NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Clinton Administration Nearly Doubles Federal Wiretaps

May 3, 2000

In 1992, the last year of the Bush administration, the Justice Department got court permission for 340 wiretaps. But last year it obtained authorization for 601 wiretaps -- a 20 percent increase from the previous year, according to an annual survey conducted by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

  • Moreover, the total number of wiretaps at all levels of government hit a record 1,350 last year and no request was turned down by a judge.
  • Wiretaps sought by state and local authorities declined by 2 percent last year -- with New York ordering by far the most at 343, followed far behind by California at 76.
  • Those two states, plus New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois accounted for 81 percent of all state-ordered wiretaps approved last year.
  • Nearly three-quarters of all taps are ordered for narcotics investigations.

The overall increase in taps produced more arrests in 1999 but a lower conviction rate, of about 15 percent.

Source: Richard Willing, "New Devices Prompt More Wiretapping," USA Today, May 3, 2000.


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