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2014 Wiretap Report: Intercept Applications Down Slightly

  • Map of wiretaps reported by each Federal Judicial District for 2014.
  • Map of wiretaps reported by each state for 2014.

The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2014 decreased 1 percent from 2013. The most serious offense under investigation in 89 percent of all applications for intercepts was illegal drugs.

The 2014 Wiretap Report provides information on the number and nature of federal and state applications for orders authorizing or approving the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications. The current report covers intercepts concluded between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014.

During calendar year 2014, a total of 3,554 wiretaps were reported as authorized, with 1,279 authorized by federal judges and 2,275 authorized by state judges. Compared to the applications approved during 2013, the number approved by federal judges decreased 13 percent in 2014 and the number approved by state judges increased 8 percent. One state wiretap application was denied in 2014.

Applications in California accounted for 43 percent of all applications approved by state judges. The District of Arizona authorized the most federal wiretaps, approximately 7 percent of the applications approved by federal judges.

The three major categories of surveillance are wire, oral and electronic communications. The most common method reported was wire surveillance that used a telephone (land line, cellular, cordless or mobile).  Of the intercepts installed in 2014, 93 percent involved telephones.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) is required by statute to report to Congress on the number and nature of wiretaps. The Wiretap Report does not include data on interceptions regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. 

No report to the AOUSC is needed when an order is issued with the consent of one of the principal parties to the communication. No report is required for the use of a pen register unless the pen register is used in conjunction with any other wiretap devices whose use must be recorded.

Related Topics: Statistics