As a part of their narcotics investigation, the US authorities allowed themselves to use a single wiretap order to intercept and record several millions of their citizens’ phone calls. These real-time interceptions were carried out by an unknown government organization.
What We Know
In two months of 2016, over 3.29 million conversations made on the cell phones were recorded. The order was demanded sometime in late 2015, and it arrived in time for the government agency to carry it out last year.
Originally, the order was supposed to help with an investigation concerning the illegal drugs and narcotics in Pennsylvania. Authorities were expected to use it for tracking 26 suspects. It allegedly led to a dozen arrests, and the wiretap alone had the cost of $335,000.
However, it would seem that this surveillance did not actually lead to any incriminating evidence. None of the arrested individuals stood trial or were convicted, for that matter.
This revelation was overlooked due to the fact that it was published earlier this week, and was quickly buried in the annual wiretap report.
The majority of the case details are still unknown. Both the wiretap order as well as several other notions related to this case remain undisclosed to the public. Still, it is one of the most massive surveillance actions in recent memory. The exact number of citizens whose calls were recorded is still unknown.
Many criticized this investigation, including a former privacy lawyer that is currently employed as Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society’s director of privacy, Albert Gidari. He stated that the government spent a massive amount of tax payers’ dollars to track only 26 people. The botched operation recorded 3 million phone conversations as had very little to show for these efforts.
Though these results were unsurprising to Gidari. After reviewing these conversations, it was clear that many of the recordings are not clear enough to be incriminating. Lack of credible evidence meant that securing convictions was next to impossible.
The Justice Department’s spokesperson did not comment anything related to the subject when contacted, while the US attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania did not return the calls.
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