We already wrote about how Ed Markey found out that law enforcement had made more than 1.3 million requests for subscriber info last year, and he’s now published the detailed responses, which is turning up some scary information. First off, the numbers are clearly low, because (at the very least) T-Mobile refused to provide any numbers, stating:
While T‐Mobile does not disclose the number of requests we receive from law enforcement annually, the number of requests has risen dramatically in the last decade…
Perhaps more troubling may be the tidbit that Julian Sanchez noticed in Sprint’s response(pdf), in which they admit to 52,029 court orders for wiretaps:
Over the past five years, Sprint has received approximately 52,029 court orders for wiretaps; 77,519 court orders for the installation of a pen register/trap and trace device; and 196,434 court orders for location information. [...] Over the same time frame Sprint received subpoenas from law enforcement agencies requesting basic subscriber information. Each subpoena typically requested subscriber information on multiple subscribers and last year alone we estimate that Sprint received approximately 500,000 subpoenas from law enforcement.
As Sanchez notes, this is problematic, because Sprint — which is just the third largest mobile operator — appears to be claiming more court orders for wiretaps than various officials reports to Congress of how many wiretaps had been sought in total. In other words, either Sprint’s definition of “wirtetaps” is different than everyone else’s, it’s number is wrong… or… someone’s been lying to Congress.
Certainly a report of 52,029 wiretaps over five years–and that just from the third largest carrier in the country–is remarkable in and of itself. But it’s also more than double the number of all wiretaps counted in annual reports required by federal law. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts keeps track of the number of wiretaps authorized each year for criminal investigations. The Justice Department files an annual report to Congress on individual warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for intelligence investigations. (If you don’t feel like wading through, The Electronic Privacy Information Center has charts and graphs that should make it clear.) The total number of all wiretaps counted in the official reports over the five year period 2007–2011 comes to 24,270. I’ve made a table breaking it down year by year:
YEAR TITLE III (Criminal) Wiretap Orders FISA (Intelligence) Wiretap Orders 2011 2,732 1,745 2010 3,795 1,579 2009 3,043 1,320 2008 2,631 2,083 2007 2,927 2,370 TOTAL 15,173 9,097
The obvious question: How is one cell phone carrier—and not the largest by a longshot—reporting 27,759 more wiretap orders than the official numbers acknowledge for all carriers?
That seems like a pretty big miss by someone…