Law Enforcement Sought 3,800 Taps—Not One Request Rejected—And It’s Not All Drug Dealers.
The number of court-approved federal wiretaps rose 30% during Donald Trump’s first year in office, the latest indicator sign of how his administration is shifting our government from facilitating a healthy society into something closer to a police state.
Not a single wiretap request, federal or state, was rejected by any judge, an annual disclosure report from the federal courts released on Wednesday. Nearly all the taps were of mobile phones.
The report does not include national security intercepts–where, according to a separate report, judges rejected more requests last year than they had, in total, over the 38 years before that.
As for the new wiretapping report, while of 3,813 taps were sought and approved, that almost certainly understates the actual number by close to a thousand. That’s because each year many officials were slow complying with the annual disclosures that Congress requires. Based on reports in the previous decade, which had to be revised because officials were late reporting approved wiretaps, as Congress requires they do annually.
When the late reports are counted and disclosed next year it is likely that the increase in wiretaps will be not 30% but well more than 40%.
The biggest increase was in wiretaps categorized as “other or unspecified.” That explained 595 of the 645 additional wiretaps in 2017.
The report showed that the share of wiretaps in drug cases is falling, from 81% of wiretaps in 2007 to 61% in 2016 to just 53% in 2017. These figures point to major shifts in law enforcement priorities.
Based on wiretap evidence authorities arrested 9,565 people. That’s 23% fewer than in 2016. However, the number of convictions rose by more than half.
Authority to approve national security intercepts rests with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the so-called FISA Court. It was asked to approve 1,514 intercepts warrants, an April federal courts report showed.
FISA judges rejected 26 of those applications outright and limited 50 others. That is an astonishing shift from the prior 38 years, in which just 21 requests were rejected or limited.
We reported in July 2017 that the Trump Administration wanted to cut the spending of all civilian federal agencies and to increase spending on the military and immigration policing. You can read our exclusive report here.