As Drug Trafficker Use of Disposable Phones Rises, So Do Wiretaps


In Tennessee and across the nation, police and prosecutors are relying more heavily on wiretaps, says The Tennessean. They say listening in on cellphone calls is an effective way to combat drug trafficking and gang activity. Defense attorneys say the government should be careful not to go too far. The latest report from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts says authorities got more wiretap orders in 2010 than any prior year — 3,194 cases — a 168 percent jump since 1997.

Nashville has gone from zero wiretaps a decade ago to one every 11 days in 2010. “Wiretaps are the most effective way to infiltrate and disrupt international drug conspiracies. That's just the reality of it,” U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin said. “It's a very effective tool, and while it may be on the upswing, it's a tool that we use very carefully.” Martin said the increase can be attributed to an increasing reliance by drug traffickers on cellphones, particularly pay-as-you-go, disposable phones they try to use for only short periods of time to avoid detection. Defense attorney Jennifer Thompson said, “the government has so much power, and they can get a wiretap to try to show that somebody is involved in drugs, but the defense can't counter. The defense has no opportunity to get a wiretap on people to show that they're not guilty.”

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