Electronic monitoring by Justice  Department on the rise under Obama, ACLU says

Published October 01, 2012

FoxNews.com

  • Justice_bldg..jpg

    March 4, 2012: The Justice Department building is seen in Washington. (REUTERS)

The instances of the Justice Department monitoring electronic communications  such as phone calls, emails and even social network updates without a warrant  has increased by as much as 60 percent in recent years, according to the  American Civil Liberties Union.

The surveillance tools – known as either a “pen register” or a “trap and  trace” – record such information as phone numbers and the time and length  of calls, but not the content.

Orders to track phone calls increased 60 percent — from 23,535 in 2009 to  37,616 in 2011 — according to Justice Department documents, including ones  recently acquired by the ACLU.

Orders to track emails and computer network data increased by 361 percent  over the same period, though the number of orders was less compared to those for  phone calls.

The ACLU argues the legal standard to use the devices is lower because they  don’t capture content — unlike wiretaps, which require a judge’s permission.  And the government needs submit only to a court a certification stating that it  seeks information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.

However, the Justice Department said that in “every instance cited” in the  documents a federal judge authorized the law enforcement activity.

“As criminals increasingly use new and more sophisticated technologies, the  use of orders issued by a judge and explicitly authorized by Congress to obtain  non-content information is essential for federal law enforcement officials to  carry out their duty to protect the public and investigate violations of federal  laws,” the agency said in a statement.

Still, Naomi Gilens, writing in a blog for the ACLU, says the information in  the documents “underscore the importance of regulating and overseeing the  government’s surveillance power.”

Shealsocalls both devices “powerfully invasive surveillance  tools” and points out that nowadays no special equipment is needed to record  such information because it is part of phone companies’ call-routing hardware,  unlike 20 years ago.

Fox News’ Steve Centanni contributed

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/01/aclu-police-use-phone-other-electronic-device-tracking-up-as-much-as-60-percent/#ixzz28F9QUdlH

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