Drugs, Tech & Government: A Surveillance Cocktail

Riverside County Court House, en Riverside California, fue fundada en 1902, es uno de los edificios historicos de esta ciudad.

Photo by Norarobless, Wikimeda Commons | Los Angeles, California - USA Today released an earth shattering report yesterday in their newspaper about a large-scale wiretapping investigation that is the largest in the nation, and the United States Department of Justice fears that it may actually be illegal to conduct it the way it has been. Federal investigators have been conducting most of the investigations using wiretaps with authorization from warrants from a judge in Riverside, California.
Justice department lawyers have largely objected to the operation, according to the news report. The judge signed off on about five times more taps than any other judge in the nation, according to further information cited in the report. The Drug Enforcement Administration and assisting federal investigators intercepted more than 2 million conversations between around 44,000 people. The DEA claims that this area of California is the country’s largest shipping corridor for meth and heroin.
The subsequent drug busts have taken place in cities as far away as on the east coast and southeastern US, far away from the boundaries of the county, where wiretaps are traditionally supposed to be tied to crime in. The cases have not made it to federal court, as the Justice Department office in Los Angeles is hesitant to proceed, fearing legal issues with their legitimacy there.

USA Today called the LA suburbs area “America’s Wiretap Capital”. Riverside’s new district attorney compared wiretapping to the efforts of intelligence operations, saying the government can’t be totally transparent with it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF, has serious concerns about the wiretapping.

Wiretapping is also expanding into social media messaging, according to a new report from Motherboard. The tech blog reported that information cited from Facebook and WhatsApp data releases shows that in the first half of 2015, various law enforcement groups sent Facebook 201 wiretap requests, or Title IIIs, for 279 user accounts. That is a lot more than the entire year of 2014, according to the report, which recalled that Facebook only had 9 requests on 16 accounts that year. Google is also a source of tapping for agents.

In October, the US House of Representatives gave the okay to a proposal that would expand wiretapping of suspect drug dealers, according to another report. The technology age may be giving way to more surveillance on citizen activities to ramp up the war on drugs further in the United States. Even TechDirt wrote about the findings in the USA Today wiretapping article.