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Posted in the Baltimore Forum

gerald j

Cheyenne, WY

#2 Jun 2, 2013
While relatively few legal wiretaps are authorized in the United States each year, improvements in technology have made it easier to illegally wiretap, record and eavesdrop on telephone conversations. People with sensitive jobs in business or government and those involved in high-stakes legal cases may have reason to be concerned about wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping.
Wiretapping is any interception of a telephone transmission by accessing the telephone signal itself. Electronic eavesdropping is the use of an electronic transmitting or recording device to monitor conversations without the consent of the parties. Although many types of conversations may be subject to electronic eavesdropping, this fact sheet deals only with eavesdropping on telephone conversations.
While this fact sheet deals only with wiretapping and eavesdropping on telephone conversations, wiretap laws are broader in scope. Federal wiretap laws apply to oral, wire, and electronic communications. However, the federal law does not currently regulate silent video communications, such as webcams or other video monitoring without an audio component. A well-publicized case involving a school laptop in Lower Merion, PA highlights this limitation. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2010/03/sc... .
In 2011, there were 2732 criminal wiretaps authorized. The majority were for portable devices involving narcotics cases. Each tap lasted an average of 42 days. Information gathered from the wiretaps led to 3547 arrests and 465 convictions. These statistics do not include terrorism-related wiretaps or wiretaps conducted through the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. http://www.uscourts.gov/Statistics/WiretapRep...
2.What can I do if I think my phone is tapped?
If you think your phone line is wiretapped, call your local phone company. Most phone companies will inspect your lines for wiretap devices free of charge. If a tap is found, the phone company will check to see if it is authorized. The phone company will alert you if the wiretap is illegal. It will also notify law enforcement and remove the device. However, you will not be notified if the wiretap is legal, made by law enforcement and authorized by a court. However, once a legal wiretap has been discontinued, the court must notify the tapped party that the wiretapping has taken place. Normally, this notice must occur within 90 days of the wiretap termination.(18 USC 2518(8)(d)).
The government has been given narrowly confined authority to engage in electronic surveillance, conduct physical searches, install and use pen registers and trap and trace devices for law enforcement purposes under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (18 U.S.C. 2510 et. seq.). Over the years, Congress has amended ECPA, sometimes in the interests of greater privacy and sometimes in the interest of more effective law enforcement or intelligence gathering. For an in-depth discussion of ECPA, see the U.S. Department of Justice's Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations.
3.If you discover that someone has intentionally intercepted your private phone conversations, you may be able to take legal action. If you or the phone company find an illegal tap, you should notify local law enforcement officials. In addition, you may want to consult an attorney. imprisonment for not more than five years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); in civil liability for damages, attorneys’ fees and possibly punitive damages; in disciplinary action against any attorneys involved; and in suppression of any derivative evidence.

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