DOJ Had 400% More Emergencies That Required Immediate Warrantless Info From ISPs?
from the busy-year dept
Well this seems questionable. Chris Soghoian has received info from a Freedom of Information Act request (which only took 11 months) that shows that the Justice Department made use of a special “emergency” claim to get ISPs to turn over info without a warrant 400% more times in 2009 than in 2008. Of course, in 2009 there was a new administration in town (one which campaigned on greater transparency and being against things like warrantless wiretaps). In this case, 91 such requests were made to ISPs in 2009. In 2008 the number was just 17. In 2007, it was just 9. In 2006, it was again 17.
So, either there were a lot more “emergencies” in 2009 than in 2008 (or previous years), or it appears that the new boss at the Justice Department decided to redefine what constitutes an emergency that let’s them spy on internet communications without a warrant.
Of course, some might also claim that “only” 91 requests doesn’t seem like that much. I would disagree. It seems unlikely that there were so many emergencies that were so immediate and so crazy that they precluded the (very, very simple) process of obtaining an actual warrant. Furthermore, the 91 number is likely misleading. Soghoian spends a fair bit of time explaining why the numbers in the reports are “deeply flawed”:
A letter (pdf) submitted by Verizon to Congressional committees in 2007 revealed that the company had received 25,000 emergency requests during the previous year. Of these 25,000 emergency requests, just 300 requests were from federal law enforcement agencies. In contrast, the reports submitted to Congress by the Attorney General reveal less than 20 disclosures for that year. Even though no other service provider has disclosed similar numbers regarding emergency disclosures, it is quite clear that the Department of Justice statistics are not adequately reporting the scale of this form of surveillance. In fact, they underreport these disclosures by several orders of magnitude.