice Department to provide for independent judicial inspection of documents relating to warrantless wiretapping. For more information, see EPIC USA PATRIOT Act, EPIC FISA, EPIC Wiretapping, and EPIC National Security Letters.
  • Inspector Generals Release Report on President's Surveillance Program » (Jul. 10, 2009)
    The Inspector Generals of the Intelligence Community released a report on the President's Surveillance Program. The report summarizes the unclassified collective results of the reviews. The Program involved the massive, warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States. The IG Report finds that the absence of effective oversight contributed to the ineffectiveness of the program. In December 2005, EPIC had requested the legal opinions that were prepared to justify the program. The government has refused to produce many key documents, and EPIC sued under the Freedom of Information Act. In March this year, the Attorney General released several related memos, which previously were secret, following President Obama's statement on government transparency. See EPIC FISA, EPIC Surveillance FOIA, EPIC Wiretapping, and EPIC National Security Letters.
  • FBI's Use of FISA Increasing » (May. 20, 2009)
    In a report to Congress, the Justice Department revealed a substantial increase in the use of National Security Letters to acquire information on American citizens without court order. In 2008, the FBI made 24,744 NSL requests pertaining to 7,225 persons compared to 16,804 requests pertaining to 4,327 persons in 2007. The report also detailed 2,082 applications by the FBI to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for authority to conduct surveillance and physical searches. An earlier audit had revealed that some "blanket-NSLs" did not document the relevance of the information sought to a national security investigation and the statistics were not reported to the Congress. For more information, see EPIC's Page on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, National Security Letters, and Wiretapping.
  • EPIC Urges Greater Accountability for Network Surveillance » (Apr. 29, 2009)
    Today, EPIC asked Senator Patrick Leahy to investigate the Department of Justice's failure to make public statistics detailing federal use of "pen registers" and "trap and trace" devices, which record "non-content" information about telephone calls, email and web traffic. In a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, EPIC observed that the Attorney General is required to provide to Congress detailed statistics concerning the use of these techniques. Yet, "the DOJ does not publicly disclose pen register reports as a matter of course." EPIC also raised questions regarding the agency's compliance with reporting requirements for the period 2004-2008. The lack of public accountability for these network monitoring techniques contrasts with the U.S. Courts' routine public reporting of federal wiretaps, EPIC said. The Courts released the most recent wiretap report on April 27, 2009. For more information, see EPIC's Wiretapping page.
  • Applications for Court Approved Wiretaps Down in 2008 » (Apr. 28, 2009)
    According to the 2008 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 1,891 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2008, down from 2,208 in 2007. (Dept. of Justice Press release.) As in the last three years, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. The total number of authorized wiretaps had grown in each of the six past calendar years, beginning in 2003. The 2008 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or interceptions approvedby the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA. See EPIC Wiretapping page and EPIC Title III Orders.
  • Wiretaps Up by 20 Percent in 2007 » (May. 21, 2008)
    According to the 2007 Wiretap report, federal and state courts issued 2,208 orders for the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications in 2007, compared to 1,839 in 2006. (Press release.) As in 2006, no applications for wiretap authorizations were denied by either state or federal courts. The total number of authorized wiretaps has grown in each of the five past calendar years, beginning in 2003. The 2007 Wiretap Report does not include interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 or interceptions approved by the President outside the exclusive authority of the federal wiretap law and the FISA.
  • FCC Again Approves FBI's CALEA Requirements » (Apr. 16, 2002)
    The Federal Communications Commission issued an "Order on Remand" (PDF) on April 11 reinstating the mandated surveillance capabilities that were rejected by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000.

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