Justice Dept. Ignored Law Requiring Annual Submission of Surveillance Reports to Congress

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
(graphic: (CrimeThinc)
For five years, the U.S. Department of Justice failed to inform Congress about the surveillance by federal law enforcement of certain types of email and telephone information, despite a lawful requirement to do so.
Using what’s known as pen register and trap-and-trace capturing, agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives increasingly snooped on Internet communications by the tens of thousands from 2004 to 2008.
During this period, the frequency of this wiretapping method nearly doubled, from 10,885 to 21,152, according to Wired’s Danger Room.
But the Justice Department did not report as required to lawmakers on this activity. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is supposed to receive these reports, also was not pro-active in reminding the agency that it had failed to comply with federal law.
Types of information collected through pen registers and trap-and-trace capturing include phone numbers of calls made and received, as well as the senders and recipients (and sometimes the subject lines) of email messages.
With a collective straight face, the Justice Department has claimed that the failure to submit the annual surveillance reports to Congress was an oversight or a “mistake.” In 2004, the Justice Department turned in its reports for 1999-2003, and in December 2010 it posted its reports online for the years 2004-2009.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Congress Left in Dark on DOJ Wiretaps (by David Kravets, Wired)
DOJ's Surveillance Reporting Failure (by Christopher Soghoian, Slight Paranoia)
Wiretaps Up 26% in 2009 (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

“Pen Registers” and “Trap and Trace Devices” (Electronic Frontier Foundation) 


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