Half Of All Wiretaps Happened In Just Four States Last Year

Josh Evans Contributor
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California, New York, Florida and Nevada accounted for more than half of all wiretaps in the nation in 2013, The Verge reports.

Of the 3,576 wiretaps made last year, over a quarter occurred in California alone, with New York contributing 12 percent and Florida and Nevada each contributing about six percent, according to the Wiretap Report 2013 released earlier this month.

The high populations of California, New York and Florida help account for their high numbers, but the relatively sparsely-populated Nevada is a bit more of an anomaly.  The state has a ratio of 38.2 wiretaps per 500,000 people, which is much higher than most other states. However, the Pew Research Center notes that the millions of tourists that visit Las Vegas every year tend to drive up Nevada’s violent crime rate, thus motivating more requests for wiretaps.

The report also shows a number of other trends. A total of 97 percent of wiretaps targeted mobile devices, reflecting the shift away from landlines. The total number of wiretaps is also increasing, up by five percent from 2012 and more than doubling from 2003.

The wiretaps overwhelmingly targeted drug offenders, with a total of 87 percent of authorizations being focused on illegal drugs. The “other major offenses” category, which includes miscellaneous crimes such as smuggling and money laundering, came a distant second with only 4 percent of wiretapping authorizations.

Although the number of convictions achieved by these wiretaps increased significantly from 2012, the number still sits at 709, a mere 19 percent of all authorized wiretaps. Only about two thirds of all cases reported the cost, but among these, the average expense per wiretap was $41,119.

However, the report also demonstrates that citizens are working harder to prevent government snooping. The number of wiretappings that encountered encryption nearly tripled from 15 in 2012 to 41 in 2013. In nine of these cases, officials were completely prevented from deciphering the encrypted data.

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