State and local investigators listened in on more than 3 million phone conversations last year as prosecutors sought a record number of wiretaps, mostly to investigate drug crimes, reports the Associated Press. As the federal government has focused on national security investigations, the responsibility for drug investigations – the focus of 80 percent of wiretaps – has fallen to states and localities.
Last year, state prosecutors obtained nearly three times as many wiretap authorizations as their federal counterparts: 1,378 to 461, said an annual report by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Technological advances have made it easier for local investigators to tap telephones and cell phones. “It can be done from a central switching station rather than climbing poles and messing with wires the way it was in the ’70s,” said Clifford S. Fishman, a former New York City drug prosecutor and a Catholic University law professor. California led the U.S. with 430 wiretap applications, followed by New York with 377 and New Jersey with 189.