Monday, May 5, 2008

Government wiretaps—the ones we know about—up 20% for 2007

Believe me, I'd like to start my week with just about ANY privacy related headline than this...but alas, the data for 2007 is in, and its not pretty. Yes, government wiretapping drastically increased last year! This article details the new figures, as well as some of the demographics associated with the taps.

Nate Anderson of Arstechnica, gives us the bad news:

The US last week released its 2007 wiretapping stats, and they show that such surveillance is up a full 20 percent over the year before. The number of non-secret wiretaps is higher than it has ever been in the last decade, and not a single application was denied in all of 2007.


The Justice Department also released information this week on secret warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. These numbers are also rising, and have been going up since 2001; the increase is a dramatic one. In 2001, the Court approved only 1,012 applications, but approved 2,370 last year.

The ACLU said in a statement that "the ever-increasing reach of government surveillance should be disturbing to anyone committed to constitutional values. Pervasive surveillance, besides eroding the right to privacy, deters innocent people from participating in the political process and from exercising their freedoms of speech, association, and religion. It has a chilling effect on activity that is absolutely necessary to any democracy."

And neither of these wiretapping numbers have anything to do with the warrantless surveillance being conducted on phone and Internet traffic by the National Security Administration. So take back all that I said above about surveillance only being used on drug dealers with cell phones. The truth is that we simply don't know how much total government surveillance is being done, who is being looked at, and what sort of information is being examined. If Congress ends up granting the telecom companies that participated in the program the immunity they crave, we may never know.

You can rest assured that as soon as that debate over telecom immunity is re-engaged I will be on of now, the Dems stood strong and are clearly in a good position. All they must do now is avoid cutting some deal that "grabs defeat out of the jaws of victory".

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