Number of Court-Approved Wiretaps Soared in 2010

Nearly 4,000 federal and state wiretaps were authorized last year, an increase of 34 percent from the previous year, according to an annual government report.

The administrative office of the United States Courts released a report last month that found an all-time high of 3,194 wiretaps were reported as authorized in 2010 – 1,207 by federal judges and 1,987 by state judges – and only one application was denied.

The study attributed the increase in part to enhanced efforts by the administrative office to ensure that federal and state authorities were aware of their reporting responsibilities.

Wiretap applications in California, New York and New Jersey accounted for 68 percent of all applications authorized by state judges, the study found. But the study only includes data from 25 states that beat the reporting deadline.

Drug offenses were cited most often for using wiretaps in investigations -- 84 percent of all applications were drug-related. Homicides came next, followed by racketeering.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center noted that the 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.”