Extent of Legally Authorized Wiretapping in US

"The number of federal and state wiretaps reported in 2019 increased 10 percent from 2018. A total of 3,225 wiretaps were reported as authorized in 2019, with 1,417 authorized by federal judges and 1,808 authorized by state judges. Compared to the applications approved during 2018, the number approved by federal judges decreased 3 percent in 2019, and the number approved by state judges increased 22 percent.

"In 28 states, a total of 147 separate local jurisdictions (including counties, cities, and judicial districts) reported wiretap applications for 2019. Applications concentrated in six states (New York, California, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Philadelphia) accounted for 79 percent of all state wiretap applications. Applications in California and New York alone constituted 50 percent of all applications approved by state judges.

"Eighty-six federal jurisdictions submitted reports of wiretap applications for 2019. The Southern District of New York authorized the most federal wiretaps, approximately 5 percent of the applications approved by federal judges.

"Federal judges and state judges reported the authorization of 938 wiretaps and 218 wiretaps, respectively, for which the AO received no corresponding data from prosecuting officials. Wiretap Tables A-1 and B-1 (which are available online at http://www.uscourts.gov/statis...) contain information from judge and prosecutor reports submitted for 2019. The entry “NP” (no prosecutor’s report) appears in these tables whenever a prosecutor’s report was not submitted. Some prosecutors may have delayed filing reports to avoid jeopardizing ongoing investigations. Some of the prosecutors’ reports require additional information to comply with reporting requirements or were received too late to include in this document. Information about these wiretaps should appear in future reports."


Administrative Office of the United States Courts, 2019 Wiretap Report (Washington, DC: December 2019).