The Use of Modern Day Pen Registers and Trap & Trace Devices by Federal Law Enforcement is Rapidly Increasing

The American Civil Liberties Union  has released recently obtained federal law enforcement records showing that the use of pen registers and trap & trace devices by federal agents has increased 60% from 2009 until 2011.  The ACLU initially asked for the records in a Freedom of Information Act request, but ultimately filed a lawsuit to get the information.

In the past, the devices were put on phone lines to record incoming and outgoing phone numbers.  In this modern age of surveillance, the devices are built into phone company hardware and are used to record such things as incoming and outgoing phone numbers, e-mail addresses, non-content data associated with social network identities, and information about what websites individuals visit.

In order to obtain the information no warrant is required, but Federal agents have to certify to a Federal judge that the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation.  The information obtained can then be used as the basis of a request for a warrant to obtain the actual content of the communications.

Federal court orders allowing the surveillance increased from 23,535 in 2009 to 37,616 in 2011.

William K. BradfordBradford Ladner, LLP

Read The Entire ACLU Release

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