Agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in 2014, according to information obtained by USA Today. That’s up from 3,394 in 2005. And over the course of those nine years, federal agents increasingly went to state judges to get warrants for wiretaps, bypassing the more rigorous federal procedure for obtaining warrants.
The DEA attributed the increased use of wiretaps to a corresponding increase in the types of devices and methods that drug traffickers use to communicate. Some of the wiretap orders “could be counted more than once, if they include the collection of both voice calls and text messages, for example,” USA Today wrote.
But beyond the simple increase in the number of intercepts that the DEA conducted, it seems that the agency is bypassing more stringent federal rules for getting wiretap approval. The wiretap counts show that in 2005, there were twice as many intercepts approved by federal courts as there were intercepts approved by state courts. In 2009 there were about as many intercepts approved by federal courts as there were intercepts approved by state courts. And in 2012, the number of intercepts approved by state courts began definitively surpassing those approved by federal courts.
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